“How to Pray…Like Jesus”

One night a disciple happened upon Jesus while he was praying privately.  He may have watched him in silence for a few minutes. Maybe he saw Jesus’ genuineness or his earnest intensity as he prayed.  Whatever it was this disciple witnessed, when Jesus finally got up from praying the disciple said to the Lord: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) He saw in Jesus something he wanted for himself. He knew he didn’t know how to pray like Jesus…but he wanted to learn.

If we are honest with ourselves we would have to admit, that we are like that disciple. We too need to learn how to pray.  The amazing thing is that Jesus wants to teach us to pray like He prays! That’s right you too can learn the Prayer Principles of Jesus!

Right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches His disciples HOW TO PRAY…Matthew 6:5-13. In this most famous sermon, Jesus teaches His prayer principles.  The sermon in its entirety focuses on genuine righteousness from the heart…because the culture of the day…focussed on external religious behaviour as a sign of piety and religiosity. But where religion focusses on external behaviour and showing obedience to rules…Jesus focusses on the heart…because YOUR HEART IS WHAT MATTERS TO GOD…especially when it comes to prayer!  This passage stands out among the passages on prayer as one of the most detailed lessons on prayer.

Pray in SECRET

“…and when you pray…”

Matthew 6:5-6

Susannah Wesley, the mother of 19 children of whom John Wesley and Charles Wesley are the foremost known and have impacted literally millions of people for Christ. Their mother Susannah is known to have sat in the middle of her kitchen with her apron up over her head. When the children saw their mother seated with the apron on her head they knew not to disturb their dear mother. What a precedent setting action which I am sure left indelible marks on her sons future life and ministry.

Jesus’ first point makes a DISTINCTION. Here in Matthew 6:5-6 Jesus identifies 2 types of prayer…
First, there is the showcase prayer…is the first example Jesus uses…where a person prays…in order to draw attention to himself. In this guy Jesus was addressing the two faced hypocrisy of the Pharisees, religious leaders who were putting a legalistic requirement on the disciplines of the spiritual life. They wanted to be seen as “the religious elite“. They wanted to be seen and known as “spiritual”. But Jesus said very clearly “Don’t be like that!” These people pray to be seen and heard by others. . Their reward is public applause and acclaim.
What might that look like today in my life? Some possible WARNING SIGNS of show case prayer may look like:…

  • When I am…more concerned with what people think of my prayer rather than what God thinks
  • When I am…wanting to be seen/known as “spiritual and holy”…
  • When I…feel the need to use lots of elegant words that I don’t normally use…
  • When I…have a personal agenda that I want my prayers to accomplish…speak to people, tell them what I think.
  • When I…use public prayer as a source of gossip. “Please God. Help Brother So & So with temptations this week, You know how he struggles.” Or “Sister So & So…help her Lord to resist that guy…he is such bad news for her.”

By the way, beware of your public prayer of any kind without a private prayer life. It is a given that if you are not speaking to the Father when you are alone, there is no good speaking to Him publicly.
By the way, it is not wrong to pray in public in the assembly of God’s people…there are plenty of Scriptural examples of public prayer…In Acts 12 there were the gathered believers who were praying together. Timothy and the early church were encouraged to pray for all men and kings and those in authority. Jesus prayed in John 6:11 when He blessed the bread before the people ate…(See also John 11:41-42; Acts 27:35; 1 Timothy 2:1ff)
SECRET…Instead Jesus says v.6 But you, when you pray go into your room, shut the door and pray to your Father who is in the secret place.” THIS IS TO PRAY SECRETLY!
Jesus’ example for His disciples…He went to…the mountain at night…He went frequently to the Garden of Gethsemane that’s why Judas knew He would be there
So Jesus says…find a secret place, go for a walk, go into your room, shut the door…find a closet, empty office, the workshop in your garage…get away from people and be alone with God.
So…WHY would Jesus say that? Why should I shut the door?
a. MAKE THE TIME…A very practical reason for this SECRET prayer…top hindrance to prayer is time…here Jesus is implying make the time…be intentional. When it comes to prayer all of us have the same 24 hours in a day.Be deliberate to make the time to pray.
b.ELIMINATE THE DISTRACTIONS…you name it…dog barking, phone notifications going off, voices, birds, a busy schedule…anything can cause me to lose my focus and concentration. Jesus knows I am like that…so leave your phone alone. Get away from distractions…and find quietness, alone time with God.
c. PRAYER IS RELATIONAL…Someone has said: “Prayer is not a spectator sport“…in other words, not prayer is not something we use to get attention or applause. If you want to be noticed by your praying…Forget it. It is all about your relationship with the Lord Jesus.

Pray SINCERELY

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.”

Matthew 6:7-8

Not only did Jesus teach His disciples to pray in SECRET but He also taught them to pray SINCERELY.  “Do not use vain repetitions…” What is “vain repetition”? Saying something over and over and over again…with little thought put into it. W. Weirsbe describes it as: “…only a babbling of words without a sincere heart desire to seek and do God’s will.”. Don’t fall in to the habit of babbling of words…without a sincere desire to seek and do God’s will. Sincere prayer is…thoughtful prayer…taking the time to think through what we are presenting before God and what we are asking God for…thoughtful, meaningful prayer…straight from the heart.
Knowing and believing that God hears every word…but not only hearing every word but the thoughts and intentions of my heart.
So if my heart is not in what I am saying…I just put up words that seem pious, seem holy and seem right without thinking them through…He knows the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
God is not looking for a pile of impressive phrases…He doesn’t want us to use phrases with no meaning…He wants us simply to talk to him as to a friend or father… Authentically… Reverently…Personally…and Earnestly.

Pray SPECIFICALLY

“In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”

Matthew 6:9-13

Besides praying PRIVATELY and SINCERELY…Jesus also taught His disciples to PRAY SPECIFICALLY. He showed them what He meant by giving them a model prayer…the prayer we have come to call “The Lord’s Prayer”.
“Our Father”…never forget that if you are a child of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ…you are praying to a Father who cannot love you more than He already does…
“In Heaven”…a reminder that God is sovereign…majestic and all powerful. Nothing is too difficult for Him. He is the mountain mover…He is bigger than any concern/problem/issue in your life that you could possibly bring to Him. Fix your eyes on Him on His character His ability.
“Hallowed Be Your name…” you are pointing out His holiness, His set apart-ness…He is not some cosmic Santa Claus where you sit on His knee and ask for whatever you want. Worship Him acknowledge His worth ship praise Him when you come to Him in prayer.
“Your Kingdom comeYour will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” you are submitting to His will…put His will first in your life…in your marriage, family career, ministry money, body, relationships…and church.
“Give us this day our daily bread…” this is a prayer request. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6 to be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication make your requests known to God…lay out all your needs…all your concerns…whether big or small…if you need a miracle…ask for it without shrinking back.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors…” this is a heart matter confess your sins to Him…receive His forgiveness and begin to grow. because David the psalmist wrote: “…if I regard iniquity in my hear the Lord will not hear me.” And forgive others…live with a forgiving spirit toward others…nothing hinders our prayers than unforgiveness in our hearts…
And do not lead us into temptation…but deliver us from the evil one…” Pray for protection from evil…pray for victory over temptation.
Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever, Amen.”
Please understand…this is a wonderful prayer model for us to follow but it was never meant to be a magical incantation to get God’s attention! Jesus didn’t give the Lord’s Prayer to us for it to be recited mindlessly…Yes…even the Lord’s prayer can become babbling repetitively.

A good way to learn to pray specifically is to WRITE OUT your prayers and then read them out loud to God. Often times you can concentrate better when you are writing things down…and not only that you can have a written record of your personal prayers…and you can go back and read them…maybe when you find yourself down in the dumps…it helps to see how God has answered prayer in the past.
REMEMBER God’s prevailing power is released through the simple faith full prayers of His people diligently seeking His face. Know first that He is interested in you and your needs…and He is ABLE to meet any and all of your needs and He has invited you and I to pray.
Jesus, His Son, the expert on prayer… has given to us instructions so that we know just how to pray.
For the miracle of prayer to begin operating in your life…only one thing remains…You MUST PRAY! We can listen to sermons for hours…and you can read about it in countless books and articles…but sooner or later believer…you have to PRAY Then and only then will your adventure in faith really begin.  START TODAY TO PRAY!

A Necessary Sacrifice for Freedom

[The following is the address presented to our local Royal Canadian Legion Interdenominational Memorial Service on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019]

I am honoured and thankful to our local Legion #543 (Burford-Cathcart-Harley) for the opportunity today to share with you at this annual Legion Memorial Service…an annual event that really begins for our community a week of remembrance and tribute to our veterans and service members…as we approach Remembrance Day this year…

This afternoon is mixed with SORROW, PRIDETHANKFULNESS.

Sorrow…because of the many who willingly gave up their lives to do something that we benefit from today. Many lives have been lost because of armed conflict. So it truly is a time of real sorrow.  

I remember my first Legion Interdenominational Remembrance Day service 19 years ago. The first four rows of chairs were full of veterans. Men who had served their country faithfully. Today those same men are no longer here with us…an added sorrow for many.

Pride…there is also pride…I remember those veterans marching down to our cenotaph in step…and every step marked with remembrance for what they and many others have done.

Thankfulness…for the sacrifice of these men and women who have preserved and continue to protect our country and our freedoms.

We fasten a poppy to our collars every year…more than just pretty little flowers…more than just a seasonal fashion accessory…they represent the act of REMEMBERING…the ability to bring to mind something that has happened.  When you think about it…memory is a beautiful God given gift…and that is why the loss of it is so tragic.

I firmly believe dear friends this afternoon…that God wants you and I to REMEMBERto bring to mind something that was done on our behalf…I know it may seem obvious to say this…but… 

If we do not remember…we will be prone to forget. All the way through the Bible…God provides for His people reminders.  He wants them to remember…what has happened in the past. He wants them to remember…what He has done for them…and what others have done.

I must admit to you this afternoon…I fear FORGETFULNESS… I fear forgetting what has been done for me… I fear…that with every year, as time goes on…that we may forget the greatness…and significance of what was accomplished…and the cost…that was paid for our freedoms. I fear…forgetting those who served…and the greatness of their sacrifice who served their country by protecting our freedoms.

So today for a few minutes…let’s REMEMBER some key Points…

Remember our FreedomWe sing in our national anthem a simple prayer to God:  “God keep our land glorious and free…”. Here in Canada we have fundamental freedoms…we have…Freedom of Conscience…the freedom to think our own thoughts and have our own opinions…the Freedom of Religion…Freedom of thought, beliefs, opinions and expressions…the Freedom of Expression…to express my own thoughts, my own beliefs and opinions…beliefs that may very well be very different from yours…but both you and I have the freedom to hold them. We have the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly…the freedom to meet for a variety of meetings…including what we are doing this afternoon…we have freedom of association…

There are many countries in the world today who do not have these freedoms? These freedoms were…and continue to be…protected every time our men and women have gone to war…or have gone on peace keeping missions…to protect the freedoms that we hold dear.

How much are those freedoms worth to you? If those freedoms were taken away…would you miss them? I know I would. So…I choose to remember those who made a COMMITMENT…to defend our freedom.  Men and women who have worn the Canadian uniform in order to protect our ideals, our values and our freedoms. Did they always know and understand why they were going to war? Not necessarily. But they made the commitment anyway to protect their country. So we honour that self-less commitment today!  Self less commitment is always worth remembering and honouring.

Remember HISTORY…the Canadians who left an indelible mark on our world…this shapes our Canadian identity who we are today…an identity that was formed/reinforced in the battle of Passchendaele and the trenches of Flander’s Field, on the banks of Normandy, and also the fields/mountains of Kandahar.  We remember the people of Holland who 75 years later are still thankful to Canadians for the role they played in saving them from tyranny, oppression and starvation. We think of how today South Korea is a modern, prosperous country because Canadians helped defend it. 

We are here today because we are proud of the contribution of our country of Canada and for the role that we have played down through history to protect freedoms…to right wrongs and…to stand up for the oppressed.  These are God given values.  Make no mistake, God wants each of us to continue to right wrongs and to stand up for the oppressed and for freedoms. We can thank God for our country that chooses to stand up for the those who need our help.  We can defend freedoms. 

Remember the SACRIFICE! Someone has wisely said: “freedom is never free.”  There was a cost. someone had to pay the price so we can have the freedoms we enjoy.  So we remember those who paid a price…maybe they came back from the conflict…maybe they did not. Jesus said in John 15:12-13, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. v13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”  

Love always demands sacrifice… By the way, this applies to every human relationship. Jesus Christ went to the cross to pay the penalty for the sin of all mankind…yours and mine.  I never tire of hearing stories of those who died in conflict demonstrating this selfless love. God wants us to remember selfless love. Selfless love leads to sacrifice. 

That is what God is known for…His selfless love…regardless if people deserved the love or not… “God still demonstrated His love for us in the while we were still sinners Christ (God’s Son) died for us.” That’s what God did for us in His Son Jesus Christ. He sacrificed…He willingly gave…He willingly did what was necessary for you and I to be forgiven of our sins…by dying in our place. “…greater love has no one than this than one lay down his life for his friends.”

Just like our veterans who did what was necessary to secure our freedom, to right that which was wrong and liberate the oppressed. Maybe they volunteered for dangerous assignments…or maybe they chose the most dangerous position to give the rest of their unit a greater chance. Those who have shielded others with their own bodies as bullets flew and bombs went off. Those who charged an enemy position to try to protect their friends by eliminating the enemy or drawing fire away from their buddies. Stories abound! Somehow…however it happened they demonstrated a greater concern for others than for their own life. Friends this is SACRIFICE!

I am sure that over the years there have been veterans who have sat in this assembly… simply because someone else took paid the price instead of them. (In another sense…we are all here because someone else paid the price for us.)

We must never forget…Freedom, Commitment, History and Selfless sacrifice… If we do not remember…we will be prone to forget.

2. WHY do we do this? Why should we remember?

TO PREVENT…it is to be hoped that when we remember the awfulness/horridness of war we should be more apt to pursue peace.  We do not live for war.  We do not like war. Let’s be clear…God does not like war either. Make no mistake…every war in all history began because of EVIL in the human heart. Every war that has ever started…started because of sin…maybe it was greed, maybe it was pride…maybe it was hatred, or prejudice, racism…it was evil within the human heart! 

If there is one thing we all can agree on this afternoon, regardless of your chosen faith…is that there is EVIL IN WORLD. Everywhere you look evil is all around. The Bible calls evil…SIN. Please make sure you know today…God hates sin.  Therefore God hates those things that cause war.  War by its very nature is sinful.  Sin is the reason God sent His Son to the world to pay the penalty for all the sin of mankind.

We also know from God’s Word, the Bible…that one day all sin will be done away with…there will be no more war. because there will be no more sin.…and God’s work to rescue and perfect the world is not yet complete. When that work is finished, war and death will finally be defeated…and the weapons of war will be finally turned into farm implements. God promises this in His Word, the Bible.

TO HONOUR…we honour the men and women who made the commitment and selflessly gave of themselves. To know that the names inscribed on every cenotaph are not just names but are real men and women, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters…community members who fought  the fight and paid the price.

TO THANK…we just celebrated thanksgiving…but Veterans Week and Remembrance Day is about saying “thank you”. What is the response of someone who has had someone else lay down their life for them?  Extreme gratitude. That is why today and November 11 has always been such a important day among our veterans and especially those who have served on the front lines as compared to the rest of the general population. Many of them personally know the price someone else paid that has allowed them to live. They desire to remember and honour those who have gone on before them. That is our desire this afternoon.

Pictures abound of veterans kneeling or standing at memorials and touching the names inscribed…because they are extremely thankful. We cannot and we must not take what has been done on our behalf for granted. {We must not stop being thankful for what has been done for us}

TO TEACH…to the next generation… 

Whether we are 6 or 106 every generation must learn and understand the meaning of this Veteran’s week. Every generation is responsible to teach the next …to teach the significance and the meaning of Remembrance Day…To learn and know that freedom is not free…and to recognize the cost of freedom.

To learn our history and to know the commitment to principles and ideals and values and the sacrifices that have been made for the freedoms they enjoy…and all too often take for granted.

One writer put it this way: “The future of any nation demands that its citizens have a sense of history and their place in it.  When we fail to remember and honour the sacrifices by those who have gone before us will of necessity lead to a failure to preserve the very things for which they died.”

That is why it is good for us to be here this afternoon and to be part of Veteran’s week. {We must continue to learn about the cost of freedom and diligently continue to defend freedom…}

So…WHAT CAN WE DO NOW? 

  1. PRAY…
  • Pray for peace…pray that God will work out His will as He has always done when mankind is in conflict.
  • Pray for our men and women who currently serve in our Armed Forces… 
  • Pray for those who have seen conflict in the past and are still recovering…
  • Pray for the leadership of our forces to stand for what is right… 
  • Pray for the government of Canada to make the wise Godly decisions when it comes to choosing when and where to defend… 

2.WE MUST NEVER FORGET… the COMMITMENT…HISTORY and the SELF SACRIFICE…  

3. WE MUST LEARN…about the cost of freedom and diligently seek to defend it ourselves…

4. TO CHOOSE TO PURSUE PEACE…to RIGHT the WRONGS and to Stand for JUSTICE…Cherish the values that Canadians have fought for and died for…

May God richly bless each and every one of our Veterans young and old, and their families and you and I who are the grateful recipients of this glorious heritage.

“God keep our land glorious and free!”

Just a few thoughts about Halloween…

Immediately after Thanksgiving…the next “big day” gets into full swing! HalloweenNow I know that it is not a national holiday. But for many it is pretty important and they will not miss it. For as long as I have been alive…and maybe even longer…Halloween has been one of those topics that Christians can so easily be “divided” on. Should we celebrate it? Or should we not?

Growing up, we always had fun with Halloween. Not everyone does, and I get that. But from my perspective Halloween is a great opportunity to interact with our world…and they even come to our doorstep! When I was a teenager my parents allowed me to try and scare the bejeebers out of kids who came looking for candy…so I had my little cassette recorder hidden in the bushes with scary sounds of wind and groaning and moaning…so of course, I had many laughs at some young children’s expense who in great fear and trepidation would come and ring our doorbell…now in retrospect, I do acknowledge that it probably was not the best way to win friends and influence people…but I sure had fun doing it.

Fast forward to more recent times…personally, our family has always had fun with Halloween, walking our kids through our local community asking for candy and armed with homemade gospel tracts for each home they visited…the tract simply said “Thank you for the treats! We believe in Jesus. We hope you do too.”   Each year we went through our community with probably close to 100 tracts.  Many of the same homes received the same tract year after year. “There goes those Virr kids again!” I am not sure of how fruit came from such a notion.  But I do hope and pray my kids will continue that tradition.  Simply trusting God to use even the simplest of testimonies for His great name. 

Halloween is a great opportunity to interact with our world and to share the light of Jesus in simple ways.  It is not difficult to see all the darkness of Halloween…you know like Zombies, warty witches and spooky goblins and weird looking extra terrestrials…and the like…and they are are running around dressed up to the hilt asking for goodies…Hey believers…with all the celebration of darkness it is an opportunity as believers to be the light of the world.

Many of our current religious holidays have their roots in ancient times…like Christmas and Easter…Halloween tends to be the same.  It is believed that originally, the background of Halloween was to observe the fall season which of course is characterized by the death of so much that is…well…living. Like us, the agricultural world back then knew that the days were getting shorter, with less sunlight, plants dying and leaves falling from the trees. All of this combined seemed to accentuate the sadness and even grief in the fall season. So really the autumn season is a sad one because of all the death in nature. So you can almost guess what happens next…people start thinking about their own mortality and about those who have died before….and of course…the stories and the imaginations begin to swirl.

You may already know some of the history of the current celebration of Halloween.  In the word itself is the word “hallow” which means get this: “holy”! Go figure eh? The church wanted to celebrate…during the autumn season…the saints and the martyrs who had gone on before them. Kind of like a Remembrance Day for fellow Christians. Not a bad idea really! So they called it “All Saints Day” which was celebrated on none other than November 1.  So…here it comes…wait for it…as a result…the night before All Saints Day became known as “All Hallows’ Eve” …which of course is now known as “Halloween”.

So much of it is really harmless. I know there are many dark and creepy things that some people do on that night.  But we have an opportunity to shine for Jesus in this current world. So many costumes are cute and adorable…I mean who doesn’t love it when a small gremlin comes to the door asking for candy…or a gorilla or even a zombie for that matter. We get to meet our neighbours and show their children a little bit of love.

Just a few practical principles that will do you well…with Halloween all around us.

  1. Love Your Neighbour… Halloween may be nothing like All Saints Day but nonetheless it is a great opportunity to love our community. Know also that there are other reasonable believers who choose not to celebrate Halloween…and that is okay too…it is a great opportunity to love both believer and non believer alike. 
  2. Be Careful…Carefully think through what you hand out at the door. Crazy as it sounds but today there are so many different allergies out there. Also, if your child goes out Trick or Treating…make sure they can be seen, have them go in groups, together with a friend or sibling…and parents…stay close.
  3. Be Bold…Remember you are the light of the world.  Do all that you do in Jesus’ name.  Sure you can give out simple tracts if you want…or not. Use bold creativity to share the love of Jesus…your style. I am sure that God will bless how you do it for Him. 
  4. Strengthen your Community… Give a treat to parents who come to your door with children. I know one family who provides apple cider and cotton candy for those who come to their door.  Probably the best thing about Halloween is that we are forced to interact with a lost and dying world.  Friends, this is not a bad thing.  Love your neighbour. Forget the popularity of “rugged individualism” and the far too easy “isolationism”.
  5. Do what Jesus would do… Love and touch the untouchable. Those who may not be in the mainstream of society.  Love those who come across your path.  They are there for a reason. Okay…sooooo maybe scaring the bejeebers out of kids on Halloween is not something Jesus would do…but nonetheless, make contact and see what God does.

Love you Fellowship!

David

How to Fight the Good Fight

Thomas Bilney, (known as “Little Bilney” because of his short height) was a Cambridge educated Reformer…who is considered to be one the first reformers in England. In his life, he influenced and impacted the more well known reformer Hugh Latimer…both of whom preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified and they both would die at the stake for their message. Both Latimer and Bilney “… fought the good fight.”

What does that phrase mean any way?  What is the “good fight” that Bilney and Latimer along with the apostle Paul are professed to have fought ? Is it a skirmish like you might find on a hockey rink or an exciting boxing match inside a ring? Is it a healthy marital squabble? What constitutes a “good fight“? Why does Paul tell young Pastor Timothy to “fight the good fight“?

The Bible talks about the Christian life as a BATTLE…every believer has a battle to fight. We Battle our FLESH to be holy…“the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh.” Galatians 5:17  We battle the DEVIL“principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:10-13 We battle the WORLD…with so many issues in our culture that are opposed to the Christian world view…Christians find themselves being persecuted for righteousness sake. Romans 12:2 

Make no mistake…the Christian life…is a continual war and many sadly, don’t make it. So in 1 Timothy 1:18, Paul encourages Timothy and also the church in Ephesus to “fight the good fight” or “fight our battle well” (NIV)

In Ephesus, where Paul was a pastor, false teachers had infiltrated the church and were teaching loopy little fables and meaningless genealogies…so there was a battle for the church but more importantly, a battle for the souls of the Ephesians…and Paul was writing to Timothy to…command the false teachers to stop teaching false doctrine (v.3). It is not hard to wonder if Paul wrote this letter because Timothy was thinking about quitting.(v.3,18). We do know that Timothy was of a timid nature (2 Timothy 2:7) So quite probably, Timothy needed encouragement to fight the good fight…just like you and I…we need encouragement! So Paul encourages Timothy…and all of us…to “fight the good fight.” 

What Actually Makes a Good Fight…”Good“?

The word “good” is the Greek word kalos…which means something that is intrinsically good, noble, excellent, or virtuous.” So this battle is intrinsically noble, good, excellent and even virtuous. There are not too many skirmishes on Hockey Night in Canada that would be considered noble, excellent and virtuous.

But for the Christian believer, there is no greater work that we can give ourselves to than to fight the battle for the souls of people and for the glory of God. It truly is a “good fight.”  Paul would finish his second letter to Timothy with “I have fought the good fight.” 2 Timothy 4:7

To not finish the good fight would be tragic. It is always heartbreaking when people walk away from the fight…and they give up…and throw in the towel. Maybe some quit because they get caught up in sin and stop trying…some fall in love with the world and the things of the world and they become spiritually lethargic. Some experience hurts and/or difficulties, get discouraged and quit. Some get trapped in false doctrines. Some turn away from the faith…never to return. It is truly a war, a war over the faith. Here, Paul encourages Timothy to fight well, and we must listen closely. As we look at 1 Timothy 1:18-20 we learn principles about fighting our battle well.

To Fight Well…We Need Loving Spiritual Relationships

The first thing to point out is in v.18 where Paul refers to Timothy as “son Timothy”. It is full of affection and love. He could have called him “Pastor” or “Buddy” or even “Brother“. Instead he called him “son”. This is not unexpected because the backdrop of this fatherly love for Timothy is found in Acts 16 when Paul visits Lystra. Christians in Lystra were speaking well of a young man born to a Jewish woman and a Greek man. His name was Timothy. Paul would then take Timothy as a co-worker in the ministry. And as a result, a close relationship developed because Timothy saw Paul in action, seeing the difficulties and challenges Paul faced…and now, after having spent time with Paul, Timothy is on his own pastoring n Ephesus, and Paul’s heart goes out to him. So Paul writes to him and encourages him to be faithful…speaking to him as a son. It was a relationship that proved to be a significant encouragement for Timothy to continue to fight well.

One of the greatest motivations we have to continue in the Christian faith is ONE ANOTHERGod has put fellow believers, other soldiers around us fighting the same battles we are…brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers of all ages with the same struggles, challenges and steps of faith. And so, to fight well, we must develop and rely on these relationships. Consider the following verses:

  • “But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
  • “And let us take consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another (encouraging),and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
  • Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.”James 5:16  

We need Loving Spiritual Accountability….because one of Satan’s strategies to shipwreck faith is to separate people from the flock…and he does it effectively through conflict, disagreements, discord, gossip, apathy, and many other sins. When these go unchecked many give up the fight. Likewise, when we live in our sin…and choose to ignore it…we won’t desire to be in fellowship with those walking with God. Remember David after having committed adultery with Bathsheba? He tried to hide it and his body, his heart and mind suffered the consequences of unconfessed, harboured sin. (See: Psalm 32:1-3)

Many people can’t fight the good fight because they have no one to fight along-side of. I can’t imagine what it would be like in a foxhole during war time, facing an enemy that wants to destroy me…without a fellow soldier with me. And yet many believers will isolate themselves from fellow believers…they won’t reach out to get to know people or allow themselves to be invested in and, therefore, they become vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

This is probably the #1 reason why I believe in the small group ministry we have here at Fellowship. If we are going to fight our battle well, we must have fellowship and accountability with other godly believers…fellow soldiers. We must have others to pursue righteousness with…Others who will lovingly hold us accountable when we stumble…Others who will pray for us…we need spiritual mature believers who will challenge us and encourage us with loving affection and even direction.

To Fight Well..We Must Remember Our Calling…v.18b

Paul also encourages Timothy…by REMINDING Timothy of his CALLING. He says, “…according to the prophecies made concerning you…that by them you may wage the good warfare.”v.18.  We are not told anywhere in the Bible of specific prophecies about Timothy…but we do know there was a practice in the early church that helps us understand what likely happened. Most likely, in Lystra, there was a group of elders in his church who had prophesied…of Timothy’s call to missions and to the pastoral ministry. [See a similar event in Acts 13:1-3]

This may have happened to Timothy…and it would have been a very significant moment for him and his future. God, speaking through the elders of his church prophecy would have encouraging for Timothy…especially in the times when he felt like giving up.  This is true for us as well…we must have a strong sense of God’s calling if we are going to fight our battle well. 

We also need continual confirmations, as we are prone to doubt our callings. (Abraham also needed reminders)  In a sense, it is Paul saying to Timothy: “Timothy remember your calling and live it outbe strong Timothy, carry out the command…fight the good fight Timothy…Timothy, you can do this because God called you!”  

Every believer needs to hear those words: “Remember your calling…because God Himself has called you to Himself …carry out the command, defend the faith, live for Christ…You can do this because God has called YOU to Himself. Paul said this to the Philippians: “And who He calls to Himself…He will perfect complete…perfect, sustain, strengthen and keep.” Philippians 1:6

SO…How Do We Remember our Calling?

By Prayerfully Reading His Word…Psalm 119:105 See Hebrews 2:1

We remember our calling by reading the Word of God. God’s primary source of our calling is through the Word of God. Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” When we read God’s Word our mind is renewed…that I might know the will of God.

By Fearing God…Psalm 25:14

The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him.” When we revere God we will be listening for His call upon our lives. We will want to glorify Him and we will be full of His mission for the world.

By Others…other believers who come along side you and remind you in small ways.

The local church is a must for every believer, because it is within that setting that gifts and callings are confirmed by the members and those who walk with you and talk with you.

Ministry is hard…there are days when you just want to quit. But that is the moment you need to stop and think about what Jesus has done for you. Sure, there was a time when Jesus asked the Father to take this cup from Him. But He knew that He was to fulfill the Father’s mission for Him. God reconfirms His call through His Word and in your heart, as we abide in Him. He also reconfirms it through many witnesses. We may not be called to be a pastor, as Timothy was, but we are all called to ministry and ministry is a battleground. So if we are going to fight this battle well, we must know and continually remind ourselves of God’s call on our lives.

To Fight Well…We Must HOLD on to…SOUND DOCTRINE…1 Timothy 1:19a

“…having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.”When Paul refers to “faith” …it is not just his trust in God…it also refers to sound doctrine.

Those are sobering words in 1 Timothy 1.Notice that later in v.19 he mentions “faith” again…this time…an article “the faith” So in this case “the faith” that Paul is referring to are the objective truths of God’s Word. Ones personal belief in the objective truth of God’s Word will determine ones behaviour. What we believe matters…because our behaviour is determined by our beliefs.

Some had “shipwrecked their faith” because did not hold to God’s Word…maybe they changed it or abused it or maybe they accepted other doctrines. Even today there are many false and misleading doctrines circulating the world.

How do we hold on to sound doctrine?

Read it…Study it…Memorize it 2 Timothy 2:15

In his second letter to Timothy Paul will tell him to do his best to present himself to God “…as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth.” God’s Word is “…profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness…so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Guard it…1 Timothy 6:20-21

Paul will close this letter to Timothy by urging him to “guard the deposit entrusted to him.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21) To guard something of value is to prevent it from falling into misuse, or the wrong hands. You hold on to it and know its worth so you protect it with all that you can. We are to guard the Gospel, guard God’s Word to be sure that it doesn’t get misused or misquoted.

Teach it…2 Timothy 2:2 

We are only a generation away from losing what has been entrusted to us.” As we have received it we must share it with others. The sad reality is that if we NEGLECT God’s Word…by not reading it, by not studying it, and by not memorizing it…we will often shipwreck our faith. We’ll be led astray by a love for the world, a love for sin, or by a false doctrine. If we are going to fight well, we must hold onto the Word by studying it. Are you studying God’s Word? 

To Fight Well… We Must HOLD on…to a GOOD CONSCIENCE1 Timothy 1:19b

“…having …a good conscience, which some having rejected concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.”

What is a “good conscience”?

One final thought Paul wants to tell Timothy to have a good conscience. In fact, Paul will teach about this four times in his letters to Timothy and he cites it in his own defence when standing before a king. (1 Timothy 1:5; 1:19, 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:3; Acts 23:1, 24:16)

For Paul, conscience was everything…“A good conscience is the result of a pure life. Your conscience can produce feelings of well-being, peace, contentment, and calm when behaviour is good. When behaviour is evil…you experience guilt, shame, remorse, fear, doubt, insecurity, and despair. Its purpose is to warn you…that you are sinning. Paul was always anxious to have a clean, clear, pure, good conscience and desired the same for Timothy.” (John MacArthur)

Paul urges Timothy to hold onto a good conscience…live a holy life.  Then makes an SOBERING statement: “By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith” (ESV)Cling to your faith in Christ and keep your conscience clear. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked.”NLT By not living a holy life and violating their consciences, many lose their faith…their doctrine.  Our doctrine is ALWAYS vitally connected to our life…to the way we live. 

How Do WE Cultivate a Good Conscience?

To cultivate a good conscience we can begin by:

  • Asking the Lord to make you aware of your sin…
  • Beware of even the smallest of compromises …and then
  • Be quick to confess and repent of sin… (See 1 John 1:8,9)

So many little compromises are downplayed or easily accepted today as meaningless infractions, but in reality they are the stepping stones toward infidelity. Believer, make sure that you know that there is an enemy who is prowling around seeking whom he may devour. We are in a war, and we can’t afford to lose our ability to clearly hear our Commander and Chief. Finally, we should also know that we too are susceptible to compromise: “Let the one who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.1 Corinthians 10:12 The two Eohesian men that Paul refers to were probably just like you and me…but they had compromised their doctrine and violated and ignored their conscience. (See: 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 4:14.

Paul and Timothy had probably served with these men…praying, preaching, and enjoying fellowship with them, and yet they still fell away. This was a sober warning to Timothy and the Ephesians, and it should be to us as well.

Most likely, when Paul mentions that he handed these men over to Satan, it is a reference to excommunication (1 Corinthians 5:5). These men were kicked out of the church because of their ungodly lives and false teaching. The implication of “handing them over to Satan refers to excommunication…this was serious…but it also proves that a shepherd’s role is to protect the church from the things which can destroy it. Here is Paul dealing seriously with sin.  To fight the good fight we must deal seriously with sin.

We are all in it…so how can we, as believers, fight our battle well?  How can we persevere and not quit when things get tough?

  • 1. To Fight Well, We Must Have Godly Accountability…
  • 2. We Must Remember Our Calling…
  • 3. We Must Hold on to Sound Doctrine…
  • 4.We Must Hold on to a Good Conscience…a Holy Life.

Travelling and fighting alongside you Fellowship! Love you all! God bless!

Why I Love the Bible…

I have to admit to you…I love the Bible…I love to read it…I love to think about it…I love to memorize it…I love to share it…I love to get it in the hands of others…and I especially love to apply it…and one of my greatest joys as a pastor is to communicate it to others…So the purpose of this blog post is to share with you …the reasons WHY I love the Bible. 

I Love the Bible…Because it is ETERNAL

We live in a world of things that do not last…they are not made to last. Every appliance , automobile and almost everything you can think of is made to be replaced within a relatively short period of time. But God’s Word is different.  It never gets old…It is eternal…it will never pass away…it will never become obsolete …it will always accomplish what God intends for it to accomplish. Psalm 119:89 “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in the heavens.” Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” Matthew 24:35

Did you know that in each and every generation….people have tried to criticize it…explain it away…deny it…tried to prove it wrong…twist it or change it…they have tried to burn it, ignore it… But God said: “So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but I shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

I Love the Bible…Because it is God’s LOVE Letter…to a lost and dying world…

I recognize receiving personal letters is almost obsolete today…but emails can work the same way. Do you enjoy receiving personal letters or emails from home…maybe from a loved one…maybe your wife…child…a parent.  In the letter they tell you how much they love you and how they long to be with you. They look forward to your return. When you read it…you hang on every word…because you know that it is written because they love you.

It is the same with the Bible.  God has given it to us because He loves us and He wants us to know how much he loves us. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 The Bible is what tells me the wonderful salvation story. How you and I and your families can be saved from our sin. This is the most important thing in all the world.

I Love the Bible…Because it Helps Me Understand the World Around Me…

I read/hear the news…many heartbreaking stories. Currently, in Hong Kong, Mexico, United States and here in Canada.  In fact, all over the world. The Bible helps me understand the craziness I see all around us…in every part of the world.  Mankind is broken because of sin… “for all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”…”all creation groans…” because of sin. But then…God enters the picture because He is not willing that any should perish…so He seeks those who will trust Him and know Him and follow Him by faith.

I love the Bible because the Bible tells us how we can be saved from our sin. “For by grace you have been saved through faith…and this not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone would boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I Love the Bible…Because it is a Book of HOPE

All the way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation…there is HOPE!  People are always looking for hope…something solid they can hold on to…As you get to know the people of the Bible and see how God worked in their lives…you know there is always a tomorrow. For example, Abraham…God made him a promise…and he waited a long time for God to fulfill it… Joseph…how many awful things did he experience in life…before God completed His purpose… David…from shepherding to military victory to kingship, from failure to healing to hope… Maybe you know of a favourite Bible story character? Can you name one? The Bible contains real life…real stories…of real people with real tangled backgrounds, real trials and real sinfulness…And yet out of the tangled mess of our lives…God accomplishes what He wants. Have you experienced the tangled trials of yesterday and the sinfulness of whatever present mess you are in…You can find hope by claiming what God says in His Word about tomorrow. Hope always carries us forward… Hebrews 6:19 “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…”

One of the best ways to develop intimacy with God is to spend time …meaningful time in His Word…thinking about it…studying it and making it your own. So…If I could suggest anything from this blog it is to encourage you to spend meaningful time…in God’s Word. There are some great Bible teachers available who will share God’s Word with you. We can thank God for each of them. But my challenge for you is this…real personal growth only takes place when we are in the Word of God on our own… “Teachers provide a path…we must take the steps.” So I want to suggest for you 3 ways to grow closer to God through your personal time with Him in His Word.

Study it with heart…approach Scripture with enthusiasm.

The Psalmist describes the anticipation of learning God’s Word this way: “How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth.” Psalm 119:103

Take it to heart…

I have lived long enough to know that I desperately need truth in my life. There is so much nonsense out there I need something that is trustworthy and reliable. I’ve heard just enough of man’s wisdom to know that it isn’t trustworthy. I need God’s eyes on the matter…I need His perspective and His direction…I need His yes and no…I need His light to expose my darkness…I need His precepts to strengthen my convictions… God’s Word does all that.

Learn it By Heart…

Tradition tells us that the Jewish mothers of the first century taught their children to pray: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Psalm 31:5. Do you know who else prayed that prayer? Jesus did. During His last hour on the cross, Jesus repeated the same piece of Scripture….most likely He too had it memorized when He was just a child sitting on Mary’s lap. I don’t know of any discipline that will help you transform your thoughts better than memorizing the Word of God. How urgently we need need truth riveted to our hearts.

If I had one wish for you…and for your families…in fact…for all of God’s people…I would wish that we would return to the Word of God…the Bible is the all-sufficient final resting place for our hopes, our sorrows and our surprises. God uses the Bible to teach me about the meaning of life…if it weren’t for this book I wouldn’t know that Jesus loves me…and neither would you.  That is our most profound hope and that is the truth.

Pray…We thank You Father for Your book…the Bible…the treasure of inspired truth which lives and abides forever. Thank You for giving it to us and for the painstaking process of preserving it…even though men and women have tried to destroy it, deny it, burn it, ignore it, criticize it and explain it away. It your Word has survived….it is here with us. We revere it…We worship You.

May our lives be shaped by its principles. May we be different people because we have taken Your Word to heart. May we live it and obey it, not simply study out and memorize it. May it change our appetites, our attitude and our actions. And may those changes bring great glory to Your name, dear Lord. I ask this sincerely through Jesus Christ. Amen.

How Can I Love My LGBTQ+ Neighbour (Or Anyone Else With Whom I Disagree?  

It is Pride month once again…and it seems like Pride is all around us and we can’t escape it…it is evidently growing in popularity every year…you probably know the tension of gloom and fear and maybe even the ball of knots lurking in the deepest part of our being when pride week and now pride month is celebrated. It seems like everywhere we turn, this Pride week and the LGBTQ+ lifestyle is increasingly accepted by our society.  Even those who are uncomfortable say “just live and let live”. We know Biblically that we are to love all people but what about those who so vehemently are in disagreement with us.  So how do we really love the LGBTQ+ community?

For some Christians I know they experience what is commonly referred to as FOMO…the Fear Of Missing Out. So with all the Pride festivities and celebrations many Christians even put aside Christians convictions and join in on the celebrations possibly somehow thinking that they are showing their Christian love by acceptance and their mere tolerance of the lifestyle.

Personally, I do believe it is a great opportunity for Christians and for churches who know members of the LGBTQ+ community to demonstrate their genuine love for them.  But how? Unfortunately, most in our modern day society are confused about what it means to truly love people with whom we disagree. The prevalent belief is that acceptance and affirmation is evidence of love. In other words, they say that “I must accept them as they are.” (acceptance) and “I must affirm them in their choice” (affirmation) in order to demonstrate my love. So as a result, people who do not affirm a behaviour or choice are regarded as homophobic, bigoted, hypocritical and unloving. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Let me provide a personal example…I have a friend who has recently chosen to move in with her boyfriend and to live together common law instead of getting married. Admittedly, my first reaction was one of grief and sadness, to know that this friend is knowingly choosing to live contrary to God’s Word and His design. Now, I do believe that their choice is wrong. I cannot accept it as a good thing or affirm it as a good thing because it is contrary to God’s Word and God’s design…and therefore I cannot and I will not support it. While I know that my opinion is in the minority and there are those around them who are celebrating their decision to live together...  does this mean that I do not love my young friend? Absolutely not! I will always love her. We all have friends and family whom we love to the moon and back who have made wrong, sinful choices that we cannot endorse, accept or affirm. Yet we still love them dearly.  This world would be a pretty lonely place if we only loved people who were just like us and never made choices that we do not agree with. Instead, it is because I do love my friend that I cannot endorse/accept/affirm/agree with her choice.

So how do we love those with whom we disagree?  How do we love the LGBTQ+ communities? 

First, we must look at the example of Jesus. When Jesus sat down for lunch with little Zaccheus He did so, not because He agreed with…accepted… or affirmed Zaccheus’ behaviour (known for his extortion, treachery and dishonesty)…Jesus sat down with Zaccheus to show this little man His love for him. Did this make a difference in Zacchaeus’ life? Absolutely! When Jesus stood beside the woman caught in adultery, after many in her own community wanted to kill her for what she had done, He never said “I accept or agree with your behaviour and I affirm it.” But rather He said “Go and sin no more.” Did this make a difference in her life? Absolutely!

Second, look at what the Bible says says about genuine love. We are to love with a genuine love that is kind and gentle, not arrogant and rude. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) In Luke 10 Jesus gave the example of the good Samaritan, telling the story of a man who had been beaten and robbed and left for dead, a Jewish priest walked by and avoided the dying man, a worship leader also passed by on the other side, again intentionally avoiding the dying man.  But then a Samaritan came along. Now Samaritans and Jews did not disagree. they considered each other despicable, and even untouchable. Yet that Samaritan lovingly, gently, humbly cared for that man’s wounds and was regarded as Jesus as being “the neighbour“. (Luke 10:25-37) Imagine the risk that man took of identifying with the wounded man. Jesus said we are to be like that Samaritan. Similarly, we are called to love our neighbour whether they agree with us or not…and of course this includes our LGBTQ+ neighbours.  This love is not merely “Ok…I will just tolerate this person.” No, this is an active, genuine, unconditional love and acceptance and even a sacrificial kind of love. It is a love that is kind, and gentle, not arrogant, nor is it rude.

Sadly, like the uncaring priest and the avoiding Levite many professing Christians look the other way when the LGBTQ+ community are mistreated abused or experience discrimination.  Unfortunately, many professing Christians consider the people who make these choices as “untouchable” and so we avoid them at all costs.  This hurts the cause of Jesus because that is not what He was like.. As followers of Christ, we should be the first to love these people, and defend them (and all people for that matter) against any and all kinds of mistreatment, abuse, and unjust discrimination. Remembering that every member of the LGBTQ+ community is made in the image of God. Therefore, each one…every person in the world…is intrinsically valuable and should be treated with the utmost dignity and respect. Let me be very clear here…anything less is shamefully wicked. Shame on anyone who professes to be a Christian but gives the impression…by their words and/or actions that God doesn’t love those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. Let me say unequivocally that God does loves them. In fact, He loves them so much He died for them.

Third, the Bible says abhor what is evil and cling to what is good…The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome saying, “Let love be with out hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another.(Romans 12:9-10). Please don’t miss what Paul is saying here. Right in the middle of describing what genuine love looks like, he inserts two crucial short phrased imperatives: “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”  At first glance this almost seems contradictory. But it isn’t. 

For example, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians Paul confronts a certain case of sexual immorality that was occurring in their midst.  And as a church, they were proud of how they accepted this couple who were engaging in this sexual sin. In reality they didn’t abhor what was evil…instead they were accepting of it. More than that, they were boasting in their tolerance (1 Corinthians 5:1-6). Unfortunately, there are many churches (and denominations) today who are desperately trying to find that middle ground and they end up diluting or revising what the Bible says. As a result they choose to celebrate and accept sinful behaviour without confronting the sinfulness of the behaviour. 

But now notice how Paul responded when he discovered their sexual immorality. He didn’t accept it…he abhorred it. Paul writes, “For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit; have already judged (as though I were present) him who has done this deed.” (1 Corinthians 5:3). Why did Paul respond this way? Was he being a super righteous, religious hypocrite? Certainly not. He did this so that the sinner’s soul “…may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.1 Corinthians 5:5. Paul is showing us genuine love in the context of making a right judgment. Paul was concerned for the soul of the sinner. A few chapters later he will teach that “Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:6) 

I genuinely love each of my children.  But should they choose to do something sinful I cannot and will not celebrate with them. Genuine love should never celebrate wrongdoing. Genuine love must be ultimately concerned for the soul of the individual. This means that it doesn’t go to a parade that celebrates sin or wrongdoing. It doesn’t wave flags, and shout and cheer at sinfulness. On the contrary, it abhors and grieves at wrongdoing. Genuine love clings to what is good…

Admittedly, this is not an easy thing to do. The culture we live in works very hard to pull you away from what is good. It seems that they will not stop at our mere acceptance of evil…the culture demands that we celebrate it. And if you don’t, you will be called “unloving and bigoted, hypocritical and homophobic”. So that means that there will probably be a price to pay for standing for what is true, beautiful, and good. But there is also reward. The apostle Peter says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. (1 Peter 4:12-14)

In a world that is broken and marred by sin, it will always be unpopular to abhor evil and cling to what is good. But this is what genuine love demands. When I choose not to abhor what goes against God’s Word…I am basically endorsing it and I am implying that sin isn’t serious and that repentance isn’t necessary…and that would not be genuine love because sin is serious and repentance is necessary.

Jesus loved sinners…This is good news for all of us…because all of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. How many times did Jesus hang out with sinners? Always…and He always called them to repentance. “Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:10–13) Jesus…who is the most loving person that ever lived on the earth did not affirm people in their sin. Instead, in love, He called people to turn from their sin.  Make no mistake, Jesus loves us just as we are…. but He doesn’t want to leave us where we are. He wants us, all of us, to repent. This is how genuine love works.

The world will continue to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride, however, we can actively choose to love our LGBTQ+ neighbour by being a light to the world. As an act of love, we can do something kind for them…we can help them, invite them for dinner, treat them to a movie or sports event, laugh together. We can take the time to get to know them and them to know us. But we must not compromise our convictions.  Jesus modelled this best. When we feel the world’s pressure to capitulate and compromise, we must remind ourself to abhor what is evil, cling to what is good, and then go into the world and follow Jesus faithfully.

Sources of Reference:

  • Scripture translations used: NKJV, ESV, NLT
  • Allberry, S. “Jesus, Sexuality and the Gospel” Seminar, Hamilton April 2018
  • Lutzer, E. “The Truth About Same Sex Marriage”. Moody Publishers, 2004
  • Fife, B. “Out: One Christian’s Experience of Leaving the Gay Community” Kregel Publications, 2016 

Thank You Dr. Graham! (1918-2018)

I knew that this day would come…sooner or later. For the past few years in fact, with failing health I have often wondered if Billy Graham would live to see his next birthday. Truth be told, I was cheering him on to see his centenary. So I must admit this morning that I am deeply saddened to hear the news of the death of Billy Graham In his 100th year. Though he did not know me personally I feel like I have known him like a friend…from all the biographies I have read as well as his own autobiography “Just as I Am” In fact, my closest in proximity to him was once when I visited his office in Montreat, North Carolina with my wife. We were privileged to see one of his personal places of Bible study. I remember that moment in fact as a ruddy youth pastor, I was looking around as if I was taking in my first glimpse of heaven. Our hosts even graciously offered me the chance to “sit in Billy Graham’s chair” but I respectfully declined simply because seeing his place of study was all I needed at the time. He would never want the tribute that I am writing right now. But I want to write down for my own journal today…that I am just so thankful for this man of God. He was a great pastor. Some have referred to him as “America’s Pastor”. When I was considering seminary and pastoral training one of the prompts that God used to stir my heart toward pastoring was the story of Billy Graham. To see and to know that a man can be faithful to the things that matter most. When so many pastors fail and struggle, he remained faithful…faithful to his ministry, faithful to his family, faithful to his wife and finally, and most importantly, faithful to His Lord.

LESSONS  I HAVE LEARNED FROM MY READING OF THIS GREAT MAN OF GOD…
In every biography one reads, if read with eyes and heart wide open…there should always be lessons…lessons on life, explicit lessons and implicit lectures…lessons that matter to the soul. Here are five simple but profound lessons I have learned from the life of Dr. Billy Graham.

1. INTEGRITY MATTERS…a life that truly pleases the Lord…is a life of integrity. What one believes in his heart coincides with conduct which aligns with behaviour. The name Billy Graham inevitably reminds us of integrity. Billy Graham took definitive steps to ensure that his was a life that did not compromise morally. He did what he could to make sure that his life was above reproach morally, financially, ethically. His life was one of incredible honesty. Leadership at any level cannot begin to function well unless the leader has integrity.

2. FAMILY MATTERS…our first responsibility, our primary ministry…is to our family. The home of Billy Graham was a home of love. It was the place where Billy and Ruth Graham raised children and welcomed grandchildren. Rev. Graham yearned to be with his dear late wife Ruth. Apparently to those who visited him in these past few years,  he would say: “I can’t wait to see her in heaven.” Today, this very moment, he has that joy. Thank you, sir, for reminding us of the priority of family. If one cannot lead the home well how can he truly lead others well.

3. LEADING WELL MATTERS…Pastors and ministry leaders of all stripes and backgrounds have looked to Billy Graham and his Leadership Secrets…one of the foremost lessons for me has always been… “Listen to critics, but don’t dwell on them.” As a pastor, I know that I have critics. I also know at times that I can be pretty thin-skinned, so it is an area in which I constantly struggle. Once someone counselled me to “toughen up my skin” in order to do ministry. Mr. Graham was once asked how, in a lifetime of international ministry and scrutiny, did he deal with the constant stream of criticisms. He smiled and simply said, “I ignored most of them.” While he never implied that he was blameless, he knew that dwelling on criticisms would distract and harm his ministry. So he simply moved on. Hear it, take a moment to think about it and then move on. Do not dwell.

4. HUMILITY MATTERS…Humility is one of the greatest virtues of leaders. Billy Graham sat with presidents and kings and he gave to them Biblical counsel. He preached to literally millions of people all around the world. Volumes have been written about his life and ministry. Some have referred to him as “the world’s most influential person of the second half of the twentieth century.” But all who knew him personally knew him to be one of the most humble men they had ever known. Here is a man who has led millions to trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and yet Billy Graham never thought too highly of himself. What an incredible example he was. Knowing the grace of God to me, knowing that I don’t deserve any part of it, yet God in His grace gives it.Remember God also spoke through a donkey.”

5. JESUS IS REALLY…ALL THAT MATTERS… Mr. Graham preached about Jesus for most of his life. The message of the gospel was at the very heart of his ministry. He understood the brevity of life. And he knew, when it is all said and done, our relationship with Jesus Christ is all that really matters.

These lessons are a small example of what Billy Graham has contributed to the millions and millions of lives he has impacted throughout his ministry. For Billy Graham…IT WAS ALL ABOUT JESUS. And as I sit here and reflect on his life and ministry, I know I will never come close to becoming the man that he was. Yet I can still learn from him…as he followed after Jesus, so I can learn to follow after Jesus too. And you can learn too.

We can learn to love our family and others with a greater love. We can learn to have a greater humility, understanding that we are nothing without Christ. We can learn that the simple things in life are those that really matter. And we can learn that this life is not about us. It’s all about Jesus. That was the life of Billy Graham. It was all about Jesus. That is the type of life I desire to have.

If I had the chance today I would say to Billy Graham: “Thank you, Mr. Graham. Thank you for your life. Thank you for your faithfulness to your family and the task of ministry. Thank you for your ministry. Thank you for your integrity. Thank you for your humility. Thank you for being who God made you to be!