Advent – reflecting and anticipating

Tis the season of Advent, where we celebrate and remember “the coming” of the Lord. To think thing that God became flesh and made His dwelling among us never ceases to amaze me. Over the next three weeks or so, we have the opportunity to reflect on the first coming of Christ. And as we reflect on the miracle of the incarnation, let us not forget our high calling. As Paul reminds us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8) It is a high calling indeed! Jesus, the Messiah gave up all his heavenly rights and became a man, thus demonstrating his humility. But it didn’t stop there – as he became obedient – even unto death. So as we reflect and remember this Advent season, do not forget that we are called to be “imitators” of Christ. We are to have an attitude of humility, service, obedience, and love. And as we look back, let us also look forward to the second coming. “You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8) In the early church, its members believed in the imminent return of Christ. With it being 2000 years later, don’t you think we should have that same belief? The time is only getting closer and closer – are you ready?

To God be the glory – even in Football

Sunday night was a bitter night for me. My beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders lost the Grey Cup championship in the most painful way imaginable. Steph and I had small group that night and after it was over, we hurried home to see the end of the Grey Cup. For all my American friends out there, the Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League’s version of the Super Bowl. It just so happened that my favorite team in all of sports, the team that I grew up watching and rooting for had made it all the way to the championship game. They were big underdogs in the Grey Cup as they faced the powerful Montreal Alouettes, who had already defeated them twice in the regular season. The game was not carried on any of the major American TV networks, but luckily I was able to watch the game on the internet. When we got home, to my surprise, the Riders were leading 20-11 going into the last quarter of play. And then early in the 4th quarter, the Riders put in an impressive drive and scored a touchdown to give them a 16 point lead with a little over 10 minutes to play. Things were looking good – very good. However, the very next possession, Montreal came right back with a touchdown of their own, and capped it off with a 2 point conversion. Our 16 point lead was quickly cut in half. To make matters worse, the Saskatchewan quarterback threw an interception on the next possession, which left the door open for Montreal to tie the game. Sure enough, Montreal worked their way down the field and scored another touchdown. All they needed was another 2 point conversion, and the game would be tied. Finally, the Roughriders caught a break – Montreal failed to complete the 2–point conversion attempt and with a little over a minute and a half left in the game, all Saskatchewan needed to do was get a first down and run out the clock. Once again, however, the offence did nothing and had to punt away the football, giving Montreal another opportunity to complete their comeback. In what seemed like an eternity, Montreal drove down the field and got into field-goal position. With only a few seconds left on the clock, Montreal needed to kick a 43 yard field goal in order to win the game. To my great elation along with all of Rider-nation, the football failed to go through the uprights. Saskatchewan had won the Grey Cup! Everyone was going crazy! But hold on a minute………there were yellow flags on the field. Everyone held their breath to see what the call would be. ………Illegal substitution – too many men on the field for Saskatchewan. I couldn’t believe it! After the 10 yard penalty, Montreal now only had to kick a 33 – yard field-goal. As you might have guessed, professionals don’t miss 33 yard-field goals, especially when they get a second chance.
Devastation…utter disappointment, anguish. Roughrider head coach Ken Miller described it as though he had his heart ripped out of his chest. The TV cameras quickly found their way to winning Quarterback Anthony Calvillo. The first thing he said was, “I want to give all the glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This was certainly not the first time I have heard a championship winning player give glory to God. Even though my heart was broken at the time, I found this to be a refreshing consolation that a professional athlete was willing to give glory to God. That night, I could not sleep. As I was alone with my thoughts that night, it occurred to me that I had never heard a player on the losing team do such a thing. If you are a sports fan, think back and try to remember if you have ever heard someone thank God even though they lost. I would be surprised if you could. People just don’t do that. I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 10:31 where it says, “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Whatever you do, whether it is playing football, or going to work in the morning, whether it is going to coffee with a friend or playing with your kids in the backyard, whether it is going to church Sunday morning or it is going to prayer meeting Wednesday night. Don’t you think the, “whatever you do” extends to winning AND losing in a championship football game? I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see the Saskatchewan Roughriders giving glory to God after the game, but they should have. Let us resolve to do EVERYTHING for the the glory of God.

I want to close this blog entry by quoting the Doxology found at the end of Romans chapter 11. I trust this will encourage your heart.

33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34″For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35″Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”
36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

December Pastors Newsletter

I can hardly believe it but we are entering the last month of the calendar year! Not only that, but we are closing out the first decade of the new millennia! Where has the time gone? I was just reading on Time.com and they are calling it, “The decade from hell.” When you think back on the past 10 years, that title is not overly surprising – two major financial crises’, 9/11, the mess in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things. When I look back on my own life over the past 10 years, however, God has done an incredible work within me and transformed my life. In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone the new has come.” Every Christian can relate to that glorious verse. Some might think that this past decade was from hell, but we know that God is at work in a mighty way and his purposes will always prevail. I want to encourage you that as long as you are living for God and following Jesus, it really does not matter what is going on in the world scene – all that matters is bringing glory to our great God and King.

The month of November was an exciting month at Hope Church. We had our annual Missions Conference where David Holdcraft challenged us to live missional lives. Specifically, he challenged us to be missionaries wherever God has placed us and to be prepared to defend the truth. In our weekly small group, we have continued to be challenged as we work through the New Testament book of James. We also put together 36 shoe boxes for the Samaritan Purse outreach for needy children this Christmas. That smashed our goal of 20 shoe boxes and Donald Auck has already set a goal for next year. We are aiming high – really high – 7000 shoe boxes! Donald’s not kidding so we better get to work! Finally, this November we had the great joy of celebrating Thanksgiving and remembering the faithfulness of God.

As we look ahead to December, there is much to look forward to. 2000 years ago, our Savior entered the world in the most humble of circumstances. Jesus was and is the greatest gift that has ever been giving and we get to celebrate his birth in a special way every Christmas season. This year, we are going to be taking an offering on the last Sunday before Christmas (Dec. 20th) that will go towards our Advent Conspiracy. What is the Advent Conspiracy, you might be wondering? The basic theme is two-fold – sacrificing and giving more. Instead of getting caught up in worldly consumerism that has dominated the Christmas season for years, we want to sacrifice in order to give more. All the money given in the Advent Conspiracy will go towards the needs of people in the third world. I also want to encourage you to bring all your friends and family members to our Christmas Eve service this year – it’s going to be fantastic and it is also a wonderful outreach opportunity. We are handing out 200 Bibles this year as we go caroling and along with each Bible will be an invitation to attend our Christmas Eve service. Please pray that God would use the Bibles and our Christmas Eve service in a powerful way and that He would draw many people to Himself. Until next time, God bless you and Merry Christmas.

WHAT IS REQUIRED OF THOSE WHO HEAR THE WORD PREACHED?

What is required of those that hear the word preached? This is Question #160 in the Westminster Larger Catechism and just like all the questions asked in the Catechism, it is a very important question. Here is the answer:

A. It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives.

The Catechism outlines a simple ten point plan on how you can promote power preaching:

1. Be careful and persistent to attend each worship service. Irregular attendance is the spiritual equivalent of a poor, inconsistent diet and will result in malnourishment;

2. Listen carefully to the sermon. Fight off mental distraction. Concentrate;

3. Prepare your heart and pray before you come;

4. Pray for the preaching of the Word;

5. Evaluate what you hear by the Word of God. This assumes that you are reading the Bible on your own between Sundays and are gaining knowledge of what Scripture teaches;

6. Humbly receive the truths preached as God speaking to you, not just the human preacher;

7. Think about the sermon. Mull it over. Think of ways to apply the truths of the sermon in your life;

8. Talk about the sermon with others after the service and at home on Sunday afternoon;

9. Memorize key Scriptures from sermons;

10. Seek to obey what you hear. Be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer (James 1:22). Seek to put off sin, and put on obedience. This requires prayer that God will enable you to obey and ‘bear fruit for Christ’ as the Word is planted in your heart through preaching.”

CONTRACT FOR MEN

I believe that men were created to live lives of significance. I believe men are born with the magnificent ability to lift up the lives of those around them. I believe authentic masculinity can make a difference in the world. Because I believe that, I agree to abide by and live my life by the following code and to inspire those who follow in my footsteps to join me:

A man is not passive – he takes initiative.

A man uses his God-given influence to serve others.

A man defends those who are weaker than he – he stands for what is right

A man protects and provides for his family.

A man bases his decisions on principles, not emotions.

A man is a man of the Word and of prayer.

A man is the spiritual leader of his family.

A man protects all women and children.

A man teaches those under his influence what he has learned.

A man does not quit – no matter how tough things get.

A man is patient, affirming, kind, and loving to his family.

A man is accountable to God and other men.

Taken from Rick Johnson’s book, The Power of a Man

Younger Pastors

One of my heroes of the faith is the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville, Albert Molher. He is one of the great Christian leaders of our day and is helping raise up a new generation of Christian leaders. I was just reading an article on his blog http://www.albertmohler.com and I found it really encouraging. Even though my church is non-denominational and I am currently in the ordination process with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, there is much that I appreciate about our Southern Baptist friends. So even though this article has a Southern Baptist flavor to it, I trust you will appreciate it too. Here is the article:

Tonight I spent a really encouraging few hours with a group of younger pastors — men who are being greatly used of God to reach their own generation and far beyond. That experience made me really thankful, and also led me to think about why Southern Baptists should be especially thankful for the rising generation of young pastors.

1. They are deeply committed to the Gospel and to the authority of Scripture. They are men driven by conviction and the ability to “connect the dots” theologically. They understand the threat of theological liberalism and want nothing of it. They love the Gospel and have a firm grip on it. They are animated by a biblical theology that brings them joy and grounds them in truth.

2. They love the church. They have resisted the temptation to give up on the church or to be satisfied with a parachurch form of ministry. They love people, love the church, and see the Body of Christ in terms of God’s redemptive purpose. They like the gritty work of the ministry and are not afraid. They understand the joy of authentic Christian community and they give their lives to it. They are recovering a biblical ecclesiology in its fullness. They affirm and practice church discipline. They see the glory of God in an inter-generational congregation of believers growing into faithfulness together.

3. They are gifted preachers and teachers. They rightly divide the Word of Truth and they make no apology for preaching the Bible. They are dedicated to expository preaching and they actually know what that means. They may not use pulpits, but they do have something important to say when they get before a congregation.

4. They are eager evangelists. They are driven by an urgency to see lost people come to know Jesus and become both believers and disciples. They are innovative in methodology and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They affirm that Jesus is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and they know that there is no other Gospel that saves.

5. They are complementarians who affirm the biblical roles for men and women in both the church and the home. They love God’s gift of marriage and the blessing of children, and they make clear that Christian discipleship requires faithfulness in marriage, family, parenthood, sexuality, and they embrace the Bible’s teaching concerning the roles of men and women. They motivate younger men to embrace God’s plan for their lives and lead. They talk openly about their joy in their wives and children. They change diapers.

6. They are men of vision. They apply intelligence and discernment to the building up of the church and the cause of the Gospel. They see and seize opportunities. They are planting and building churches that glorify God by reaching the world, preaching the Gospel, and changing lives. They are innovators and churchmen. They love a challenge. They would be embarrassed to aim low.

7. They are men of global reach and Great Commission passion. They long to see the nations exult in Christ. They know nothing of a world with fixed borders and nationalistic aims. They eagerly send, go, and give. They refuse to let their congregations fixate on themselves. They look at unreached people groups and hear the call.

8. They are men of joy. To be with them is to sense their joy and their lack of cynicism. They are not interested in complaining about the church. They are planters and fixers. They scratch their heads as they look at many denominational structures and habits, but they have not given up.

Most denominations now look to the younger generation and wonder if there will be any pastors, or if the younger pastors will love the Gospel, preach the Word, and commit themselves to the church and the Great Commission. Southern Baptists are now blessed to look at the rising generation of pastors and see so much that should bring satisfaction, hope, and joy. The younger you go in the Southern Baptist Convention, the more conviction you discover. There is reason for great hope.

I go to bed tonight having been encouraged by my time with these young pastors. I get to see this rising generation every day on the campus of Southern Seminary. I also know that none of this would be happening here if a generation of SBC pastors and leaders had not fought the good fight and recovered this denomination for the cause of truth, the authority of the Bible, and the furtherance of the Gospel.

All this will send a man to a thankful sleep.

10 STEPS FOR DEEPENING YOUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD

Adapted from Andrew Murray’s (1828-1917) book, A Deeper Christian Life, and appeared in a Decision Magazine article (November 2009).

The first and chief need of our Christian life is fellowship with God.

1. Begin each day by waiting before God and letting Him touch you. As I need every moment afresh the air to breathe, so it is only in direct, living communication with God that my soul can be strong. I must every day have fresh grace from Heaven, and I obtain it only in direct waiting upon God Himself.

2. To this end, let your first act in your devotion be a setting yourself still before God. In prayer or worship, everything depends upon God taking the chief place. I must bow quietly before Him in humble faith and adoration. Take time, till you know God is very near.

3. When you have given God His place of honor, glory and power, take your place of deepest lowliness and seek to be filled with the spirit of humility. As a sinner, you are not worthy to look up to God; bow in self-abasement. Sink down before Him in humility, meekness, patience and surrender to His goodness and mercy.

4. Then accept and value your place in Christ Jesus. God delights in His beloved Son and can be satisfied with nothing else in those who draw nigh to Him. Enter deep into God’s holy presence in the boldness that the blood gives and in the assurance that in Christ you are most well pleasing. This is the great object of fellowship with God; that I may have more of God in my life and that God may see Christ formed in me.

5. Christ is a living Person. He loves you with a personal love, and He looks every day for the personal response of your love. Look into His face with trust, till His love shines into your heart. Make His heart glad by telling Him that you love Him. He offers Himself to you as a personal Savior and Keeper from the power of sin.

6. Christ is to be formed in us so that His form or figure – His likeness – can be seen in us. Bow before God until you get some sense of the greatness and blessedness of the work to be carried on by God in you this day. Say to God, “Father, here I am for Thee to give as much in me of Christ’s likeness as I can receive.” The God who revealed Jesus in the flesh and perfected Him will reveal Him in you and perfect you in Him. The Father loves the Son and delights to work out His image and likeness in you.

7. The likeness to Christ consists chiefly in two things – the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). The death of Christ was the consummation of His humility and obedience, the entire giving up of His life to God. In Him we are dead to sin. As we sink down in humility and dependence and entire surrender to God, the power of His death works in us, and we are made conformable to His death. And so we know Him in the power of His resurrection, in the victory over sin, and all the joy and power of the risen life.

8. All this can only be in the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you. Count upon Him to glorify Christ in you. Count upon Christ to increase in you the inflowing of His Spirit. As you wait before God to realize His presence, remember that the Spirit is in you to reveal the things of God. Seek in God’s presence to have the anointing of the Spirit of Christ so truly that your whole life may every moment be spiritual.

9. As you meditate on this wondrous salvation and seek full fellowship with the great and holy God and wait on Him to reveal Christ in you, you will feel how needful the giving up of all is to receive Him. Seek grace to know what it means to live as wholly for God as Christ did. Let every approach to God and every request for fellowship with Him be accompanied by a new, definite and entire surrender to Him to work in you.

10. “By faith” must be the keynote. As you wait before God, let it be in a deep quiet faith in Him, the Invisible One, who is so near, so holy, so mighty, so loving. Just yield yourself in the faith of a perfect trust to the ever-blessed Holy Trinity to work out all God’s purpose in you.

Begin each day thus in fellowship with God, and God will be all in all to you.