Tuesday, 27 October 2015 00:00

You don't have to be flawless to be beautiful

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It's impossible to find a perfect leaf. On my walk into church one day I attempted to collect as many different leaves as possible. They had fallen from the trees and littered the ground all along my path. Wrinkled and curved and marked by rips and tears it was hard to find good specimens. As I gathered my collection I realized that beauty did not require perfection. The various colours and marks, curves and rips gave each of the leaves an interesting character. As I gathered and pondered I felt that God was saying to me that his love is not reserved for flawless people. His love is an active love that atones for our flaws and values us in our frailty.  We are beautiful in God's eyes.

 leaf

Wednesday, 07 October 2015 00:00

Should Religion and Politics Mix?

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This last Sunday we hosted our first significant conversation and discussed religion and politics. When I face this question, "should religion and politics mix?", the first thing I want to do is define religion and politics. In our discussion we saw that religion could be viewed in two ways. On the one hand religion could be seen as the set of values or a worldview which influences a person. Secondly religion could be seen as the institution or leadership of a given religious community. Politics likewise could also be taken in two ways. It could refer to the process of creating a shared society or it could be seen as the institution of government or the leaders of a particular state or nation.

When it comes to the institutions of government and religion, Baptist thinking has always favoured a separation. This protects the freedom of conscience of every individual. Governments should not interfere with religious practices nor should religious practices be publicly enforced upon citizens.

If however we see politics as a process of shared decision-making and religion as a worldview or perspective that each individual has, then politics and religion must mix. One might say that it would be impossible for them to not mix. One approaches their political discussions from their religious (worldview) perspective. In this sense even a humanist or a naturalist would be considered religious for they have a set of values and beliefs that shape their lives.

I am intrigued by you work of Charles Taylor who describes modern secular democracies well and has a vision for how people can come together in a pluralist society. He understands that society cannot be built on one single confession but rather that all perspectives must be respected and our shared society must be based on a multiplicity of motives.  No one religion or philosophy can be the only political foundation.

Consider this link which outlines some of Taylor's thinking.  https://youtu.be/DKVnLwsl5JI
Wednesday, 30 September 2015 00:00

Science and Miracles

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Our scientific culture can tend to towards the belief that miracles are impossible. This however, is science overstepping its bounds. While it is fair to understand that the scientific method must assume a natural perspective, we should not therefore assume that naturalism is the preferred worldview. If you are conducting a scientific experiment and seeking to understand the way that the world operates, you must assume that your results are not being interfered with by forces beyond nature. This does not mean that we can discredit a particular observation that seems contrary to the regular patterns.

In fact, because the scientific method is limited to the natural frame of reference, science by definition cannot offer evidence for or against the supernatural. It is possible that our universe is affected by someone or something outside of the universe. If God were to produce a miracle, this would not invalidate the discoveries of science.  I like how Eric Metaxas puts it:

"There are many important things beyond the scope of science. Asking why the universe exists or asking what is the meaning of life— or simply loving our children— are beyond that scope, but profoundly worthy activities nonetheless. When did scientists come to play the sour role of sneering at anything beyond the sphere of their chosen field?"*

* Metaxas, Eric. Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (p. 30).
Monday, 21 September 2015 00:00

Filling of the Spirit

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Because the book of Acts is written in narrative form we have to look for insights based on the examples given to us. When it comes to the filling of the Holy Spirit, I have found Acts 4: 29 – 31 to be helpful. In these verses we see that the disciples are praying for boldness in the face of opposition and we are told in verse 31 that " they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly."   First of all this shows us that courage may be evidence of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.  The spirit moves in a variety of ways. Graham Cole, in examining this passage, also offers a helpful insight in showing us how to be filled with the Spirit.  He suggests that the Spirit fills us when we are asking God to empower our witness. He writes,

When they made the object of their prayer the godly need in that hour (parrsia, boldness), then the fullness came. 149 If I want to be filled with the fullness of the Spirit, then let me set my heart on doing the will of God and call upon him for the enablement to do so...

Cole, Graham A. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Foundations of Evangelical Theology) (Kindle Locations 6146-6149). 

Monday, 14 September 2015 00:00

Inviting the Spirit

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As we begin a new series in the book of Acts, my mind has turned to the Holy Spirit. Throughout the book we see the Holy Spirit empowering the followers of Christ and leading many people to faith. The first disciples were challenged to be witnesses but also told to wait for the Spirit before they would begin their mission work. We however have already received the Holy Spirit. God's power is available in us who have placed our faith in Christ.  Still I find myself asking why then is God's power not more evident in my life and ministry? I have been asking myself if there is anything in me that is blocking the work of the Spirit. Will you join me in praying this prayer.   Even if our culture is closed to the Spirit, I do not want this to be true of myself.  Luke 11:13 makes it clear thar God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.  So Lord, I ask you to help me remove any barriers so that you can more freely work through me.  
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 00:00

Loving people who are Wrong

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One of the hardest times to love is when you are confronted with someone who disagrees with you. In those moments the desire to bring correction and stand for truth will often lead to disrespect. As I look at the definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13 I see that to love is to not be easily offended. As it says, love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. I am so grateful that Christ loved me when I was wrong. His example shows me that even when I think I'm right, even when I know I'm right, love must guide me to avoid rudeness and pride. As followers of Jesus we should be people who are not quick to show outrage. If we glory in the fact that Christ was not offended by us but rather loved us, then we must seek to do the same for others. This is not to say that we give up on truth, but rather that we do not withhold love from those who we believe are in the wrong.  Love requires that we show patience and kindness even while we pursue the truth.
Monday, 31 August 2015 00:00

Plunge In

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At service yesterday Pastor Joan shared some reflections from her sabbatical time this summer. It was an excellent service rich with ideas. She gave us many things to think about and showed us many examples of how to connect with God. One poem she had written compared resting in God's love to floating in the ocean. She invited us to consider that some things can only be experienced if we plunge in. We cannot judge an ocean by testing it with our toes neither can we judge a relationship, especially a relationship with God, if we maintain a cautious distance. This past summer I have had a few opportunities to swim in lakes. As I think back to the times that I just jumped in, I can see it as a metaphor of a willingness to trust in God. Thank you Joan for inviting me closer to God.
Monday, 17 August 2015 00:00

The Nature of Faith

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Life with God is built on faith, but it is important for us to have a clear understanding of the nature of faith. It is too easy to intellectualize one's faith and consider that God is interested only in our beliefs. Faith however, requires that we act on our beliefs. Hebrews 11:6 say that "without faith it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." This verse shows us the importance of belief but notice that even in this verse the point is that we must come to God. Our beliefs must motivate us to actively trust.

As I shared on Sunday, one of my favourite illustrations of the nature of faith comes from the story of the tight rope walker named Blondin. In this illustration the distinction is made between a person who believes in the ability of the tight rope walker and the person who is willing to actively put herself in his hands.  Check out this short video on Blondin.

https://youtu.be/9H-yrfmqmGc

Tuesday, 04 August 2015 00:00

Foolishness in Conflict

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This video was passed on to me in response to my sermon on wisdom in conflict. It is a good illustration of how not to approach conflict. Almost any one of the Proverbs that I dealt with in my sermon could have defused this whole situation. This matter could've been let go.  The confrontation could have been made with less attitude and anger. The rebuke could have been responded to without defensiveness. Instead the conflict escalates to comic proportions. 

https://youtu.be/NBvysuewIOs

Monday, 27 July 2015 00:00

Wake up Calls

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In my study regarding wisdom in our words, I came across this video which talks about the importance of moral wake-up calls. There is power in helping people see the significance of their words and deeds. This is one of the ways in which Proverbs function.  They identify wisdom for us so that when we face the challenges of life, we are open to God and alert to his ways.

https://youtu.be/GYyvmyIqiGk

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