Saturday, February 13, 2010

National Pride: Nikki Yanofsky Sings O Canada

This brought tears to my eyes in the car when I heard it live.

It did the same this morning when I found this clip.

I don't fully understand national pride, but I have never felt so happy to be Canadian as when listening to this teenager sing our anthem.

(It may take a few minutes to load...)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Can Ministry be Measured?

Every once in a while I sit down with our member directory and note every ministry every member is involved in. It always pleasantly surprises me.
We are not a “program church.” By design we keep our service schedule tight and avoid meeting at any times besides Sundays and Wednesdays. Yet, almost every member of our church is busy serving in three or four significant ministries. These will include everything from nursery staff, to setting up (lots of!) chairs, to serving seniors at a nearby nursing home, to greeting people at the door.
As vital as all these ministries are, they pale in comparison to that whole other level of ministry that is taking place at the same time – Christians serving other Christians. The members of our church take fellowship seriously, and seek to build into each other’s lives all the time. I am amazed to overhear snippets of conversations week by week as I stroll the hall. I am encouraged to catch glimpses of brothers meeting for meals during the week in order to sharpen each other spiritually. I smile at established members inviting “new people” over for a meal. I am thrilled to observe older women serving younger women, to see grown men taking time to build relationships with unbelieving kids in our church family, to hear of “secret” financial gifts to those in need and to watch the tidal movement of authentic Christian community.
Then there is the consistent evangelism of the lost. We meet to pray every week and every week our members ask to pray for certain folks to whom they have spoken the Gospel.
How could one measure this? Part of its beauty is that it is so real and “of the moment” and carried along by the Spirit that it could never be scripted or assessed.
I think that is a very important thing to remember when we evaluate church. We might be tempted to set up a grid that lists particular ministries to particular age groups or demographics. Or, we might think the only evangelism that really counts is the stuff we do “officially” as a group. In a market-driven culture these look like decent measures. They are not the ones God uses.
Real people engaging real people with the real Truth. This is what it means to be part of a real local church. And I absolutely love mine!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why We Don't Pray

We meet to pray every Wednesday night at GFC and usually take 10 minutes before prayer to reorient our minds toward God. To do this last night I asked our adults two questions. I found folks’ answers very encouraging! Admittedly, I did not get every response jotted down, but here is a sampling of what we came up with:

1. What lies do we believe that keep us from praying?
  • God will not listen to me
  • God is not able to help
  • I need to work things out myself; I am more trustworthy than God
  • God is not going to do good
  • I am not good enough for God to listen to me
  • My matters are unimportant
  • I have already prayed about this a hundred times
  • I will not pray the right thing
  • Prayer will not change anything since God is sovereign

Then we sought to answer these lies with the Truth of the Word.

2. What things are true about God that should deeply encourage us to pray to Him?
  • He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything
  • He forgives our iniquities
  • He takes pleasure in His people
  • His mercies are new every morning
  • He hears those who ask of Him
  • He listens to the humble who pray
  • He does more than we can ask
  • If He gave us Christ how will He not give us all things?
  • His kingdom is not of this world
  • He sympathizes with our weakness
  • He maintains the cause of the afflicted
  • He draws close the brokenhearted
  • Christ intercedes for us, sitting, resurrected at the Fathers right hand
  • He is our pleasure, stronghold, joy and path of life
  • His Spirit intercedes for us in prayer
  • He hears us

If we fail to pray it is because we have thought much too little of Christ and much too much of ourselves. God rescue us from proud independence!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review: A New Kind of Christianity —

Review: A New Kind of Christianity —

Pastor Dash has an insightful critique (and a good link) of Brian McLaren's new work. Darryl has so much patience for this kind of thing that I really depend on my brother to understand the issues better.

"A few years ago, I was struggling with some of the issues McLaren raises. But I found that some of the answers being proposed were less, not more, satisfying. I believe that our biggest need is not for a new Christianity, but instead to rediscover some of the contours of the gospel we may have forgotten. We don’t need a new contract; we need to “guard the good deposit” that’s been entrusted to us (2 Timothy 1:14).

We really don’t need a new kind of Christianity. We need to do a better job of rediscovering, and living in light of, the one we already have."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Is Blood Thicker than Water?

One of the points I made this past Sunday while preaching on Gospel-centred Singleness was that the family of God was of greater value and is owed greater allegiance than our natural family. I expected this to draw a certain level of criticism at the back door (maybe it still will!) but the silence was striking.

To make this point, I stacked up a series of texts.

There are many passages that utilize the vocabulary of “family” in order to describe the church (see Ephesians 2:19), yet there are also some that elevate the terminology from mere metaphor to reality.

  • 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

On top of this, there exists an entire genre of events where Jesus was very clear that the Gospel would bring division into many natural families. In each case, the greater loyalty lies toward the spiritual family – the church.

  • Luke 12:51-53 Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.
  • Luke 21:16-19 You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives.

Then there are these two instances where Jesus explicitly taught that His greater loyalty was to the children of God (the “saved”).

  • Mark 3:31-35 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
  • Luke 11:27-28 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Finally, Jesus taught that the Gospel brings us into a new, spiritual, massive family that more than replaces our old, physical, natural family.

  • Luke 10:26-31 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Then add to this the explicit command via John that because of the Gospel, we are to live with a life and death loyalty toward the family of God.

  • 1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

In no ways does this excuse our obligations to our natural family! We are obligated to provide for our own families.

  • 1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

The real question is, where does our final loyalty stand? Your natural family is temporary, your spiritual family is eternal. The greatest hope of every person is that those two families will forever overlap and we will see all our children and relatives and spouse(s) in the Kingdom to come. But if push came to shove, and you were called to act in some instance…. To whom would you be loyal? The family of [insert last name here], or the family of God? Does that sound cultish? Over the top? Or have we not fully wrestled through what it means to be “born again?”