Jottings – Life’s Harsh Realities

Jottings

“The first chapter of Daniel tells us of their early beginnings. Without those early steps of faithfulness to their Lord there would be no record of their later heroism. Scripture does not give us these details of their early years accidentally. It does so in order to teach us that growth in grace and usefulness in God’s service does not begin in the world of our dreams but in the context of life’s harsh, historical realities. So it was for Daniel; so it will be also for the Daniels of today.”

Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 21 : Daniel, ed. Lloyd J. Ogilvie. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1988, p. 24.

 

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Audio: Ecclesiastes Chapter One

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 NKJV

And so begins King Solomon’s book of Ecclesiastes with a searching question: “what does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” An excellent question, a question that many have asked. Maybe you have asked a similar question about life… “is all of this worth it?” or “work, work, work and then I die?!”

In the book of Ecclesiastes King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, explores his question with brutal honesty. In the end Solomon comes to the conclusion that life is meaningless if it is lived for the things “under the sun.” But there is hope! And that hope is found above the sun.

What about you? Are you living for those things under or above the sun?

Recorded: Sunday April 23, 2006 at the North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA.

 

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Why Are Friendships so Hard?

Yesterday we had a missionary from Kenya speak at our church. He shared from the Word and gave a short report on his work.  His subject was on relationships and how in Kenya building relationships is the most important thing.  He then used that as a way to present how God considers a relationship with us the most important thing as well. It got me thinking. Why is it that some relationships are so much tougher to maintain than others? What makes a good relationship? What makes me a good friend or a bad friend?  Here are a few thoughts on friendships.


1. Good friends show love


You would think that I wouldn’t have to list this here, but I believe this to be the essence of building strong relationships. As we grow in Christ, there ought to be an evident, tangible expression of love for others. If we look at the Lord as our perfect example, it was His love for us that sealed our relationship with him.  We sang in the Lord’s Supper yesterday that He cannot cease to love us. It’s not just that he told us He loved us but that he showed it. So in turn we must show our love for one another.


2. Good friends show concern


My mind thinks of one of my best friends Roy. We get together about once a month for breakfast and have great fellowship at the church we attend. One of the things I appreciate about him is that he is constantly checking up on me and asking how I’m doing. He goes out of his way to make sure he says hi  and to see how I am doing.  When we get together each month, we catch up on what’s going on in each other’s lives. I so value that time we spend together.


3. Good friends play together


Ok this makes it sound like we are in the 2nd grade, but the point is that to build solid relationships there needs to be time spent just enjoying good company.  This could be an activity such as a sport, group games or just heading down to the local park and sitting chatting. One of the greatest aspects of my local church is that we do a lot of fun stuff together. We have games nights, picnics, BBQs and other fun times together. It keeps us close as we  have fun together.


4. Good friends eat together


This might seem similar the point above, but it’s not. There is something about eating with friends that takes on a different atmosphere. I believe it centers around talking. When we eat with others the main goal is to talk. That is often where lives are shared the most, hearts are opened and we see into each other’s lives.


5. Good friends open their homes to each other


I want to make a point here about hospitality. When I was young it was very common (several times a month) that we either had other believers in our home or went to other people’s home for fellowship. Almost always there was food (point 4), we would play some games (point 3) and often there was singing as well. I believe that hospitality has died out and that because of that not only are people’s homes closed, their hearts are too.  It’s time we got back to this much needed practice. It doesn’t have to be a big meal. Often we would have people over after an evening meeting and ask them to pick up some snacks on the way. They were very glad to do that and the evening revolved around the relationship, not how fancy the food was or how tidy the house was. Maybe it’s pride that gets in the way of asking others to come into our homes.


6. Good friends forgive each other


This is sooooooooooooooooooo important.  I put it last to emphasize how damaging it can be when a believer does not forgive others. It can divide families, churches and friendships. The Bible is clear that as much as Christ has forgiven us we MUST forgive others. What does it mean to forgive? It means to completely wipe away the wrong from our minds, hearts and actions. It essentially erases the wrong so that it never appears again. I have seen the damage of not forgiving and it’s not pretty. It’s time we laid down our pride and arrogance and reached out to those we have chosen not to forgive and mend the relationship. It’s not a choice, it’s what the Lord expects from us.

There are of course, many other aspects to friendships and relationship building. Whole books have been written on the subject.  These were just a few thoughts that came to mind as I listened to the subject being preached. Thank God for giving us a body of fellow believers to love, care for, have fun with, eat with, open our homes to and forgive when needed.  Let’s build stronger relationships and in doing so honor the Lord who built the greatest relationship of all by coming to be our Saviour.

 

 

 

 

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Titus 2:1-2 Walking the Walk

 

This is the 12th video in a series of teaching videos on the book of Titus. You can find the first video here.

Is it enough to know what you believe or does it matter how you live it?

In this latest instalment of this book Paul starts a section where he instructs Titus to teach the believers how to live. Knowing lots is good– but it is useless unless it changes how you live.

What a challenge!

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His Gospel’s Effect: Lesson 9

RoadScripture: Romans 12:1-2

The gospel should affect our view of life on earth: God is over all! Romans chapter 9 – 11

By thinking about Israel, we have seen that God is sovereign. That means that He is over all. This gospel of grace shows that all is of God. It is of His mercy that Gentiles are saved today. It is of His mercy that Israel as a nation will be saved in the future.

We saw that Israel has disobeyed God’s message of righteousness by faith. That is why they have been cast away and blinded. But their fall is not final, because God has made promises that He will fulfill. The nation of Israel as a whole will be restored in the future. And all glory will go to God!

So in chapters 9 to 11 we see that God’s gospel should affect our view of life on earth: God has plans. Things that happen are not random. God is a living God who is at work. God is over history and the future.

A few major effects of God’s gospel should be that we:

  1. Recognize God is above all. Let God be God.
  2. Respond to God’s word. Obey His message!
  3. Realize God has plans for mankind. Know Israel has a future.
  4. Rejoice to be part of God’s plans! Live like a saint.

Israel has a future by God’s mercy, and we are who we are by God’s mercy! By God’s mercy we are part of the Lord’s eternal purposes!

We who believed the gospel have the privilege of now being saints – God’s holy people! This should change my view of who I am!

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Continued in His Gospel’s Effect: Lesson 10

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Photo flickr/Crinity

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Entry Level Theological Truth [10]

EarthRecently, the political columnist, Charles Krauthammer wrote a piece entitled, “Are we alone in the universe?” In it he mused over the recent exciting discoveries in astronomy of planets that have similarities to Earth. He noted with sadness, however, that as yet nowhere in the universe have we found sentient thinking beings that are like humans. In his words: “For all the excitement, however, the search betrays a profound melancholy — a lonely species in a merciless universe anxiously awaits an answering voice amid utter silence.”*

 

Plan 9 From Outer Space?

 

This brought two things to my mind. First, the astronomers’ search highlights the uniqueness of planet Earth. It is a place where God has finely tuned conditions to be conducive to plant, animal, and human life. Even accounting for the effects of the Fall and sin upon this world, it is still a planet where – if managed correctly – life may thrive. This is an anomaly in the known universe. Secondly, it draws attention to the fact that in this desire to hear a message outside of planet Earth, modern people so often discount that such a message has already come to Earth. It is not from alien life forms like those imagined by Spielberg and Lucas, but rather originates from the Creator God. As Hebrews 1:1 says, “God, having spoken of old to the fathers in the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us in His Son” (author’s translation.)

Of course, the first three chapters of Genesis show that God verbally reveals Himself to His creatures. He is in the habit of speaking with them since the day He made them. Furthermore, mankind’s very existence was not a divine afterthought. Rather, He fashioned planet Earth with humans in mind, making it a place which by His providence is fruitful and conducive to the development of man’s talents. We see this in the fact that Genesis specifically mentions that there was no man to till the ground (Genesis 2:5-7.) The Almighty always intended for man to work in conjunction with this earth to make it a place of beauty for God’s greater glory. When God created man on the 6th day, He placed him in the garden as a training ground where he could learn skills under the Creator’s tutelage that would enable him to eventually graduate from the garden and proceed to apply these abilities to this globe in its pristine wildness.

 

Failing Out of God’s School

 

Sadly, man failed the chief test in the garden which was loyalty to the Creator as demonstrated by obedience to God’s Word. In spite of that, God has been seeking to save man from spiritual separation that his own rebellion creates. God speaks from the stars, the cells, every flower, and in every rock – all of these things shout at us, “there is a glorious Creator!” One who is powerful and all-wise. One who is faithful and good.

He also speaks to men through their consciences, although they often do not heed and sometimes cause it to be calloused and malfunctioning through their obdurate pursuit of sin. Most of all, God speaks through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who fulfilled the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Luke 24:27.) What is more, He is the One who through His Holy Spirit has conveyed the teaching of the New Testament to the first century church – a revelation that has been handed down from generation to generation and remains God’s message to man in the 21st century.

 

God Is Speaking Is Anyone Listening?

 

So to Mr. Krauthammer and every inquiring mind who has ever gazed at the skies and wondered if we are alone, God’s Word says that we most certainly are not. There is a Sovereign Lord of the universe who determines the fate of this planet and every other. He is One who so desires a personal relationship with every human being that He sent His Son into this world with the message of His holy love. A message that is embodied in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, His resurrection in power, His ascension back to glory, and His eventual second coming to Earth. Why not click on an e-Bible today – or if you prefer, pick up a physical copy – and listen to Him today?

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*http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/are-we-alone-in-the-universe/2011/12/29/gIQA2wSOPP_story.html

Photo: NASA

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To read the next installment of Entry Level Theological Truth click here.

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A Legacy Of Thanksgiving

Here in the United States we celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. For most Americans Thanksgiving means gathering with family and friends to watch football, overeat, and enjoy a day off of work. While most know that the intended purpose of the day has something to do with being thankful (the day IS called Thanksgiving after all), it’s obvious that most spend the day oblivious of the countless reasons we have to be thankful.

When I woke up yesterday morning I was like most Americans… oblivious of the countless reasons to be thankful. My mind was filled with thoughts of turkey, sweet potatoes, and all berry pie. I was thinking of my father’s brand new iPad and helping him set up Facebook and Gmail… I was thinking about playing Legos with the kids.

While my mind was thinking about these things… I never thought to stop and give thanks to God for these things. Yes, the food, iPad, Facebook, Gmail, and Legos are all things to be thankful for.

But, what about those who I enjoy the food with? What about my wife who prepared the meal? What about my mother & father? the kids? Infinitely more important than the “things” are the people who we enjoy the things with.

Then late in the afternoon the phone rang. My reminder to be truly thankful came in the most dreadful of ways.

One of my cousins, only 42 years old, had died unexpectedly sometime during the night. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… I had only seen him a month earlier. We had spent the afternoon together at Niagara Falls, and enjoyed dinner together at TGI Friday’s. Never did I realize that would be the last time we would be together.

Yes, I am thankful for the “things” in my life… the “things” that make life easier, like iPads & Gmail, and the “things” that make life enjoyable like all berry pie, Legos, and Facebook.

However, I was reminded that the people in my life are infinitely more important than the “things” in my life. I was reminded to be most thankful for the people in my life…. Like my wife and children, my in-laws, my cousins, my friends, my neighbors, and the saints at my local assembly. iPads can be replaced, people can not.

Life, at best, is brief. Yes, we know this to be true in an academic sense, but do we really believe it to be true? Do you live each day in the reality of this truth? Do I?

Are we mending broken relationships? Are we telling our loved ones that we love them? Are we sharing the Good News of the Gospel… that life is not pointless, there is a purpose greater than ourselves.

Life is too short for me not to share with you the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That God, the creator of Heaven and Earth loves you, even despite the fact that you have sinned and offended Him. How do I know that God loves you? Because He sent His only die to die in your place, to pay the penalty of your sin.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

My prayer is that this Thanksgiving, and its lessons, will never be forgotten.

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