The Lord has been wooing my heart, seeking to teach me more about who he is so I can pour him out to those around me. He has encouraged me to get up early to spend time with him in his Word and in prayer. It hasn’t been easy but it has been so good and I almost look forward to 6am! I have been spending those quiet times in a Bible study about the Fruits of the Spirit. It is an inductive study where I read the same passage daily for 5 days, asking myself different questions each day, seeking to learn what the Lord has to say to me. This morning I was reading John 15:1-11 and something struck me so I thought I would share it with you. Often I feel I am alone on this spirit-journey. Often I feel Christ is a spectator sitting on the side just watching me, seeing how I am doing at a distance, only getting involved if something terrible happens or if I really beg him to. It makes me think of my kids watching all those marathoners running past our house this last weekend. They watched and observed but they didn’t get involved. But, according to John, that is not the case with us at all! Instead of being a spectator, the Father is an active participant! Not only is he cheering me on, he is involved. Jesus uses the metaphor of the vine and since I just picked all the grapes off our vine and made it into juice, that resonates deep with me. I am the branches on the vine of Christ. The Father is the gardener. I love to garden so I get that picture. I imagine the Father checks out the vine all the time to look for diseased branches. Those he cuts off (vs 1). Are some branches growing much too vigorously in a wrong direction? He prunes those back. Do I need some water for my soul? He waters. Fertilizer? He feeds me. Does he marvel at the blossoms bursting forth, inspecting each one for its beauty? Yes! Does he protect those blossoms from frost, stake the vine if it falls over, net the fruit so the birds cannot eat it? Yes, yes, yes! He does so because he is involved! He is actively participating with me! And he loves me! He doesn’t only want me to have fruit, he wants me to have an abundance of fruit (vs 2). The Father doesn’t just sit by and see what happens. He doesn’t just sit and hope all goes well. He participates! I don’t know about you, but that is encouraging for me. My Father in heaven is doing all he can to make sure that I grow and bloom and bear fruit! The fruit of the Spirit doesn’t just happen to people. It takes being joined to the vine and staying joined to the vine. Verse 5 in the Contemporary English Version says it this way, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit.” If you were looking for the answer on how to be more kind and loving, more patient, slow to anger, full of peace and gentleness, this is it! Stay joined to Jesus! And I promise you, the Father is doing everything he can to help us grow and bear fruit. But we must stay joined to him. What a great thing to learn and remember. Stay joined to Jesus and the Father will do all he can to help us grow fruit. Amen and amen!
Last Thursday, we had the privilage of hosting Southern Gospel group Father’s Daughter, from Abbotsford, B.C. here in our parking lot. It was a wonderful evening, with great music, great fellowship, and a great chance for the community to get out and enjoy the wonderful atmosphere. Here are a few pictures of the event.
Yesterday, Pastor Abe used Matthew 4:19, which reads, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” as the main verse for his sermon. It was a moving sermon in which Pastor Abe asked the question, “Are you using the bible as your roadmap, or are you driving around without it?” or something to that effect.
The comment that struck me most followed quickly on the heels of this question. Men have a terrible time asking for directions, don’t they. Hmmm. This is a perplexing statement, especially when it is coupled with the question above. This has been an area of contention in my life, the area of reading the bible. Let me re-phrase that: There is a difference between reading the bible and studying the bible. And I can do a really poor job of the latter a lot of the time.
There is a special place that God has called men to, especially in the home. If men don’t like asking for directions, and the bible is the roadmap for the soul, then that means that they have a hard time asking God for the direction of their lives. I like this analogy. I also like that God forgives us when we let the bible on our nightstands collect dust. May I learn to study more. May I learn to put aside reading the bible, for what John says in Revelation 10: Eat the book.
This past Sunday, while pastor Abe and Kathy were away on holidays, i had the opportunity to preach. You can view the text of the message on The Roaring Lion by following this link, i won’t go into it here.
This post is just to say, it is interesting to see how the feelings arise within me as the days lead up to preaching. I start to get anxious, nervous. Especially because of the content that seems to be laid on my heart. I can honestly say that i don’t think i have ever, EVER, been more nervous in my life about anything, than i was this past Sunday. People never ask seasoned preachers if they are nervous, but when someone hasn’t preached a whole lot before, they tend to ask the question. No one ever asks pastor Abe if he’s nervous, but they still ask me.
One lady asked me if i was nervous, and i said, “Yes. Quite.” She then told me, and i’ve heard this before, that when a preacher is no longer nervous when they go into the pulpit to preach the word of God, they need to retire. They need to stop. Because that is the point at which they no longer operate in God’s wisdom and strength. That is the point that they think they can do it on their own.
As an introvert, being nervous in public comes quite naturally. But the words of teacher/preacher Mike Bickle have become somewhat of a life lesson for me, which i’ve adopted, and now operate in. I once heard him say, “I love God so much, I want to serve more. I will serve the people around me because I love God so much.”
Yes i get nervous when i preach. I could shake the leaves off trees because of how much i’m shaking. It is not because of how people might view me, or what they might think. It is because of the message God gives me. That i not falter. That i not stumble and ignore certain aspects that he wants me to say. I get nervous because i don’t want to get in the way while he is speaking to the congregation. He is speaking the same message that he spoke to me as i prepared. I don’t want to get in the way.
May i never stop getting nervous.
This past Sunday we had our annual Sunday school/church picnic.
A bit of a tense moment surfaced when the skies opened up and it started raining, quite a bit I might add, just as the team was getting set to practice their songs. With a bit of discussion, we decided to move the whole operation into a quonset for the actual service. It worked out quite well, and it gave the grass time to dry out a bit, as the rain stopped after a short while.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent outdoors, with all sorts of games being played, including football, baseball, and a wide variety of kids games as well.
All in all it was a great day, and the sun came out to warm everything up quite nicely. In another post to come soon, we’ll have some pictures for you about the event, as well as information about a concert being planned for the end of July.
It is hard to ignore the sign outside our church however you make your way past, be it jogging, riding a bike, or even driving. Because we are positioned right at a corner, vehicles must stop, and bikers and joggers etc. seem to generally slow down as it is a busy intersection.
Last Sunday’s message was titled, “You Can Take It To The Bank!” which is an old expression which basically means, you can trust it, whatever it is. I remember a day when the expression was used every so often, and i knew immediately that the person saying it was not going to go back on their word, but was in fact committed to making sure whatever they promised would come to pass.
The main portion of Sunday’s message dealt with the practice of Communion, and Pastor Abe made some great observations and truths that we surely can “Take To The Bank.”
But it was what he said in the beginning that caught my attention. Before he got into the main body of his message, Pastor Abe took a bit of a side-step, if you will, and shared some thoughts that had challenged him just that morning during his devotions. He shared from II Peter 1:3-11, which reads,
3 …as His devine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (NKJV, emphasis mine)
Did you see that? Peter lists a bunch of things that compound one on top of the other, and then he says if you do these things, that’s what “if these things are yours and abound” really means, if you do these things and they increase more and more in your life, you won’t be barren and unfruitful, but your understanding and knowledge of the Lord will increase.
But look closely, there is another promise found in verse 10: If you do these things you will never stumble, and your entrance into heaven will be given to you in abundance. Now, I can’t be quite sure, but i think that this promise of not stumbling actually has nothing to do with sin. In our earthly wisdom i think we associate that stumbling with sin too much. I think this has everything to do with the assurance of salvation, and the continuity in chasing after our faith, pushing towards the prize, as it were. That, however, does not give us a ticket to sin. Our lives should be transformed by the things listed in these verses, and God’s strength will shine through in our lives if we follow these things. But we are not perfect. And God knows that. When we sin, we are to call it what it is. Call it sin, repent, hit delete and move on towards the goal. Constantly pursuing God with every fibre of our being.
God gives us these promises in II Peter so that there is hope in our lives.
And, i think at least, that is something we can take to the bank.
It always turns out to be a number of weeks between Sundays when I am able to listen to a message! When you aren’t able to listen to the messages each week, it makes you pay a little more attention when you can (well, as much attention as one can give while still dealing with antsy 6 & 8-year-old boys!)! Cute little side story! A number of weeks ago, Jay and I were in the nursery taking care of the littlest ones in the church. Our youngest 2 children stayed with us while the rest of them sat with friends during the service. I was extremely proud of my 8-year old when he came to me after the service with a number of Scripture passages written on a piece of paper for me. He said he knew I was not able to listen to the pastor speak so he wrote the passages down for me so I could look them up later! What an extremely thoughtful boy! I am slightly surprised he paid that much attention. Actually, I shouldn’t be surprised at all – this is the same boy who at 7 years old took detailed and accurate notes on the entire Disneynature movie “Crimson Wing”, a story about flamingos, just because he could!
Anyhow, on to my point! A few Sundays past, Pastor Abe talked about the entire chapter of John 9 – the story of the blind beggar who is given his sight by Jesus. I won’t go into all that pastor said but I wanted to talk about one particular line he said towards the end of the message that sticks out in my head. I may not have this verbatim but the point is this: Has the world blinded me so much that I am unable to see God around me? What a great question! Do I really see all that Jesus is doing around me? In me? Through me? Obviously I don’t see all that is happening but do I see any of it? I know this may seem trivial to you but I immediately thought of the 5-acre property we now own just outside of town. I see it as a diamond-in-the-rough, Jason just sees it as rough 🙂 Our goal is to build a new bigger house there within a year but the property certainly has its challenges – mostly, it is probably the lowest section of land in the entire quarter and all the water seems to run to it. It is a wet property. A very wet property. So wet, the wood ducks are yearly visitors to the back corner where the trees are flooded and the water is a good 12″+ deep. The frogs don’t just merely sing, they bellow a very loud chorus. The 85′ tall, fully mature poplar trees forming the shelter belt are starting to fall over at the roots, it is so wet. So, it has a lot of water. The other day when I was there exploring the lake in the back, listening to the cacophony of noises made by the frogs, ducks and birds, observing the 10 ducks fly away when I got too near, I was overwhelmed with the knowledge that this property is a gift. From God. He gave us this land, knowing who we are, knowing who I am, this is a gift. Am I going to complain because of its challenges or be thankful in spite of them? So many times the Lord is trying to do things around me, through me, or give things to me and I just complain! I even pray about things, the Lord answers and I complain because it was not quite what I expected! I must not see!
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord!
Open the eyes of my heart!
I want to see you!
I want to see you!
So, as I continue to go about my days, I seek with new eyes to see that which the Lord is doing – doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I pray that the Lord would open my eyes to his goodness and grace around me and that I would proclaim his deeds! Open my eyes, Lord! I want to see you!