Sharing The Faith: Attitudes

“Really?”  So my friend said to me after going through a sales presentation by an individual.  My friend was looking for a particular product, and had wondered if this was the one.

But the salesperson was….. well…… WOW.  Not a good “wow.”  More like, “Wow, what IS this person doing here?  If she’s not excited about this thing, how am I supposed to be?
Her attitude came through in spades.  And, no, there was no sale. Surprise.

Attitude – it DOES matter.
I attended an all-candidates meeting recently for the upcoming municipal election.  And what interested me equally as much as the content of the various speeches was the attitude that each candidate brought to the table.  ‘Cause that attitude will set the stage for what this individual will do when confronted by this or that novel issue in the next few years.

Attitude – That’s the thing we tackle in the first of KCRC’s Fall teaching series, Sharing The Faith.

Yes, we’ll get to thinking about what to say (or not)  and when to say it (or not) and how.  All that sort of good stuff.
But first – Attitude.
Because attitude shapes everything.  It is like the rudder of the ship.  How it is pointed affects everything else.

Our  Bible passage was 1 Peter 3:8-16.
Go ahead and find a bible, either print version or online or app.
Then download the podcast and the study guide.

Please note – those of you using a mobile device may have to set your browser to “desktop mode” to access the download button (a glitch with our site – sorry about that).

Here’s the podcast……..

Sharing The Faith: Attitudes

And here’s the study guide:

Sharing The Faith: Attitudes – The Study Guide

As always, feel free to pass this stuff around.  You can also find this, and other messages online at the KCRC website under the tab “Sermons And Stuff.”

We’d also love to have you join us live for worship.
We gather each Sunday at 10am.
Don’t worry about getting all gussied up.  Just come as you are – we’re a church full of imperfect people.
And we’d be glad to have other imperfect people, like you, along for the ride!

Disappointed With God

Ever been disappointed with God?
Or, perhaps better, who among us has NOT been disappointed by God at least once somewhere along the way in our life?

Perhaps it was an untimely death.
Perhaps the perfect job that got away.
Perhaps a relationship that didn’t pan out as you hoped.
Whatever the deal, something fell flat that we’d really be hoping for, and praying towards.
What we expected didn’t work out.

And failed expectation leads to disappointment.
Happens all the time.
The bigger our expectation, the deeper the disappointment.
When there’s someone you thought you could trust, who ends up talking behind your back…
Or the employer you thought for sure would keep you on, ends up being not so dependable…
Or you catch your spouse flirting with someone else…

It’s bad enough when it happens with people.
But with God??!!
Doesn’t the hymn say, “There is no shadow of turning with thee”?
He is reliable.
N’est pas?

Then how come…..?

Someone once suggested that part of the deal is that we confuse RELIABILITY with PREDICTABILITY.
Could it be?
That we think that because God can be relied upon, that we can predict what he’s going to do.
We know what we want.
It seems good to us.
Perhaps even the best to us.
So – our minds begin to project that onto God, and we predict that this is also what he wants for us.
And, therefore, we should be able to count on him coming through to provide it – reliably so.

Which, of course, isn’t how it works.
Anyone who is a parent knows that.
Their children come, and ask – confident in what they desire.
But from our vantage point we know it not to be best, or we are aware of other circumstances that make this not possible, even IF it would be wonderful for them.
And so we do something different.
And the disappointed and deep wailing begins.

When we experience this with God, we are not the first to do so.
The bible gives all kinds of examples of giants in faith who struggled.
To name a few:
Moses (Exodus 5:22-23)
Abraham (Genesis 18:25)
Jonah (Jonah 4:1-2)
Habakuk (Habakkuk 1:2-3)
Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:7-9)
John the Baptist (Matthew 11:3)

This Sunday we’ll be exploring a time when whole crowds became disappointed with Jesus.
And walked away from him.
The disciples, led by Simon Peter, are faced with a choice.
Stay, or join the crowd and leave.
They, too, share the disappointment and confusion with what Jesus is about.

Jesus turns, stares at them, and asks, “So, are you leaving me, also?”
John 6 records their response.
Which is one of reluctant surrender, and almost begrudged willingness to keep walking with him.
“Where else are we supposed to go?” they say.
“There’s no other viable option.”
Indicating that if there were, they might have also left.

And perhaps that is, sometimes, where we need to go.
Even though disappointed.
Even though thoroughly confused.
Even though heart-broken.
And admitting it.
Still following Jesus.
Perhaps reluctantly.
Perhaps begrudging our shattered dreams.
But aware that, in the big, eternal scheme of things there is no better place, no safer place, no more sure place to have our lives, than surrendered to and following Jesus.

Hope you can be with us as we explore this further on Sunday, 10am, at KCRC.
If not, stay tuned – the podcast will be posted early next week here on PKN.

Unseen – but very real

You know the phrase – “the tyranny of the urgent”.
That is, the stuff of life that is right in your face, big and demanding, tends to be the stuff that often gets our attention and energy. It drives us, and sometimes almost controls us.

Most of us are aware that this is certainly not the best way to live. We need to plan for the unseen that lays ahead and the inevitable bumps and curves in the road of life. But somehow…… it’s hard to put away money for the kid’s education when the car needs tires; and who wants to think about stacking firewood for next winter when weeds in the garden are staring you in the face?

It seems to me that more of us are living for the “right here and right now” than used to be the case.
Or maybe I’m just noticing it more.
But chores around the house, carting kids to soccer, catching up on facebook seem to dominate many of our lives to the point where time cultivating a relationship with our unseen, but very present Father in heaven, gets relegated to tomorrow, which – as they say – never comes. Perhaps it reflects in decreased participation in group worship, or atrophied times personal meditation and prayer, or the loss of awareness that the Spirit of Jesus is there – right there – in each moment of our day. I get distracted by what I see and touch and smell and taste and hear. As if they are all that is real. As if they are all that matters.

In Matthew 17, Simon Peter gets the shock of his life.
As he is hanging out with Jesus and a couple of other friends, suddenly Jesus’ appearance changes.
Brilliant – glowing – powerful.
Was it that something was suddenly different about Jesus?
Or was it that Simon and his friends were given a glimpse of something that was real and there all along, but their limited senses normally couldn’t see it?
I think it was the latter.

We all know that our senses are limited.
Dogs, for example, hear in a range of the audio spectrum that our human ears can’t access.
We don’t catch the sounds – but that doesn’t mean they’re not there, or not real. Just ask the howling dog.
A honey bee sees colour in the ultraviolet spectrum, helping them zoom in on the nectar and pollen.
Our eyes can’t see it – but it IS very real.
Just watch the bee and how it zooms in on the flower.

We live in a very limited 3-dimensional world. Scientists have, in recent years, helped us understand that there are most likely many more dimensions to reality than three. But three is all our very limited human senses can experience.

Why do we live as if what we see and experience in our limited way is all that matters?
The Bible tells us that angels watch us.
It hints that saints from ages past may well be watching us, and cheering us on in life.
It assures us that the Spirit of Jesus is present.
That heaven is NOT that far away.
That the Saviour in heaven is preparing an eternity in glory for those who love him – and that eternity is just around the corner.

These things are real.
As real as what we ate for breakfast. (psst – you DID eat a nutritious breakfast, didn’t you???!!!)
I wonder how much a part of your life and mine they are?
And in what way?

Risks Of Faithfulness – Sermon Podcast

Yesterday (February 8) we witnessed risk-taking which grew up out of a commitment to a careful, care-giving relationship among family members.  The amazing part was that the people taking the risks did so without getting anything tangible for themselves.  ZERO.  The ones who benefited didn’t gain.  Can you imagine anyone doing that today?

It was all so inspirational.
It also sounded echos of another person who took great risks – and did so totally for the sake of others.  He gained nothing – ZERO – from it for himself.

All of this helped us explore contours of covenant relationships.
Theirs.
Ours.
Oh yes, and God’s covenant connection to his children here on earth – including us.

You may listen in  by right-clicking on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.  Please also feel free to share the podcast with anyone:

Risks Of Faithfulness

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You are also invited to download the study guide:

Risks Of Faithfulness – Study Guide

God Pulls. Sin Pushes.

Satan and sin push.
And God pulls.
Ever noticed?

The Prince of Darkness, and all that is sin, seek to push people away from each other; shoving people out of community and into solitary space. For there, alone, they are much easier pray for destructive temptation.

Our Triune God desires and calls us and pulls us towards each other; taking them from the weak space of isolation into the power and safety of community. For there, together, there is strength, there is protection, there is wisdom and determination to withstand the seductive lures of sin.
As the well known verse of Ecclesiastes 4:12 puts it:
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ever noticed how Genesis 3 records that the willingness to entertain temptation, and the fall into sin, happen primarily in solitary space. The serpent takes on Eve one-on-one and suckers her in.
The first murder? Cain, alone with his thoughts, falls into prideful rage and kills Abel.
Scripture records how it is all downhill from there.

Ever noticed how Jesus gives huge, HUGE weight to his teachings on loving and caring for each other?

Jesus tells his followers that the second greatest commandment, after loving God, is loving each other (Matthew 22:36-40).

Jesus also said, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” (John 13:34)

The great prayer recorded in John 17, just before he goes to the cross, has as one of its key themes, “Father, may they be one as we are One.”

And, just for giggles and kicks, why not fire up your online bible search engine and review all the “One another” passages in the Bible…… love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, etc.
Go check it out – over 100 of ’em for your edification.

Why so many?
Hmmmm – must be a challenge that we find hard to meet – you know, like that “thing” which parents have to keep reminding their kids about, that necessary thing which makes life so much better if they do it, but somehow seems so hard for them to get to doing properly (you know that “thing”… right?).
Being with one another in supportive, loving community seems to be a hard thing for us to do and maintain.
Sin seeks to push us away from it.

But God pulls us towards it.

Not surprising, really.
We are made in his image – right?
Whose image?
The image of Triune God. Yes, Father/Son/Spirit Three-In-One God. The three-yet-one-holy-essence God. Closer-than-you-could-ever-imagine-a-community-being-together-three-in-one God.
What some theologians call “the Divine Society” – the Eternal Divine Holy Community of Father, Son and Spirit.
The breath-taking truth of Scripture is that we are made in their image…
We are made to be together.

What’s going on in your life right now?
What do you feel more? The push of sin? Or the pull of God?

This Sunday we are going to explore Ruth 2. There we will witness the obedience of a servant of Lord named Boaz. We’ll reflect on his humble obedience to God’s call to live in community. We’ll see the beautiful healing that this obedience brings into some very broken lives.

And may that inspire us to greater obedience in responding to the pull of God. And greater determination to withstand the destructive push of sin.

Hungry For Faithfulness

We are in the season of Epiphany – the time of year when believers in Jesus reflect on his presence in the world, and what his appearance meant to Creation and all humanity.

At Kemptville CRC we’re going to think about that through the lens of the Old Testament book of Ruth – it is a drama in four acts on the theme of FAITHFULNESS.

You’re invited to follow along – either here through the podcast, or in person at our 10am Sunday worship services at KCRC.

This week we wonder together at the strange and very determined faithfulness demonstrated by the young woman, Ruth.  Why does she behave in such a fiercely loyal way to her (ex)mother-in-law?  And does that faithfulness of Ruth reflect another’s faithfulness?

You may listen in  by right-clicking on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.  Please also feel free to share the podcast with anyone:

Hungry For Faithfulness

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

Q&A on “Why are there so many homophobic people in the Church?”

Good afternoon, everyone –
So, here I thought that last week’s message on suffering brought a lot of questions.
Turns out it was NOTHING compared to this week!
Seems like we’re onto something that lots of you are mulling over.
The question you asked me to preach on was  “Why are there so many homophobic people in the Church?”
And then came questions that you submitted after the service via paper & email….
“Is it easy for us to pick on homosexuality because it is visible, while other very destructive ones (like gossip) are more acceptable?”
For sure.
If we take the traditional reading of Romans 1, for example, most people tend to focus on the verses that consign homosexuals to eternal doom.  However, we grow silent about the verses that follow – which speak of gossip and other patterns of behaviour.  Why is that?
Oh, we justify them easily.  “We’re not gossiping.  We’re just concerned / sharing / etc.”
Meanwhile a person’s reputation is damaged or twisted and a life potentially ruined.
Because of wagging of the tongue.
Hey, ever noticed that when a person starts “grading” sins as if they were  eggs – bigger and smaller ones – somehow the stuff that is problematic for them gets graded as less of a sin than stuff that is a problem for others?
“Is homosexuality really the most damaging of sexual sins, the way it sometimes seems to be made out to be?  What about adultery?  Or incest?  Or rape?”
Very good question.   Judging from the way some of us (older) ones talk (that includes me) homosexuality seems to be the biggest sexual problem around.  But thanks for challenging that.
Based on my ministry experience the others that you name are far more damaging.
Adultery – shattering at least one, often two, homes and extended families.  What bothers me is how socially acceptable this one has become.  It is devastating!
Incest and rape – causing great inner spiritual and emotional trauma to the survivors for years, maybe even a lifetime.  Marriages are affected.  Precious children of God wrestle with crippled self-esteem, flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety attacks.  Horrible stuff.
Compare that to the quiet lesbian couple  that lives in our neighborhood….. Hmmm.
Thanks for your challenge.
“My cousin is in a same sex relationship (married).  He is a pastor. Many people are blessed by his work in the congregation.  Is this grace?”
Seems to be.  I’ve  said it of my own ministry, “The Lord seems to be very capable of shooting straight with a very crooked stick.”  If he can bless others with an imperfect believer and sinner like myself, who am I to say that he can’t do the same with others?  In Mark 9:38-41 the disciples want to shut down the ministry of someone casting out demons in Jesus’ name, because he wasn’t part of the group.  Jesus stops them.  Or think of any one of a number of Old Testament stories, where God uses outsiders to do His work.  Because something doesn’t fit my categories, doesn’t mean God can’t and won’t be at work there, anyway.  His grace is far bigger than my understanding.
“It seems that mercy & grace are rare commodities.  Lord, have mercy & grace on us.  We need it so badly.”
Amen!
“How can we grow in such a way that we can be better at serving, listening, and treating others with respect – so extending grace to them?”
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Begin simple.  Like driving for cancer or the hospital or meals on wheels.
And stretch from there to more challenging settings.
Always be sure to be serving somewhere.  If your life is only about doing what makes you happy, or fulfils you, it is tracking in the wrong way.  My dad says, “I know it is a good day when I’ve helped at least one person.”  That’s a model for me.
And – when it comes to the listening thing, I can’t recall who said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth. Use them that way.”  Good advice.
“Can homosexuals make profession of faith?”
Yes, absolutely.  The CRC synod of 1973 affirmed this – they can serve in local congregations, be office bearers, participate fully.  However, we call them as we do all single people, to live chaste and celibate lives.  Synod also calls congregations to provide a network of support and intimacy and care for such people.  We cannot, Synod reminds us, call them to pure singleness and then walk away, leaving them incredibly lonely.  So – how well do we serve the singles in our community in offering them friendship and support?
“So, if we meet someone who is struggling with their sexual orientation, how do we encourage them in a God-pleasing way?”
How did Jesus behave when around people whose lives were a struggle?  That would be my guide, as an apprentice of his.  Seems to me that he focused on building relationships with them, first of all.  And then in the context of that relationship, he was able to speak truth into their lives.  We have a track record as Christians in Canada of being perhaps too quick to speak pronouncements without getting to know people personally first (remember:  hand-heart-head….)
“How may the sexual revolution of the last 50 years have shaped the thoughts/position of the Church or Christians on this question?”
I’m not sure.  I think that if we’re honest we all have to admit that our thinking is shaped, to one degree or another, by the culture around us.  That’s always been the case.  It is hard to step clear from culture as we read Scripture.  I can’t speak for other church groups, but CAN say that all Christian Reformed leaders whom I’ve met seem very intent on trying to understand Scripture’s call in the clearest and most obedient way possible.  We really do want God, and not the opinions of others, to drive our thinking.
What is very interesting to me is that people over 50 seem to have a much harder position on this issue than those under 50; by and large anyway.  We older folks are willing to get all in a lather over it.  The younger ones – not so much.  The question is – which response is more culturally shaped? That’s open for debate, I think.
“What about Jesus saying to the woman caught in adultery, ‘go and sin no more’? Based on Romans 1 & 1 Cor 6 isn’t homosexual practice a sin?”
So – I was raised with an understanding of the original languages in Romans 1 & 1 Cor 6 that, indeed, would peg homosexual practice of all sorts and shapes as sin.  Period.  I was also trained with the understanding that homosexuality was a learned behaviour, and could be changed.  That’s how we were prepared to minister in the parish.  It was common thinking in the mid-80’s.   That thinking also is what has shaped the CRC’s standing position on homosexuality – that the orientation is  not sinful, but that acting on the impulse is.
In the years since, people are asking for a new denominational study to be done on this issue, because:
a. social science has shown, and even Christian ministries to homosexuals have admitted, that it is not a personal choice.  People are born this way.  And change is virtually impossible.
b. study of the ancient languages has cast into doubt some of the iron-clad understandings of Romans 1 & 1 Cor 6 as being definitively against all homosexuality wherever and however.  Some of this revolves around the word choice that St.Paul employs in the passages.  He chooses an incredibly obscure word for homosexual activity – it seems he may have invented the word.  And the question is “why”?  Why not use one of the many available very clear words of the day?  What message is the Holy Spirit giving through Paul?  The experts are in hot debate about all this at a level far above my ability to judge.  I hope and pray for clear thinking among our scholars to help give guidance to the rest of us.  However, this much  I take away from it all – I’m wanting to be careful to get as worked up as I would have 10 years ago, when I thought it actually pretty straight forward and simple, lest I be shown in a few years from now to have taken my own preconceptions, personal gender biases, and incomplete readings of Scripture and formed judgemental opinions that were NOT in accord with God’s full Will.

A Question Of Faith: #5 “Why are there so many homophobic people in the Church?”

Here were are – the end of the five part series that the community at Kemptville CRC voted for – your five top questions that rumble around inside your faith life.  This week’s won the most votes – by far….  “Why are there so many homophobic people in Church?”

You’ve observed a lot of high blood pressure, yelling, door slamming, labelling and shunning when the question of gender orientation gets raised in the Church.  You’ve seen people load all sorts of significance into how others answer the question – making it almost THE standard for whether one is a faithful believer or not.

And you’re wondering, “What’s with that?

Good question.  This past Sunday I took a stab at reflecting on that.  Does this particular issue deserve all the high energy attention and anger that gets invested in it?  Or is there, perhaps, another way we as Christians might deal with the issue and with all our differences that arise as a result?

What do you think?

Here’s the podcast.  And I hope it’s helpful.  And I welcome your comments below.

You are invited to listen in  by right-clicking on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod:

A Question Of Faith #5: Why are there so many homophobic people in the Church?

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You may also download the study guide as a pdf:

A Question Of Faith #5 – Why are there so many homophobic people in the Church?…the Study Guide

Thinking – again – about the Bible

One of the most important and treasured gifts which God has granted to us is his Word – the Bible.
It’s an amazing miracle, something I don’t think we often appreciate when we pick up the book and begin to read.
We are so used to having it all between two covers – readily available in hard cover and digital format.
(Aside – if you’re wondering about an app for your tablet or smart phone, THE best out there isYouVersion – simply brilliant!)
It didn’t begin that way, though.
It was written over a span of hundreds of years, by many different human authors, in a few different languages and cultural/historical settings.  Yet it all fits together beautifully.  It all tells one narrative – the great Story of Salvation; God redeeming a Fallen Creation, reclaiming what Satan was seeking to totally destroy.  The Story is told in the Bible  without contradiction, in truth, and with all the detail that we need in order to be able to live faithful lives of obedient love and service to the Lord.
We believe it is so perfect because of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – moving the impulses and thinking and creative processes and recollections of the writers to record what they did; moving the community of believers to save and treasure these texts and to be drawn to them in special ways.
Well before the time of Jesus the Old Testament as we have it today was fully assembled and understood to be the sacred Word of God.  After Jesus’ life, within a few decades, the books that we have today as the New Testament had been written and history tells us that they were very quickly acknowledged by the Church as divinely inspired, and as equally as much a part of Scripture as the Old Testament.
What a treasure!
What a gift!
The question, at least sometimes, is – how do we handle it?
Do we read it regularly?
Hard to keep faith on track if we don’t!  I think we’d all veer off track spiritually, in one direction or another, guided by our own wants, whims and experiences.
Sometimes I worry that these have too much sway, anyway, when I hear people say, time and again, “Well, it just seems to me….” or “I happen to think that…”    I sometimes wish that I might hear more of “As I was reading this-or-that piece of the Bible I got to thinking that….” or “I’m wondering if the Bible is calling us to….”
Reading the Bible – may we all treasure and experience it… daily.
Recently “Relevant” magazine featured an article that I found helpful.
It gave some tips to sharpen our bible reading skills:
1. Read “King” when you see “Christ”
2. Read “You” in the plural, not singular
3. If you see “Therefore”, find out what it’s about
4. Realize that not all “if” statements are the same
5. Recognize that Lament is OK
6. Realize that Prophecy is more often FORTH-telling than FORE-telling
7. Become familiar with the idioms of your King
8. Remember what you learned in English class
9. Read to study. But also to refresh your heart.
Some of these you might “get” right away.
Perhaps you already do them – terrific!
Others might leave you saying, “huh?”
Here’s the link to the article. Enjoy, and be blessed by it!
                  Relevant Magazine on bible reading
As always, love to hear from you.

A Question Of Faith: #1… “Can we trust the Bible?”

Well, you’ve offered suggestions, named the candidates, and voted – via email, voice and facebook – on the top five questions you and your friends are wondering about the Christian faith.  And over the next five weeks we are going to take time to take a stab at providing some talking points that may help point you towards an acceptable response.  I’m not sure, but sure hope these five messages will do that.  The idea is NOT that they’ll be the final word on any of these five questions – the questions are TOO BIG for that!  I just hope that it will add to what I’m sure are already stimulating conversations when you raise these questions with your friends and neighbors.

So….. here we go!

First one:  Can we really trust the Bible?

Lots of people have all sorts of reasons for viewing the Bible with suspicion, so we’ll only be able to tackle a few of the most common concerns.  Perhaps yours will be among them.

Any rate, here’s the podcast.  And I hope it’s helpful.  And I welcome your comments below.

You are invited to listen in  by right-clicking on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod:

A Question Of Faith #1: Can we really trust the Bible?

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You may also download the study guide as a pdf:

A Question Of Faith #1 – the Study Guide