Angels & Advent: In His Shadow – a sermon podcast

What does it take for you to throw a full-blown hissy fit – like an all out, frothing at the mouth temper tantrum?
Oops, sorry! Forgot that you were all grown up, and WAY beyond such things.
But just suppose for the moment you’d be tempted, just tempted to throw one – what would really push your buttons to get good and mad at God?

If he sent his angel messenger to cause chaos in your life, what might be the thing that would put you over the top?
Like make you want to run away from the Lord, slamming the door on the way out…..

So, the Advent journey continues at Kemptville CRC, wondering at a young woman who faced what I think would be pretty good grounds for having such a reaction.  Only she doesn’t.  She struggles – yes, she does.  But ends up in a very accepting posture.  Total surrender to the will of God as it has a huge impact on her life.

We’re watching Mary receive the news that she’s going to be the mother of God’s Son.

Leading  us to wonder about surrender – how we get there, and what it means for our lives today.

You’re invited to track with us…
Right-click on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.

Angels & Advent: In His Shadow

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You’re also invited to download the pdf of the study guide:

Angels & Advent: In His Shadow (study guide)

Willy, always go!

So, recently I went on a prayer retreat with a couple of pastor buddies.
We landed at a retreat centre run by a certain “Brother Willy.”
Along the way, Willy shared his remarkable testimony, how the Lord spared him through a fatal heart attack, where he was clinically dead for some 30 minutes, and granted visions of life beyond the grave, then sent back to serve Christ.
He quit his million dollar career, and with vows of simplicity now runs the retreat centre.
As part of his story Willy shared that a spiritually life-saving link in his story was the admonition given to him by his grandmother.   He said, “I didn’t really like it – but she was my grandmother and I was raised to respect her.  So, if she said it, I would do it.  Period.
Willy’s grandmother approached him before he immigrated from Germany to Canada and said, “Willy, whatever you do, always go to church.  If you believe, go.  If you don’t believe, go.  If you feel close to Jesus, go.  If you feel no love for him at all, go.  Always, go.”
Willy, when you wander from God’s path, still go.  Go, sit in the back row, where the sinners sit.  And soak in the prayers and songs of the people.  Let them carry you.”
Willy did as he was told.
Wherever his high rolling lifestyle as an executive in the exotic meat industry took him, Willy ALWAYS attended worship.  For years not believing.  But wanting to honor his grandma.
He looks back on it now and realizes that it was life-saving advice.
While he wasn’t so inclined, the prayers of the other who DID believe propped up his soul  and kept it from shrivelling to dust.  And the songs of faith stirred the smallest of embers in his heart.
And it was then into that soul that the Lord came with a powerful miracle.
And the Holy Spirit blew into a roaring flame the small embers.
Grandma’s advice was key to it all.
She spoke as a messenger of the Lord, probably without being aware of it.
I’ve thought of that advice much, since  I met my new friend.
Willy…. go…. always.”
Now, I don’t know where you are at in your spiritual life.
Believing.
Half believing.
Struggling.
Worse.
Friend – take hold of the advice from Willy’s grandmother.
Go!
It won’t be a waste of time.
It may save your life.

Faithbusters: Broken Bodies (post-sermon Q&A)

This past Sunday we were exploring some of the factors that we all experience in our bodies and minds and discovering how they can affect the shape and health of our faith.

A couple of questions came up during Q&A:

  1.  Are we aware enough of the power of singing for keeping the devil at a distance?  Memorizing and singing a psalm, hymn or spiritual song at the time of an attack chases him away.
  2. In the Bible, God’s voice is heard in judgement (like Adam & Eve, or David & Bathsheba).  Yet his voice is silent in suffering (like Job, Paul’s thorn in his flesh).  Why the difference?

Thanks for asking and, in doing, enriching the conversation.
So…..

1. Are we aware enough of the power of singing for keeping the devil at a distance?  Memorizing and singing a psalm, hymn or spiritual song at the time of an attack chases him away.
So glad you raised this.  Couldn’t agree with you more.  Indeed, music and song are emotionally and spiritually powerful.  They are the language of the soul.  Which is why, I believe, one of the first places that the Devil tries to get a community of believers to start fighting is…. about music.   It’s highly effective, because of the power  in song.
         I’ve also seen struggling, anxious people find a real measure of peace from listening to music in a genre that speaks to them.
A biblical example of this is the troubled King Saul of Israel.  Who suffered severe paranoia, and associated emotional & mental problems.  His servants brought in David to bring calm to the King (1 Samuel 16).

Christian music can give new courage and hope when we are floundering.
It reaches deep into our being, beyond immediate circumstances.  And beyond whatever blocks the mind can erect.
It helps us praise God as almost nothing else can do.
That’s also why I am SO strong on congregational singing in worship.  Not just a concert where the band plays, and a few on stage sing.  But – everyone singing.  New stuff.  Oldie-but-goodies.  Ancient music.  Together as a community.  Where we can hear each other sing.  And share the experience.  When we do, we are pouring medicine and encouragement into each other.
I’m grateful to be part of a church community that can and does sing – from the bottom of their heart.
Thank you, Lord!

2.  In the Bible, God’s voice is heard in judgement (like Adam & Eve, or David & Bathsheba).  Yet his voice is silent in suffering (like Job, Paul’s thorn in his flesh).  Why the difference?

I appreciate you pointing out that God’s voice comes out at times in Judgement.  Like the examples you list.  And others, of course.  But there are times where God does not raise his voice in judgement.

AS well as times when God DOES raise his voice in comfort.  Think of the coming Christmas season, when we’ll all be quoting Isaiah 40, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”  Or the words of God’s angel – remember the first words spoken just about every time an angel appears to someone?  “Fear not.”  Or so much of Jesus’ presence and ministry on earth – yes, there is judgement spoken to the ruling elite.  But there is deep comfort and compassion in his voice spoken to the struggling and suffering.  I would dare say that the Son of God was more about speaking comfort than judgement.  Which, perhaps, is what is behind the Holy Spirit inspiring St. James to write “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”  (James 2:13).

May we be agents of mercy and healing for brothers and sisters, whose damaged bodies and minds are causing pain and struggle in their faith lives.

Faithbusters: Broken Bodies

At KCRC we’ve been doing some thinking about stuff in our lives that can be spiritually damaging.  We named that stuff  “Faithbusters.”

This past Sunday we dealt with one that a few of you named…..

One person said, “I find that the biggest challenge for faith for me is biological. Lack of sleep, exercise, low-pressure systems triggering migraines – these are often the times when I experience doubt or some sense of existential crisis.
Another said, “When my depression gets bad, I can’t pray. Feels like God is a million miles away.

What happens when our bodies suffer, either mentally, emotionally or physically?
Why is it that in those times we can find faith busting?
You are asking questions about the relationship between our bodies and our faith.
But coming at it exactly backwards from virtually any other time I’ve ever heard anyone raise this topic — so, those of you who raised it: extra points for creative effort!!!

So…..What’s going on?
Is it our fault? Are we guilty of something?
Is there anything we, or people around us, can do about it?

Here’s the sermon podcast that explores some responses.
You’re invited to listen in and join the conversation.
Right-click on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.

Faithbusters: Broken Bodies

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You’re also invited to download the pdf of the study guide:

Faithbusters: Broken Bodies (study guide)

Stories Jesus Told (2): A Banquet RSVP

We’re on to the second of our series on stories that Jesus told which give us a hint as to how God sees and values our lives here on earth, right now.

This week we’re considering a story about an invitation into a relationship, responses to the invitation, and God’s response to the responses.  Groups of people we’ll consider are the entitled ones, those on the margins, and the “you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-NOT-them!” ones.  Somewhere in there we’ll see ourselves. Can you guess where?

Sadly, no audio podcast this week.  Just a pdf of the sermon as well as the usual pdf of the study guide.
You’re invited to download them:

Stories Jesus Told (2): A Banquet RSVP – the sermon

Stories Jesus Told (2): A Banquet RSVP – the study guide

When God Offends

One of the lines I often hear, and maybe you also do, is “If that’s what God is like, I don’t think I could believe in him.” And the list of objections is all over the place. Seems to be that if a person has an objection to something in what is understood about the character or activity of God, if they find part of that offensive, that the objection is allowed to rule the day. And a relationship with God is benched.

Part of this sort of thinking and responding is encouraged by those who suggest that you can define eternal truth and reality however you want. If it seems real and valid to you, it is. If it doesn’t, it isn’t. As long as you believe it enough. Sort of like Disney’s “all you need to do is believe” line from Peter Pan.

Curious, isn’t it, how we easily accept that this works for spiritual reality, but quickly agree it doesn’t work for pretty much any other part of life.
I tried to tell the cop in Smith Falls that I believed there was no stop sign. He smiled. But I still got a ticket.
I tried to believe, really believe, that the grass wasn’t growing last week. Still had to cut it.
Tried to believe that it was only Tuesday and I had LOTS of time before PKN would get published. Alas, it is very much Thursday afternoon.

Just because I find something in the character or actions of God offensive, doesn’t mean I can just dream up some alternative reality. Maybe instead of having to “rewrite” God, what I need to be doing is rewrite my expectations of God, or rewrite how I behave in life before God, or the like.

Maybe the fact that I encounter something about God that offends me is more a sign that God is real and needs to be taken seriously, than that I need to go off and come up with some sort of spiritual belief that keeps me comfortable.

Dr. Tim Keller, pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, suggests the following as a warning if we find this sort of line dancing in our head….
“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have …A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination… To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?”
― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Jesus, for one, had no trouble offending all sorts of people.
This Sunday we’ll be listening to him tell a very offensive story to some of the most powerful people around. Writing off, or walking away from what he says, though, would be a huge mistake.
It needs to be wrestled with.

I hope that many of you will be able to join us – either live Sunday at 10am at Kemptville CRC, or early in the week when the podcast is posted here on the blog.

Rock-Solid Living (6): Firm To The End (Sermon Podcast)

We’ve come to the end.
We’ve had a six-part series focusing on a spiritual coaching clinic hosted by one of Jesus’ best friends, Simon Peter.
Peter had written a letter to believers in Jesus who were under tremendous pressure to compromise on their faith.
How to live?
How to stay true to Jesus?

This last session focuses on the attitude we’re called to keep within our hearts – one that will protect us from self-destructing under the pressures we face when being challenged.

Right-click on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.

Rock Solid Living – Firm To The End

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You’re also invited to download the pdf of the study guide:

Rock Solid Living – Firm To The End (study guide)

Pleasure: a gift from God

So, Sharon and I were sitting with some friends around a bonfire in our yard on Canada Day.
        A little beverage in our hand.
        Something roasting over the flames.
        Birds singing in the trees, and flocking to the feeders.
        A little sun.  Some majestic clouds.
        Pleasant conversation.
And it struck me how incredibly pleasant it all was – a true pleasure to experience.
Causing me to send up a “Thank you, Lord” prayer.
We have a Creator who has made a lovely world.
And filled it with so much that can bring good pleasure into our lives.
I feel sad that sometimes people think God is just a divine kill-joy.
Frowning.
Saying “Thou shalt not.”
Condemning.
And I feel very sad that sometimes his followers here on earth behave that way.  As if true spirituality is all and only about the “don’ts” in life.
Sigh!
How far from the truth.
         When the Creator completed his work he looked at all that he had made and declared it to be “very good.”  Including all sorts of textures and sights and smells and tastes and experiences that bring pleasure to people….. very good.
Thank you, Creator God, for the truly pleasing gifts of a stunning sunset or star-filled sky, which as Psalm 19 remind us declare your glory.  Thank you for the smell of a lily, for a good red wine with a piece of really dark chocolate in front a roaring bonfire (at least 8′ high), for a good back rub.  And for the taste of freshly harvested garlic….. very good.
Thank you, Lord, for relationships that bring pleasure.  (Hey, if you wonder about that, take a walk through the bible book called Song Of Solomon and witness the divinely-sanctioned delight and pleasure that lovers find in each other.)
Ah, God, how wonderful when we can experience an infant’s smile.
And when we are blessed with time to play.
All so very good.  Beautiful pleasures!!
Pleasure – it can be found in glorious gatherings of relationships and food.
Jesus loved those – so much so  that his detractors took to calling him a glutton and drunkard. (Matthew 11:19)  His first miracle in the Gospel of John has him producing an incredible vintage of the highest quality wine (John 2:10).
Indeed, pleasure is a gift from the hand of the Creator of Heaven and Earth, our Heavenly Father.
And so, in the midst of an Ontario summer, please join me in saying “Thank you, Lord!!” for this wonderful gift.
May you be blessed with moments to savour true pleasures, before the face of the Holy One who grants them to us.

Rock Solid Living: The Hard Work Of Submission (sermon podcast)

Well, we’re roaring right along with our spiritual coaching clinic, session #4, based on a letter written to churches by one of Jesus’ best friends, Simon Peter.  The goal is to help believers in Jesus keep strong in their faith, even though they are facing intense spiritual and social challenges.

This week’s session is probably the most difficult of all to master.
For it calls us to something which runs TOTALLY against the grain of  contemporary Canadian thinking.
I worry that many of us will write this particular session off as a “fail” and move on.
The problem is – this is ONE session we cannot miss.  Not, at least, if we want to stay closely connected to Jesus.
It’s a MUST DO!

You are invited to track with us through this series “Rock Solid Living” – all podcasts will be posted here on PKN in coming weeks.

Right-click on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.

Rock Solid Living – The Hard Work Of Submission

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You’re also invited to download the pdf of the study guide:

Rock Solid Living – The Hard Work Of Submission (study guide)

Rock Solid Living: Part Of Something Bigger (sermon podcast)

Yesterday we zoomed along to the third in our series on a letter written to churches by one of Jesus’ best friends, Simon Peter.  It coaches believers on how to keep strong in their faith, even though they are facing intense challenge and persecution.

The first message, “episode one”, helped us understand how Simon changed from being spiritually wobbly, very rocky, and became a rock-solid leader among followers of Jesus.

Last week helped us build on the fundamentals of faith.  It provided us a coaching session on avoiding distractions that might end up causing our faith to wreck.  And it provides us a target to aim towards – Serve God by loving other people as best you can.

This week coaches us to look well beyond the end of our own spiritual noses – not just to those we love and serve, but also to the people who are walking the same spiritual walk that we are journeying along.  It challenges us to think about how their faith lives intersect with ours.  Why bother with all the effort and patience required to hang out together?  Wouldn’t it just be better if you did your thing, and I did mine?  We’ll be hearing from 1 Peter 2:4-12.

You are invited to track with us through this series “Rock Solid Living” – all podcasts will be posted here on PKN in coming weeks.

Right-click on the sermon title, and choose “save link as”  to download the podcast to your mp3 player or ipod.

Rock Solid Living – Part Of Something Bigger

Or use the built-in web audio player below:

 

You’re also invited to download the pdf of the study guide:

Rock Solid Living – Part Of Something Bigger (study guide)