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Greetings! Salutations! Hello! Hola! Bonjour! Guten Tag! Ciao! Namaste! Salaam! Konnichiwa! Marhaba! Jambo! Ni Hou! Kamusta!

The Blog is BACK!

As we start up, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you back and apologize for being gone for so long! We hope that this blog will be a platform for us to share some interesting topics and questions with you!

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Welcoming is something many of us does without even really thinking about it. We invite friends over, tidy the house, prepare some food, and maybe even have some games or entertainment. This is an active process of making the choice to extend that invite and prepare an atmosphere.

The next action falls onto the shoulders of the invited friends. They might prepare some food to bring, or dress up a little, but in all this, the most important action the invited friends can do, is show up.

I see this as such a reflection of God’s heart towards his people.

The Lord has extended an invitation to us, He has prepared an amazing feast with all the wacky, crazy camp games we can imagine and it is up to US to accept that invitation and then SHOW UP.

Jesus speaks about this in the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14:15-24 (the parable of the Great Banquet)

In this parable, a man prepared a great banquet, and once it was ready, he sent out his servant to pass invitations out to all his friends, but they all make excuses to not come. One friend says he bought a field and needs to go see it, another says he bought some livestock and need to examine them, and yet another says he just got married, so he just can’t come. These are not very good excuses are they? It would be like saying “oh! I just bought a car so I can’t come, I need to shine it” or “I just bought a house, so I can’t come, I need to go sit in it”. I mean this guy just spent the last few days preparing a great FEAST! He didn’t ask anyone to bring anything, just themselves… and by the way, that last guy? He could probably bring his new wife with him. It seems a bit ungrateful to me, don’t they see what a great opportunity they are passing up?

So, the servant goes back to the awesome party host and tells him that everyone has declined his offer. This makes him mad. Makes sense, right? What if you put in a ton of work to put together a big party, make all the food, put up all the decorations, and everyone you’ve invited says they can’t come? Not cool. And I think if I was the host, I would be so upset, I would cancel the party all together, but that’s not what happens, instead the host sends the servant back out and tells him to invite everyone else, and I mean everyone. The servant comes back at one point and the host sends him out to even more places to find MORE people to invite. What does that mean for us? Well to me, this shows how limitless our God is, and how much He can exceed our expectations. What started as a party for a few turned into a massive gathering of everyone around, and there was even extra to go around.

Knowing all this, it makes me think of how overwhelmingly blessed those first few guys would have been if they had accepted the host’s offer. How often in our own lives, do we refuse God for our own selfish reasons? And look at what we are missing out on.

The beauty of all this is that our God is bigger and greater than any host and his invitations will keep coming, pursuing us and wooing us gently to His table. We should keep in mind, however, the incredible joy and gift it can be to accept His sweet offer the first time.

This week, I invite you to make a choice to SHOW UP, with our family, with our friends, and all for our GOD.

Luke 14:15-24

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

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Essential Questions: Did Jesus have an earthly life after his ressurection?

A numbers of years ago, I met a woman who had no idea that Jesus spent any time on earth after his resurrection.  We had a deeply fascinating conversation about the fact that Jesus spent 40 days on earth between his resurrection and his ascension into heaven.  It is because of this conversation that I decided to make this question my blog post this week.  Given that we are currently in the 40 day period as part of the Church’s liturgical year, I thought it was appropriate to look at this issue this week.

There are several stories in the Bible about  Jesus’ encounters with his disciples after his resurrection.  These meetings each tell us something about Jesus after his resurrection.

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Thomas encounters the Risen Jesus.(Can Stock)

 

(1) Jesus had a physical body.

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.”  She turned and said to him in Aramaic,[a] “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:11-18 ESV)

Jesus was standing there in front of Mary in physical form.  Mary thought he was another person; the gardner.  She did not think the man she saw was some form of a spirit.  Yet, Mary did not recognize Jesus at first.  Perhaps it was grief.  Perhaps he looked different.  Perhaps she wasn’t expecting to see someone she thought had died three days earlier.  Whatever it was, Mary did not recognize Jesus right away.  Yet, there was something about the way that he said her name that caused her to recognize him right away.  There was no doubt that it was Jesus.

And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24: 37-39)

Again, it is clear here that Jesus has a physical body that his disciples can touch.

(2) Jesus could walk and talk.

Not only did Jesus talk to Mary was understood.  He talked to his disciples in all his encounters.  He talked to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus while he walked with them.

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.  And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”…So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. (Luke 24:13-18, 28-31)

(3)  Jesus could eat.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit….And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish,[b] and he took it and ate before them. (Luke 24:36-38, 41-43 ESV)

It is very clear from this encounter that Jesus could eat.  Food didn’t just drop through him as though he were a spirit.  In fact, Jesus specifically ate in front of the disciples to prove that he was there in bodily form.

(4)  The marks of the crucifixion remain on his body.

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:36-40 ESV)

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20-21 ESV)

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:24-29 ESV)

Jesus’ body still has the scars from the crucifixion in his hands and his feet from where the nails held him to the cross.  The scar also remains on his side where the Roman soldiers put their sword into him to see if he was really dead.

(5) The normal laws of physics did not seem to apply to Jesus anymore.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[a] Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.  (John 20:19-20 ESV)

The disciples were behind locked doors, and Jesus appeared to them.  He did not need to have the doors opened.  He just appeared in the room.

He could also leave just as easily.  After he broke the bread with the disciples after their walk to Emmaus, he vanished from their sight after they recognized him.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.  And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:28-33 ESV)

Check out the stories for yourself.  See what else you can learn about Jesus and his life on earth after his resurrection.  Share what you have learned in the comments.

John 20

Luke 24

 

 

Essential Questions: What is the second step if I believe in Jesus?

Suppose that you have taken your spiritual temperature.  Suppose that you have decided to believe in Jesus.  Suppose you have repented.  What do you have to do now?

Be baptized. (It is possible that you already have been baptized, but if so, you can still learn the importance of your baptism to your Christian journey).

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(c) Can Stock Photo

Now, why would I suggest that the next step in your spiritual journey should be baptism?

(1) Jesus ordered his believers to be baptized.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20; See also Mark 16:15-16)

(2) Baptism symbolizes the transition from our self-centred way of life to our new life in Christ.  It shows our choice to turn away from death to eternal life as co-heirs of the Kingdom of God.

having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:12; See also Romans 6:3-5)

(3) Jesus was baptized.  His baptism identified Him as the Son of God. (Matthew 3:13-17Our baptism identifies us with Christ and also as sons and daughters of God the Father. Baptism identifies us with Christ in two ways.

  1. As a grown person, you are announcing to the world that you believe in Jesus Christ.  Your faith can no longer be a secret.
  2. When we are baptized, we are clothed with Christ.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27)

By being clothed with Christ, God no longer sees our sin.  Instead, He sees us through the lens of Christ’s death and resurrection which has washed our sin from us.

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

(4) Baptism is a rite of entry into the fellowship of believers; a type of initiation.  When you start CEGEP, college or, sometimes, sports team, frequently they have an initiation of some kind.  Many are silly; but they come from a tradition and have a specific meaning.

Since we become children of God through baptism (Galatians 3:26-27), we also become members of God’s family here on earth- the church universal. I am not talking about a specific building or specific people, but all believers of Christ everywhere become our brothers and sisters.  As members in this wider family, we can flourish and continue our spiritual journey as God refines us into the people He intended us to be.

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (Gal. 12:13)

Baptism is not a new idea.  It was used in the New Testament as a way of declaring faith in Jesus and becoming a member of the group of believers.  Take for example the story about Philip and the eunuch. (Acts 8:26-40)

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 

So, if you have not already been baptized, I leave you with the question from Acts 22:16.

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

If you have already been baptized and are just coming to fully believe in Jesus, I suggest that you look at your Christian tradition to see if there is a reaffirmation of baptismal vows.  If your tradition does not have an opportunity to publicly renew your baptismal covenant, consider praying the following prayer:

Lord Jesus, I admit that I have doubted you as the Son of God.  I now believe that you are the Son of God, who died and rose again from the dead in order to save me from my sins.  Forgive my unbelief.  I now turn to you as the my Lord and Saviour.  I admit that evil has a hold on me and it has become a habitual way for me to be myself.  I reject the unloving choices I have made and the sinful failures in my life.  I renew my commitment to turn away from Satan who is the author of sin and tries to separate me from you.  By Your Grace, I have come to know the gift of life that you offer.  Please help me to remain faithful, so I can grow as your servant.  Amen.

 

 

Essential Questions: What is the Incarnation?

canstockphoto22897058Christians believe that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.”  It is this miracle of the Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas.  But what does this mean?

Incarnation is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as ” the embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form.” Jesus, the creator of the earth, came to earth in human form.

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He was not conceived using two human parents.  Mary was the only biological parent of Jesus, even though Mary and Joseph raised him as their son.  (Matthew 1: 18-24)

In Luke 1, we are told that an angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would have a baby.  This idea was rather confusing to Mary as she was still a virgin.  The angel explained that ““The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”(Luke 1:35)

After conception, he spent time in Mary’s womb.  And then, Jesus was born  – like any other baby.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7)

If you have any been part of the birth of a baby, it can be hard to think about God coming to earth in this way.  We expect because Jesus is God that he would do something flashy.  Childbirth is messy and difficult for both the mother and the baby.  As a baby, you are coming from the warm comfort of your mother’s womb into a cold world where you have to breath air and eat externally.

Jesus didn’t have to come into the world as any other human.  He is all powerful.  He was the creator.  He could easily have done something flamboyant.  Instead Jesus chose to enter the world humbly, the same way as His created beings.

It is through His mother Mary that Jesus received his humanity at the moment of His conception.  His full divinity remained.  Jesus’ humanity and divinity were united making Jesus was both fully human and fully divine (Essential Questions:  Who is Jesus?) -the Incarnation of God in human form.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. …The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4,14)

 

Essential Questions: Is there any other way to salvation other than Jesus?

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Photo Credit: Canstock, macelmooij

Is there any other way to salvation that through Jesus Christ?  It is a question that is debated at great length.  Let us look at both sides of this question for a minute.

If the answer is yes, then as long as we are doing good things and believe in something; then we will have a good relationship with God.

This position is appealing.  It is wonderful to think that we only have to be a “good person” to be in a good relationship with God.  We are a very achievement oriented culture and the idea that  all the “good people” we see will be in right relationship with God appeals to us.  It is seen as the “tolerant” position too.  It means that the devout Jew or Muslim will also be in right relationship with God.  By saying that there are many paths to God and that Jesus is not the only way, then there is no concern that someone will be offended.  It is the position that makes everyone happy:   the nice lady at the library, the person who works with the homeless, the devout Jewish neighbour – everyone is happy and is reconciled to God.

But, what if the answer is no that there is no other way to God but through Jesus?  Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come through the Father, except through me.” (John 14:6).  Oh, but can we really believe what Jesus says about himself?  Isn’t that a self-serving comment?

Perhaps.  But what if it is the truth?  Paul testified before the Jewish Council that salvation could be only found in Jesus. (Acts 4:8-12).  He also wrote in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 that there was one person who could reconcile us to God – Jesus Christ.   Paul did not follow Jesus around.  In fact, he persecuted the early Christians until he had a personal encounter with the risen Jesus.  He had no self-interest in promoting Jesus as the saviour of the world.  In fact, he lost everything – his prestige, his money and eventually his life – because of what he believed.

I look at it this way.  If it is true that there are other ways to God, then why was Jesus’ birth, death or resurrection necessary?  God would not need to come down from heaven in human form.  Jesus would not have to die to pay the price for our sins.  Jesus would not have had to conquer death by rising again.  God could have just said “Take another path.  I am not giving up my son and killing him for you.”

But this is not the God of the Bible.  The God of the Bible is a God of justice.      He requires payment for the sins of the world.  Yet, He is also a God of mercy.  In His wrath and judgement, He did not destroy humanity, but rather gave them garments to wear when He exiled Adam and Eve from the garden (Genesis 3:21).  God wanted the relationship to be fixed and so He sent Jesus as the mediator for our sins to stand in our place and take the punishment.  If there was another option, don’t you think God would have taken it?

If we decide that there is no other way of salvation but Jesus, it can be an uncomfortable position to hold.  It may not be considered tolerant.  (Of course, that may not be true, if you consider what Jonathan Dodson has to say).  It can leave you worried about your family and friends who are on a different path.

I can’t tell you what the answer to the question is for you.  It is something you have to think and pray about for yourself.  Yet, the answer to the question is important.  Not only for our own faith journey, but also for others.  It will affect how we deal with people every day.  Do we think that what we believe doesn’t really matter to the world at large, because everyone is heading in the same direction anyway?  OR do we believe that we have something wonderful and life-giving to share with them through our words and deeds?

Essential Questions: How does sin affect me?

Over the last few essential questions, we have been looking at what our response to Jesus and the gospel should be.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind us of why we need Jesus and why we need to consider our response to the gospel.

Advent starts next week.  It is the time when we consider why we need Jesus in our lives and start to prepare for His coming.

Faith in Jesus is personal.  Our response to the gospel is personal.  Sin if personal.  Today, we will re-examine the question – How does sin affect me?  When we get right down to it, we are interested in what God can do for us, personally, and preferably, right now.

As we continue our inquiry, let us pray for God to open our hearts and minds to learn more.

Praying_Hands_clip_art_hightO God, my Creator, who sent your Son as the Way, the Truth and the Life to save me and all the world, I long to understand all that it means to be loved, known, and forgiven by you, and to be made whole: at peace with you, others, myself, and your creation. Open my eyes to all that you are, and draw me closer to you, I pray. Amen.

Read the following passages and see how they speak to you.

[B]ut, your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
so that he does not hear.  (Isaiah 59:2)

Or consider the way it is put in The Message

There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.
Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.
Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.

Read also Romans 6:20-23

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What do these passages say to you?  Essentially, what the Bible is trying to say is that sin alienates us (you and me) from those who mean the most to us.  It alienates us from God, so He does not hear us.  It alienates us from our loved ones and even from those who could be friends, so we feel alone.  It alienates us from God’s good creation, causing us to be poor stewards of the world God entrusted to us in Genesis.  It even causes us problems with ourselves, as we listen to the voices of shame and insecurity in our heads; affecting what we think of ourselves and how we treat others.  Basically, we are hopeless, guilty, lost, helpless, and walking in the way of death because of sin.  But all is not lost!  There is a happy ending as we know – God sent His Son Jesus to rebuild that relationship.

For now, identify the things in your own life that put a wedge between you and God, between you and your family or friends, even between yourself and the person God made you to be?  Try to become conscious of these things, not to feel shameful, but to learn about yourself.  The more you know and understand your own sin, the more you will be able to see the need for God in your life, to determine your response to Jesus and to accept His grace.

Essential Questions: What is the first step I must take if I believe in Jesus?

What does the gospel of Jesus Christ mean for me?  This was the question that we looked at last time.  The good news of Jesus means eternal salvation to those who have faith in him.  Having faith means believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Romans 10:10)  If you have decided to have faith in Jesus, how does that affect you everyday life?  Firstly, it means that you need to repent.

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And Peter replied, “Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; then you also shall receive this gift, the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

What does repentance mean?  Peter identifies two parts to repentance:  (1) that you are sorry for what you have done wrong and (2) that you are going to turn away from that behaviour.  In other words, you have done something wrong, you are upset by the hurt that is causes others and you resolve to change your behaviour completely.  

Of course, before we can repent, we need understand that that we have done something wrong. Admitting we have done something wrong is sometimes a hard thing for us to do.  It is easy to blame others or to excuse our behaviour.  “It is because of my childhood.”  “So and so was mean to me.”  Sometimes pride or our ego get in the way. We tell ourselves all sorts of lies to avoid facing the guilt of doing something wrong.

Once we are ready to admit that we have done something wrong, then we can move into repentance. Feeling sorry for what we have done wrong is frequently the easy part.  It isn’t hard to recognize at least some of the pain that our actions have caused.  

But then comes part 2. Part 2 is the hardest part of repentance. It is where most of us stumble. Completely changing our behaviour is very difficult.  Ever year millions of people make new year’s resolutions – ways in which they are going to completley change their behaviour.  And yet, only 8 percent of people achieve their resolutions.  Hard, or not, this is what God calls us to do.

19 Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to him so he can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

If we have faith in Jesus, we must repent.  We must realize what we have done wrong.  We must ask forgiveness for it, from both God and others.  We must resolve to change our behaviour.  This is not a one time thing.  Every day we need to look at actions and decide if we have done something wrong and if we need to repent.  As we go through this process on a daily basis, we become closer to the person who God calls us to be.

Have you decided that you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?  Are you ready to tell others what you believe?  If so, then it is time to start letting your belief in Jesus bring you to repentance for the things you have done wrong.