MVS – MALACHI

Malachi is the last book in the Old Testament! Next week we’ll move into the New Testament 🙂

 

Malachi 3: 6

“I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.”

Our Lord does not change. When He makes a promise to us, He sticks to it. He will always love us, no matter what we do.

How great is the love that the Lord has shown us!

MVS – ZECHARIAH

Zechariah 9:12

Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

The first time I read this verse, I was frankly unimpressed. I didn’t really understand what the Lord was declaring in these words. But think about it for a second, “I will restore twice as much to you.” WHAT?!

Can you imagine your teacher saying, “Don’t worry about the points you lost on this test, I’m going to give you back double.” I can’t!

Is our Lord not amazing that He has promised to give back to us two times what we have lost. How deep the Father’s love for us.

Holy Week: Easter Sunday

Today’s post as part of our Holy Week series has been written by Mark Latulipe!

Happy Easter! – ALLELUIA! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! ALLELUIA!

Easter Sunday – the day that we remember the incredible and historical event that changed it all. On Good Friday Jesus hung on a cross and carried the weight of all our sin. He paid the cost of that sin, which is death; but it doesn’t end there. After his death on the cross and burial, Jesus rose and came up out of the tomb and was alive again. Not even death could hold Him down. Jesus did all this to accomplish everything that was promised and He did it because he loves more than we can comprehend.

Luke 24: 1-49 – This passage that has been on my mind this Easter season.  We read about three encounters that happen after Jesus had risen: the women at the tomb, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the other disciples. The ones I want to talk about are the encounters with the disciples.

First, we have the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus. They were talking about what had happened – Jesus on the cross- and this “guy” comes up to them and asks them “what’s up” (paraphrasing). On any other day this would have been normal question; but on this day it was not. The disciples’ reaction was, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (v18)

Given their emotional state, their snappy maybe even snarky remark was understandable. They “explained” to this guy what had happened and he turns around and says to them that they don’t even know what really happened. He explained to them that they were being foolish because despite knowing the scriptures and despite knowing what Jesus had told them before his death, they still believe that Jesus was actually going to come back from death. (Oh snap, they just got told!) So they continued their conversation with this man as they walked, still not recognizing that this man was Jesus. They didn’t realize it until he broke bread with them, just as He did before his death.

Then we have disciples. Fortunately they recognized Jesus or at least that this being, possibly a ghost, looked and sounded like Jesus. Even after all His teachings and all the time they followed Him before His death, it still took convincing from Jesus himself to make them believe. It took seeing the holes in Jesus’ hands and feet for them to know that this was Jesus, alive again.

For me these encounters these people have with Jesus really shows our human nature and a struggle we all face. Despite knowing the scriptures or the story, and despite knowing Jesus, we still need to be reminded of who He is, what He did, and why He did it. We constantly need Jesus to say to us “hey, remember me, remember what I did for you, and remember why I did it.” We need that reminder sometimes daily, but that’s ok. We shouldn’t feel ashamed that we need reminding; those who knew Jesus best on this earth, who actually witnessed his death, still needed a reminder. And that’s what Easter is about; we celebrate and remember Jesus and the incredible things He did for us.

So take time this Easter, before church and before the family dinner, to sit and pray, and ask Jesus to encounter you, so that you can truly be reminded of “who He is, what He did, and why He did it” – Happy Easter!!!

Holy Week: Good Friday

Today’s blog post has been written by Laurin Vroom!

Hey there friends!

Today is what we call “Good Friday” also known as “Holy Friday.” It doesn’t seem so good when you think about what we’re celebrating today: The crucifixion of Christ. This is the day we remember what Jesus went through to bring us back into intimate relationship with the Father. Jesus was hit, mocked, spat on, whipped and ultimately hung on a cross next to the lowest of criminals. You can read the story in more detail in Matthew 27:27-55.

There is something good, no great, that came of all this torture and unfair treatment. Christ suffered out of an intense, selfless love, for humanity. He wanted to demonstrate how much He loved His Father, and what complete obedience and unconditional love looked like. He shed His blood, so that it would symbolically cover over our sin, and make us righteous so that we can once again be in an intimate relationship with God- no longer separated by sin. This is an incredible Truth to get our heads around.

I want to challenge you today, to sit somewhere comfortable, by yourself, read the story of the Cross and seriously reflect on what it means, and what Christ’s sacrifice means to you. Think about how hard it would be for you to forgive everyone who spat, hit, beat, whipped and mocked you if you were being killed for a crime you never committed. Think about Jesus’ words, and how super-human Jesus’ forgiveness is.

When Christ ascended to heaven, He later gave the gift of His Holy Spirit, so that this super-human power can live inside of us! This holy power of God, living in us, is what strengthens us in our faith, helps us forgive those who’ve wronged us, helps us love those who hate us, etc. Anything you think is too hard for you, you can look to the Cross, to the One who gave everything for you and you will always find the strength you need.

There is a song that is super appropriate that I encourage you to listen to as you reflect: Once and for All by Lauren Daigle.

Her song reminds us that we can remember, connect and experience the love of Christ, when we remember the Cross and what He did for us on Calvary. That even though you and I are like the criminals that hung next to Jesus- sinful, broken, selfish, screw-ups- He still extends His love and grace to us when we look to Him. She sings about laying down her life to live for Christ, just like He laid down His life for us. I’ll leave you with a few of her lyrics, and pray that on this Holy Day, you take the time to remember what a gracious, loving and selfless Savior we live for.

God I give You all I can today
These scattered ashes that are hid away
I lay them all at Your feet

From the corners of my deepest shame
The empty places where I’ve worn Your name
Show me the love I say I believe

O Help me to lay it down
Oh, Lord I’ll lay it down

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

There is victory in my saviors loss
and In the crimson flowing from the cross
Pour over me, pour over me

O let this be where I die
My Lord with thee crucified
Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all

Holy Week: Holy Thursday

Today’s Blog Post has been written by Tim Huyer!

Eed

timblog

As we prepare for Good Friday, we consider the sacrifice of Christ and what his death means for us.

For me, the image of Jesus, hanging on the cross, uttering the words “It is finished” is one of the most powerful images I can imagine. While suffering indescribable torture – not just the physical torture of a horrific execution but also the much worse spiritual torture of bearing the wrath of God against all of our sins – he gasps out these three words.

These words, like all the words in Scripture, are a message to us. In this case, it was a message so important that, while literally suffocating to death (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2004/apr/08/thisweekssciencequestions), He found the strength and breath to say it to us.

So what do these three words mean? Just exactly was this “it” that is finished? Jesus did not follow grammar rules on avoiding ambiguous pronouns (https://www.cedarville.edu/~/media/Files/PDF/Writing-Center/Student/avoiding-vague-and-ambiguous-pronoun-references.pdf), so there is no clear antecedent to the word “it” in the Gospel. We must instead use other methods to find out what He meant.

We can rule out a few of the things that cannot be the “it” that He said. God’s work on earth is not finished. It continues.

The Word of God is not finished. There is plenty more scripture in the Bible.

Jesus’ time on earth is not finished. We know He rose again three days later. We also know He is coming again.

It isn’t even the last words He said on the cross. Those words, as we know, are found in Luke’s Gospel. (http://biblehub.com/luke/23-46.htm)

“It” must mean something else.

I think the “it” is the purpose for Jesus being nailed to that cross in the first place. The reason why Jesus became man and came to earth.

Jesus came to earth to die for us. He came to fulfill the Law, to atone for our sins, to reconcile us to God. He completed this task, this gift of unthinkable grace, on the cross.

The Bible speaks about our fall from grace. How we sinned and stopped walking with God, turning away from Him time and time again.

Everything changed the moment he spoke these three words.

Because of Jesus’ gift of his death, because of the blood of our Lord and Saviour, our fall is finished. Our being cast out is finished. Our being condemned to death and damnation is finished.

In a way, we can think of a new testament, a new story, beginning at this point. The “it” that is finished is the story of our fall. The story of our redemption is begun. That story will continue until He comes again in Glory and, speaking from the throne, says “It is done.” (http://biblehub.com/revelation/21-6.htm)

3 minutes – 3 questions: Lent Edition

Hello everyone! We are back for another 3 minutes – 3 questions (I feel like I’m hosting a game show!) where we will be wrapping up our Lent blog posts.

If you don’t remember, here’s how it works:

“I’m going to ask three questions. After each question, I challenge you to stop and think about each question for ONE WHOLE MINUTE and ONLY ONE MINUTE. After you have gone through all the questions, please feel welcome to revisit each one and take your time doing so. But for the first time only stop for a minute to think.”

Ready? Not yet! Before reading the questions, take some extra time to pray.

 

Question 1 

a) What does sacrifice mean to you?

b) What does sacrifice look like in your life? 

Yes I know there are two parts… yes you can have a bit of extra time.

Take a minute (or two) to think, and answer. 

 

Question 2

Are there areas in your life where you need to ask God for help and greater self-control in order to resist temptation?

Take a minute to think, and answer.

 

Question 3

What are the mental and physical challenges that you have faced during Lent? and that you face regularly?

Take a minute to think, and answer.

 

Some last thoughts:

  • Take some time to go over the questions again.
  • Pray for any struggles you may be facing and pray in thanks for God’s help.
  • Read the blog posts which address each of these question if you haven’t already; and if you have, read them again! The links to the posts can be found within each question.

3 question – 3 minutes

Hello everyone, today on the blog I’d like to try something new with you all. *Gasp* NEW?! Yes indeed.

I’m going to ask three questions. After each question, I challenge you to stop and think about for ONE WHOLE MINUTE and ONLY ONE MINUTE. After you have gone through all the questions, please feel welcome to revisit each one and take your time doing so. But for the first time only stop for a minute to think.

Ready? Not yet! Before reading the questions, take some extra time to pray.

Now we’re ready to go!

 

Question 1

Is there a time or place in my life where I did not trust in Jesus’ capabilities and/or his willingness to help?

Take a minute to think, and answer.

 

 

Question 2

What sin(s) has become so ingrained in my identity, that I no longer see it as a sin and do not want to get rid of it? Why am I unwilling to let it go?

Take a minute to think, and answer.

 

 

Question 3

When does the cost of following God become too much? Where do I draw the line?

Take a minute to think, and answer.

 

 

PHEW! Those were some heavy questions; you may not have been expecting them and for that I’m sorry. But these are the questions that came to my mind and that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Here are a few last words…

TRUST in God and PRAY.

Recall the moments where you did trust in God, where you did give up that sin, and when you did give up (sacrifice) something for God (for more on Sacrifice see the two parts of Luke’s posts here and here).

And again, PRAY. Pray for yourselves, and others, that we may be able to recognize the sins in our lives and that they may be revealed to us.

Have a wonderful evening,

In Christ,

Syndi-Belle

Sacrifice—What is it supposed to be?

During the weeks leading up to Easter we will be having a post on Lent every Thursday, here’s Part 1 of Luke Bayly’s post to kick us off!

Hey all!

Kicking off the season of Lent, this is the first of a two-part series on sacrifice. This week, we’ll ask what sacrifice is supposed to mean in a life lived for God—why is it necessary; what is its purpose? Next week, we’ll look at a little application—what sacrifice can often look like in our lives in this day and age.

To address the first question, we’ll analyze a small passage of scripture. I encourage you to read it through a couple times. Take note: what are all the instructions it gives? What are all the claims it makes?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

  1. We offer our bodies (or lives) as living sacrifices. In the Old Testament, people would sacrifice animals they owned to God, either as an act of repentance or an act of praise. This was like giving away some of your wealth, recognizing that God gave it to you in the first place. But to be a living sacrifice means to honour God with more than just your wealth—also your time, your talents, your body, heart and mind—everything! God gave you your body; your life. What are you going to do with it?

 

  1. Our sacrifice is a spiritual act of worship. Again, the Old Testament sacrifices were a physical act. A person could sacrifice an animal without actually trying to change their heart or honour God. It could just something to tick off the to-do list; like paying your credit card—done, and forgotten. A duty to be done so it’s out of the way. But our sacrifice is to be something that changes us in our inmost being

 

  1. …leading to the third point! Do not conform…but be transformed. God doesn’t ask us to make sacrifices just for laughs. Every challenge we face, every difficulty we must overcome is designed to make us grow, even if it’s not fun at the time. God loves us already, whoever we are right now, but he longs for us to become wiser and more loving…more like Jesus, who is a role-model for how we should live our lives. It’s easy to stick with the patterns we’re used to, but God has bigger things in mind for us.

 

  1. The result of all this is that we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is. Living our lives as a sacrifice to God leads to understanding more of what God’s will is—and, by extension, more about who God is. The verse describes God’s will as good, pleasing, and perfect. This is to indicate that God’s plans are not esoteric, abstract things that don’t matter to us—the meaning of our lives, our self-worth, and our joy in living are all bound tightly to God’s intentions for us, his creations, whom He loves.

 

If we believe that this God exists, and is who Jesus proclaimed Him to be, there’s no reason to doubt these claims. So we should recognize that sacrifice is a necessary and ultimately good part of following God, even though it is (by definition) painful or difficult at the time we face it.

Thanks for reading!! Looking forward to next week—see you then 🙂

-Luke

MEMORY VERSE SATURDAY – OBADIAH

I was initially very tempted to just say “memorize the entire book”. Don’t panic just yet! Obadiah is actually only one chapter long with a total of 21 verses; a difficult but not impossible feat to memorize it all. However, I leave you with this one verse:

Obadiah 1:15

The day of the Lord is near
    for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
    your deeds will return upon your own head.”

Obadiah is not a lovely chapter full of ponies and rainbows. It is actually rather dark, and it shows the Lord taking revenge upon those who have wronged His people. So remember before you speak or act, of the people in Obadiah who suffered because of the suffering they caused others.

Blogs of Speakers Past – Multifaith

Today’s blog post has been written by one of our past Crossroads speakers, Judson Bridgewater!

I follow Jesus. 

But on Friday I was counselling someone who called himself a Pagan. On Monday someone else came inquiring of me about the rules of wearing his pentagram necklace in uniform.  One of my daughter’s best friends is a Muslim.  Welcome to multicultural Canada. 

Most of us, can I assume, have been taught to be ‘nice’ Canadians:   “Live and let live. Be polite. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but keep your religious beliefs to yourself.”   Yet despite all these nice sentiments, lurking behind this veneer of ‘niceness’ we have seen some shocking examples on social media of racism, xenophobia, ignorance, and pride by Christians and non-Christians alike. Have you seen it regarding the military’s new minister of national defence? What about the hatred following the welcoming of 25,000 Syrian refugees?

And as I see this stuff I have to wonder if followers of Jesus aren’t called to act differently?  Do you say anything to the Muslim guy who sits next to you at school?  What about your doctor who is a Hindu? What do you do if your child’s principal is a Wiccan?

And yet it seems that many Christians follow one of 2 opposite paths followed by most ‘nice’ Canadians. First, some folks say all religions say the same thing. All beliefs are equal and true.  Everything thing is relative. And anyway, someone’s religion isn’t that important.

The second path says that all faiths other than your own are evil, wrong, backwards.  Those who follow this path feel it is their personal job to be judge, jury and prosecutor of anyone who doesn’t affirm that: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Can you relate to either of these two perspectives?

But could it be in the bible (Matthew 16) that Jesus is demonstrating, calling, and empowering his followers to respond differently than with these two extremes? When Peter says to Jesus: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” he does so amidst other vibrant beliefs in a multi-cultural world of the Greco-Roman Empire (not unlike pluralistic Canada today). And yet Peter still makes a definitive, exclusive claim of who & what Jesus is all about in a pluralistic world. 

As William Willimon points out, Peter doesn’t say Jesus is the Son of the Living God, the Roman Emperor is also the Son of God and so is Buddha. Nope.  Peter indicates something particular, something special about Christ.  And Jesus acknowledges this particularly.  Many folks today want to embrace something else by saying: “You’re a Muslim, I’m a Christian, but that’s not really important.  After all, we’re all saying the same thing?”

I’m not so sure.  If you patiently sit down and actually listen to a Muslim for more than 2 minutes, you’ll see we’re not saying the same thing. And for you to suggest otherwise, is disrespectful to Muslims and even to your own faith.  It might be an attempt to appear gracious; however, it might actually be ignorant and arrogant. Its kinda like saying: “Hey, your belief in Islam is really unimportant and insignificant.” When in fact their faith might be the very centre of their being as your belief in Jesus is central to your being.

Jesus is not some mixture of vague spiritualities, he is the Son of God who lived, died on cross & was raised in a very specific way.  It is possible to mis-identify Jesus as Peter points out. And yet just because some mis-identifies Jesus doesn’t mean you need to slam them on the head with the bible, does it?

Folks who take the second path by denouncing and condemning other faiths, often use this episode from Matthew 16 out of context. When Jesus asks: “Who do people say I am?”   Peter responds with: Well, some folks say your John the Baptist, other Elijah.  Heck the lady down the road thinks you’re a good moral teacher. That guy believes you’re a political rebel.”  But how does Jesus respond?

As Willimon suggests, Jesus never says anything against other  religions but  he fiercely criticises his own followers. Condemning of other faiths isn’t demonstrated by Jesus. In fact, throughout scripture, its the outsiders like the Good Samaritan or the Gentile Centurion who are exemplars of faith.  Jesus is hardest on Peter for his inconsistent lack of trust.

Finally, as Willimon remarks if you can affirm Jesus as Lord like Peter, it is only because you have been given a very special gift from God. It isn’t because you are so smart and spiritual.

“Blessed are you, Simon (Peter). Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my father in heaven.” 

With that, your response to others might be to affirm Jesus’ uniqueness while respecting your neighbour and her different beliefs .

Who do YOU say Jesus is?  And how does YOUR life demonstrate that reality?