True worship as true hope

By Karla Iyonmahan, DDS

It is a word that should bring to mind a kind of lifestyle, a way we go about handling our affairs, our relationships with people and with Him. Without question it must be undefiled, pure, and give glory, honour and reverence to our most merciful, adoring (of us) God.

You know, the God who went out of His way to sacrifice living in His heavenly realm, to enter ours, in order to set us (‘the captives’) free. The One who, no matter what, keeps us as ‘the apple of His eye’.  The One who has stated, repeatedly, in His Love Letter to us, that He will provide for us, will never leave us stranded, never forsake us.

If it is still not clear, He is the same One Who stated that He will deliver us in times of trouble, because we have set our love on Him. (Psalms 91: 14, 15). You DO remember Him now, right?

So there is no reason to be callous. No reason to not give Him your whole-hearted worship; a humbleness, a grateful, ‘bowing down in the heart’ kind of unwavering adoration that exhibits your utter amazement and awe for all that He has done, and for the Love He held for you even when your back was turned toward His outstretched hands.

One should never attempt to simply ‘bandy about’ when it comes to the worship of a God that has given literally everything, including Himself, to YOU.  

Is there an ounce of pure worship in you?

All other religion and philosophy founders lie dead ... but Jesus is alive!

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

Easter is almost upon us and we begin to ponder that great mystery: when Jesus’ followers arrived at the tomb on that first Easter morning, they found that the stone had been rolled away. They couldn’t understand and looked for logical answers. Then two angels appeared, asking, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen!” This scene at the empty tomb expresses the uniqueness of Christianity among other religions. Jesus Christ is the only living, risen Saviour.

A conversation between a Christian missionary and a Muslim teacher illustrates the point. The Muslim wanted to impress the missionary with what he considered to be the superiority of Islam. So he said, “When we go to Mecca, we at least find a coffin, but when you Christians go to Jerusalem, your Mecca, you find nothing but an empty grave.”

To this the believer replied, “That is just the difference. Mohammed is dead and in his coffin. And all other systems of religion and philosophy are in their coffins. But Jesus is risen, and all power in Heaven and on earth is given to Him! He is alive forevermore!”

Yes, the empty tomb testifies of a risen Saviour. It assures us of our own salvation if we reach out to Him. I invite you to join in worship during Holy Week to prepare for the greatest event in the world, and on Easter, the Day of Resurrection, to celebrate with joy.

Angst or peace: it's your choice

Based on a sermon by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

“We live in a culture where snipers live behind laptops and smart phones. Fewer people are interested in debate and more are looking for enemies to eviscerate. Some have become unhinged and others are on the ledge.”

Anne quoted these words from a blogger (whose name she hadn’t taken note of) in a recent sermon. Do you feel you are among the ‘unhinged’? She confessed to the same feelings she sees affecting so many others these days: anxiety, despair, anger, fear, disgust, frustration, embarrassment, hostility, and panic. Perhaps angst best sums it up.

Upsetting and unsettling information bombards us from all directions, and as Christians we know we really can't, really shouldn’t, simply turn off the news. We need to be aware of what’s going on firstly, to pray, but also to be able to engage others in conversation.  

While we can never understand ‘what in the world is going on’ or how to fix it, we must refuse to be bent out of our Christian shape by it. None of the mess is of God, who is still in control and who alone has the solutions. Earthly governments can only put band-aids on people’s problems, Anne reminded the congregation. But the gospel can bring healing to souls.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.... Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” (Psalm 146:3,5)

“We want and need hope here,” she made clear after reading the above scripture. “Hope is not dreaming or a vague aspiration. It’s not simply wanting things to turn out well while remaining uncertain whether they actually will. Hope is the absolute certainty we have that God is good and that God’s promises are true.”

Further, we can use the hope we cultivate in ourselves to help the troubled around us. “The despair, anxiety and fear we see in people around us is the very opportunity we have to share the hope and good news of Jesus with them.”

The Almighty will accomplish His purposes, no matter the political leaders and disasters cramming our newscasts. We see in scripture how God has been able to use some exceptionally evil rulers such as Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar and Nero to fulfill His will. He has worked out His purposes under every condition imaginable, from Egypt through Babylon and onto Rome and beyond. We must keep the hope, and cultivate peace.

“We don’t need to pray for peace, we have it,” she concluded. “It is in us. We have that peace but must use it and share it.” 

Seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter: 3b)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘worship’?

Worship: Is it the service you go to Sundays, the music played and sung in Sunday ‘worship services’, the Christian music you may listen to at home or in your car? The kind of thing David did in Old Testament times alone with God and his harp? What you make an effort to do as part of those ‘quiet times’ you aim to have regularly with the Lord? All of the above?

Using words to describe spiritual concepts may be the thorniest use of them possible. But then as a Christian writer, I recall how God of course inspired all the words in our Bible, including the pivotal ‘in the beginning was the Word’ (John 1:1). So He clearly places high value on wrapping up the concepts He wants us to learn and digest in small-w words ... including to describe his own Son, the Word incarnate. 

With the word ‘worship’, however, we the church—individually and corporately—toss it about so lightly it may be time to mull over the meaning lying beneath and within more carefully.

In the context of considering Christian music as ‘worship’, British songwriter and, yes, ‘worship leader’ Matt Redman gives a great illustrated sermon. 

Back in the 1990s, Redman and his church in England were gaining acclaim as they moved into the vanguard of this concept of modern worship: excellence of craft combined with the best of sound systems, projectors, lights, the whole production. But his preaching pastor had begun noticing a flatness creeping in. While everyone went through the motions and to outward appearances all seemed 'fine', the heart connection had loosened and slipped away.

So the pastor did a radical thing.

“He decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season,” explains Redman. “His point was that we’d lost our way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

The pastor challenged the congregation to be participants in worship, not consumers: to engage with God for themselves, from the heart, with their own voices. When the first few awkward gatherings passed, the church eventually launched into a whole new season of authentic adoration and praise.  

Redman’s now-famous song “The Heart of Worship” describes what happened: 

boy with hands in air to dawn.jpg

When the music fades,
All is stripped away.
And I simply come;
Longing just to bring
Something that’s of worth,
That will bless Your heart.

. . . .

I’m coming back to the heart of worship
and it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.
I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it
when it’s all about You, it’s all about You, Jesus.

“After a while, the worship band and the sound system reappeared, but now it was different,” Redman explains in his book The Unquenchable Worshipper. “The songs of our hearts had caught up with the songs of our lips.”  

You can hear Matt Redman singing The Heart of Worship by clicking here:  Matt Redman - The Heart Of Worship (Lyrics and Chords)

A challenge for your Christmas letter

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

For a while I used to receive Christmas letters from various friends; sometimes I sent my own news. I am sure you have received some of these and, possibly, written some before e-mails and high postage costs. Basically they are good news—bragging of all that the children have been doing, trips you have taken, the year’s activities and achievements. I hear that that is what Facebook is about: putting your best face forward.

Rarely do I read a letter that describes a family’s witness, or outreach, or ministries—even when I know they are involved in them. Is that being politically correct?

“Oh, the letter goes to all my friends so I don’t include my church involvement. I wouldn’t want to offend anyone.” But aren’t we supposed to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world? How can we create a thirst for Jesus among our friends ifIf we have accepted Christ as Lord; if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to live through us and transform us into the likeness of Jesus, why are we reluctant to let others know? Maybe if we reminded ourselves that God receives all our out-going mail, we might edit the boastful bits and add the ‘loving the less fortunate’ bits, or ‘how God helped me this year’ bits.

If Jesus wrote a Christmas letter to us, it might sound like this:

“Beloved, I pray this season finds you well. I just want to share some of the highlights from this year. Thanks to many of your brothers and sisters, thousands of people have come to faith in me. Please pray for those who have gone astray, that they might find their way back. Many of your brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, and elsewhere have lost their lives because they chose to follow me. Rest assured, they will be with me in Paradise. Many more of your siblings have reached out to those who are poor, homeless, hungry, sick and in prison. I am sure next year will be equally busy.
With all my love,
Your Saviour and Lord, 
Jesus”
(This idea comes from Faith Writers Magazine)

I wonder if it’s time that Christmas letters from us got some attention for Him, along with our other, personal, good news. I wonder if that could be another way of sharing the real meaning of Christ’s birth on earth.

May you have a blessed Christmas season.

Advent and the End: Preparing for Jesus’ coming

The time of preparation for Christmas we call 'Advent'. 'The End', according to apocalyptic literature, secular writings and the Bible—well, we all know what that means. Anne Moore recently presented a fascinating look at how interconnected the two concepts really are, basing her talk on Jesus' warnings to his wary disciples in Luke 21:5-19.

Signs of the End

(5) Some of Jesus' disciples were talking about the temple. They spoke about how it was decorated with beautiful stones and with gifts that honored God. But Jesus asked, (6) "Do you see all this? The time will come when not one stone will be left on top of another. Every stone will be thrown down." (7) "Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are about to take place?"(8) Jesus replied, "Keep watch! Be careful that you are not fooled. Many will come in my name. They will claim, 'I am he!' And they will say, 'The time is near!' Do not follow them. (9) Do not be afraid when you hear about wars and about fighting against rulers. Those things must happen first. But the end will not come right away." (10)Then Jesus said to them, "Nation will fight against nation. Kingdom will fight against kingdom. (11) In many places there will be powerful earthquakes. People will go hungry. There will be terrible sicknesses. Things will happen that will make people afraid. There will be great and miraculous signs from heaven. (12) "But before all this, people will arrest you and treat you badly. They will hand you over to synagogues and prisons. You will be brought to kings and governors. All this will happen to you because of my name. (13) In that way you will be witnesses to them. (14) But make up your mind not to worry ahead of time about how to stand up for yourselves. (15) I will give you words of wisdom. None of your enemies will be able to withstand them or oppose them. (16) "Even your parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends will hand you over to the authorities. They will put some of you to death. (17) Everyone will hate you because of me. (18) But not a hair on your head will be harmed. (19) If you stand firm, you will gain life.

By the Reverend Canon Anne Moore  

When I read the newspapers, I usually sense hopelessness: a horrible election season, unemployment, violence, abuse, racism, natural disasters. disease. The world no longer seems secure or stable. Look at Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. It never seems to end. We’re kind of separated and protected here in the Haliburton Highlands, but Jesus tells us it won’t always be so. Apocalyptic literature reads much like this.

How could the temple be possibly thrown down, the disciples wondered in the reading above. As Jesus gives what to look for, he speaks not only to his first-century disciples but to us, about our modern-day ‘temples’.

We all have differing reactions to unsettling news.

(1)    Fear:  Build bunkers, install alarm systems, arm yourself, turn off the news! Does that help?

(2)    Who cares?  Eat drink and be merry!  ‘I’m going to get the most of this life while I can.’ Yet this attitude still tends to lead to depression, discouragement, loneliness and resentment.

(3)    Watch and pray (Jesus’ advice), secure in the face of insecurity. We cannot know when the end will come. As we read in Mark 13:32, “But about that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Canon Andrew White (once known as the Vicar of Baghdad), in his book Faith Under Fire: What the Middle East Conflict has taught me about God, writes that the verse most important to him is 1 John 4:18: "Perfect love drives out fear." What he especially appreciates is that before the verse even mentions fear, it speaks of LOVE. It presents the solution before the problem.

“I do not fear much, but I talk constantly about love. When my people are afraid, I tell them that they are loved—loved by God and loved by everyone in our community. It is simply love that sustains us and keeps us going. So often in books and sermons we are told about the importance of love in our faith, but to us in Iraq love is a matter of life or death.”

He also quotes 2 Timothy 1:7: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

So power and strength co-mingle with love, “the power to persevere through the heat of the fire and the power to do what others may consider impossible. It is this kind of love that can enable all Christians to deal with the difficulties they encounter, even in the safety of the West. It is a love that will always prevent fear from taking control of us. At times, things may seem impossible: how will we accomplish the tasks that we need to, which are often so immense? Jesus gave us the answer: “What is impossible with men is possible with God’ (Luke 18:27).”

Are we ready, this very moment, to meet God? That’s what these scriptures talk about.

To quote an unknown author, “Christians are those who have been let in on an open secret. In the end, when all is said and done, when the last tick-tock of time has sounded, GOD WINS.” Yes! Amen.

Creative Corner: the Call of Truth and Life

Take a few deep breaths, and moments, to savour a tremendous ancient poem by Welsh-born English poet, orator and priest, George Herbert. 

Herbert spoke and wrote in the English of his contemporaries, among whom were Shakespeare and King James 1.

In fact, when King James ordered a new, more readable translation of the bible, one of his main stipulations to the scholars—besides that it be true to the original Hebrew and Greek—was that it be written in the vernacular of the day. Could it be the clever king understood something a few of today's 'old-style' preachers and church goers—insisting as they do on sticking to that same ancient translation—do not?

___________________

Thanks to Allan Halton for bringing this poem to my attention. Creator of The Mending Feast, Allan credits this poem as the inspiration for the title of his blog (and also sticks to the old KJV in his scriptural references) . 

Sizzling Summer Service 9: Hallelujah Haliburton!

Since beginning to work on her message for the annual Service in the Park, Anne confessed to having had an old song scrolling around her brain. “I’m a stranger here” by the Five-Man Electrical Band, first appeared on their album  ‘Sweet Paradise’.

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

lakeside baptist church musicians and singers

She read its first verse:

“Well, I'm a stranger here in this place called Earth
And I was sent down here to discover the worth
Of your little blue planet, third from the sun
Come on and show me what you've done.”

The song goes on to lament how earth’s residents had roundly messed up their ‘paradise’. The words led perfectly into an elaboration on the verses from Ephesians read earlier in the service (Eph. 2:1-22) by David Lloyd of the Lighthouse Church.

There, the apostle Paul points out to the church in Ephesus their once messy, sinful lives. Then, including himself, he wrote:  “We tried to satisfy what our sinful nature wanted to do. We followed its longings and thoughts” (v.3).

In fact, the whole Bible tells the story, over and over, of humanity tending to pull back when God reaches out. We do our own thing, run away, miss the mark.  “But God loves us deeply. He is full of mercy. So He gave us new life because of what Christ has done” (v. 4-5).

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

 "One way!"   bev hicks and anne moore lead the kids in their charge to the crowd

As Bev Hicks of Northland Faith Church had the children remind us earlier, “God's grace has saved you because of your faith in Christ. Your salvation doesn't come from anything you do. It is God's gift” (v. 8). 

 “So then, you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are members of God’s family,” verse 19 goes on to triumphantly remind us.

This brought to mind for many of us the family of Syrian refugees we’re ready and waiting for. Will we be able to help them feel like members of our community, help them heal from the hurts and fears of feeling unwanted and alien in their own country? We all pray we can share the love of Christ effectively with them.

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

lakeside Baptist church holds several baptisms in the lake after the service!

The ‘I’m a stranger here’ song ends with these words:

"We got the rivers and the mountains and the valleys and the trees
We got the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea
We got the ―
Oh, you crazy fools!
Don't you know you had it made?
You were living in paradise
                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

                                                          [photo credit: Elaine Figueroa]

But take it from one who knows
Who knows the gates of Heaven can close
I only pray that you take my advice
'Cause paradise won't come twice"

Finding peace with God, only possible by becoming a friend and follower of Jesus, is beyond remarkably easy. Have  a simple conversation with God (that’s prayer). First, tell Him you’re sorry for the things you’ve thought and done wrong. Ask for His forgiveness. Then thank Him, and ask that His Holy Spirit would live in you forever.

Welcome to the family!

Jesus appears to Syrian Muslim family, tells them he is sending a man to tell them more

Early this year, Haliburton began planning to welcome a refugee family. Plans and prayers for the family—who will likely be frightened Muslims from Syria—progress wonderfully. (See our original story here: Open arms and hearts in Haliburton Highlands join in Canada’s welcome to refugees).

Around the same time, an astounding story began circulating of a fellow who had been a missionary in Syria to Muslims. Tyler Connell with the Ekballo Project toured American college campuses sharing stories and videos from his most recent trip to Middle East, where he documented a dramatic move of God among Muslims, particularly with refugees.

“At every stop we saw the presence of Jesus break in to these college campuses and touch students, with bodies healed, people saved, and people giving their lives to serve in the mission field,” Connell exclaims.

His first film chronicles a young missionary named Daniel*, 24, originally from Vermont. Two years ago Daniel moved to the Middle East to work with Syrian refugees.

“They go house to house and visit these Muslim families and sit with them and talk with them and find out their names, their stories, and love them. As trust is built, they begin to open up about the Gospel.”

“Jesus is moving in these Middle East nations,” he says. “Many there are disillusioned and broken and just want to know the truth. Now more than ever there is a harvest among Muslims that has not been seen in history.”

One afternoon Daniel walked into a white tent with a family of eight people inside. “Hi, I’m Daniel and I’m here to tell you about Jesus,” he announced.

He wasn’t quite prepared for their reaction. “The family freaked out, they looked at each other, almost turned white. The father was excited, yelling.”

What’s going on? Daniel wondered.

The interpreter explained that the night before Daniel’s visit, the whole family was sitting in their tent having tea together when a man in white opened the door to their tent and stood at the entrance. The man was glowing.

“Hello, my name is Jesus and I am sending a man tomorrow named Daniel to tell you more about me.” Then he disappeared.

So when Daniel arrived at their doorway and told them his name, they were completely undone. “They asked him to tell them more about Jesus and he gave then the Gospel and the whole family gave their lives to Jesus,” Connell reports.

*Name changed for security reasons

[from Assist News. You can read more at Godreports here]