Sunday, 1 December 2013

December 2013 - Staring Into the Future

Pondering/reflecting is what you tend to do as a year comes to a close.  I have been pondering about the year that has past.  I make comparisons with where I feel or believe I was at the start of the year with how I am today.  I look for external indicators of progress.  I consider the goals and outcomes I had for this year and whether they came to pass.  I try to find some measurement for success in 2013.  While all of this can be good; it can also bring death as I eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Looking back and comparing can tie you to the past.  It can anchor or tether you so that you cannot move forward.  People may experience the same event and yet some can cry while others shout for joy.  If you don’t think that is possible, then consider Ezra 3:10-13.  The relaying of the foundation of the temple was an occasion to rejoice and so the people did.  However, those who remembered the previous temple “wept with a loud voice” because of the comparison they were making.  What kind of comparisons are you making between today and yesterday?  What are we measuring?

While many wept because they were measuring the foundation of the new temple and comparing it with the previous one, God was making a different measurement.  “‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:9)  We must allow the Lord to measure the life and glory that we are experiencing.  We must be eating from the Tree of Life.  We must allow the Lord to measure today with the future and not with the past.  And … only He can make these measurements in our lives.

So, having pondered the past, look to the future.  A future that God promises greater glory and life in.  That does not mean there will not be difficulties, trials and things to overcome.  Paul and Barnabas revisited churches “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations [pressures] enter the kingdom of God.’” (Acts 14:22)  Stare into your future.  Let God be the God of your past, present and future and conclude 2013 by moving into 2014 standing on the past without being stuck to it and allowing Him to move your present into His future promise for your life.

Journeying with you,


November 2013 - Steadfastness

If you didn’t read the front of the bulletin this month either because you skipped past it or because you are reading this pondering online, then let me repeat the verse that is there: “Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

We live in a disposable society.  Very little concern is given to what remains.  Yes, there is a large ecological movement concerned with the earth remaining around for a long while, but at the same time the people of the world develop cars, computers, cameras, contacts and companions that are easily thrown away.  Very little seems built to last and we focus on the immediate.

It is not like that with God.  God’s character and nature reflect eternality, endurance, faithfulness and steadfastness.  God created the earth and all that is in it, including mankind, with the intention that it all should stand forever.  Man threw it away.  However, even after that, God pressed forward with the intention that there should be a Kingdom with man in it that should never end.

Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

So, the challenge for us as a church is to co-labour with God in building things that will remain.  It is interesting that Paul would write about faith, hope and love after spending significant time looking at the spiritual gifts.  Our hearts (even mine) can be attracted towards focussing on the gifts and signs and wonders and miracles but Paul’s heart was focussed on what remains.  Don’t get me wrong: he does say to earnestly desire spiritual gifts.  It’s a question of lasting character in the midst of fleeting moments of spiritual manifestation.

I’ve been at this church for fourteen years.  Some are part of this body who have been here longer.  Some have not been here as long but have committed themselves to the work of God in this place.  I applaud your steadfastness of faith, hope and love.  We are not simply building for an immediate gratification but a lasting legacy.  I encourage us all to keep building toward a church where God’s glorious presence is so evident that healing and transformation happen not simply for a moment but for generations; not simply for a hundred or so people on a Sunday but for thousands in our community and around the world.

Journeying with you,


October 2013 - Pressing Forward

I will make the disclaimer that I am writing this before we have our Tree of Life Conference.  I don’t know what Dennis will be sharing with us.  So, if it touches on anything Dennis says, I am not trying to hammer you with these thoughts.

I have been pondering the church’s mission statement lately.  You may or may not have it in your memory yet.  It’s on the back of the bulletin, along with the core values.  The core values that we have hanging on the walls as you make your way from the entrance of the church’s building to the sanctuary.  I am really not trying to sound snide or condescending.  Please hear me out.  I fully realize that I also can and have lost track of these important things at times.  The bulletin can be just a monthly piece of paper I put in my Bible and the pictures—just wall decoration that I barely notice.  It was a year ago that we presented them to the church.

I’m not going to type the whole mission statement here (you can just look on the back of the bulletin), but I want us to consider that the goal is “developing healthy, mature followers of Jesus Christ.”  Healthy is defined as “possessing or enjoying good health or a sound and vigorous mentality.”  Mature is defined as “complete in natural growth or development.” (Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary)  So, it could also be stated as “developing sound, vigorous, complete followers of Jesus Christ.  We are not only co-labouring with God to accomplish this in others; it is the work that God is doing in us.

There are so many Scriptures that come to my mind.  I was actually compiling them to place in this pondering but it would take up too much space.  And then I realized that if you are as committed to the goal of health and maturity that God is for you, then you would want to look them up yourself anyway.  So, here are a few passages form the Bible that you should meditate on: 2 Timothy 1:7; 4:1-4; Romans 8:6; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:3-4; Philippians 3:7-16; Hebrews 12:1-13; 2 Peter 1:2-11.

We must not lose sight of the goal.  Doing so gets people off the path.  Jesus said his disciples must keep their eyes on the goal and not look back.  We must press on towards the goal keeping our eyes on Jesus, Who calls us.  I want to leave one Scripture for you to read here:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:3-6)

I am thankful for you all and pray for your continued progress in Christ.  God grants the power to accomplish what He calls us to.  You lack nothing in Him.  God is developing us into His healthy, mature sons and daughters so that He might reveal His glory in the earth like never before.

Journeying with you,


Thursday, 12 September 2013

September 2013 - Stirring Up Your Spirit

Pssst!  Hey, have you heard …?  We have a conference at the end of the month. ;-)

While there have been lots of ponderings I have been having lately, the Tree of Life Conference has been on my mind quite a bit.  The Tree of Life is found in our Bibles at the beginning, middle and the end (Genesis 2-3, Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 2 & 22).  The Tree of Life is based in the grace of God.  It was offered to Adam and Eve without restriction.  It is offered to us today in the same way in Christ.  Jesus dies on a tree to give us free access again to the Tree of Life.  It’s life never fades (“leaves never wither”) and it is continually producing fruit and healing.

It is with this grace of God in mind and spirit that I am approaching the conference.  I hope others will too.  Many people go to charismatic Christian conferences in an attempt to get something they don’t have (or perceive themselves not to have).  Some even travel from conference to conference continually trying to gain something.  My heart for the Tree of Life conference is that it be the “un-conference” of us all growing in what we already have.  Consider a couple verses of Scripture:

2 Peter 1:2-4 (NKJV)  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NKJV)  Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

The verse that God gave me for this conference is on the front of this month’s bulletin (Haggai 1:14).  I believe God is stirring up our spirits to join in building His house.  He is building up His church, us, to be the dwelling place He desires for His Spirit in this day (Ephesians 2:22).  He is stirring up our spirits to join in the work because His house is built with the living stones of people (1 Peter 2:5).  Deep is calling to deep — Spirit to spirit.  The Spirit and the Bride say come … the time is now.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

August 2013 - Sola Iesus Christus

One of the key statements of the Protestant Reformation was “sola scriptura,” which is Latin for “only Scripture” or “by Scripture alone.”  This was a very important rallying cry for those who were standing against teachings and edicts that were not based in Scripture.  Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Calvin and many others were calling the church (especially its leaders) back to the base and basics of the Bible alone.  As benefactors of the Protestant Reformation, we are pretty good at this.

Where we have possibly strayed is in applying the Word to our lives based upon our own interpretation of our destiny, identity, gifts and calling.  The Bible becomes focussed upon us instead of upon revealing God to us.  Don’t get me wrong, we are a specific focus of God’s plan and His plan of grace is revealed in Scripture.  A standard practice of biblical interpretation is to let Scripture interpret Scripture.  However, I would say that we should let Word interpret Word.  Jesus interprets the Bible He wrote, not the other way around (while not taking from the fact that Jesus is revealed in Scripture).  A key statement for us today could be “sola Iesus Christus” — it’s really about knowing Jesus.
  • Jesus is the Word. (John 1:1)
  • Jesus is the “brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person.” (Heb. 1:3)
  • Jesus is the only one to have seen the Father fully and completely. (John 6:46)
  • Jesus is the revelation of the Father. (John 14:7)
We need to know Jesus for who He is and not simply who we think He is or want Him to be.  Saul had an encounter with Jesus in Acts 9 where his blindness was revealed to Him in the midst of Jesus revealing Himself.  Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was (Matt. 16:15).  Jesus asks us the same question today.  He’s not asking because He doesn’t know, but so that we can gain revelation from the Father just as Peter did (Matt. 16:16-17).  Let’s take some time to know Him better.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril

Thursday, 25 July 2013

July 2013 - Great Grace Required

Welcome to summer!  I trust you are grabbing onto all of the sunshine you can.  I also hope you don’t forget to grab all the Son-shine you can over the summer.  Becoming a Christian is not simply about having Jesus deal with our sin issue but it is about accepting an invitation by God to have Him effectively involved in every aspect and moment of our lives.

Which brings me to this month’s topic: grace.  Grace is often seen as “unmerited favour” or “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”  While both of these things are true, they are also far less than the fullness of grace.  Grace is not simply accepting but also enabling.  Grace is not simply a passive attribute but also an active contribution.

I am convinced that we need to grow in grace (2 Pe. 3:18).  It isn’t that we lack grace — we need to grow in it.  God is the God of all grace (1 Pe. 5:10).  And, He is able to make all grace about to us so that we have everything we need for every good work (2 Cor. 9:8).  Our difficulty is not in availability, its with access.  We need to grow in grace.

There are more good works.  God has more glory to get out of our lives.  Anything that is accomplished is done by grace (1 Cor. 15:10).  This is not a condemnation because there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).  This is, however, a challenge to us all.  One of the things noted of the early church was that great grace was upon them all (Acts 4:38).  The amount of grace we are accessing is insufficient for what we are facing — in our lives, in our church, in our world.  The revival we all desire will not happen apart from great grace active in our midst.

Growing in grace with you,

Pastor Merril

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

June 2013 - Body Building with Spiritual Gifts

This month we will be looking at the Gifts of the Spirit.  Last month we considered the Holy Spirit, Himself.  It’s important that we not lose the connection between the two.  We certainly recognize that these spiritual gifts are not simply natural abilities that are taken to a new level by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is not some gas with a higher octane rating that gives our natural engine more power.  These gifts are not simply empowered by the Holy Spirit but originate from Him.  1 Corinthians 12 says that the gifts, or graces, are “manifestations” of the Spirit.  They don’t enlighten us about man but about God dwelling in His temple.

There is a distinct difference between saying, “I have the gift of prophecy” and saying, “Holy Spirit often reveals Himself through me by prophecy.”  I have seen an ownership problem with the spiritual gifts in some people’s lives.  It’s far to easy to believe that a gift of the Spirit is for the one who has it.  The truth is that the spiritual gift that resides in a Christian is for someone else, or for the church.  I can benefit as part of the church, but the gift in me is still other-oriented.  I believe God wants us to be healthier and more mature in relation to the spiritual gifts.

As we consider the spiritual gifts this month, we will not be so much looking at each gift as much the gifts overall.  We will consider their purpose, public practice, personal engagement and priorities.  Each of the passages in Romans, 1 Corinthians and Ephesians speak of Christ’s body and unity.  So, we will be on a monthly body building exercise and I hope you will put in the time and effort any such exercise warrants.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril