I pray that previous posts would be a blessing to you.
|Laurentian Wesleyan Church||
I am no longer regularly posting to this blog, but I thought I would keep it available.
I pray that previous posts would be a blessing to you.
Being or Busy - The Constant Tug of War.
At a recent Thursday night Bible study at our church, Carol mentioned the story of Mary and Martha. It's funny how God works, as I had been reading a reflection on that very story recently. It's a great story with a pretty potent message. Here it is in Luke 10:38-42;
"As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'"
"Mary has chosen what is better..." If I was Martha, those words would sting a bit. I mean, they had to eat! Isn't serving others and being a good host important too? I think of Ecclesiastes 3:1 when it says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." There's a time to prepare and be active. But there's also a time to sit and be still. The trick is finding the balance, and discerning which is more important at any given time.
I've been enjoying a book called "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. I'm just part way in, but one of his premises is that in the church today we are too often Martha and rarely Mary. "One of the surest signs of [Martha's] life being out of order is that she tells God what to do!" She does when you look at the scripture! Peter goes on to say, "...the active life in the world for God can only properly flow from a life with God. God has a unique combination of activity and contemplation for each of us." Each of us has something to do in the body of Christ. We aren't meant to be spectators. But I love that last part when Peter says "God has a unique combination...for each of us." I find it hard to not compare myself with others. There's a constant tug of war between doing more, and taking refresh time. We can certainly learn from others and their balance between the two, but at the end of the day, God wants you to find your healthy balance between being Mary versus Martha.
Do you need to stop, and just be with Jesus? Why not take a quiet walk and pray, find a comfy chair and reflect, grab a cup of tea (or coffee) and read the words of Jesus. Sit in the sanctuary during the week and just listen. I'll let you in.
No big agenda. No self-induced expectations. Just be, listen and refresh.
If that sounds like torture, you probably really need to do it.
Jason Lewis, our guest contributor, is a primary caregiver for his mom and a personal trainer specializing in senior fitness. He asked to share this article with our church community.
Church and Senior Health: Tapping the Power of Community
When it comes to improving the overall (both mental and physical) health of seniors, there are few better avenues than regular church attendance. Not only is the power of spirituality and prayer able to work wonders in many, but the biggest reason the church can be such a boon to the health of seniors lies in its ability to provide community. As we age, we have a tendency to become more alone (oftentimes through no fault of our own) and regular church attendance helps to counteract the negative effects of this isolation.
Socializing is good for your brain and body
From staving off the onset of mental degeneration to boosting one’s immune system, maintaining contact with friends is one of the best health strategies a senior can employ. And church is one of if not the best way to have a constant support community.
“There are health benefits of being socially active, such as a potentially reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular problems, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and even some cancers. An active social life can boost your immune system and improve your nutrition, since you tend to eat more when you’re around others. Being social can lower your blood pressure and potentially reduce the symptoms of depression. As you can see, social activity is vital to seniors for their health and mental well-being,” notes American Senior Communities
There are multiple studies that show how much keeping an active social life can not only help lessen the effects of health issues, but also prevent them altogether.
“In one of the recent studies on the health benefits of social relationships, published earlier this year, researchers provided evidence that social ties and increased contact with family and friends are associated with a lower risk of death in young women with breast cancer. Another presented a similar conclusion with respect to surviving heart surgery. What’s more, a 2010 meta-analysis of 148 other studies showed that social connection doesn’t just help us survive health problems: the lack of it causes them,” says Scientific American.
Community provides accountability
It’s hard to recognize deteriorating health - whether it be mental or physical - in yourself. The good thing about going to church regularly is that you give yourself dozens of sets of watchful eyes, ones that can spot changes in your mood, appearance, and mental state. This weekly check on your wellbeing is vital to remaining healthy in old age. If you don’t show up to church one Sunday, you’ll potentially have a whole congregation wondering what’s wrong with you and checking up on you. It’s like giving yourself a giant extended family.
This accountability is a good thing for seniors battling depression who may be turning to alcohol or prescription drugs to cope with their feelings. Though we usually think of drug and alcohol addiction as a young person’s problem, it can be just a big of an issue in the elderly - and even more dangerous because it often goes overlooked. Feelings of isolation, uselessness, and sadness over the loss of a spouse can be triggers for substance abuse. Church, through its strong community ties, provide an outlet for the feelings and a built-in base of support for anyone suffering from addiction.
In the end, church attendance goes far beyond the religious implications. Some studies have shown that it can even be of benefit to those who don’t consider themselves particularly religious. That’s because for seniors, church provides the type of constant community support that is singular. There’s really nothing like it.
Photo Credit: Pixabay.com
Author: Jason Lewis
Saying "Yes" to the Unknown in 2017
Have you ever had a friend say "just follow me to where we're going?" When you're driving in a busy city, this can be a little nerve racking as some friends expect you to follow them even though they're weaving in and out of traffic. They're confident of the way, but they forget that you're not. Or the worst is when they speed through a yellow light leaving you to find them after the light turns green again. It's hard to follow some people. But then there are those who are easy to follow. Oh, you still have no idea where you're going, but they do everyting they can to guide you to your destination. Who you're following can make a big difference?
Jesus had been teaching the people, setting people free of oppression and healing their diseases. Observing all this, a teacher of the law said to Jesus, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go" (Matthew 8:19, NIV). No conditions. No idea where that might lead. All this man knew is that Jesus was someone worth following. He had heard and seen enough to know that where Jesus was going, that's where he wanted to go too. He was saying "yes" to the unknown because He had come to trust the leader.
Do we have that kind of trust in our leader, Jesus? Sometimes he guides us along steep cliffs or through dark valleys and we might even lose sight of him in the night for a moment. But He's there, leading us.
God often uses songs to help me remember His truth. This song by the Vertical Chruch Band has spoken to me over the past week;
When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I'll follow You
Even in the good, I'll follow You
When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You'll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I'll follow You
Even in the storms, I'll follow You
I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You
("I Will Follow You" by Jacob Sooter & Jon Guerra from the album "The Rock Won't Move" by Vertical Church Band)
As we begin a new year, my challenge to us as a church is; are we willing to follow Jesus wherever He takes us? Are we willing to earnestly pray that we would seize the opportunties placed in front of us. Will we "[make] the most of every opportunity..." (Ephesians 5:16, NIV). Would you join me in 50 days of focused prayer as we begin 2017? I encourage you to download and print this "Make the Most" card to help you stay on track, reading the three key verses each day to guide your prayers. Download "Make the Most" card here>>
You can listen to "I Will Follow" below.
For a free chord chart and video tutorial of this song, visit
It is a common belief that you have to "clean yourself up" before you come to God. So much so that people will stay away from church or stay away from even exploring what it means to be a follower of Jesus because they think they're too bad. I love what Psalm 51:16 & 17 says;
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
He wants to take our brokenness and make something beautiful out of it as we surrender it to Jesus. Something only He can really do.
Casting Crowns does a song called "Broken Together" that is a reminder of this truth. I encourage you to take a listen below. It's especially poignant when you think about difficulties that arise in marriage relationships. Hope amidst brokenness. Be encouraged. We're all broken together and still loved by Him!
Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and I'll bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together
"Broken Together" by Casting Crowns.
Breathing in a Brand New World
Autumn is awesome. I know many of you love this time of year as well. Who else but a creative God would bring beauty in death...in expectation of new life to come. This past Friday night, Chrissy and I went to Cineplex to watch a one-night-only movie called “Hillsong: Let Hope Rise”. It’s the story of the worship band “Hillsong United” from Sydney, Australia. God has given them an incredible platform around the world to share the Gospel through music and testimony. Their song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” alone has had a huge impact. These young people have such a heart to be used by God and live into their calling from Him. At Laurentian, we sing several of their songs, including “This I Believe (The Creed)” and recently “Broken Vessels”.
Throughout the history of the church, God has inspired people to express their faith in Jesus with new songs of praise and worship. “We write new songs because God is always doing something new”, Joel Houston of Hillsong United says in the movie. Imagine if Charles Wesley had not been overcome with the love of God and inspired to write; “Amazing love! How can it be that Thou my God shouldst die for me?” or if Horatio Spafford had not put his hopeful sorry into words with “whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’”. Are there expressions of a living faith being written today that will be sung in 50 or 100 years from now? The Holy Spirit's moving and history will tell. But one thing is sure, whether ancient, new, old or yesterday, they’re only words if not accompanied by; or pointing to; a living faith.
One song from Hillsong United that I was impacted when I saw them sing it was "Empires". It's a more reflective song, but with an awesome truth; in Christ we are a new creation!
Beneath our skin
A new creation
The night is done
Our chains are broken
The time has come
The wait is over
The King is here
And His Name is Jesus
*“Empires” by Hillsong United
It’s a guitar driven modern worship song. If you’d like to listen click below.
God is at work in our church and in our world. I pray today you would find a song on your lips and in your heart. To lift up Jesus and remind you of His truth at work in your life.
Life & Death. Who decides?
Like many of you, I've been having conversations about Canada's change in attitude and law towards doctor assisted suicide (or the more popular term, physician assisted dying). I have been shocked how quickly people have changed their minds about this issue. I haven't kept up with all the polls of public opinion, but it seems that the majority of Canadians approve of these changes. To be honest, I'm troubled by this change, and let me tell you why. My faith in Jesus, and the Bible as God's Word informs and guides my thoughts.
1. Is human life sacred or not?
Is human life holy? Is it special and to be protected and honoured? As I held a friend's young son this morning, I'm reminded of the answer. It's a resounding YES! You are special and created in God's image. God loves and cares for you. Jesus said in Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" God loves and cares for all creation. We should too, and sometimes we don't do a good job. But make no mistake, human life is set apart from the rest of creation. It is not ok for me to kill you. I'm sure you'd agree. We are reminded often, and have been reminded by tragedies recently, that people matter. All life is precious. God says this about you; "are you not much more valuable than they?"
2. Is life worth fighting for?
Jeremiah 1:5 says, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Of course, this passage is talking about the prophet Jeremiah, but God knows you too. God formed you in the womb; set you apart with a purpose. There is always hope. Life is worth fighting for. Would we not say this to a young person in despair? When life gets hard, we fight for it. What message does it send, especially to our young people, to end the fight when it gets hard. And I know personally in my own family the difficulties life can throw at you. As my mom battled Lou Gerhigs disease, those last months and moments were precious, sacred, and worth the fight.
3. Who decides who lives and dies?
Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die..." I believe this is not our decision. And when we move that decision from God's to man's, then it opens a door that is hard to close. Although proponents of assisted dying assure us that the decision and respect of the dying will be honoured, are there not valid questions about the future and where this will lead? Will there be situations where the elderly feel pressured to end their life so they aren't a burden on their family? Who decides what kind of suffering is eligible? Mental illness, severe short term pain...will these be eligible? What about children? Five children have been euthanized in the Netherlands since it became legal there. What about people who are seen by some as a drain on society or "unwanted". In the United States, 30% of unborn babies with down syndrome are already aborted. Is it not conceivable that these new laws could lead to this practice moving from before birth, to after birth? "You're being alarmist & dramatic" some would say. Am I? History, even in the modern era, has taught us that we need to remain vigilant in the protection of the sick and vulnerable. You and I shouldn't decide who lives or dies. And a doctor, who is to "do no harm" should certainly not be put in that position either.
4. Are we missing out on seeing God's power at work?
I don't like suffering. I don't like pain. I'm sure you're the same. But I'm sure, we are also the same in recognizing that sometimes suffering and pain have helped us grow. Sometimes how we deal with suffering and pain is an example to our family and has helped us grow closer together. If you're a Christian reading this, have you not at times felt closer to God in times of suffering and pain? I have. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10,
"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
I'm not sure if I'm ready to use the word "delight" when talking about my weaknesses...but some of the strongest moments in my life, and in the lives of those I love, have been when facing times of weakness. God has an opportunity to show His strength. I think in our charge to end life, we can miss the very real blessing of showing and seeing God's grace at work.
I put my life and death in the hands of God. After all, it is written that "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I look forward to that day. As currently, some in my family face difficult days ahead, I'm reminded that the church is called to be be with those who are hurting and in pain. Offering hope of healing, the presence of peace and comforting care. We are there and will continue to be. And we will trust Jesus with the rest.
Praying for God to show His strength in the midst of your weakness,
*All scripture quotations are from the New International Version.
I Am Free Because I'm Bound
Words are funny, aren't they? Every once in awhile I come upon a word or phrase that is used in a way that I've never heard before. In my first years of ministry I had a meeting with a woman named Cathy who was going to play piano at our church. She sat down and started talking, exclaiming, "I'm chatty cathy". I had never heard that phrase before and it took me a few minutes, although not long, to figure out what "chatty cathy" meant. Ha. Much has been made over the years of words like "bad" or "sick" that can be used to refer to something good. "It was a sick party and there was tons of cool people there" (That means they really liked the party ;). It's important to understand the meaning intended.
A few weeks ago I heard a song that had such a phrase, and it has become a favourite at our church. The phrase is, "I am free because I'm bound". As you read the rest of the chorus, you can see there's a double meaning intended.
"I am free because I’m bound
I am bound for heavens gate
Where my feet will stand on holy ground
I am bound for glory".
As Christians, we are bound for heaven. Sometimes heaven is referred to as "glory". I think that Romans 6:19-23 explains that phrase "I am free because I'm bound" beautifully. Here it is in the New International Version:
"I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Sin does not lead to life, or freedom. Sin leads to death. But being bound to God leads to holiness, Christlikeness and ultimately eternal life. Thanks be to God!
Take a listen to "Bound for Glory" below.
Power When You Need It
Recently I was in the Yorkdale Mall in Toronto, and they have a Tesla car dealership there. You may have heard of Tesla. It's the car company of investor/entrepreneur Elon Musk. There's a good chance that one of your future cars could be an electric car. Although Elon Musk is in the car business, I've heard it said that really, he's in the battery business. Because that is the main thing that holds the electric car industry back. How far can you drive on one battery charge. They are certainly making huge advancements in battery capacity. In fact, Mr. Musk recently announced a battery for your home called the Powerwall which some have said could launch a revolution in green energy. One of the obstacles to the adoption of "green" energy in the home (solar & wind power) which this high capacity battery tries to solve is the fact that sometimes the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow when you need it. Therefore, you need to store it in a battery. Chrissy and I use electricity most in the evening, when the sun isn't shining its brightest (or at all) and the wind is very sporadic. Perhaps one day we'll have a Powerwall in our home with as much power as we need on demand.
The day of Pentecost was a day of power. The disciples must have been excited and a bit unsure about the future. They had just witnessed the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 1). Jesus said to them just before he ascended, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8, NIV). And as you continue to read in the book of Acts about the Holy Spirit's arrival, it was indeed a day of power. The Holy Spirit came to live in His people. The power of heaven wasn't just available to believers, it lived in them.
In the Bible, and in the church, we talk about the Holy Spirit coming and filling us (Ephesians 5:18). That we are the Holy Spirit's temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). He leads us (John 16:13) and produces spiritual fruit in us (Galatians 5:22). But sometimes I think we lose the point of Pentecost. We make it all about us. Even in the verse above from Acts 1:8, it says that after the early church received the Holy Spirit, it would be immediately turned outward. It was about being His witnesses. I like the application of this verse that says the early church was empowered to testify about Christ to first Jerusalem (their city), then Judea (their region), then Samaria (cross culturally), then the whole world. God wants to use you to be His witness, but not just by yourself. He wants to give you the power to do it.
The power to live for Christ. This brings us back to my reference to Tesla. What happens when you run out of juice in an electric car? Well...you stop. You have to wait to be charged back up. Especially if you're using "green" energy, if the sun isn't shining, or the wind isn't blowing, power isn't available. If your spiritual life's battery gets low, we go looking for a power up somewhere. A conference, Sunday worship, the prayer of a friend. Those are good. But I wonder if looking at our life like a battery is the wrong image. We can have a direct connection to the power plant. When you need power, you've got a direct line. If your life's battery is low, seek the Holy Spirit's empowerment. Is it any wonder that He came like a "violent wind...from heaven" (Acts. 2:3). We don't control the Holy Spirit any more than we control the wind. But what a privilege to have Him blow into our lives with power. Are you feeling weak? There's power when you need it. Just ask.
How have you experienced the Holy Spirit's power at work in your life?
Taping Shut the Bible: Having "The Talk"
Have you ever read the book of "Song of Solomon" (sometimes titled "Songs of Songs") in the Bible? It's a pretty sexualized book. In fact, I heard of a youth pastor who taped that part of the Bible shut so his teen guys wouldn't get distracted while he spoke. Ha! Doesn't it sound funny to tape a book of the BIBLE shut. But sometimes we do that in the church figuratively, if not literally. Jesus instructions to his disciples in Matthew 28:20 were, "...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Are we faithfully doing that in the area of sexuality?
Issues around sexuality and marriage seem to be at the forefront in many ways today. Let's be honest, they have always been, it just seems they're more out in the open. If you're a parent or a child; I think that covers everyone; how did you tell your kids, or learn from your parents, about sex? Did you have "the talk"? Nothing causes people to squirm and dodge quite like "the talk". And we do this in the church too. We've taped the Bible shut. We don't talk about sex at all. Perhaps on some level, this worked in the past. After all, we say, "sex is a very private, personal matter". True. But, being silent is not ok today. Young people (and older people) are searching for answers to their questions about sex and sexuality. And if the church is silent, they start looking elsewhere. Should we really be surprised when they find answers that don't line up with God's plan for sex. God isn't silent about sex and neither should we. Sex is God's plan. He created it. The topic is not off limits. So, what does the Bible say? What's God's plan? I'm not endeavouring to give a lot of information or to lay out a biblical view of sexuality in this blog post. It's just meant to get us thinking. I thought this interview with Pastor Bruxy Cavey of "The Meeting House" in Toronto can help us. Take a listen and let me know your response in the comments below.
Devotional thoughts, reflections on a books I've read or a great song I've come across. Thanks for reading!