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1050 Danforth Ave
Toronto, ON, M4J 1M2
CANADA

416-461-6061

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Extra thoughts on current series and events.

Foundation Problems (Pics!)

Pastor Charles

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As current worshippers at DCC know, we're Leaning In in prayer this year as we're seeking God's face for the move of His Spirit in our midst, so that we can be Reaching Out in 2018. This is our theme for the year: Leaning In, Reaching Out. There is an essential, irreducible component here: God's actions always include both - His work in us results in His work through us to those around us. 

As current worshippers at DCC know, we're also engaging a building proposal and prayerfully considering it for our future. Why? Because our building is NOT the "church" (because the Church is people, not properties). Rather, the building and property are tools in our hands. What are the tools for? To fulfill our mission and calling. What is our mission and calling? 

We exist to be and to make fully committed imitators of Jesus in the areas of Danforth and East York! We do this by Loving God, Loving Others, and Serving Our World.

Our building is now 70 years old, though the congregation is much older. In fact, our roots go back to the Hebden Mission itself more than 100 years ago! This is at least the 3rd property the church has owned and operated, all for the purpose of the propagation of the Gospel. 

But it no longer serves us well in that regard, as it is too limited in functionality, and it has multiple issues, including the foundation. Thus, we must act responsibly and strategically in the management of our building and property to empower ministry, not restrict it. 

Most people don't see (yes, literally "see") these issues because it's not germane to coming to the building to worship or minister, nor are most people part of the maintenance staff, nor governance of daily operations. Thus, hearing we have foundation problems might come as a surprise, or be easily dismissed because they don't "see" the problems. 

So, to rectify that, I'm posting the pictures here taken over the past 2+ years: 

FRONT WEST STAIRWELL

 Water damage from seepage: We spent $15K fixing the outside before verifying this dried up the problem - at least for now. This picture shows new metal studs being put in place for a drywall covering. (The $15K "fix" was less than the big fix of $50K. Yikes.) 

Water damage from seepage: We spent $15K fixing the outside before verifying this dried up the problem - at least for now. This picture shows new metal studs being put in place for a drywall covering. (The $15K "fix" was less than the big fix of $50K. Yikes.) 

 Closer view from the bottom looking up. Here and other location show the cement parging has completely separated from the brick and block foundation. Continued water seepage will further degrade the mortar between the bricks and blocks, ultimately leading to foundation failure. 

Closer view from the bottom looking up. Here and other location show the cement parging has completely separated from the brick and block foundation. Continued water seepage will further degrade the mortar between the bricks and blocks, ultimately leading to foundation failure. 

 Close up at the bottom of the stairs where seepage was the worst. A panel was installed here so we can continue to open the panel and view the wall condition. 

Close up at the bottom of the stairs where seepage was the worst. A panel was installed here so we can continue to open the panel and view the wall condition. 

WEST REAR STORAGE HALLWAY

 Remember the huge cabinets lining the outside wall? When they were pulled back, they were so full of mould that most of them had to be thrown away. Again you can see the mould and mildew, indications of how persistent and bad the water seepage was. 

Remember the huge cabinets lining the outside wall? When they were pulled back, they were so full of mould that most of them had to be thrown away. Again you can see the mould and mildew, indications of how persistent and bad the water seepage was. 

 Mould and mildew had penetrated into the cabinets: Supplies stored inside were so infected, they, too, had to be thrown away. Here you can see seepage was at both the higher groundlevel outside and at the footing level on the bottom. 

Mould and mildew had penetrated into the cabinets: Supplies stored inside were so infected, they, too, had to be thrown away. Here you can see seepage was at both the higher groundlevel outside and at the footing level on the bottom. 

 A broad view of the read storage wall behind the cabinets, showing seepage high and low. 

A broad view of the read storage wall behind the cabinets, showing seepage high and low. 

EAST SIDE FURNACE ROOM AND C.E. ROOM WALLS

 Every Fall and Spring we have have standing water in the furnace room. This picture isn't too bad. Two years ago it was over an inch deep covering half the room.  

Every Fall and Spring we have have standing water in the furnace room. This picture isn't too bad. Two years ago it was over an inch deep covering half the room.  

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 During the Nursery/CE Room renovation, removing the existing walls, we discovered the metal studs and sill plate (running on the floor, on which all studs rest) had completely rusted away. That is evidence of longstanding moisture in this location. In other words, this is a continuing problem that will not "go away" because we ignore it. 

During the Nursery/CE Room renovation, removing the existing walls, we discovered the metal studs and sill plate (running on the floor, on which all studs rest) had completely rusted away. That is evidence of longstanding moisture in this location. In other words, this is a continuing problem that will not "go away" because we ignore it. 

 In another location, removing the pink fibreglass insulation reveals the level of damage to the foundation wall itself and old defunct pipes that add to the problem. 

In another location, removing the pink fibreglass insulation reveals the level of damage to the foundation wall itself and old defunct pipes that add to the problem. 

 Detail shot of rust, mould, mildew and general deteriorating wall material building up on one of the old defunct pipes. All this and more are hiding behind our drywall on the actual foundation walls.

Detail shot of rust, mould, mildew and general deteriorating wall material building up on one of the old defunct pipes. All this and more are hiding behind our drywall on the actual foundation walls.

These problems on the East foundation wall, where our "green lot" is, have not yet been addressed on the exterior of the building. We will have to spend more thousands of dollars to address the drainage problems affecting the East side of our foundation. 

EAST WALL, FELLOWSHIP HALL

 Starting in the corner closest to the CE Room/Nursery entrance, here you can see evidence of long-standing moisture degrading the metal studs and drywall. This points to more foundation problems moving all the way along the East foundation wall. 

Starting in the corner closest to the CE Room/Nursery entrance, here you can see evidence of long-standing moisture degrading the metal studs and drywall. This points to more foundation problems moving all the way along the East foundation wall. 

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FRONT EAST STAIRWELL 

 Anywhere you see places where something behind the drywall is PUSHING OUT from the surface, this is evidence of moisture actively seeping through, rusting and eroding our foundation structure. 

Anywhere you see places where something behind the drywall is PUSHING OUT from the surface, this is evidence of moisture actively seeping through, rusting and eroding our foundation structure. 

 Multiple points pushing OUT from moisture seepage, here in the front East stairwell, plus evidence the drywall was repaired years ago ... thus this is a longstanding, ongoing issue that will not "go away" if we just ignore it. 

Multiple points pushing OUT from moisture seepage, here in the front East stairwell, plus evidence the drywall was repaired years ago ... thus this is a longstanding, ongoing issue that will not "go away" if we just ignore it. 

WHAT DO ALL THESE PICTURES MEAN? 

Our building will not, fall down on us today or tomorrow. But it does mean that our building will not continue to serve the coming decades and generations. If we want (and we do want) to serve not only ourselves but also the coming generations, then we must act now to move in the right direction. The building proposal before us addresses these issues and more, empowering us with the new building, greater space designed to meet our current and future needs, to glorify God and serve our community. 

Come, let us build together for today and for the future! 

Resources for Living a Powerfully Influential Life!

Administrator

Hey everyone: In this morning's sermon I mentioned these resources:

  • CLICK HERE to go to Carey Nieuwhof's blog posting on sharing your faith! Blessings are upon you as you are Jesus' active witnesses! 
  • Silverio Gonzalez shares an excellent, short 7-point article on How to Share the Gospel without being a Jerk! CLICK HERE to go to this great article. 
  • Are you more of a video person? Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason also posted this past week a short video on how "closet apologists" can come out with confidence in sharing the Gospel, too. CLICK HERE to go to the STR.org page for this great resource. 

These are two more resources to help you and me fulfil our purpose at DCC: We exist to be and to make fully committed imitators of Jesus in the areas of Danforth and East York!  To do that this year, we're aiming for EACH ONE to REACH ONE by the end of the year! 

God bless you as you share your faith and hope in Him with others! 

Biblical vs False Leadership and Submission

Administrator

In last Sunday's sermon we looked at the 'secret' to harmonious homes and workplaces. This was one instalment in our series working through the letter to the Colossians. Chapter 3, verses 18 through chapter 4, verse 1, is rather controversial today. We don't like the ideas of submission, obedience and certainly not that of being a "bondservant." 

So how do we take and apply this passage of the Word to our lives today that does justice to the passage and is still both applicable and transformative? 

The whole idea of submission in our wider culture is, unfortunately, warped. Just look at the book and movie series on Shades of Grey. Others have written plenty on that, so I won't go there. Rather, I'm interested in us coming to a Biblical understanding of what the Holy Spirit, through Paul, was saying to husbands, wives, employees and employers. How did they understand it in their day and age? 

This is called context, and is key to properly understanding what the Spirit was addressing. Digging a bit to get the right context to the first hearers helps us unearth the treasure some two millennia later. It's worth the effort. 

First, let's address the errors. And many of these errors have been tolerated both within the church world and outside it for far too long. Now the #MeToo movement is a symptom of our cultural progression and, with hope, rise out of this mire. 

I credit @Amy_K_Hall, who contributes online content with Stand to Reason, for bringing Wayne Grudem's comments on this issue from his work Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. The leadership errors of the world and church in the past have included what Grudem calls "errors of passivity" - such as when a husband is weak in his leadership (e.g. a "wimp"), or the wife is inordinately submissive allowing her husband to dominate her (e.g. a "doormat"). On the flip side, there are also "errors of aggressiveness," wherein either the husband is a "tyrant" or the wife a "usurper." 

None of these reflect the Christ-like ideal we are to strive for. If husbands are to "love their wives as Christ loved the church" (Ephesians 5:25, emphasis added), then no husband can fulfill this rule while being domineering, oppressive, abusive, neglectful and the whole host of other negatives that are manifested in disfunctional relationships. If husbands love their wives "as Christ loved the church," then there's no problem with submission.  

Likewise, if wives "submit to their husbands as is fitting in the Lord" (Colossians 3:18) and "submit to your own husbands as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22), no wife will then be a usurper, a Jezebel, or the one who "wears the pants in the relationship." 

Yet, we struggle still. 

Here's the key embedded in every verse of Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5: Every reference includes some form of statement - as well as being written in the saturated context - of having your eyes on Christ, looking beyond the role being filled by the other person, be they male, female, young or old, worker or business owner. 

Keep your eyes on the prize: Jesus Christ. Serve in your role "as unto the Lord" in all things. Only in this way do we continue to strive toward - with the Holy Spirit's wonderful and irreplaceable constant help - the ideal that Jesus embodies. Only then can we be the husband we need to be, despite what our wives behave like. Only then can we be the wives we need to be, despite what hour husbands behave like. And the like for children, employers and employees, too. 

No, this simple viewpoint doesn't address every contingency, such as egregiously abusive relationships in all these roles of life. Most of us don't live there. Yet even if we do, we'll still find solace, support and sanctification in keeping our eyes on the prize of Jesus Christ, and His Holy Spirit's work of recrafting us into the image of Jesus, to the glory of the Father. 

Amen. 

Best Apps for Bible Reading?

Administrator

 Photo: Jenny Smith on Unsplash:  https://unsplash.com/photos/2J0_sJ5qS40

Photo: Jenny Smith on Unsplash:  https://unsplash.com/photos/2J0_sJ5qS40

My wife and I are like many today who pretty much "always" have our cell phones with us since we don't have a landline to the house anymore. And besides, it practically goes without saying that smartphones are our multipurpose interfaces with all things electronic and online. 

And that includes our Bible reading, too. 

I was very pleased to have a fellow DCCer ask what Bible app I used and would recommend. This is perhaps in response to my nearly weekly encouragement that everyone MUST be in the Word daily. Why? Because the "world" is talking to you constantly every day. Thus, the only way to consistently filter, assess, keep or reject what you hear from the world is to be in the Word daily.

Our exegetical study of Colossians took us to 3:15-17 Sunday, including "be rich in the Word." Let's be honest with each other: Getting a single dose of scripture on Sunday isn't enough for your week. Thus the old adage "Seven days without the Word makes one weak." And let's continue being honest: The single verse or two at the top of a page of someone's thoughts in a prepared devotional -- be it Our Daily Bread, Streams in the Desert, Morning and Evening, or some other Christian "great" -- is a paltry daily meal, too.

Am I saying you shouldn't use them? No. I'm saying that shouldn't be the only Word you're in on a daily basis. Rather, be in the Word itself. Your Bible. Not some other booklet or blog. 

Why not? Because that's saying that some man or woman's thoughts are more important than God's thoughts directly. Devotionals written by others are supplements, not the primary. They're appetizers, not the main course. 

For those with electronic reading devices such as smartphones, tablets, a Kindle or some other e-reader, or even your laptop or desktop, there are today many great apps to help you be in the Word. The Share Faith website is maintaining an article listing both iPhone and Android apps with their starter features. Go HERE to view that list, and pick which appeals to you most. 

And, because I've been asked many times, I use Olive Tree's Bible study app on my laptops and smartphones for years. Maybe it will work for you, too, but you do your research and make your own decision.

Once you get into the app you've downloaded and tested (remember, if you don't like it after a day or week of use, try a different one!), be sure to find in the app where you can subscribe to a daily reading plan. Be in the Word daily. You will be blessed, and so will people around you! 

P.S. I like and recommend following some version of a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. It might take you more than a year, but these give you and me the overarching view of God's plan we need. Look for ones that have you both in the OT and NT daily. Be blessed. 

Can we still witness effectively in the 21st Century?

Administrator

Witness, or technically "evangelism," has a bad rap in society today. And for believers who do try to witness, many tell me its hard. Perhaps harder than we've ever experienced it before. 

Why is that? 

The world has changed.

For LOTR nerds, yes I hear echoes of Galadriel's words, too, "The world has changed... Much that once was is lost...." And for the rest of us, I hear the echo of something said following 9/11. Some pundit quipped that it was the day everything changed. This was quickly and insightfully followed up with a better thought: It was the day we realized everything had already changed. The world as we knew it was already gone, we just hadn't realized it until that moment. 

In many of our sanctuaries, pews and heads, we're only beginning to wake up to the fact that the world has definitely already changed. Despite cries for revival, good ole time religion, turning back the clock, etc., none of these will work. 

Why not? 

Because the world has changed.

That doesn't mean witness is dead. Rather, it means that our old styles of witness are dead. The message is eternal, but it is constantly in need of contemporary clothing.  And we like those old clothing styles. They're comfortable. Familiar. Easily slipped into. 

And ineffective. 

Tim Keller, Martin Lloyd Jones and others have outlined this change:

  • In the 50s, Billy Graham - among others - "perfected" crusade evangelism. 
  • In the 60s, 70s and 80s we moved to personal (programmatic) evangelism. 
  • In the 90s we moved to seeker services. But that still requires seekers. 
  • In the 21st C, we largely don't even have seekers in churches. So now what? 

Those evangelistic styles developed in the Modern era don't work today in our Post-Modern era. Why not? Here Tim Keller helps us understand with three problems presented by our current social milieu. This is a quick summary of just these points; to see the full 75-minute presentation of this entire topic, go here

1. The "Truth" Problem, wherein all truth claims are perceived as constraints and exclusivism, and these are vehemently rejected. In our Postmodern world, no one gets to make exclusive claims (though, yes, you and I might recognize that that claim just made is in itself an exclusive claim). 

2. The "Guilt" Problem, wherein old evangelistic programs were built upon the assumption of an awareness of guilt: We're broken people who don't measure up to some ultimate standard. Yet Postmodernism is a rejection of all ultimate standards. People don't have a sense of guilt any longer, because that sense of guilt was built upon a general revelation of the gospel in Western society. 

3. The "Meaning" Problem, wherein claims to ultimate Truth in the Bible are rejected, because, in Postmodernism, words and texts don't really contain meaning. Why not? Everything is a matter of personal interpretation. No one gets to claim what any text, including the Bible, means because no one gets to make any definitive claims about its meaning and interpretation. 

So how do we witness effectively in the 21st Century? 

Keller, among others, again helps point the way: There is at least one good aspect to Postmodernism. They're seeking community. They're looking for relationships. Because in them we're seeking for authenticity. And, in authentic relationships, we find our common brokenness and humility. And, as Christ followers, we can not only share authentically our brokenness and humility, but also how we've found help and hope in the grace of Jesus Christ. 

Years ago, returning from overseas, I heard a quote that at first I held at arms length and questioned: "The key to evangelism today is hospitality." The further we go in this Postmodern world, the more I'm finding that to be true. 

How are you loving your neighbour as yourself? For therein we find the fulfilment of our relationship with God, too. [And, if that thought makes you hold it out at arm's length and question it, see these passages: Mark 12:31 & Galatians 5:14.]

CSJ - Was (Is) it all for nothing? Definitely not.

Administrator

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Last Sunday we distributed the link to direct worshippers concerned about the current administration's unreasonably stubborn position on their mandated attestation to the Canada Summer Jobs grant applications. An unknown number went online and signed, and a great number of us without easy access to the online petition signed the hardcopy petition. Our Office Administrator then faxed in a copy and delivered a hard copy to our local MP's office. 

Then, Monday, March 19, the vote came down: With the exception of a single Liberal MP*, all Liberal MPs voted the party line to strike down the motion. What was the motion? Brought by the Conservative Party, it sought to uphold the right of all applicants to apply without having to attest to believing in the government’s ideological position. 

So what happens now? 

  • Pray. Continue praying. Pray harder. Our scriptural responsibility and act of worship to the Lord is to be obedient to the commands to pray for those in authority over us. Pray for God's wisdom to prevail in them. They need it. 
  • Watch. Don't let this fall by the wayside. This is a critical issue like few others. This, if not addressed successfully, has the distinct future possibility of stripping all churches, fellowships, denominations and other religious charities of their charitable status. No kidding. That's not an overstatement. YOU CAN "WATCH" BY SUBSCRIBING TO BARRY BUSSEY'S BLOG HERE.
  • Speak. Don't be silent. Continue speaking to all our elected representatives and to all your friends. Highlight the violation of charter rights of the freedom of thought and religion, and how when governments and societies go down this road, it's not pretty. Not at all. Speaking with love and reason (both) changes hearts and minds. Don't be silent. 

I'm told privately that this will likely go a long way...maybe even to the Supreme Court of Canada. We as a local church will be represented in that legal action, as we, too, can demonstrate harm of loss due to the actions of this government to restrict our access to the CSJ funds. Though this will  take some time and work quietly in the background, it is a journey we must and is worth taking. 

* I commend Newfoundland MP Scott Sims for voting his personal conscience, recognizing that the government's approach of dismissing our concerns, saying in effect "don't worry about it; just sign it." No one in a free, democratic society should have their core fundamental beliefs (and Charter rights) trampled on by the government, and then further have the offence waved off as inconsequential. Hear, hear, Scott Sims! 

Imitating Christ at your 35%

Administrator

"We exist to be and to make fully committed imitators of Jesus in the areas of Danforth and East York." This is our personalization of Jesus' Great Commission to each of us who worship, grow and fellowship together at DCC. He is the Head of the Church, and His commission compels us. His heart compels us. His compassion compels us. His vision compels us. His Spirit and His Word compel us to be and to make other fully committed imitators of Jesus! 

To that end, we work as a ministry team to be better, always growing, imitators of Jesus. And we work to engage, edify and equip all our fellow believers to do the same. 

So how do we grow as disciple-makers? 

We need to imitate the example of Jesus. This is appropriate, for the word "disciple" essentially means imitator.

And that's why I've selected the book, video and interactive format on Wednesday PMs following Dr. Robert Coleman in his classic and best-selling The Master Plan of Salvation. 

We will necessarily also follow up with other training formats and materials, too, for more specialized environments, too. Here's one: 

The average person spends 35% of their working years at work. 

Given that the average person spends up to 33% sleeping, during our productive working years, that means we spend the majority of our time engaging with other people in our workplaces. 

To help you specifically with that environment, here are a couple resources from the Theology of Work Project, a ministry blog that I subscribe to. The following are shared from their blog, for you to access these resources: 

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Soul Purpose: Making a Difference in Life & Work

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Grounded in God’s call to us in Scripture, this book will help you explore God’s purposes for your life’s work. Soul Purpose includes a workbook that will help you unpack and tell your unique story. You’ll look at your personality, knowledge, talents, skills, spiritual gifts, and finally, your values, desires and passions. Read Soul Purpose for free.

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This book is all about making decisions that are consistent with our Christian faith – especially in the workplace. In Just Decisions, a case study will help you look at the three most common approaches among Christians for making moral choices. You will consider how much the Bible provides help in each of these approaches. Then, you’ll explore combining the three to gain a balanced and integrated approach to decision-making. Read Just Decisions for free.

Celebrating Women, not 50 Shades of Dumb

Administrator

photo: Peter Hershey @ Unsplash.com

I Tweeted on Thursday, International Women's Day, how much we appreciate and advance women @DanforthCC: Our elders are women; my Vice-Chair is a woman; our Secretary is a woman; our Treasurer is a woman. Our Church Administrator is a woman. Most of our ushers and other volunteers are women. We appreciate, value, uplift and promote women in the Kingdom of God! We believe in your value, worth, intelligence, heart, creativity, resilience and more. 

Thank you, ladies, for all you are and all you do. You're amazing. 

So what's with the second half of this title? 

I don't claim credit, as that goes to Joshua Pease at Thriving Marriages.com. It was through his email newsletter wherein he highlighted Gary Thomas' posting on "50 Problems with Grey."  Please use this link to Gary's posting to read his points. 

Why do I tie these together, women and 50 Shades? 

Because 50 Shades demeans women, it does not elevate women. And I will resist what demeans women, or anyone. Demeaning people, especially for personal gratification, is not summum bonum in any way. Don't fall to the deceptive trap of entertainment to justify what is essentially socialis malum,  a social evil. 

Gary, in his post, outlines 50 ways that do that. It's a great, thought-provoking piece, so I bring it to your attention. May you be blessed and grow stronger by it. 

Our desire and purpose @DanforthCC is to see people, both men and women, to grow into the full potential and healthy relationships with God and each other. 

Heresy: Is it still relevant? Should I worry about it? How do I recognize it?

Administrator

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See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
— Colossians 2:8

Paul wrote the letter to the believers at Colossae to keep them on the right path of orthodox faith, and to refute what has been termed "the Colossian heresy." Which brings up a good question: What is heresy anyway? 

In our current series on Colossians, we keep bumping into this, so it makes sense to give it a bit more of a definition. Heresy is defined as "belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine," with synonyms of dissension, nonconformity, and more. Orthodox is the opposite of heresy, meaning that it "conforms to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right and true; established and approved." 

Of course, our world today likes to promote nonconformity, even dissension, along with suspicion and rejection of authority, orthodoxy, and all things truth with a big "T." As soon as we stop, think and dig down on such positions, though, we find that all our rejection of orthodox belief and practice in the name of individualism and freedom is actually destabilizing, producing conflicts and ultimately self-defeating.

So, how do you and I, theologically, recognize heresy from orthodox belief? As I've shared on Sundays in this series, the essential heresies of the New Testament all deal with the person of Jesus: Who is he? How does he relate to God the Father? And the Spirit? Was he just a man? Was he divine? Etc. And all these questions are important because flowing out of them are issues that affect our salvation.

Timothy Paul Jones is a former pastor who now serves as seminary professor and associate vice president at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the U.S. He's done us the favour of producing a short video outlining the early church heresies and how they relate to the four core beliefs about Jesus. CLICK HERE FOR THAT VIDEO. 

Just like those trained to recognize counterfeit money (they're trained mostly in how to recognize the real, more so than just the hundreds of ways a bill might be faked), you and I can recognize what is counterfeit (heresy) about Jesus by recognizing four core beliefs about Jesus. Note this: All four must be true for a doctrine about Jesus to be true, as all are put forward and affirmed in Scripture:

  1. He was fully human.
  2. He was and is fully God.
  3. He is one person.
  4. And, He has two natures, both divine and human. 

Dr. Jones will list the four major New Testament heresies by their names, but note this that he mentions, too: All the Christian cults and heresies of today (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.) are actually not "new" but repackagings of the same old heresies of the early church, too. 

What do you and I take away from all this? Our own salvation is wrapped up in what we believe. What you believe is necessarily important, because it is directly associated with your eternal salvation! (Cf. Romans 10:5-13). So, be on your guard for your own heart and faith against heresy, as well as your friend's around you. You and your friend will be glad in this life and all the next that you did. 

Our Latest Sexual Revolution vs. the Holy Spirit

Administrator

Are we entering a new sexual revolution? Or are we now realizing the downsides of the last sexual revolution? And how do we as Christians act and react in the middle of all this? 

It'd be easy to try and ignore it all. But then, we'd be irrelevant to the world we live in. And the Spirit never calls us to be irrelevant, but by His presence and power in our lives to be supremely relevant to people around us. 

Greater minds than mine have been gifted of God to speak to us about these things. Sometimes my role is to find and share their counsel with you, which is what I do with this blog posting and referrals to two resources: 

We need the Spirit of God. And we need more of Him, too. That's our only hope of overcoming in this life. He's our hope of restoration and renewal. He is the answer we need. 

  • Are you convinced of this? Or are you frustrated or even jaded by such comments? Dr. Peter K. Gabriel is a theologian, professor and published author. And again, before you "turn off" or turn away thinking this will be too dry, deep or boring, I invite you to read his blog posting Why do PENTECOSTALS care so much about SPIRIT BAPTISM?

Combined, these two blog postings will serve as rich resources speaking life-giving truth to your soul, as they have to mine. 

May the Lord meet you and bless you on your way this day. 

Jesus Didn't Make Excuses // Witness Like Jesus

Pastor Charles

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Jesus stated clearly his purpose to Pilate, the Roman authority in Jerusalem in his day:

 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”
Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.
— John 18:37

He reiterates this in his glorified state to John the Revelator, too: 

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.
— Revelation 3:14

In the first installment of this series, I recommended the following which was Tweeted from our church account (follow us @DanforthCC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram): 

You cannot imitate what you do not know. How well do you know Jesus? #truefaith #sundayservice #dcc
— Pastor Charles

If we're really going to be Jesus' disciples - which essentially and irrevocably means "being an imitator" - then we, too, must be witnesses. He was a witness to the truth. We to will be witnesses to the truth. 

But why don't we? 

Patrick Morley in his book The Man in the Mirror shares a list of common excuses. I've used some of these. Which have you used? 

  • I know I should be witnessing more. I have the desire, but I don’t do it. I allow other things to get in the way. (Yep. That's me. You, too?) 

  • I just don’t feel like it’s my responsibility. (That's the pastor's/church's/evangelists'/missionaries' job, not mine)

  • I don’t know any non-Christians. (Really? That's not like Jesus at all. He hung out with not-yet-believers all the time. He couldn't be a witness to the truth without it. Neither can we.)

  • I’m too busy. I just can’t afford the time. (Yep. That's me, too.) 

  • It’s just easier to not risk offending someone. (This one is very common in Canada today!) 

  • I’m so uncomfortable. I’d be so embarrassed.

  • I had a bad experience…don’t want to do that again!

  • It could be too costly to my career.

  • I’ve been told not to talk about religion at work.

  • I feel ill-equipped. I just don’t know what to say.

  • Me? You’re kidding! Who’d ever listen to me?!

  • The thought is terrifying to me. I could never do it.

Or, did Morley miss yours? What will you insert here? 

To turn the corner, begin acting with true faith imitating Jesus and being his witness, starts with what's in our heads and hearts. If we don't believe something, then we won't do it. That's the essential test of faith that James talks about in his gospel: If you don't do it, it's not real faith. 

So, to help us get our heads - and thus our hearts, too - into the game of imitating Jesus as a witness, Morley shares these 5 CONVICTIONS

  1. The single most important need people have is to know Jesus Christ personally.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  ~ Acts 4:12

  2. A Christian should feel a certain sense of urgency to tell the good story. Peter and John replied (to the Jewish council), “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  ~ Acts 4:19-20

  3. People will listen only to someone they trust. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsider; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasons with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” ~ Colossians 4:5-6

  4. People will consider us credible on the basis of their values, not ours. Therefore, we must earn their respect by the way we live. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasons with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” ~ Colossians 4:5-6

  5. To speak well we must prepare in advance. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. “  ~ 1 Peter 3:15

And it's #5 that really gets us: If we have no intention of being a witness, we won't prepare. If we do intend to be a true faith imitator of Jesus and be a witness, we prepare ourselves in obedience to 1 Peter 3:15 (and other passages) to do so. 

One of the best ways to be prepared is to take a small New Testament and/or Gospel tracts with you. Have a tract in your wallet always. A New Testament in your car/purse/backpack/briefcase/etc always. 

And another way to always be prepared is the card that was inserted into your bulletin on Sunday. Did you miss that? It's the header image for this blog posting. Print it and use it for yourself.  List 3 people you already have some level of relationship with. Then begin following the three steps on the card: a) Ask the Holy Spirit daily to work in their hearts, preparing them; b) for yourself, asking for faith, wisdom and boldness (all three) to be Jesus' witness to them; and c) for opportunity to share, even if it takes creating that opportunity ... like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman and her entire village when he said, "I must go through Samaria"! 

May the Lord bless you as you take these steps of true faith to better be Jesus' witness! Be sure to reply in the comments section, sharing your faith adventures. 

The Bible and Science

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In our final week of our summer series What's the Elephant in your Living Room? we have a cluster of questions all relating to the Bible and Science. This post is a summary response with links to a number of specific examples the questioner posted. It's also a resource for the sermon content, too. Below my responses with links to the inquirer's questions, you'll find the resource webpage for the list of 10 scientific facts found in the Bible that I shared. This list highlights my ONE BIG THOUGHT for this message: 

The Bible is not a scientific textbook. Rather, it is God’s message to us... and it is scientifically accurate.

This ONE BIG THOUGHT is important for reframing our mindset as we approach this topic, and it serves as our mental hook on which to hang all this stuff. Now to the inquirer's questions: 

Now to the inquirer's questions: 

1.  The first (compound) question is: What is the church point of view on climate change? Why is the Bible Belt in the U.S. refusing to acknowledge climate change as a fact?

I think the best kind of answers are from those well informed. Here's an article and video link to the webcast The Years of Living Dangerously in which Don Cheadle interviews climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who also happens to be an Evangelical Christian. In the article, she lists five reasons why Evangelical Christians in the South (U.S. Bible Belt) have a 20% lower belief in climate change in response to this question. 

2.  And our second (very compound!) question is: How do we balance Scripture and theology with modern science and what has been learned and discovered in modern times...  

From here the questioner lists five different examples, asking about the relationship between the Bible and some scientific viewpoint. To answer these, please see my comments or links to other resources for you to consider: 

  • e.g. creation vs. evolution; This question is way too broad to consider here as there are a wide range of diverse positions across the entire spectrum. Let me say this as my opinion, however: I don't believe in "evolution" as popularly conceived as life having evolved from inorganic matter by chance, and by continued chance evolved into higher and higher orders of being until we reach the complexity and consciousness of our human state today. In this respect, the theory of evolution is trumped by the 1st Law of Thermodynamics (and a law always trumps a theory; please examine the difference between a theory, a hypothesis and a scientific law). What's that, you say? The law basically states that all things move from a state of organization and coherence to disorganization and incoherence. In other words, all things are slowing down and breaking down. I challenge you to seriously put your own thoughts or the thoughts of your evolutionist friend to come up with a "hard," verifiable example today of an organism having mutated and "improved," plus (because this is required to prove evolution) that this mutation is being reproduced and outperforming the otherwise original or unmutated population, driving them out of existence. Since evolutionists want to claim that theirs is a scientific worldview, then please show us all the evidence. And the evidence is not a few fossils that are subject to theories of what may have happened. On the other hand, I do believe God created us and perhaps all of life with an ability to adapt. We can adapt to changing conditions, but this is not the same thing as "evolution" wherein something changes from one species to another species entirely. 
  • e.g. the timeline of the Bible vs. the timeline of modern science gives us - that the earth and universe are billions of years old: Again, there's a huge span of positions on this on all sides. To answer from both Christian and scientific points of view, please consider The Faraday Papers from The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion. Also, consider the website Science and Belief.
  • e.g. how do we incorporate that we all came from Adam and Eve, when we know there are so many different races with distinct genetic differences and who have lived all over the world. In reply: If by "genetic differences" you mean our differences in our physical appearance that we classify as "ethnicities," these are again simply the process of adaptation. Here's a "humane" example of what has happened to humanity through the millennia (as it is considered inhumane to experiment with humans in this same way): All dogs - yes, ALL dogs, all sizes, all breeds, all centuries, have evolved by human manipulation from wolves (yes, more than one "wolf" breed). Research the evolution of dogs (because that's what it's called today, not because it's "evolution" as popularly defined above). Correlate that with our ability to adapt, too, a God-given ability. 
  • e.g. how do we account for “the big bang” theory? Again (yes, "again") the question touches upon a hugely broad field and question, with widely varying viewpoints. One I find particularly compelling, however, is this video freely available on YouTube. Great stuff! 
  • e.g. how do we account for the recent finding that there is another planet similar to earth that can also sustain life? The Bible doesn't say anything conclusively for or against life on other planets. But Dr James Emery White does a great job addressing this popular question and how we as Christ-followers can respond to it. Enjoy! 

I trust each of these will help you as you fulfill Psalm 111:2, 

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.

SCIENTIFIC FACTS IN THE BIBLE

As the ONE BIG THOUGHT states, the Bible isn't a science textbook from which we study science. Yet it is scientifically accurate. And that makes sense with the Biblical worldview: God is creator and sustainer of all things. Therefore His messages to us are logically coherent and consistent with His scientific knowledge of all things. 

Now I didn't come up with that list on my own, but - as shared with speaking - are drawn from what is called The Evidence Bible. It is a Bible that has extra resources added to help the user share confidently with those posing science-based questions. Here's the link to their web page on this topic, which you'll see includes more than the 10 that I shared on Sunday. 

May you be blessed as you examine these for yourself, and share them with your friends. May your friends come to find God and His message in Jesus Christ, as testified to in the Bible, true, compelling, and resulting in saving faith. May you journey with them in growing obedience to Jesus Christ throughout your lives. 

Can We Trust the Bible?

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We're continuing in our series What is the Elephant in Your Living Room? and I'm enjoying the process of searching the Scriptures, books, websites and other scholars to help you answer the questions put forward. This week's question deals with defending the veracity - the verifiable truthfulness - of the Bible. 

It has been often stated something like "serious scholars no longer question this historicity of Jesus." Yes, it's accepted as a fact: Jesus did exist! But to your and my friends who probably aren't serious scholars, then we need to review these facts with them. Just to establish this one point, check out these pages: 

  • Wikipedia page titled "Historicity of Jesus," second paragraph. Read together with them as much as each of you like all the references to support this fact. 
  • Here's a great example, too. This one is from an avowed atheist. And still he is defending the historical fact that Jesus existed to other nay-sayers. Hilarious. 
  • This is actually an easy point to address. Just google the question with your friend and look at all the responses from responsible journalism in support of it (while also noting that there will always be irresponsible nay-sayers...but do they really want to be like them?!). 

Once we've established that Jesus is indeed historically proven, then let's see how that fact coincides with what the Scriptures say about Jesus. And even more, how mathematically ... well, either impossible or miraculous ... him fulfilling all of these (or even just a few) staggers the mind. And remember: We're using science, mathematics and historically verified documents to demonstrate that faith in the person of Jesus actually isn't "crazy" at all, but quite rational. 

To do this, however, will take more space than I usually contain in a single blog posting. So, I'm sharing HERE a document from a website (the source link is inside this document, and I give all the credit to them for compiling it). WARNING: It's 18 pages long! Most of that, however, is a list of Scriptures where you'll find the 365 prophecies and passages about Jesus. The preface to that list, however, is the mathematical examples of how miraculously impossible it is that one person fulfils all of them. May you enjoy reading this article, searching the original source website, and the Scriptures about Jesus. With this, may Jesus be lifted up in your eyes and the eyes of your questioning friends. Why? Because, when He is lifted up, He draws people to Himself. And that's just what we want with our friends, too. 

In addition to the above, let me also refer you to the excellent and highly accessible ministry website called Answers in Genesis. They have a series of pages about seven compelling evidences that the Bible is true. Excellent stuff to bless you and your inquiring friends! 

And one more addition! Dr. Timothy McGrew is a Christian theologian, historian and apologist. In a recent conference he shared the incidental details of 8 different passages and how they speak to the veracity of the Gospels due to the knowledge of the authors. The video is about one hour long, so settle in for a good listen and take good notes! 

Enjoy, 

PC

The ONE Unforgivable Sin

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In our series What is the Elephant in your Living Room I addressed the questions regarding unforgivable sins. As we were suddenly struck with technical difficulties and everyone was without the visual aid of the slides, here are some summary notes and points. 

Where do we see "unforgivable sins" in the Bible? 

  • Matthew 12:22-32 & Mark 3:22-30, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
  • Hebrews 6:4-6 & 10:26-29

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Many have asked me this question sincerely wondering through the years, "Have I blasphemed the Holy Spirit?" My general response to each is always the same, and though it seems lighthearted on the surface, it is actually a genuine and true encouragement: "If you're seriously concerned whether or not you have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, then Fear Not! You haven't!" 

How can I seemingly glibly make such a response? Let's see: 

Wayne Grudem, in his epic and useful tome Systematic Theology , p. 508, in my ©1994 edition, outlines three requirements and characteristics for those who actually blaspheme the Holy Spirit. They are: 

  1. A clear knowledge of who Christ is and the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him. 
  2. A willful rejection of the facts about Christ that his opponents knew to be true, and 
  3. Slanderously attributing the work of the Holy Spirit in Christ to the power of Satan. 

A quick review of these makes it clear why I respond the way I do to those with this fear, for the fear is illusory: Anyone genuinely concerned about having done this hasn't done it because the person who has blasphemed the Spirit wouldn't be concerned about having done so. They wouldn't care because they reject Christ and His Holy Spirit. They knowingly and provocatively make their slanderous statements from a heart thoroughly hardened. 

What about those other passages? 

Both of the passages in Hebrews (6:4-6 and 10:26-29) deal with people who have made confessions of faith in Jesus, but then thoroughly and irrevocably apostatized (abandoned, denied, forsaken, broken with, renounced, etc.) their faith. Again, if you're concerned you've done this, then you likely haven't, because you're not apostatized. 

One more passage of concern

What is the "sin that leads to death" versus those that don't "lead to death" in 1 John 5:16-17? 

Basically, it's this: If anyone dies in their sins - in other words, having not confessed and followed Jesus in this life, then they die unrepentant. Salvation comes only by the Person of Jesus, and our personal positive response to Him. He alone provides the payment for our all our sins. For any who don't accept his substitutionary sacrifice, then we pay the price for our own sins: Eternal separation from God.

That sounds harsh. And it is. But here's the Good News. The eternal Father God doesn't want you do die in your sins. That's why Jesus the eternal Son came in the flesh, lived a sinless life, allowed Himself to be reviled, tortured, killed and buried. Because He was/is sinless, death had no power over Him, and He was resurrected! And having provided the perfect (i.e. sinless) human sacrifice - the only one ever in all human history -  He offers it freely to all by faith in Him. 

The ONE unforgivable sin is to reject - even to simply neglect - Jesus, His message, His offer, and His salvation in this life. 

Will you accept Him and His offer today? Will you choose to follow Him all the rest of your days on this globe? If so, then you have a great hope in this life and the next. 

Reply in the comments to this blog or call me at the church office. I look forward to hearing from you.  

Pastor Charles

The Dynamic Tension Between Grace & Truth

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Truth-vs-Grace-dynamic-tension-pic.jpg

Dynamic tension, that pull between two opposing forces, is a principle that pops up frequently in Christian faith. It's like the "already-but-not-yet" aspect of our sanctification: The Father sees us as completely, already made into the image of Jesus since He's looking through the covering of Jesus' blood and righteousness upon us. Yet what we see and experience on this side of heaven is quite different: We know the work isn't complete, but in process throughout this life. 

The dynamic tension in sanctification isn't that taxing upon us; rather, reflecting upon it causes us to worship Him more. Other instances of dynamic tension have greater pull, sometimes even quite uncomfortably so. 

The tension between the two extremes of grace and truth is one that, as we work to be true to both, we definitely feel the pull. It's challenging. How do I remain filled with grace toward people who are steeped in sin around me? How do I "love them as myself"? (Matthew 22:37-39; Galatians 5:14).  Confronted by their sinfulness, even urged on to join them in their sin and then mocked when we don't, how do I continue to act with grace and Christ-likeness toward them? 

In these situations we're often tempted to withdraw behind the shield of truth, like a bulwark against a flood. Over that wall of protection, we wield the sword of truth and fire away arrows of truth to fight back, defend truth, and cut down their untruths. 

But there's a problem. We don't have a shield of truth. Nor a sword of truth. Nor arrows of truth. We have a shield of faith against the flaming darts of the enemy and a belt of truth to gird up our own loins (joined with the breastplate of righteousness, these two protect all our vulnerable abdomen). Even the sword of the Spirit isn't a big broadsword, but a short sword for close up work in face to face against the enemy. Notice that in Ephesians 6, the armour of God isn't for attacking people outside the Church. No, it's for our defence against attacks from the enemy. But I digress off into another area ... let me come back to pursuing my main thesis. 

Yesterday I used the illustration of two chairs tied together on opposite sides of the platform, one representing truth, the other grace. On each chair was a water glass of rocks of various sizes and colours. The rocks represent people. The rope represents the invisible bond and dynamic tension between truth and grace which we often don't see. When we pull to one side resisting the other, we tip the chair, overturning it and the people camped there. We end up denying both Biblical truth that we're supposed to uphold, and damage people on that side. It doesn't matter which side we're on: If we're polarized and pulling away, we're both sacrificing people and the Word. Not good. Damaging. Unbalanced. 

As I look around all of Western Christianity today, I see a polarization on moral issues, similar to the polarization we see in politics. Within and adjacent to the Church, believers and movements are polarizing over the issue of same-sex attraction (SSA) and the question: Is it permissible and not sinful to engage SSA? How do we respond to both believers and non-believers who have differing opinions and theological arguments on this topic? 

For those interested, the Bible speaks directly about same-sex attraction in five passages, two in the Old and three in the New Testament: Genesis 19; Leviticus 18 & 20; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:8-10. The context of each is quite plain and clear. It is not ambiguous in any way, though it is painful to acknowledge that plainly because - as I said yesterday - I know that that truth causes pain for many. Trying to speak with as much grace as possible, I must also remain true to what Scripture says: Only by radically reinterpreting each passage and context, thus violating all commonly accepted Biblical hermeneutic principles, can they be reworked so as to justify indulging SSA. Such as Mel White has done in his 24-page paper titled "What the Bible Says - and Doesn't Say - About Homosexuality." Please don't be mislead by the title, though, and go read his paper without serious critical thinking on your part. Rather, here are two solid rebuttals by those trained and experienced in serious Biblical critical thinking: 

Dr Stanton Jones, Wheaton College

Dr Daniel B. Wallace, Dallas Theological Seminary

Additionally, Stan Jones wrote a "pastoral conversation" that's a summary of his many interactions with those confessing and struggling with SSA. This piece is instructive to see how we can lovingly discuss with both grace and truth the issues with the person in front of us. 

Further, if you or someone you love is struggling with SSA and are looking for good, solid, loving and Biblically grounded advice, consult and follow Sam Allbery and the site LivingOut.org

But what about when we're being attacked for our stand on what the Bible does clearly say about SSA? What do we do then? 

Here are two more things that will help: 

First, remember that Jesus said we will be reviled for His name's sake, that we will be persecuted by the world just as it rejected and persecuted Him. And that in the midst of all that, He is with us. We must be true to him. Knowing this helps. 

Second, practice some basic apologetics. Yes, "defending our faith" (i.e. apologetics) is both Biblical and highly needed in our very post-Christian Western culture. I won't get into more details on all this here, but rather provide again some helpful links: 

Consult Greg Koukl's ministry site Stand to Reason to learn more about apologetics. 

And here's a specific response by David Robertson to the claim that Christians are bigots relative to this topic. Warning: He comes at this with that cheeky British humour! 

Video & Text article

I'm trusting that, as we come with humility together before the Lord and His Word, we will be full of the Spirit, remain true to both grace and truth, loving one another as we journey - yes, struggle together - through this process of sanctification that is going on in each of us, no matter where we land on the theological, ideological or experiential scale regarding SSA. May we each continue to grow in the image of Jesus together. 

To exercise the grace side of this issue as much as the truth side, I invite those of DCC and our Danforth community with this: Should we start a group for all who are affected by this issue? If you're touched by this issue as one struggling, or a family member struggling, please contact me and let's talk. 

Sloths in a Face-Paced World?

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Sloths are so slow they're almost cute. At least, in the YouTube videos they are. Are human sloths so cute? Maybe not. 

Have you felt the "hurry sickness" of frustration waiting behind someone in the check out line? Maybe it was the aisle at the grocery store or lawn and garden centre with their overloaded cart stuck in the middle blocking everything? 

We don't often use the adjective of sloth much anymore. We tend to think simply of laziness. As an "absence of interest" or "habitual disinclination to exertion" (1), slothfulness is more akin to apathy...that which underlies laziness. Whereas most other of the seven deadly sins are sins of commission - this we do, slothfulness is a sin of omission - not doing what we should. 

Dante, in his classic work Purgatorio, defines sloth as "The failure to love God with all one's heart...mind...soul." It is, he said, an "insufficiency of love." (1)

What does the Bible say about slothfulness, laziness and the like? 

In our Sunday series this week, we're looking at Sloth vs Diligence. And the Bible has tons to say about these. More than we can insert in a meaningful way into the sermon. That would be overload. So I've added this blog to detail some of the passages that are helpful to those looking to go a little deeper after this morning of sharing from the Word. I pray you are blessed as you delve deep in the Word. 

Here are a few zingers from Scripture:  Proverbs 10:4, 12:27, 15:19, Matthew 25:25-30

There are so many in the wisdom literature of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, especially, that it is more prudent for me to simply redirect you to THIS page to read them all! (That's not slothful, because if I were being slothful I wouldn't even have taken the extra time to create this blog posting resource for you!). Go about half way down the page to "Laziness in the Bible." Amazing. 

My wish, prayer and work for you is this: That you be virtuously diligent in all areas of your life - especially that of your spiritual walk, since that has greatest potential to empower your diligence in all other realms of life - and that you not be characterized by the vice of sloth in any way. 

What could be the "theme verse" for this? Well, there could be many, but a central one is this: 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance (diligence) the race marked out for us...
— Hebrews 12:1

 

(1) Wikipedia.org: Sloth (deadly sin) 

A Resource for Battling Porn

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This is growing to be one of the largest - and most damaging - problems in modern society, including inside the Church. Do you challenge that statement? Josh McDowell commissioned  research last year that revealed "Of young adults 18-24 years old, 76 percent actively - and these are Christians - actively seek out porn."  Barna, the great Christian research group, conducted the study and provides THIS executive summary of their findings. 

This Sunday in our series Seven Vices or Seven Virtues: Your Decisions Determine Your Destiny we're looking at a double-double: Lust & Gluttony vs Chastity & Temperance. This series is about the "seven deadly sins" and their polar opposites, the "seven cardinal virtues." Missed one in the series? You can listen to the podcasts on our media page

While researching and preparing, I came across this resource from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. It's a 40-page booklet entitled Battling Pornography. We don't need as a church office to print these that are free online. Plus, many are understandably shy about picking one up or raising their hand saying in effect Yes, I want one of those.  So, I'm making this available to you via this blog, where you can come anonymously and download the resource.

Click HERE to download this guide, and be blessed in your battle. 

Here to strengthen, 

PC 

Sine Qua Non

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si·ne qua non (ˌsinā ˌkwä ˈnōn,ˌsinē ˌkwä ˈnän/), noun, meaning: 1. an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary.

There are numerous sine qua nons to our faith, things which are essential conditions, without which we cannot really have true Christian faith. Two of them (one and the same, really) are: A. Love your neighbour as yourself, and B. Love your fellow brother or sister in Christ.

Why are they really "one and the same?"

While Jesus reduces the entirety of the Old Testament law down to two: 

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
— Matthew 22:36-40

Paul, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, resolves it down to a single one: 

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
— Galatians 5:14

Does this eliminate loving God first? No. Rather, as He says in 1 John 4:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
— 1 John 4:20-21

So we see that God Himself has tethered these two: We cannot claim to love Him if we don't also love our brother / sister / neighbour.  

And all this leads us to a question: How do we do this? And here He helps us by using a phrase 100 times in 94 verses of the New Testament, the "one another" statements. Another site conveniently summarized them this way: 

When you look at these verses, a few more common themes show up.

Unity. One-third of the one-another commands deal with the unity of the church.

  1. Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)
  2. Don’t grumble among one another (Jn 6:43)
  3. Be of the same mind with one another (Ro 12:1615:5)
  4. Accept one another (Ro 15:7)
  5. Wait for one another before beginning the Eucharist (1 Co 11:33)
  6. Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another—seriously, guys, don’t eat each other (Ga 5:15)
  7. Don’t boastfully challenge or envy one another (Ga 5:26).
  8. Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)
  9. Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)
  10. Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)
  11. Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)
  12. Don’t complain against one another (Jas 4:115:9)
  13. Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)

Love. One-third of them instruct Christians to love one another.

  1. Love one another (Jn 13:3415:1217Ro 13:81 Th 3:124:91 Pe 1:221 Jn 3:114:7112 Jn 5)
  2. Through love, serve one another (Ga 5:13)
  3. Tolerate one another in love (Ep 4:2)
  4. Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pe 5:14)
  5. Be devoted to one another in love (Ro 12:10)

Humility. About 15% stress an attitude of humility and deference among believers.

  1. Give preference to one another in honor (Ro 12:10)
  2. Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Php 2:3)
  3. Serve one another (Ga 5:13)
  4. Wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14)
  5. Don’t be haughty: be of the same mind (Ro 12:16)
  6. Be subject to one another (Ep 5:21)
  7. Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)

Here’s the rest:

  1. Do not judge one another, and don’t put a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Ro 14:13)
  2. Greet one another with a kiss (Ro 16:161 Co 16:202 Co 13:12)
  3. Husbands and wives: don’t deprive one another of physical intimacy (1 Co 7:5)
  4. Bear one another’s burdens (Ga 6:2)
  5. Speak truth to one another (Ep 4:25)
  6. Don’t lie to one another (Co 3:9)
  7. Comfort one another concerning the resurrection (1 Th 4:18)
  8. Encourage and build up one another (1 Th 5:11)
  9. Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (He 10:24)
  10. Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
  11. Be hospitable to one another (1 Pe 4:9)

Be sure to read them in context, and especially with regard to the cultural context...which will be especially important with 1 Peter 5:14! 

God bless you - and your brother/sister/neighbour - as you practice these! 

Sincerely, 

PC

The ONE Catalyst

Administrator

There is ONE catalyst you and I have available to us that, more than any other, will ignite a reaction in your spiritual life. That's a bold claim. What could possibly be the "one" thing that sets everything else in motion? And, can it really be that simple?

Yes. I believe it can, and is.

[Note: This post is available as an pamphlet to tuck into your Bible in the church foyer info rack! ]

We often think prayer is the answer. But prayer is found in all religions and even none, and it doesn’t result in universal transformation. Then we think worship. But worship is likewise expressed in all people’s lives, religion not required. While worship can be transformative, it isn’t the one thing in Christian faith that will encourage the kind of progress, change, transformation we’re seeking. What about learning, teaching, and/or reading? While each of these can be powerful, the catalyst isn’t the activity itself. We often read without any noticeable change.

The “catalytic substance” that increases the rate of our spiritual reactions—without being consumed in the process—is reading, meditating and applying the Word of God. Daily.

Evangelist D.L. Moody knew and expressed it this way:

I never saw a fruit-bearing Christian who was not a student of the Bible. If a man neglects his Bible, he may pray and ask God to use him in his work; but God cannot make use of him, for there is not much for the Holy Ghost to work upon.
— D. L. Moody

The written Word of God is used by the Spirit to inform, direct, shape and empower our prayer, worship and greater learning. As Moody said, the Holy Spirit works upon the Word within us.

Its for this reason that the Holy Spirit inspired the Psalmist to instruct that it should be our delight, so much so that we meditate upon it day and night (Psalm 1:1-3). In the New Testament Paul tells us and the Colossian believers to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly,” (Col. 3:16) and that it is useful for instructing and correcting our lives in a manner pleasing to the Lord (2 Tim. 3:14-16). Peter tells us that its source is the Father Himself, delivered to us by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).

And James tells us unequivocally “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” for when we do, then we are blessed, “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do” (James 1:21-25).

How do we delve this spiritual growth catalyst?

The Bible is a big book. Where do you start? How should you and I progress our way through it all of our lifetime?

Here’s a simple plan for how to pick up your Bible with purpose on any given day. It is a plan with several benefits built in, which we’ll discover as we walk through this.

5+1+1

This plan, the 5+1+1, works on the numeric day of the month. Let’s say today is the first day of the month, number 1. Now I’m not great at anything more than the simplest calculations in my head, but even I can do 5 and 10 times tables. So I know if I can do this, you can, too. Here’s how it works:

5 Psalms:

Read 5 Psalms each day. If today is the first day of the month, then 1 x 5 = 5, so I read chapters 1 through 5. If today were the 2nd day of the month, 2 x 5 = 10, so I’d read chapters 6 through 10. And so on.  

Here’s the amazing thing: You’ll read Psalms every month, because there are 150 chapters, 5 for every 30 days. And here’s the significant benefit: Psalms are prayers and praises to God.

The Word itself teaches us how to pray and praise! You’ll identify with the Psalms in their highs and lows, life’s joys and sorrows. You’ll learn how to pour out your heart and soul in song and prayer. You’ll experience intimacy with the Almighty like never before. Beautiful!

1 Proverbs:

Read 1 chapter of Proverbs every day. Again, follow the day of the month plan. For example, if today is the 17th day of the month, then read chapter 17.

Here’s the amazing thing: You’ll read Proverbs every month since there are 31 chapters, one for each day of any month. And here’s the significant benefit: We need God’s wisdom. For everything. That’s what Proverbs is in a concentrated format: God’s wisdom for daily life.

In it God addresses all our values, from money and family, work, to sex and relationships, politics, and more. Being in Proverbs daily will help you form biblical values, Godly wisdom for how to interpret each situation and conversation, and how to walk through all your life—and share that wisdom in love and grace with others, too. Beautiful!

1 more chapter:

If you’re not already in a reading plan or book, start with Matthew and the New Testament. After a while, alternate them—chapter by chapter or even by whole books—with those from the Old Testament. In fact, depending on your day, schedule and time available for you, you certainly don’t have to limit your daily time elsewhere in the Word to a single chapter.

And here’s an extra helpful hint: If you read three chapters each day—aside from Psalms and Proverbs—you’ll read the entire Bible each year. Beautiful!

Two Explosive Additives: Journaling + Accountability

If you add journaling—keeping your own daily record of your Bible reading (just the references of what you read) plus those verses that “spoke” to you the most, your prayer requests, answers to prayer, and your own thoughts—and asking a close friend to be your Bible reading accountability partner, these are like casting explosive additives onto the fire of your daily time in the Word. Your spiritual life—and all other areas—will truly be not just informed, but transformed, which is the goal: A life transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

God bless you as you delve 5+1+1 into the Word starting today!

PC

Meat and Potatoes

Administrator

I know it's not just guys, because my wife also often enjoys the simple pleasure of a hamburger and fries. It's perhaps today our most common and ready expression of meat and potatoes for dinner. Or lunch. Or a hearty snack. Or just because you're out with friends. Or just whenever you're hungry and especially when you just don't want to cook for yourself.

Hm. Can you taste it now?! It's okay. I'll still be here. Run get one and come back.

The expression meat and potatoes is also metaphorical for basics. Yes, fine dining is occasionally nice, but if we have it every day we eventually come back to just wanting the basics. Something quick and satisfying. Easy. Not complicated. Thoroughly enjoyable. Forget the fancy dining creations labeled pomme frites and something unintelligible drizzled with something I'm not sure is either edible or might poison me. Burger and fries. Please.

What is your daily spiritual meat and potatoes? What kind of cereal or breakfast protein bar do you down in your spirit to get your day started off right?  What's your sacred bacon and eggs to get you going and carry you almost half way into the day? We've all heard it: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I think so. I run out of steam pretty quick and the rest of the morning and day is off kilter if I don't get a proper breakfast. How about you?

My wife and I started something from the first days of our marriage: Breakfast together. Yep, actual sitting down at the table together to eat. We worked at the same not-for-profit, drove together in our only car, took lunch together as often as we could, and drove home together, too. Despite all that togetherness all day long, we started the day together, too. Over breakfast. Meat and potatoes. Nothing fancy. Just the regular stuff of daily routine.

It's pretty humourous in my my mind's eye: Two young adults blearily staring at our corn flakes and drinking our coffee. Neither of us are morning people, thank the Lord. (Surely having one morning person married to a non-morning person is something like being "unequally yoked?" I'm sure of it. But, I digress....) Despite the utter lack of conversation most days, it started the day off right for us. Without it we were disjointed. And even after 27+ years, we're still at it.

There is something we do even before that often non-verbal face to face stuffing of the face: Coffee and the Word. I get up, go to the bathroom (yes, my older friends, this is "reality writing" here, start my coffee to brewing, let the dog out and - while he's having his morning lav in the back yard, put out his breakfast. Then I go back and retrieve my precious black brew and sit down with it and open my bible app on my phone. I've been following for over a year a "read through the bible in a year" plan. Obviously some days I miss it, and when I do, I really miss it. Some days I read two sets of readings to try and catch up. But I neither browbeat myself over it nor succumb to any well intentioned or malicious condemnation. Dogged persistence is a better description for me.

I read on my phone because I like poking and reading the Hebrew and Greek (etc.) original languages for deeper understanding of what it's saying. The meat and potatoes there are rich. Delicious. Enticing. Satisfying.

Sometimes sermons come out of them, though often not. It's simply my self-feeding dietary practice in the supernal realm of spirit, mind, Word and Spirit.

What's your daily meat and potatoes? How do you ingest the Word daily? And why is this important enough to blog about it?

You won't survive long without learning to feed yourself. It's instinctual, too. And I believe that instinct is in our spiritual DNA as well. Are you feeding yourself? Is it rich meat and potatoes, or only pablum? Prepackaged express breakfast bars of Our Daily Bread or something else? No disrespect to them. They're good. There are some similar I consult from time to time. But they're not the best. Nothing like carving your own steak or sinking your teeth into a juicy burger.

You eat every day, yes? More than once a day, too, I'll bet. Do you spiritually dine daily, too?

If not, start today addressing your spiritual malnourishment. Download a Bible app and load one of the many free daily reading plans. If you're not so digitally inclined (despite reading this) for your Bible reading, try one of these print-it-yourself plans. Pick up a printed one in our foyer or off the info rack in your local church. Or get one emailed to you daily.

You will go away full so you won't be among those the writer of Hebrews 5:12 chastises for their self-malnourishment. Rather, grow and honour the Lord! You will be blessed as you do so. Happy spiritual dining!