Monday, 25 June 2012

What are you doing this summer?

As far as I can tell, the summer months provide the easiest opportunities to love our neighbours. People are outside more often, and participating in the life of the community. If you’re willing to connect, the avenues are there.
 When we look at Jesus’ words to his disciples (and that means us), it is clear that connecting is what we need to be about. It is part of his great mission for our summer. In Mark 8:34-35 Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” If we really want to find the full depth of life in Christ, we must serve others for the sake of the gospel. We won’t find significance in status, sex, or success, but in service.  
God is building a family and he calls on us to invite others to join the family. Christ is coming back, but it won’t be until all the family members are included. In John 17:18 Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” This is our family mission to live like Jesus lived and impact our world for the Kingdom of God.
At the heart of this mission of service is love – love for God and love for others.  In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus is engaged in a discussion with a teacher of the law. In that discussion the teacher answers the question about the greatest commandment. “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ” Wanting to get himself off the hook as to whom he must love, he asks, “And who is my neighbour?”
This is when Jesus tells a well-known story about the “Good Samaritan.” (We even have “Good Samaritan Laws” to protect those who do good deeds.) At the end of the story about two men who choose not to help, and one who acts in compassion, Jesus asks, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
I am especially struck by the way the three persons in the story are characterized by Martin Luther King, Jr. “The first question which the Priest and the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But, the good Samaritan reversed the question, ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ “
Love others is not an option for followers of Christ, and it is definitely not a spectator sport. Everyone is included. And, it means connect with others in caring and practical, and often sacrificial ways whenever opportunities arise.
In addition to everyday opportunities which will arise, this summer there will be many events in Sackville connected to the 250th Anniversary’ celebrations.  First of all, participate. Then, look for ways to intersect with people’s lives in non-threatening ways. Have some hand towelettes to give out at a BBQ. Give a mini bottle of sunscreen at an outdoor event. Have a cooler bag with “Freezies” to hand out on a hot day. Help with Vacation Bible School. Show up and help out at the Habitat house. Make connections.
Finally, if anyone asks why you’re doing this, be ready with a response that says something about the fact that you want to show love to our community – with no strings attached.  God will open doors from there.
If I knew of a more important thing to do with your life, I wouldn’t waste your time with this. I make no apology for saying that being a part of God’s plan will be the most significant thing you do with your life. God wants a bigger family, and you’re the one to invite someone to be adopted.
What am I doing this summer? Sharing Jesus with someone!

Monday, 18 June 2012

What's In a Name?

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 Jabez was more honourable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.
When Jabez grew up, he had a choice: live with the negative effects of the name given by his mother, or decide to remake his life in God’s power. It seems easier to leave things the way they are, to blame others for our circumstances, and to believe that things will never change. However, as difficult as it is to change someone else, when we ask for God’s help to change ourselves, change happens!
Jabez was desperate enough to cry out to God, and God, knowing the desires of our heart, answers that type of prayer. God’s will is good, and he desires good things for us – and, promises never to leave us or forsake us. Do we really believe that? Are we ever asking with that same type of expectancy.
Here’s what we learn from Jabez:
1                     Have a Passion for God’s Blessing. Stop asking for more things, and ask for more of God. When his power starts to be more effective in us, people will notice, and he will be glorified.
2                     Pursue God’s Purpose. Ask God for more influence and impact in this world. It reminds me of that Sunday School song, This Little Light of Mine. “Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.” Expect that there will be opportunities to talk about Jesus. Ask God for more influence, and realize that you are able to inspire others for the Gospel.
3                     Plead for God’s Presence. Don’t be so unwise as to think you can go it alone. We can accomplish nothing of significance without the power of the Holy Spirit, but we can do all things through him who gives us strength.
4                     Petition for God’s Protection. God will protect us from evil, and when we face temptation, there is always a way out. Our bad choices are not God’s fault, but they are our own. Pastor Kenny Baldwin said, “Sin will take you further than you want to go. Sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you more than you want to pay.”
5                     Believe God will Provide for Our Prayer. The reason we do not pray, is that we think we’re doing okay without God. The reason we do pray, is that we believe it matters and will make a difference in our lives. Jabez’ prayer was not long, but it was heart-felt and full of faith. He was desperate for a change and knew where to turn for help.
Somewhere along the way someone might have told you that you were a “nobody” and that you wouldn’t amount to much. With God you are a “somebody” and your life can count for almighty God. Consider saying your own prayer to God for a life-change in you this week.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Thinking About Education

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
As followers of Christ all of life needs to be evaluated by His character and priorities. This, then, includes our own education and the education of our children. At some level, all of us already keep track of the quality of education offered in our systems, and we have our opinions regarding such.  In addition to course of study, we consider the teachers and the subject matter being taught.
The Old Testament offers us a view of education that is first of all God-centred, while being culturally set in a semi-nomadic and agricultural society.
1         God must be the source and goal of all education. His wisdom relates to all of life, and life is to be interpreted through that framework. All truth is God’s truth.
2         The parents are given the primary responsibility for the education of their children in all areas of life.
3         Both informal and formal learning have their place, as does the inclusion of other teachers in the education process.
4         Some wisdom is given by God as universally understood, and we are able to learn from non-believers in some areas, so long as the root of holiness unto the Lord is not compromised.
5         Diversity in education is necessary for application to all of life.
The main consideration for the Jews of antiquity and for Christians today is that "all education is rooted in a worldview and all education nurtures students in that worldview." (Brian Walsh, “Worldviews, Modernity and the Task of Christian College Education,” p.2)  That is to say that whatever education is received at any age, it will have underlying presuppositions that shape the content.  Sometimes the worldview is easily recognizable, but at other times it is not.   This is where we have the responsibility to think critically about what our students learn every day, and consider the environment surrounding that learning.
I believe our students can thrive in almost any educational setting provided they have the same spiritual input and depth that characterised the Jew's learning system.  First, parents must be the primary educators, i.e. take prime responsibility for their children.  Assuming that the public school will instil appropriate values and the best quality education is simplistic. Conversely, passing off our children to a church program or Christian school while remaining in the background will do little better than to indoctrinate them without wisdom.  Second, the leaders of the church must also take responsibility for the instruction of the children in church related education.  Third, believers must have discipleship in their lives if they are to survive and grow as servants of God.  This aspect alone can do much to shape the worldview that will guide the learner.  Fourth, the whole community to which the Christian family belongs must be a positive influence on the children as they are involved together in worship and in discerning where God is leading them.

Our primary educational choices are Home Schooling, Christian/Private School, and Public School. Sackville Christian Academy is a ministry of Middle Sackville Church and began with a group of home-schoolers looking for more support, and other interested families. It has continued as a local alternative to the public schools for those desiring something different, whether it be for social, philosophical, academic, or spiritual reasons.
While any choice can be profitable for learning, the parents must be actively filling the spiritual and God related components, especially if and when the public arena fosters the idea of “Bible myths.” The main concern must be what is best for the child, and this may vary with temperament, age, and external factors taken into consideration.  Just remember, no educational choice should be made from lack of consideration.
Talk about the options. Pray about the right choice. Seek the peace of Christ. Be confident in your decision. Stay actively involved in the process.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Time to Stand Up for Crandall

With the renewed controversy in the media surrounding the “Statement of Moral Standards” of Crandall University, we considered it necessary to voice our position as a supporting organization.
We are not only not anti-gay, we are not anti-anybody. Our church’s mission is based on the idea that people matter to God – all people – all people of all backgrounds, colours, ethnicities, and sexual orientation. The mat at every door reads, “Welcome.”  And, for 250 years we have opened the doors to the full array of humanity that touches the Tantramar region, and hundreds have come to learn the teachings of Jesus. So, to suggest that we are anti-gay, or that we check any kind of issue at the door is simply not true. Just ask the people on various life journeys in our community who have been welcomed here each week.
Now, what is true, is that we challenge homosexuals and heterosexuals to live out the sexual ethics taught in the Scriptures, which encourages full sexual expression between a man and a woman in the context of marriage, and prescribes sexual abstinence and purity for everybody else.
But, even as we challenge all of our people to these biblical standards, we seek to do so with grace-filled spirit, knowing the confusion and brokenness that is rampant in our fallen world. And, at Middle Sackville we honour the journey of everyone who is sincerely attempting to follow Christ. So, it’s unfortunate that some have chosen to attack Crandall U. and its supporters for being anti-gay.
I am also concerned by the propensity to attack any group publically without dialogue. We see this foremost in politics and it makes for strained relationships. Jesus taught and modeled a better way – to treat everybody with respect; to believe the best about others; to seek to understand those with whom we might disagree; and, if we must disagree, to attempt to do so respectfully. We acknowledge our own guilt in not always being like Jesus in this way.
Our desire is to respond in genuine Christian love and say that our church is open to anybody, and we would like to have everyone visit us some day. We all need to be willing to talk with a gracious spirit and see if we can come to a better understanding of what it means to live with respect in the midst of differing points of view. Attacks on either side based largely on prejudice and emotion, are at best unhelpful. 
As for the issue of government funding, every faith-based organization in Canada, of every description, has rights to hold to certain beliefs and operate according to those beliefs. Every one of them also benefit from tax dollars in one way or another. These are taxes paid by adherents to these religious groups as well as the general public. Governments support a variety of causes and special-interest groups, and some of those causes we may not personally support. This is part of our democracy and freedom of religion as stated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The decision of Moncton City Council to issue financial grants is based on their perceived return on their investment, which is their responsibility as community managers. We trust tolerance of differing views will triumph before some seek an end to our rights and freedoms.