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Be Still

March 27, 2020

Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth. Ps 46:10

The Psalmist writes that we must be still in order to know God; to know God as God.
That’s pretty tough in normal times; it’s become a lot easier these days!

We wouldn’t choose these times of course! Even though our ceasing from striving and our busy and productive ways allows us to know God better, we would much prefer to be busy and productive. Productivity allows us to believe we are important and necessary. However would the world get on without us! but of course, chances are it would get on just fine.

So there is something new about reality we encounter in our stillness. We encounter our deep need to be busy. We discover that we are not indispensable. The only one who is not dispensable is God. Read more…

Always in Reach

March 25, 2020

“I am with you always even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20)

In summer we love to venture out into BC’s beautiful mountains to hike and camp. It is so good for the soul to get out of town, breathe the fresh mountain air and enjoy the natural world! One thing I secretly enjoy is being out of cell phone range! By choice, I have a limited and fairly basic mobile phone package so I am always the first to lose reception when leaving city limits, whilst others will get reception almost anywhere depending on their service provider and package.

Imagine my surprise last summer, when visiting friends who were camping in the most remote, (and I mean remote) area of the local mountains, to receive the familiar little jingle of a notification arriving on my phone! Everyone stopped and looked at me in surprise, reminding me that there was no reception. I pulled out my phone, equally surprised to see that it was my Bible App verse of the day coming through! Similarly, once hiking our highest mountain and just feet away from the peak, my phone jingled again and surprised even the guide we were with, who questioned how I could be receiving a notification or text. Again, it was my Bible App verse of the day! Clearly, God’s Word can reach us no matter where we are or what the obstacles! I joked that I have friends in high places, but it is true!

God can reach us anywhere. On the highest mountain peak, in the lowest valley, on the far side of the sea. There is nowhere we can go where He is not.

Right now, as we all spend time in isolation, we need to remember that God is with us always. We were made for community and it is hard for some to be confined at home, not able to gather with friends and loved ones for support and encouragement.

But God is with you. During the times when you feel most cut off, most isolated, God is there. You are never beyond his reach. Just as his disciples were not beyond his reach when he walked across the water to reach them in a storm, and just as the Shepherd searched and found the one lost sheep.

Here are his promises:

“Never will I leave you;
    never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139:9-10)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves…”  (Zephaniah 3:17)

God is with you. God can reach you. It may not feel like it, but you are always in reach of Jesus. He can do abundantly more than we can ask or imagine. He will walk across the ocean to save you too. He is outside the limits of our cell reception, the laws of science, medicine or nature. Call to him and he will answer and be with you in all circumstances.

Prayer: Father, in these times of uncertainty and isolation, help me to look to you and to remember that I am not unreachable. There is no man and no situation that you cannot reach or redeem. You are our boundless, limitless, mighty God, with us in the quiet stillness and with us through uncertain and anxious times. Thank you Lord! Amen.

Online with Steve Bell

March 25, 2020

Steve Bell is a JUNO award winning Christian artist whose music combines scriptural depth, thoughtful reflection, and rich melodies. Check out this online concert he offers for those isolated and worried about the future.

 

Just Trust Me

March 23, 2020

“Don’t be afraid! Just trust me..” (Luke 8:50)

The current Coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a time of unprecedented uncertainty and anxiety for the world, as we seek to navigate life through constantly changing news, statistics and recommendations. Each day we hear of more cases, more closures, more deaths. Excess buying continues, the media is awash with facts and fiction as to what we should or should not be doing as panic has spread like wildfire across social media platforms where prophets of doom abound, feeding fear and alarm to many, while others look for leadership to government and health officials. Some people have found that they have had to turn away from social media over past weeks, as well-meaning friends constantly flood their pages with gloomy predictions and pessimism, having been caught up in the tidal wave of COVID-19 terror.

Uncertainty and trial were no strangers to those living in Jesus’ day. Living under the oppression of Roman occupation in an age where there were no hospitals, social services or unemployment insurance, people were left to survive with what they had. Prophets of doom and worrywarts abounded then too, and Jesus encountered many.

Consider the account in Luke 8: 49-54 where Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter. A messenger arrives to tell Jairus that his daughter has died. He tells Jairus that there is no point troubling Jesus because it is too late.  Jesus reaches the home which was filled with mourners and declares that the little girl is not dead but only sleeping. Many scoffed at his words. What was his response? He banished unbelief, shutting the doubters out. Verse 51 tells us that he did not allow anyone into the child’s room except three disciples and the child’s parents, where he then raised the little girl back to life.

Jairus himself had a choice. When the messenger first came to give the news that his daughter had died, he didn’t give in to fear, but instead chose to listen to Jesus’ words:

 “Don’t be afraid! Just trust me, and she’ll be all right.” (verse 50)

In this climate of uncertainty and fear, who are we choosing to listen to? It is important of course to tune in to news, and to keep up with current events, but also to tune in to God’s voice to avoid anxiety and fear. The One who has overcome the world has promised us peace in the midst of trouble (John 16:33)

The prophet Isaiah declared that if we just look to the earth, all we will see is distress and trouble, warning that we will be thrust into darkness (Isaiah 8:22). The prophets of doom say look to the earth, look at the trouble, the awful things on the news, but the Lord says, “Look to Me!”

Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22)

Let’s keep our eyes and ears fixed on Jesus through these uncertain times!

Prayer: Father, thank you that you have promised us peace in the midst of trouble. Help us to listen less to those who spread fear and despair, and more to you and your word. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.

Anne Herridge

 

Lord From Sorrows Deep I Call

March 23, 2020

We have a lot to grieve. The familiar world we knew is rapidly disappearing. Our jobs are uncertain; our communities shaken; our health – who knows?

The prayer book of Israel is filled with psalms of lament – mourning. When we feel lost and afraid God can seem distant and silent. The song that makes up the title of this post runs like this:

 

Lord, from sorrows deep I call
When my hope is shaken
Torn and ruined from the fall
Hear my desperation
For so long I’ve pled and prayed
God, come to my rescue
Even so the thorn remains
Still my heart will praise You

 

Storms within my troubled soul
Questions without answers
On my faith these billows roll
God, be now my shelter
Why are you cast down, my soul?
Hope in Him who saves you
When the fires have all grown cold
Cause this heart to praise You

And, oh, my soul, put your hope in God
My help, my Rock, I will praise Him
Sing, oh, sing through the raging storm
You’re still my God, my salvation

Should my life be torn from me
Every worldly pleasure
When all I possess is grief
God, be then my treasure
Be my vision in the night
Be my hope and refuge
Till my faith is turned to sight
Lord, my heart will praise You

Sending, Kingdom and Shalom in Jn 20

March 23, 2020

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together,
with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders,
Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.
The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”
And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
If you forgive the sins of anyone, their sins are forgiven;
if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

 

This is a beautiful passage, and one of the richest sending narratives in the gospels. There are multiple layers, and a back-story rich with history and gospel. This is a multi-hued painting on a textured canvas, a passage that demands attention and keeps on giving.

In recent years we have been recovering a theology of mission. What does it mean that God is a sending God? How are we both sent, and rooted? How does sending relate to God’s wider purposes in the gospel: the reign of God? How does the reign of God relate to the older thread of shalom: the giving of the Spirit and the presence of the church as sign, servant, and foretaste of the kingdom of God? What are the sub-themes of power and the clash of empires, and how do they relate to the theme of resurrection and new creation?

I’ll outline what I see and then work through the passage systematically.

  1. The passage is Trinitarian, and beautifully expresses the perichoretic life of God. Jesus describes himself as sent by the Father. He is also the giver of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The life of the Trinity is recreated in the new community. The Trinity is “community-in-mission.”[1] Here the new community is sent on mission.
  3. How are they sent? “as the Father sent me..”  This and the peace are identity creation. Jesus was sent to proclaim shalom: the good news of God’s kingdom and his just reign. Moreover, the apostolic mission stands in continuity with Jesus’ own mission.
  4. Jesus breathes shalom. Shalom is the goal of new creation and both the means and end of mission. Shalom also connects us to the larger story of God, his covenant faithfulness and his promise to make all things new.[2] Shalom is kingdom language.
  5. Kingdom language underscores a clash of power. The disciples are locked away in fear of the Jews in a land under Roman control. They receive the power to announce and embody a new world (alternative culture) and a new kingdom. Jesus is Lord; Caesar is not.[3]
  6. We see the Spirit at work here in new creation, and this connects us back to the original creation in Genesis 1-3. Moreover, it is by the Spirit that the church participates in the mission given to Jesus by the Father.
  7. Forgiveness connects us back to covenant and shalom (see Micah 7:18-20, Neh. 9:17b and in particular Jer. 31:33,34).[4] Reconciliation is the heart of the good news and the basis of the new humanity God is creating in Christ.
  8. The framing of the story around the scarred yet physical resurrection body of Jesus “invites us to understand that joy and peace flow in some direct way from Jesus death.”[5] If this is a theology of triumph it is also a theology of suffering.
  9. There is no dualism here: rather, the physical and spiritual worlds meet in the resurrected body of our Lord. Heaven has come to earth. The future promise is for all of us – the resurrection is the reality of the new age breaking into our present world.

[1] Paulo Suess. “Missio Dei and the Project of Jesus.” International Review of Mission, Vol. XCII, no. 367 (October 2003): 2.

[2] G.R. Beasley-Murray, John, Word Biblical Commentary 36 (Waco, TX: Word, 1987) 378-79.

[3] Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat, Colossians Remixed (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2004) 89

[4] Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978) 48.

[5] Stephen R. Holmes, “Trinitarian Missiology: Towards a Theology of God as Missionary.” International Journal of Systematic Theology. Vol.8, No.1 (January, 2006) 75.