Sunday, July 1, 2012

How to Grow in the Fear of the Lord (summary from July 1st message)

We do not all fear the Lord as we should, but that’s also true of our love of God or our faith too. The goal is to grow. But how?? Here are some ideas:

1.       God’s Word.
·         The scriptures are God’s way of revealing himself to us. We study them to learn more about God – what he has done and what he is like (John 5:39; Luke 24:27,44). This is the basis of our reverence for him, since we can’t revere and worship someone we don’t know anything about.
·         Can just reading a book about God teach us to fear him? It’s a start in the process. I have never been to Mount Everest, but in reading about it, my respect for that amazing mountain grows. I begin to respect its size and danger and beauty. To actually climb it, of course, would add greatly to my “reverence” of the mountain.

2.       God sovereign gift.
·         They will be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me.
(Jeremiah 32:38-40) - a beautiful passage describing something God will do for his people. Notice the phrase – “I will inspire them to fear me.”  It’s just something he sovereignly does for his people; a gift of grace. It would please him if you were to begin to pray for this regularly!

3.       Forgiveness.
·         Psalm 130:3-4 – “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
    therefore you are feared.”
·         Forgiveness understood in a superficial way could cause people to license (“It’s okay if I sin, God will forgive me.”) But a God-given repentant and grateful appreciation of what Christ has done for me on the cross immediately sobers me and deepens my reverence and awe of him – “Therefore you are feared.”
·         When we celebrate communion as a church we have a golden opportunity to contemplate together our forgiveness and grow to fear our great Saviour more and more.

4.       Fellowship.
·         “He who walks with the wise grows wise,
but a companion of fools suffers harm.  Proverbs 13:20

“I am a friend to all who fear you,
    to all who follow your precepts.”
  Psalm 119:63

“May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
    for I have put my hope in your word.”
  Psalm 119:74

·         Be careful who your close friends are – they influence you more than you know. Deliberately choose to walk with the wise (with the God fearing) and you will grow in that quality. On the other hand, hang around with the irreverent and you will begin to despise God.

5.       Training.
·         “Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.”  1 Timothy 4:7
·         Notice the words “train yourself.” We need to deliberately begin to think consciously and deliberately along the lines of God’s word and train our thinking to be godly. For example, Isaiah 8:12 13 is an amazing verse that says the world around us fears a lot of things, but that we shouldn’t fear what they fear, and rather should fear God. This takes an intentional re-directing of my mind and faith away from lots of bad and fearful habits towards trusting in God.
·         Also, we should train ourselves to stop being so impressed with what the world around us is impressed with (physical appearance, money and possessions, etc.) and begin to be more impressed with what God is impressed with – faith, love, humility, courage, sacrifice, etc.

6.       Tithing.
·         “Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.”  Deuteronomy 14:22-23
·         Here the Israelites were commanded to bring their tithes to a special place and then after they had eaten some of it at a big feast, they were to leave the rest of it with the priests. But in so doing, God said they would “learn to revere the Lord your God always.”
·         How does tithing help us to learn to revere God? Obviously, mechanical tithing won’t do much for a person, but tithing from a heart that recognizes God as the source of all we have and the joyful and grateful return of a tenth of it to him is a heart shaping act. There is some kind of linkage between tithing and revering God. For one thing, it puts money in its rightful place and voluntarily gives God his rightful place in our lives. Tithing (or not tithing) affects a person spiritually.

7.       Omnipresence.
·         Practice the presence of God. He is everywhere all the time – omnipresent. That means we are never beyond his sight and influence. We are never alone and can do nothing unnoticed. More conscious awareness of this causes the fear of God to grow in us. Notice how it worked in Jacob’s life…..
·         When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”  Genesis 28:16-17
·         Jacob thought he was alone as he slept under the stars one night and had an awesome dream about angels and a ladder up to heaven and heard God’s voice. When he awoke he became vividly aware of the reality of God’s presence  – “the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” But the next thing that happened is important – “He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place!” As we learn to live “Coram Deo” – “before the face of God,” reverence and awe will grow.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is Jesus Returning this Saturday at Suppertime?

A rather odd title, I know.

Just in case you haven’t heard yet, there’s a fellow in California who would claim to be “one of us” and he is making a big splash in the media with a prediction of the return of Jesus this Saturday (May 21st) at 6:00 PM. The reason I am addressing it is because the media loves to get hold of these kinds of stories and milk them for all they’re worth. I heard him being interviewed on the stately BBC (of all places) this morning as I drove in to work. So if you are known as a follower of Jesus among your circle of friends (and I hope you are), you could conceivably be asked for your opinion on this issue.

The man in the spotlight is Harold Camping and he is the 89 year old founder of “Family Radio,” a program heard round the world. (I’ve never heard it, and don’t want to.) His organization has erected 1200 billboards around the U.S. and 2000 others in other countries around the world announcing the beginning of Judgement Day this coming Saturday. He claims to be “absolutely certain” of his prediction and that God has precisely revealed the date of Christ’s coming to him through a very complicated mathematical process based upon data from the Bible. The cheeky BBC reporter asked him, if he should happen to still be around this Sunday, if he might have a follow up interview to see what went wrong. Mr Camping replied that this simply would not be possible - he is so sure of what he is saying.

You can think it through on your own, but here is what I would tell my friends who might be curious about all this, or more tragically, will be mocking next week about another Christian nut case out there, further confirming their unbelief and scepticism.
1.       Completely contrary to what Harold Camping is claiming, Jesus very explicitly said in the New Testament that no man knows “the hour or the day” of His return (Matthew 24:36). Camping claims to know both the day and even the hour (6:00 PM)! Either he or Jesus is wrong and I know where I’m putting my money!
2.       This is not the first time Camping has made such a prediction. I remembered his name immediately when I heard all this because back in 1994 he was in the spotlight for making a similar prediction which (obviously) didn’t pan out. When asked about that one he simply said he got a few things wrong in his calculations but is absolutely certain he has it right this time.
3.       These types of predictions are nothing new. A group called the Millerites (forerunners of the Seventh day Adventists) became famous for predicting the return of Jesus on March 21st, 1844. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have made at least two bungled predictions of this sort during the last century and there have, unfortunately, been many others. Our human capacity for foolishness, sensationalism and conspiracy theories seems to have no limit.
4.       I would also tell my friends that I do believe in the return of Jesus. In fact, I long for it. He promised to return – at an hour that we would not expect. This is the hope of my life – to get called out of this insane asylum called planet earth and to enter the presence of perfect beauty, righteousness, love and truth forever, and to encounter it all in the person of Jesus Christ. I urge you, in light of all this current nonsense, don’t lose hope in the real thing!
5.       These issues were even a problem in the early church. Read what Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church so long ago – “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way...”  (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

Personally, I hope the Lord comes back today or tomorrow or sooner than Saturday, and He could! Let’s live ready and alert as He has asked us to.



Friday, April 29, 2011

There’s Another Wedding Coming!

All week long people kept asking me, “Are you going to watch the wedding of William and Kate on Friday?” I kept growling back things like, “Are you kidding?” “Not if I can help it.” “I couldn’t care less!” “Not unless some earthquake rocks me out of my bed.” The best line I heard all week was that the Royal Wedding is the “Super Bowl for Women.” But I’m a man and I watched my Super Bowl three months ago.

When I got up today and stumbled out to the kitchen to start making my toast, there was my wife in front of the computer in the next room, watching the wedding. She was kind of glowing and was beckoning me to come and see. I sneaked a quick look. And then another, and another.  It was more interesting than I thought it would be, but I had a breakfast date with my daughter and had to go.

It was one of those fast food restaurants with a big TV on the wall and guess what was on. There we sat and I was drawn in, completely. We were both transfixed. The colour, the crowds, the cavernous church with trees down each side of the aisle(!), the pomp and ceremony, the choirs and the trumpeters, the carriages, the majestic horses and their riders. Honestly, it was almost as good as the Super Bowl.

It truly was spectacular! I don’t know if it’s because I just finished reading the book of Revelation or what, but I couldn’t help thinking of an immensely more glorious future spectacle which we will actually be part of someday.  Check this out -

After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

And again they shouted: “Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”
Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both small and great!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)
(Revelation 19:1-8)
Those of us who belong to Jesus will be there on that day. We won’t just be in the crowd – the crowd will be the angels, intimidatingly glorious in their own right, dressed in their finest - we will be the bride – the Bride of Christ! It just fries my brain to think about it.

So, did I watch the wedding (or at least some of it)? Yes, and I’m glad I did.

“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Visit to a Local Mosque

A year and a half ago a friend and I visited a Muslim Prayer Service at a little mosque in a house on Marlborough Avenue here in Guelph. Later that day I made some notes and observations which are reproduced below.

Notes from a visit to a local Mosque in Guelph for Friday prayers    
Date: Friday October 9, 2009, 1 PM
·         I went with another pastor from Guelph named Royal Hamel. Our purpose was to observe and experience a Muslim Prayer service.
·         Raining steadily all day. As we entered the front door, rain was pouring off the edge of the roof and ran down our necks. No one else was in the small foyer; we timidly proceeded further, passed through a small coat room, turned the corner and stepped into a large empty carpeted room. A bearded man in his mid thirties in a long white shirt/robe immediately moved toward us and said “You must take your shoes off.  We pray here!” His tone wasn’t unfriendly, just urgent. We jumped back and he was immediately at our side, guiding us to the place where we could store our shoes. He stayed with us for the next ten minutes, sincerely welcoming us and curious to know why we had come.
·         His name was “Ibrahim” and he called himself the “priest.” I think that was just his adaptation for our sakes of the word for “Imam.” He escorted us to a couple of stacking chairs at the rear of the room and told us we could sit there and he took the time to explain what would be going on and answered all of our questions very patiently and in a friendly manner.  Another older man approached and informed us that he was 75 years old and therefore knew the ways of the world and if we wanted any scientific explanations for anything we didn’t understand that we could ask him and he would be glad to help us. We explained to the Imam that we were Christians and probably wouldn’t be joining in with the prayers and kneeling as the rest did but that we meant no disrespect. He graciously assured us that was not a problem.
·         Ibrahim held a book under his arm and told us that he had memorized the whole book and that it was the word of God. As we expressed our interest and amazement he said that of course it is difficult to memorize other books or scientific books but quite easy to memorize the word of God. “God will help you,” he said.  “Why, there is a seven year old boy in Toronto who has just finished memorizing the whole Qur’an. It’s a miracle,” he exclaimed. He then welcomed us one more time and then moved to the front to say some personal prayers with the few other men at the front of the room. It was about 1:10pm and there were 8 of us in the room. He then sat down on a little set of steps at the front, faced us all and began to share a message in English. He talked about the fact that the season of fasting (Ramadan) is now over and the next event on the calendar is the “Hajj” (the pilgrimage to Mecca).  I couldn’t understand everything he said, but there was quite a bit about how important it is to keep the rules and the commandments of God so that God will accept the sacrifice of your pilgrimage.
·         During the 20 minutes that he spoke, men slowly drifted into the room, ambling to a vacant spot where they could kneel or sit on the floor, stopping to stand in their spot, kneel in personal prayer and then settle in to their place. The Imam rambled on, unfazed by their movements, they seemed just as unfazed by his words. A cell phone rang several rings; no one moved. A few minutes later it rang again; a man crawled over to the back corner of the room and silenced the phone that was sitting on a back table. Men continued to arrive and silently move to their places on the floor. By 1:30 the room was about two thirds full (about 60 men). The Imam suddenly pointed out “the two visitors here with us today to observe,” and thanked us for coming. Several men turned and looked. I nodded to one and he nodded back.
·         The service seemed to increase in intensity and at 1:30 things got a little more serious. An older man walked out to the front foyer, out of our sight, and began to pray loudly in Arabic. All listened in silence. Then all stood together; the Imam continued the prayers, all bowed at the waist and stood straight again, then in unison all bowed low with foreheads to the ground. For about 6 or 7 minutes this continued with men going through these various positions in unison in response to cues they were hearing in the Arabic prayers. The time ended with men performing their silent personal prayers. I noted the strong participatory nature of the service.
·         Then there was a pause at 1:40 and a layman came to the front and took the mike to make some announcements. A little hard to understand but one of them was about the recent tragedy in Indonesia and a collection being made to help them out. Then a large red metal toolbox began to make its way through the room, being pushed along the carpet from man to man. It had a slot cut in the top and was in fact the offering box (plate). I thought to myself – the room is decorated so sparingly, there is no eaves trough at the front door and the rain runs down your neck as you enter and they take up the offering in a red toolbox – this place is definitely run by men.
·         We were told by Ibrahim before the service started that the women worshipped separately, saying their prayers in the basement – “for purposes of respect”- he informed us. But I never did see one woman during the whole time, even when entering or leaving the building. One young father had his little daughter with him in the service at his side. She might have been five years old. There were about 4 teen aged boys present. The men all dressed very informally – everything from long white traditional shirts to blue jeans and ski jackets. Almost half of them wore something on their heads, some of them wore a little knitted skullcap, others toques and several wore ball caps. I don’t think there was one man in the room who was not from some place either in the Middle East, India or Southeast Asia.
·         During the little break when the announcements were being made, a young man in his late twenties moved back and engaged Royal in conversation and gave him the name of a Youtube location where he could hear a Muslim teacher speak who can “really explain things about the Muslim faith well.” He thought we might want to know about it.
·         Then at 1:45 things got really serious. I now counted 90 men in the room and it was quite full. Suddenly everyone stood in unison and were perfectly quiet. The Imam spoke in Arabic in loud and commanding tones, very intensely, and there were responses at various times by the men, but rather weakly I thought. Heads were all bowed; they again went through various positions, up and down, kneeling with foreheads to the ground, the Imam leading strongly from the front. Then they all sat cross legged, turned their heads first to one side and then the other, to look at each other(passing of the peace?) and suddenly at 1:55, it was over, and all got up to leave. The Imam continued in prayers with 2 or 3 other men beside him at the front as we exited. The rain ran down our necks on the way out also.
·         Inside before we left, several men approached us with more words of welcome. More than once I was greeted with – “Welcome to the house of God.”
·         Personal notes:  there was no singing and no expressions of joy. I will certainly not fault them for being unfriendly nor for lacking devotion. I was quite struck by their sincere concern that we outsiders have every opportunity to understand the Muslim faith. Things were very informal and laidback at the beginning and became progressively more serious and intense as the service proceeded. Most of the attendees were late for the preliminaries, but no one was late for the prayers. The sermon was definitely not the highlight of the service; most people missed it or ignored it. The number one purpose for coming together was to pray. I recalled the first words we were greeted with as we entered – “Take off your shoes; we pray here!”
·         Final Thought:  just before the service began, we were waiting and killing a little time. I found in my pocket a piece of paper with some verses written on it, verses I had been memorizing for my Triad appointment the previous day. I read them slowly, thinking about the differences between our two faiths - “Surely our griefs He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried. Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”  I found myself sitting and gratefully reflecting on the God I have come to know in the Bible – the God that is spoken of in these verses.

Thanks for reading. In my next installment I plan to reflect further on the Muslim faith - the challenges it brings to us Christians, and the things we can learn from our Muslim neighbours.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Drawing Near When Your Heart Is Cold

Sometimes I end a day with great thoughts of God and a spiritual life that is very much alive and I can hardly wait to get up in the morning and pick things right back up where I left off. And then..... I awake the next morning and I can’t believe how spiritually dead I am! Where did it all go? Not only am I unable to pick things up from wherever I left off the night before, but I feel like I’m back at square one all over again. I struggle to pray, both in wanting to, and in feeling like I have anything at all to say to God. Somehow, the fires of the spirit have died down and the old latent powers of the flesh have reasserted themselves during those 8 short hours that I laid in bed. It’s a battle I have fought all my life and always will. Just not a morning person, I guess.

No doubt many of you can identify. So how do we get the fire going again? Here are some of the things I do. Feel free to sort through these and latch on to anything that might look helpful and throw away the rest.
1.       Start with what whatever you find easiest to do. I don’t usually waste too much time beating myself up for not feeling like praying. I usually have no problem being willing to read the Bible, so I just return to wherever I left off yesterday and read some more. It’s a start; in fact it’s a pretty good start. Maybe it’s the opposite for you and reading the word is hard but you can always pray. Then do that, and do it as long as it takes to start waking up again spiritually.
2.       Be patient with yourself. The body and the mind and the spirit are amazingly interdependent and if the old body is sluggish as it often is early in the morning, don’t be surprised if your faith is too. Don’t worry, it will come back. (I find coffee helps!)
3.       Be honest with God. Come as you are. Go ahead and tell Him what He already knows anyway. I told Him this morning that I was sorry that I didn’t feel like praying and simply asked for His help. Two reasons for this: First, God likes honest prayers (He “gives grace to the humble”) and secondly, it’s good for me to hear myself speak the truth. (“The truth will set you free” Someone once said.) I believe, as we studied in Romans 8 last Sunday, that nothing can separate me from God’s love, not even my sluggish flesh and dryness of spirit. At my worst of moments, if you asked me if I believed God loves me as much as ever, I am always able to say a confident “yes.” I thank God for that assurance. My heart begins to warm.
4.       If I’m really having trouble praying (and it’s not uncommon) I start with simple words of thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.” I give thanks for my life, family, health, country, church, people God has put in my life over the years to guide me in life and faith, for the cross and resurrection and His love, etc. It’s amazing how sincere thanks always warms up the old heart.

There’s a Psalm somewhere (108) where David speaks of singing and praising and “awakening the dawn.”  What I’ve been admitting here is that I’m not there yet; maybe never will be. Some days it’s a real fight - the “good fight of faith” as Paul once told Timothy. I’m just happy to report from my experience that if you’re willing to at least step out there and just try to draw near to God, even though you might feel like you’ve gotten nowhere, you very often will become aware of someone at your side, and you make the delightful discovery that He has drawn near to you.


Friday, January 28, 2011

What Message Will We Send Him?

Last Wednesday evening we had our monthly church prayer time. I had some questions I wanted us to discuss before we prayed because I have been very concerned about the decline in attendance at our monthly meeting. I put out word in advance to those who have fairly regularly attended over the past two or three years and asked them to be present so we could have a heart to heart talk about prayer.
Someone once said that in the typical church, Sunday morning attendance shows how popular the preacher is, and midweek prayer shows how popular God is. That’s what has been worrying me!

I will record here what some of my questions were and then some of the comments as we talked. The comments were very good and helpful. I heard an echoing of the same concerns and also at the heart of it all, a desire to pray better, to pray well as a church.

Is corporate prayer even necessary?
·         Absolutely – it’s the foundation of the church and its future.
·         It’s important for us to hear each other pray. We can hear each other’s hearts as we express ourselves in God’s presence. It builds faith.
·         It’s a deeper form of fellowship than chatting in the hallway after church. We need to hear each other pray. It builds unity. You meet people from the other service.
·         We sing corporately, break bread and listen to teaching corporately...therefore we should also pray corporately.
·         Prayer in small groups certainly has an important place too.
·         Maybe we shouldn’t call it a “corporate” prayer time but rather a “family” prayer time. More personal and intimate.

Am I too hung up on numbers?
·         Probably, but in another way it sure would be encouraging and powerful to see the auditorium full of people gathered just to pray.

How to beat the modern “busy people” problem?
·         Mixed up priorities in some cases.
·         We mostly do what we deem to be important.
·         Much of our busyness is church related. But some of it is also self induced. Something has to give.
·         “Busy” is driven by what people value....change doesn’t happen until we see something to be a waste of time and begin to value something else more.
·         Prayer is a discipline and we need to fight against our fleshly desires to avoid it.

Should we try a different approach such as multiple prayer sites?
·         I like home based prayer; it feels more intimate and less intimidating.
·         Smaller settings are easier for some to participate in.

Is there any way to see more of our young adults come?
·         Get some of them leading and promoting.
·         We need to personally invite specific individuals, use our influence, and bring them along. Of course more than one would be good so they have peers present.
·         Some teaching would also be helpful for them.
·         Put them in charge of certain prayer meetings.

Would a different night (or timeslot) of the week be better?
·         Maybe an early morning time slot would be better for some.
·         Probably not. No night is perfect.

How can the prayer times be led better?  
·         Form a “creative prayer leading team.”
·         Designate certain people before the prayer meeting to come prepared to lead out in prayer passionately in order to lead the way and fire up others.

Do we need to include a time of worship in our prayer time and make it a more well rounded service than it is now?
·         Maybe quarterly.
·         No, we’re here to pray. So let’s get to it.
·         Worship would help direct our thoughts and hearts to God and stir us to pray. Prayer and worship should go hand in hand.
Are there means we need to use to attract people to prayer other than just assume they will come because they know they should?
·         Bring a friend – seriously!
·         Talk it up during the rest of the month.
·         People are motivated when they hear other Christians pray passionately.
·         We need teaching on prayer – teach how they prayed in Acts; the importance, power and techniques of prayer.
·         Need some strong teaching on the scriptural responsibilities we have to pray for our church and our leaders.
·         Corporate prayer is a privilege not an obligation.
·         Idea of a designated prayer room on site for 24/7 drop in prayer. Difficult to come by at our facility here at Marden.
·         Perhaps a prayer week or prayer night to stretch us.
·         Pray more in every service, especially in the Sunday morning service.
·         Send regular reminder emails before the prayer meeting; some people simply forget.
·         All leaders (Leadership Board, pastors, ministry leaders) should consider it mandatory to be present. We need to hear our leaders pray and see them set the example. But we do recognize the problem that they are already the busiest people in the church. It’s a sacrifice.
·         Ask more often for impromptu prayers to be offered during the church service. Makes prayer more natural and visible and important to all.
·         Send out an email of the prayer request agenda in advance to those who want it. Even if they can’t come, they could then still pray.
·         Read the book – “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” – about a church in New York which was about to close its doors but decided to make the prayer meeting the most important meeting of the week.

Some say, this problem is everywhere in every church.
So what?? Shall we all sink to the lowest common denominator together? For me, God is always watching us. He works where there’s faith (read the gospels! Read Acts! Read up on where the church is growing fastest in the world today!). A vibrant and well attended prayer meeting says there is faith and hunger here. A standing room only prayer meeting sends God a message – a message He joyfully receives! An anorexic prayer meeting sends a message too. What message will we send Him this year?


Hang In There

“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”  Hebrews 10:36

I remember reading about a player on the Guelph Storm who left the team a couple of months into the season last fall and went back home. Problem was, it was the second straight year he had done this! I don’t know what personal issues he was dealing with (homesickness? depression?), but for whatever reason, he lacked the mental and emotional toughness to hang in through difficult times.

The word “endurance” as it appears in the above verse from Hebrews 10, is translated from the original Greek word “HYPOMENO.” It means “to not be swayed from a deliberate purpose by even the greatest trials and suffering,” and is typically translated in the New Testament by words such as “steadfastness,” “constancy” and “endurance.” In our common vernacular, it means “to hang in there.”

Last month I was reading through Hebrews and I noticed that I kept encountering the word “endure” in chapters 10, 11, and 12. Let me show you some of those instances, in addition to the verse above:

“By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.”
(11:27 – spoken of Moses as a man of faith and power).

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”  (12:1 – a challenge to every Christian).

“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (12:2 - spoken of Jesus during his crucifixion).
“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  (12:3 - again, spoken of Jesus)
“It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”  (12:7 - another exhortation for us to endure).
The writer of Hebrews wasn’t trying to tickle anyone’s ears. He certainly wouldn’t have won an election running on this campaign – “Moses had to endure, your Saviour had to endure and every one of you needs to endure too!”  This message would probably not fill the pews in many churches today because it calls for sweat and effort, but there it is, front and central in Hebrews, and in many other places in the New Testament as well.  In fact, in the famous passage in John 15 where Jesus says to bear fruit you need to “abide in Me,” the word “abide” (NASB) or “remain” (NIV), comes from the Greek word (MENO) which is the root of the word for “endure” which we have just been studying. In other words, if you want to bear fruit, “be steadfast, remain solid, and hang in there.”
How to grow in endurance? Just a couple of quick thoughts from Hebrews 12 to start you off, but feel free to do more of your own study:
1.       Be aware of the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) surrounding us. I think, from the context of chapter 11, those witnesses are the saints of old who ran with endurance and have passed the torch off to us and cheer us on from heaven. We are being watched!
2.       Lay aside the encumbrances and the sins which so easily entangle us (12:1). It’s hard to run a race when you are wearing galoshes; it’s hard to persevere when you’re weighed down by faith- destroying sinful habits (whatever they are in your own life).
3.       Fix your eyes on Jesus (12:2) and his example of obedience and endurance. He “set His face like flint” (Isaiah 50:7). Be filled with His Spirit- He is now in you!
4.       Consider Jesus (12:3). Consider what? Just consider him – think long, hard, deeply, prayerfully, worshipfully and gratefully about Jesus Christ! The promised outcome – “so that you may not grow weary and lose heart.”

As you and I live life, go to work day after day, worship and minister at church, pray, lead Bible studies, raise our families, go to school and deal with all the joys and trials thereof, let us all frequently be heard calling out to one another to – “Hang in there brother / sister! Consider Jesus! Keep your eyes fixed on Him! The saints are watching us!”