Old and New

arsiv

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Old and New

Matthew 13:52 English Standard Version (ESV)

52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

My year always starts in September unlike the rest of the world.  For the past 30 odd years, at this time, I could always be found in the school preparing for the new young scholars who would soon wander into the hallowed halls of learning.  I loved using the time to reflect and consider my praxis – to consider what treasures I could bring to each child to support their learning.

Thankfully, in the same manner, our faith, and, by extension- the church- is continually evolving.  I wonder what this means for us as the body of Christ, now and in the future.  What are we willing to let go of and what do we desire to give ourselves to?

The language and development of some of Jesus’ parables point to finding, discovering, being surprised, changing roles and status.  Jesus uses metaphors such as the maturing ear of corn, the seed, weeds and wheat growing together and yeast rising.  Life is not static.  Something new and good is coming into being.

What does this mean for us? Why is it important?  We humans grow and change slowly.  As we take the next steps of our journey this fall, let us remember to be patient and reflective, bringing out and considering all our treasures as we make room to welcome what is good and new.

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This time of year is full of sorrow, then joy as we remember the passion and victory of Christ. For fellow believers, Christmas is for the perpetual child in us and is celebrated by many unbelievers. But Easter is the truly Christian passage, for it contains great sorrow. We are continuing Lent, which leads us to anticipate ‘Good’ Friday. As much as we have chosen to let go of some selfish habits that hinder our relationship with Christ Jesus and the Father—that amount of sacrifice can help us to comprehend the depths of suffering Christ accepted to fulfill the prophets and the Father’s will. His crucifixion was the passion (passio in Latin and Greek means suffering). In the first century Roman Empire, it was deemed by all to be humiliating, but Jesus transformed it by his humble demeanour when being condemned and mocked.

For me, one key motive of this act is from John 14:12-13, when Jesus said to the 12: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. There is no greater love than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” This loving sacrifice transforms his suffering death by becoming the amazing resurrection of Easter Sunday. As much as we have sacrificed selfish desires in our lives—only that much—can we comprehend the joy of his resurrection. The greater meaning of this was then revealed to the Apostles: the redemption of believers! Rejoice, he is risen indeed!

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In the fasting process, we prepared ourselves for God’s voice to reach us.    Our humanity, which asserts that we can do it ourselves, stands in the way for God to speak to us and to work through us.    Through withdrawing our access to physical needs and wants in our lives, we become more receptive and responsive to God’s calling in our lives.   I trust and hope that through these 21 days of fasting, God has indeed spoken to you and you have shared how His message and leading is applicable for the Calgary Community Reformed Church.   Although Fasting causes physical stress, as our cartoon shows, when we avail ourselves of life’s comforts and seek to follow Him, he sends his angels to comfort us.   

In fasting, I came to question and debate within myself what sovereignty means.    As church members and leaders, we are quick to interpret what is the will of God and through our interpretation, we attempt to impose our world view on an almighty and omnipotent God.   Fortunately, as Paul writes to the Colossians, God’s sovereignty does not depend upon us extending this honour to him.   Christ as the creator holds the position of a sovereign Lord and Master of all areas of our lives and His sovereignty is a natural outcome of His creative power.    In our fasting and our prayers, we are turning over our will and our agenda and seeking His will.   As Christians we believe that this is the Fathers world and that as He is sovereign over all, we can be assured that His will, will be done.  This is what we proclaim when we pray “Thine Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done.”

Our Reformed Christian theology includes the work of the theologian and former Dutch prime minister, Abraham Kuypers.     At the turn of the 20th century he struggled with how the church should fit into a modern society.   Through our prayers and our fasting, we are asking the same question, how will our church be relevant for the next 5, 10, or even 65 years.   Kuypers developed a theology known as Sphere Sovereignty that likely can be as relevant for us today as it was over 100 years ago.    Sphere Sovereignty asserts that within our lives there are a number of areas of knowledge, experience and expertise that should operate independently.   Based on a belief in an orderly creation, Kuypers envisioned a number of such spheres including family, government or the state, justice or the courts, education, science, the arts, agriculture and religionor in Kuypers time the church (which even for him was a multitude of church denominations and faith communities).    Fundamental to this doctrine is the separation of powers.   Kuypers asserted that each of these spheres need to be respected as possessing their own expertise, experience and is self-governing.    As such he believed that one sphere should not extend its power to another sphere.    This theology became a platform that would recognize the division of church and state, or church and science that did not exist before Kuypers time, but also respected boundaries between the government and the courts or education.  For Kuypers, who believed what the bible teaches that there is a sovereign God, the doctrine of Sphere Sovereignty acknowledged that it is Christ Jesus, as Lord of All who bring and hold all things together.    As the creator, His dominion extends to all these spheres.     

As we continue to live in uncertain times, where politics, science, the arts, and indeed at times even the Church appears chaotic and we are not able to make sense of what is happening, as Christians we can take comfort that we serve a sovereign God, who continues to exert his sovereignty in all areas of His Creation.

*If you are interested in learning more about Abraham Kuypers, please go to this webpage- http://people.ucalgary.ca/~nurelweb/papers/irving/kuyperp.html

The Supremacy of Christ (Colossians 1:16-20)

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities.   All things were created through Him and for Him.    He is before all things and

IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER

He is the Head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and first born from the dead, so that in all things He may have dominion.

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There is something about the early saints and mystics that prods me to ponder the comfortable slumber of my soul.  Francis of Assisi lived his life, feet firmly planted on the land with his heart soaring to heaven.  Rumi, the Sufi poet, wrote “the Song of the Reed” which is a lyrical metaphor that speaks of a soul yearning to be complete. Then, there is St. Simeon the Stylite, from Syria, the ‘pillar hermit’ who lived in silence at the top of a pillar for about 30 odd years, fasting, praying and writing.  They are the ascetics, monks who lived simple, disciplined lives in deep pursuit of God.

As I read and contemplate the work of these saints, I feel like I am starving.  My soul thirsts for that matrix of spirit that is so evident their lives. Their stories are full of intensity and their lives fully devoted in faithful pursuit of God through prayer and fasting.  My efforts seem a bit half-hearted at best, no matter how intentional I am.

I think of the two disciples who followed Jesus and he turned and said to them “What do you want?” (John 1: 37-38). What do I want? What am I looking for?  What is my heart’s deepest desire?  We live in a world with a myriad of temptations all set to fill and satisfy anyone’s thirst or hunger.  And yet… And yet, there are echoes of that old Rolling Stones classic, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”

Still, the heart and mind are persistent. Saint Augustine said that our hearts are only satisfied when they are satisfied with God.  David longed for God’s touch.  He writes in Psalm 63, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (NIV)

This is the essence of fasting, I think.  We thirst to know more of all that God is for us.  We hunger, not because we are seeking something we don’t have.  We fast because we know the new wine of Christ’s presence and our souls ache to know more of His presence and power in our midst.  A fast is really an opportunity to feast on God’s word.  To earnestly seek Him.

As we begin our 21 days of praying and fasting, I pray  with Paul, “that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3: 17-19)

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I remember when we came to Canada around Christmas Time people would ask you: “Are you ready for Christmas?”

To be honest, I never knew what that meant. In Holland we grew up with Christmas as a wonderful Holiday. Our time was spent with family and friends and of course some special Christmas Goodies. Bakings came from the baker; we ourselves did not do any of that.

Gifts were given at Santa Claus on December 6th with wonderful poems and a lot of fun. However, the church played a very important part in our lives. As children we were involved in a Christmas Play. I still remember how excited we were. In the church was a wonderful Christmas Tree decorated with real, live candles.

How times have changed! It seems to me that time goes by faster the older you get. Too much energy is put into gift giving, yet the most wonderful gift is Jesus. He came into this world and was born in a barn with a manger as his crib. He grew up without sin, but took the sin of the world on His shoulders. He died a terrible death on the cross. When we accept Him as our Lord and Saviour, we will make the most important decision of our lives. He presents Peace on Earth and Good Will for all men. May all of you who read this, experience Peace and a Blessed Time during this Christmas Season. I am reminded that even during the First World War the guns became silent on Christmas Eve.

Praise the Lord for He is good, His Love endures forever. If you might feel lonely or sad, —try to hum the song, “Joy to the World” or any other Christmas Song you remember for joy in your heart.

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Choices by Betty Gabel

In life, we are presented with choices that we must make each day. Should I buy a Mac or a PC? Or should I buy a Hyundai or a Jeep? These are what I like to refer to as First World Problems. However, sometimes we may be presented with a choice as to what is right and what is wrong. Sometimes these choices may also affect the lives of other people.

I have recently begun reading a book entitled “The Lion and the Lamb” by Charles Causey. This book follows the lives of two individuals during the Second World War. The first person is a certain Albert Speer, a German architect who becomes Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Armaments and the second person is one most of you have heard of: Corrie ten Boom. Corrie, of course was a leader in the Dutch Resistance during the war, hiding hundreds of Jews in a secret room in her house in Harlem.

Their stories run parallel to one another and in reading them you see the choices that each of them made. Mr. Speer chose to impress Adolf Hitler and in doing so destroyed the lives of millions of people. Corrie, on the other hand, chose the way of faith and showed love and compassion to her fellow man regardless of their race or religion. In doing so she likely saved hundreds of lives. Corrie’s faith in Jesus Christ gave her the courage to choose the right path. Through her faith in Christ, she was able to survive the atrocities of what was done to her. Speer only chose to take care of himself.

 

Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

“Be on your guard; stand firm in faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” NIV

 

The above verse makes me think of Corrie. She did stand firm in her faith. I don’t even think she knew she was being brave. All she knew was that she had to help God’s people and this she did in love.

 

Proverbs 3: 5-6 teaches:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” NIV

 

As we go through our lives, it is important that we look to the Lord to understand what is right. Man will lead us astray, but the Lord will help us to see what is right.

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It’s fall again and every time we think about what the harvest will be like, farmers look at the fields and hope for a bountiful harvest at the end of a long summer and thank God for blessing them.

All of us need to stop and thank God for the way God has blessed us. We may not have received everything we were hoping or, but we need to be thankful.

David said in Psalm 9:1-2

“I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders.
I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High”

God loves it when we talk to Him. He takes great joy in our thanks and when we show Him our love for Him. He cares so much about everything that happens in our lives. Tell Him whatever is on Your heart. He understands and wants to meet your needs.

“Your heavenly Father knows all your needs.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, And all these things will be added to you”

-Matt. 6:32-33

I remember when I went out of my way to help someone. As is often the way with young people, he did not say thank you. When I mentioned it to him, he seemed surprised. He felt it was my job as his pastor to help him and a thank you was not necessary. I was really hurt.

I believe God feels the same way when we don’t show Him how grateful we are for all He does for us each day. He wants us to be thankful and not expect that it’s His “job” to bless us without thanking Him.

How great is the Father’s love for us. How awesome are His deeds. Let us rejoice and be thankful to Him and bless Hi Holy name.

Give thanks to God for He is good, and His mercy is everlasting. Great is His love and greatly to be praised.

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Growing up in small town Alberta, I had the privilege to live two doors from my paternal grandparents.  I would need only knock on the door and walk in. Often, I would “catch’ them reading Scripture or singing from the Psalter.  Their love for the Bible was contagious, and soon I was reading God’s Book as well. To this day, I am grateful for the example my grandparents set when it came to their love for the Bible.

Some 2700 years ago, Isaiah wrote,

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the   earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

The writers of Scripture speak of the power of God’s Word.  God spoke, and the world came into existence (Genesis 1). Jesus spoke, and the seas were calmed instantly (Luke 8:24).  This confidence extended to God’s written Word as well.  The author of Hebrews says that the Word is “living and active” and has the ability to discern the “thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).  Paul believed that Scripture has the ability to “complete” us because it was “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).

Sixteen years ago, my boyhood love for God’s Word had sadly diminished.  The example of my grandparents had been forgotten.  Then, in the midst of a crisis, I was challenged to systematically and thoughtfully read the Bible with the simple intent to know God.  At first, my pride got in the way.  After all, I was seminary trained and was constantly preparing sermons and Bible Studies for the church. But thankfully, I humbled myself.  I began to sit at the feet of Scripture to personally meet my God.  I was not greeted with an instantaneous spiritual experience but instead I began to notice “little” changes. Joy where there had been grumpiness. Peace where there had been anxiety. Patience where too often there had been an impatience.  It was like God’s Word was the rain that caused my hard ground to begin to sprout.

The Scriptures speak that God’s Word has such a power. If individuals, couples, families, and churches decide to wipe the dust off their Bibles and make a conscious effort to regularly and thoughtfully submit to God’s Word, the Spirit of God will bring life.  The question is will we choose to “stand in the rain”?

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Lent – Give Up What??

WHAT SHOULD I GIVE UP FOR LENT?  MEAT? SWEETS? CHOCOLATE?  ICE CREAM?  BEVERAGES ? MEAT?

Many of us try to be more disciplined for Lent and give up something that we really like. That’s great! Fasting has always been an important tradition of Lent. This year however, let us also consider other things that we can give up.

Give up complaining – Focus on gratitude

Philippians 2:14-15 – Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.

Give up bitterness – Turn to forgiveness

Ephesians 4:31 – Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Give up worry – Trust in God

Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… who by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Give up discouragement – Be full of hope

Deuteronomy 31:8 – The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you: he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Isaiah 40:31 – But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Give up hatred – Return good for evil

1 John 2:9 – Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.

Luke 6:27 – “But I tell you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”

Give up anger – Be more patient

Matthew 5:22 – But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.

Proverbs 15:18 – A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.

Give up gossiping- Control your tongue

Psalm 34:13 – Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

Proverbs 21:23 – He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.

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