They say the definition of insanity is trying the same thing over again expecting different results. I know some of us feel this way about spending time in God's Word. There might be a desire to make a habit of Bible reading and prayer but just don't get around to it or you do it for a while (maybe because you feel like you should) but it just doesn't stick. It can seem like you're trying the same things over again and not seeing any different results. Perhaps it's time to try something different.
This year at Trinity we are wanting to focus on growing as committed followers of Jesus based on the model of Jesus’ original disciples. In the Gospels, we are told that the disciples were with Jesus— they heard him teaching, they saw him heal, they ate with him. The more time the disciples spent with Jesus the more they got to know him, which changed their lives and ministry. The best way for us to spend time with Jesus is by being in his Word which we believe shows us the person of Jesus and helps to shape us into the people Jesus calls us to be.
Many of you have a consistent Bible reading and prayer time that works for you… that is fantastic! Keep it up! Others of us struggle to maintain consistency in the Word or just don’t take the time at all. Here are two things that I have tried recently in my devotional life just as a way of changing things up a bit to keep God’s Word fresh in my life.
Try something different today!
We just finished the long season of Lent, forty days of contemplation, reflection, and confession, by remembering Jesus’ death and forgiveness on the cross. I think this is a season that we as a church do well (not perfectly). It seems easy for us to grasp the sombre nature of the season, to be intentional about practicing Lenten disciples which draw us deeper in relationship to our loving God.
What we don’t do so well is the season that follows Lent: Easter. Sure, we ‘get’ the day of Easter, the joy of that festive day with all its flowers and music and excitement. But Easter is actually a fifty day celebration in the church; we don’t just celebrate Easter on one day but for the next seven weeks! The weeks following Easter are a celebration of the Lord and Saviour of the world’s defeat of death. These fifty days correspond with the fifty days that the resurrected Jesus walked with his disciples revealing his glorified resurrected body while preparing them for the work ahead of carrying on the ministry of the Kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we now find ourselves in the midst of these fifty days of Easter, the words of Jesus echo in the background of our time of celebration. Multiple times during his last meal with his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus expresses his desire that their joy may be complete (John 15:11; 16:20, 22, 24; 17:13). After his resurrection, Jesus’ disciples “were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). The Easter season (and our whole lives as Christians) is meant to be a season of rejoicing; Easter is a season of joy!
But rejoicing doesn’t always come easy. How often do we grumble and complain instead of rejoicing in it? How often do we speak negative about someone or something instead finding positive things to say? I think we need to make a habit of practicing joy in all areas of our lives. However, as almost anyone can tell you, we all want joy but we don't all have joy.
That’s because joy is not something that we can pursue, it's not something that we can just fix our minds to. Sure, that works for a time—you can think positively trying to find the good in all circumstances (which in fact Paul encourages us to do in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice”) —but inevitably you will come up short, because joy in this case is tied to what you are doing instead of in who you are.
Why did the disciples have joy? Because they saw and believed in the Lord. It had nothing to do with them remaining positive; it had everything to do with their relationship with Jesus. Joy —real, lasting joy—is something we experience as we walk with the Lord each day. Eugene Peterson says, “Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.”
Do you want real, lasting joy—the joy that Jesus promised his disciples? It comes from being with Him in the Word, and prayer, and knowing Jesus is present with you through the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth and life.
This Easter season may we be people of joy; people who rejoice in knowing our Saviour lives and that because he lives we have the fullness of life now and forever. Live in that full life Jesus has offered to you.
There are things that you do everyday brush your hair (if you have any!), make your bed, go off to work, and the list goes on. Most of these things you do without much thought, they’ve simply become an ingrained habit that you don’t pay attention to until your routine is disrupted by vacation, retirement, the end of the school year, or sickness. We live such busy lives that it is easy to sleepwalk through them doing the same thing day in and day out.
Where does God fit into your routine? Where is God in the daily rhythm of your life? Time and again in Scripture, we hear the desire of God to be a part of our lives. In creation, God didn’t make people like everything else He created, we are uniquely made and designed for relationship. Even after Adam and Eve (and each of us) chose to make a way apart from God, He came looking for us. God wants to be a part of your life! Where is God in the daily rhythm of your life?
Below are a few approaches (one stands out as better than the rest) we sometimes try to make God part of our lives.
Adding Jesus: In our attempts to make God part of our lives we often try to ‘add Him into the mix.’ We go on living normally but tack on a couple of minutes to pray or read a devotion and Scripture. These are good things, we should be in the Word and prayer! But it is approached as a duty—just another thing to check off our list for the day—we add in God when it is convenient for us. But God wants to be more than just an ‘ingredient’ we add to flavour our lives. Jesus used the image of yeast in Matthew 13:33 as the picture of how He gets mixed into the whole of our lives—He leaves nothing untouched!
Including Jesus: In this approach we acknowledge Jesus as important for our daily lives but we stop short of allowing Jesus to fully be Lord of our lives. We spend time with Him in Word and prayer and seek out His leading but we ultimately have the final say; we hold onto ‘veto power’ over anything that God might want to do with us. Jesus is allowed to be part of our life but we don’t completely surrender all to Him.
Attending Jesus: Whereas the first two approaches to being more mindful of Jesus in our lives focused on what we allowed, this approach is more passive. When we attend Jesus we watch what He is doing all around us; we understand our whole day to be worship and honouring to God. With this mindset, it is not about what we are doing but what Jesus is doing in and through us. The more we’re attentive to Jesus, the more our lives will look like Him: time in prayer and the Word become vital to us as we meet Jesus in those moments, our interactions with people become meaningful because we see Jesus at work in all we say and do. It is like the yeast that doesn’t just add a little flavour but completely changes the substance of the mixture; the effects of the yeast are abundantly obvious in the final product.
As we grow in our walk with the Lord, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we should naturally be growing toward the third approach of attending to the work God is already doing in our lives. But don’t fret if you’re not yet there (I’m not either!) This is a growth opportunity as we continue to grow in the grace and love of Jesus that he lavished upon us.
Watch for Jesus! He is at work in you right now. Be attentive to the work of the Holy Spirit forgiving, loving, and calling. Go boldly with Jesus ingrained in the rhythm of your life!
It’s another day and there’s another celebrity accused of sexual misconduct. With each new revelation there is the typical cycle of responses:
In celebrities, we find an escape from our mundane lives filled with disappointed and struggle; we connect ourselves to the character the celebrity plays. We may be attracted to the good guy who always comes to the rescue; the underdog who looks like they should fail but miraculously succeeds; the deeply flawed character who struggles but gets through life; the sports hero who comes through in the clutch. We are attracted to celebrities and the roles they play because there is a part of us that wants to identify with them. We identify with celebrities because they offer us hope—an escape from what our lives actually are to that which we long for.
There is so much shock each time a different celebrity’s deplorable actions are revealed because our hope in the celebrity’s persona is shattered; the escape and dream we found in them is exposed as not real. We have treated celebrities as if they were gods, able to rescue us (at least momentarily). We’ve welcomed them into our lives, we’ve believed what they said, and in them we’ve found hope for something better than we have. Like all people they too will fall short, disappoint, and ultimately seek their own power and glory.
Why are we still surprised by the endless stream of allegations? It is because we are looking for hope; we want hope in a world and a life that can feel downright hopeless some days.
In God we find hope and the promise that the wrongs of this world will be made right. We are right to be saddened each time we hear of abuse whether celebrity or otherwise because it is a symptom of our world broken by sin. We ought to be saddened but we should not be surprised. Scripture tells a horrifyingly predictable pattern of God’s people failing to get it right, failing to love God and each other perfectly; it is a story of people seeking their own glory and honour.
But more significantly Scripture is a story of redemption and hope where we learn of a God who will never disappoint because His words and actions are always unchanging. We learn of a God who offers us hope and escape from a life of disappointment, pain, and frustration. We learn of a God who cares so much for you that He invested Himself in this world in the simplest way, as a baby, to bring life and relationship with Him now and forever. Because we believe in a God of redemption we should pray for the victims to receive the healing power of God’s presence in their lives and for the accused to come to repentance and restoration in Jesus. We should also examine ourselves: we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and we all turn away from God to chase after those things that seem to offer us hope in the present.
The next time you hear allegations of celebrity misconduct,, ask yourself ‘why am I still surprised?’ Is it because of the brokenness of the situation where lives were damaged and people hurt? Or is it because in our search for hope we thought we found it in this larger than life person, only to be disappointed once again? Keep looking to God, the only One who won't disappoint you!
Why does prayer seem so hard? I’ve been pondering that question recently as prayer has been the topic of many of my readings recently. Jesus repeatedly calls his disciples (us) to prayer. Prayer has been a central component of a faithful walk with God throughout the life of the church because it connects us to our personal and loving God. Beginning with the Israelites and continuing through Judaism today, God’s people have taken designated times for prayer throughout the day. But if it is so important, why is it so hard to pray? Here are three of my thoughts:
We don’t see the effects. Many of us have been conditioned to think of prayer as some sort of magic words which when done correctly will conjure up anything we dream. The problem is that prayer doesn’t work that way! Sure, Jesus invites us in Matthew 7 to ask and it will be given us. Think about when you pray most often; is it when you need something or are looking for direction in life? Our prayers are often focused around our needs exclusively which leads to frustration when we don’t get what we think we need through prayer. Often we aren’t paying attention to the way God is responding to our prayers because he is doing so in a way that’s different than we expect. Pay attention for the unexpected ways God is at work in your life.
We are too busy. There are times that prayer seems like a luxury sort of like taking some time off from our busy lives. Martin Luther purportedly said of prayer that he has “so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.” Jesus too emphasized the importance of prayer in Matthew 9 when he told his disciples that the harvest is plentiful (there is a lot of work to do). Before he sent them out to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom, he called them to pray, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:37-38). Prayer is not just a luxury we can afford when there is extra time; prayer is a necessity to get through every day.
We don’t know how to pray. Even though prayer has been central to the Christian life for thousands of years, too many of us (think we) don’t know how to pray. Sometimes we have the impression that our words need to be just right and that we need to sound like we know what we’re doing. Jesus condemns that type of thinking about prayer and instead simply models how to pray. He gave as a model these words:
Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
There is nothing fancy here. Just an invitation by Jesus to enter conversation with our God who created and keeps us by fixing our attention not just on our lives but on His work in the world around us. Prayer at its simplest is sharing with God hopes, dreams, concerns and worries of our lives and what we long to see him do in them.
You may not think you are good at praying or have the time but if you desire a closer relationship with Jesus, prayer is the way to start. Spend a few minutes now in prayer using Jesus’ words as a model: pray for the continued growth of God’s kingdom here, pray for the needs you and others face, pray for strength to live your life to its fullness for the honour and glory of God.
This Sunday, the church celebrates Holy Trinity Sunday, a day when we focus on the three persons of our one God. But what is the Trinity (other than being the namesake for our congregation)? You may be quick to answer something to the effect of the three-in-one; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; three persons in one being.
One of the common images used to help us understand the concept of the Trinity is that of an egg which has three parts (shell, yoke, and white) but is still just 'one' egg. Other images often used to help clarify this abstract concept are the three properties of water (ice, water, vapour) or a three-leaf clover. These are helpful in a limited way but they fail to communicate fully the intimacy within the Godhead(and why the concept of the Trinity matters).
Our minds find it easy to differentiate the three roles of God as revealed in Scripture: the Father as Creator and Sustainer, the Son as Redeemer (Saviour), and the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier (one who is working holiness in us and calling us back to Jesus). More difficult is to put those three distinct roles together so that they are not three completely separate beings but three parts of one.
Whenever one part of the Trinity talks about another, there is always a closeness assumed; read John 14:15-30 to see what I mean. It is this closeness that makes the Trinity an important part of our everyday life with God because we are not distant from God but have the Holy Spirit in us. That means God in His fullness is dwelling with us, knows us, and cares for us every step of our journey; we have the Holy Spirit who leads us into the truth, forgiveness, and life of Christ who in turn has made it possible to share life forever (as originally intended) with our loving and creative Father. Our whole life holds together in the relationship of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
This was so important to the early church that they spent years defending the concept of the Trinity as a unity of three persons. The Athanasian Creed was developed to safeguard the truths about God which were increasingly coming under attack. Once a year, on Trinity Sunday, we read the Athanasian Creed (which admittedly is long and repetitive) as a means of reorienting ourselves amid a disorienting and fragmenting world that would lead us astray from God as revealed in the Scriptures.
Here is the text of the creed (click the link). It has strong language about the necessity to confess these teachings which reminds us in a shocking way of what is at stake. I challenge you (and it will be a challenge) to read through the creed trying to understand what’s being communicated and use it to sift your understanding of God.
May you be blessed as you are reminded of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s continued work and presence in your life!
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently about learning probably because my oldest child will be starting Kindergarten tomorrow. Is she leaving the carefully guided environment of our home in a position to succeed in learning everything she needs to in school? Sure, we’ve read thousands of books (no exaggeration, take a look at her summer reading log!), she’s done 2 years of playschool, and we’ve worked on writing, drawing, and reading. But as I stand on the brink of a new chapter in my life, I wonder is it enough? How will she turn out when she graduates high school? Will she love acquiring knowledge and desire to learn more?
All parents want the best for their kids and there is always going to be some wondering whether we’ve done all we can to set our children up to excel in school. But I wonder how much thought we give to our children’s Christian education. We’ll help our kids with homework and we’ll bend over backwards to help our kids exceed in sports but have we set our kids up for a life of loving Jesus (which is eternally more important than advanced algebra or being able to score a goal in hockey)? I’m not advocating for lessening educational requirements in favour of growing in spiritual knowledge because the two are actually inseparable.
What I am advocating is that we parents (and I’m preaching to myself here) should spend equal care and attention to fostering our kids’ spiritual growth. Bringing your kids to Sunday School and church is an important part of helping your child grow spiritually and I’m thankful for people who commit themselves to teaching about Jesus. But that is only 2 (and a half) hours out of 168 hours in a week. They’re in school for 30 hours a week and watching TV (if studies are to be trusted) for 35+ hours a week.
Martin Luther famously believed that the church was not the primary place where children would learn about faith. He argued that the greatest impact on a child’s faith would be in the home, “such a house is actually school and church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.” It is after all in the home where habits are developed and where children how to be people as they watch their parents. As parents, we are called to be the pastors to our homes; to teach our kids about Jesus, to read Scripture, to pray with them, and to model a Jesus following life to them.
So as the kids start back to school this year and your brain gets filled with balancing homework, sports, and other activities, take some time to think about how you are teaching your kid about faith. It is the most important thing you can pass on to your children!
This morning in my devotions, God spoke to Job saying, “ ‘Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding?’” (Job 38:4). The rhetorical line of questioning continues for several chapters. Each question God asks of Job is designed to remind Job that Job is not God and does not possess His wisdom and power. I am struck once again by how big God is and how limited my understanding of the world and my life actually is.
I’ve been thinking about this phrase especially in light of this summer’s rain. We started the year thinking it would be dry and planned accordingly only to live through an historically wet year. We look out and see the promise of unimaginably abundant crops only to see them get struck down by hail and waterlogged by downpours.
Even as you think about what could have been, grow frustrated with more rain, and wait to get into the fields, may you be reminded of the bigness of God that He is far wiser than you (as hard as that may be to admit) and that He has a plan for His creation (including you!) even when we can’t plainly see it. Take comfort in knowing that God has been here from before the beginning of time and that He promises to care for and provided for all your needs.
We face many decisions in our lives. Some are pretty insignificant and others may have life altering ramifications. Making decisions can be one of the most difficult things we as Christians must deal with because there is an added responsibility placed on us. We don’t make decisions based solely on what seems best to or for us in the present but based on something bigger. One of the highest callings we have as a follower of Jesus is to bring glory to God, therefore all that we do ought to bring glory and honor and praise to our God. I (and I imagine others do as well) often struggle with the question whether I am making a decision that God would have me make.
There is a spectrum of decision making that on one extreme includes little of God in the decision making process and which goes to the other extreme of not being able to make any decision without a clear divine instruction. The scale of the choice influences how much consideration we give it. It probably matters little to God whether I choose a Kit-Kat as opposed to a Coffee Crisp, after all God has uniquely given us humans the ability to think and have free-will. But if I am deciding whether to buy a new house or to move to a new community, I will do my best to discern God’s leading and wait for clear direction.
The scope of the decision often impacts the amount of seeking God’s direction and leading that we do. This comes down to a pretty simple question: How much of God is enough in making decisions? (As if that can be measured!)
I was struck this week by Colossians 2:6 which says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” While this is an encouragement to continue in a life following Jesus, it also speaks to knowing God: Walk in Christ. That is the key to decision making that isn’t empty of God or paralyzing while we do nothing as we wait for God.
When you’ve spent a considerable amount of time with someone (like your spouse) you begin to know what they’re thinking and how they will act. The same is true with God. The more time spent with Him in prayer and in the Word, the more His ways will be known to you. As you grow with God, the less you have to stop and anxiously wait or exclude God from whatever decision you’re facing. His ways become yours as you walk with Him, you develop a sense of knowing even as you seek His face in all you do.
So walk in him.
If you are like me, you might struggle with finding time to be with God throughout the week. I know I should do devotions, read my Bible, and pray but many times it just doesn’t get done (or isn’t done as well as I’d like). While this is not a new problem for many people, it is growing more acute as our lives fill up with other things, too often God is the first one bumped from our schedule. Perhaps the best way to make God a priority in our lives is to build Him into our schedule.
We are a people who thrive on the predictability of a patterned life. It is well noted that children thrive, feel more secure and confident when there is a daily routine in place where they can anticipate when is coming next. Even God built a pattern into creation, “so God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3). Some take this patterned life to the extreme (see Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory) while others may not even recognize their need for predictability in life. Live into a patterned life with Jesus at the centre!
It is not my intent to guilt you into doing anything, I simply want us to be honest with each other that setting apart time to rest and enjoy the company of God does not come naturally in our sinful world.
First, establish a precedent of being in church every Sunday. It is great that you watch Christian programing but it doesn’t replace actually being with your fellow believers worshiping God. We need each others support and encouragement. Taking an hour and a half out of your week to worship acts as a foundation for your spiritual habits throughout the week. Our worship services intentionally look similar every week so that the patterns of worship become part of you. The pattern of singing, confession, hearing Scripture, and prayer is demonstrated each week as a model for our worship life the other six days. Our liturgical pattern helps us enter into God’s story while orienting our lives around God. Weekly worship is critical for our spiritual health and vitality.
Second, set apart some time each day to be in God’s Word and prayer. Some find it helpful to do this in the morning while others like to do it at night. Experiment with what time works best for you but be sure to schedule in a time, write it in your day planner or put it in your phone. There are many ways that you can be in Scripture: maybe you start in Genesis and read a few chapters a day, or you start with the Gospel of John and hear the story of Jesus, or perhaps you follow a devotional book that leads you to different Scriptures each day. No matter how you structure your time, allow God to lead you into His Word.
Also during this time be sure to pray. Pray not just for your needs but for the needs of others and for the church. Offer prayers of thanksgiving for God’s provision and action in your life. Confess your failures and receive God’s words of pardon. Simply be quiet as you allow God to speak to you words of encouragement, direction, or correction. Just take time to be with and to hear from God in prayer and His Word. One way we are encouraging our church to be attentive to God through prayer and the Word is with Trinity’s Summer Commitment.
It is not my intent to guilt you into doing anything, I simply want us to be honest with each other that setting apart time to rest and enjoy the company of God does not come naturally in our sinful world. In fact, sin is continually enticing us away from God. As Christians, we always ought to do what we can to encourage one another into a deeper relationship with Jesus.
So in these slower summer months when schedules are easier to manage, let me challenge you to establish a pattern of worship in your life: make it a priority to be in church each week, devote a few minutes each day to time in God’s Word and prayer, take time to simply rest in God’s creation free from distractions and stress, and think about Trinity’s Commitment to God this summer.
Some resources to help build God into your routine:
Family Prayer- These devotions follow the structure of daily prayer and can be used in the family (Anglican Church of North America)
Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals (For purchase on Amazon)
Daily Text- A new prayer and Scripture readings every day of the year (Moravian Church)
Pastor J-M shares some occasional thoughts and musings on our life together as followers of Christ. The views are his own.
Growing Committed Followers of Jesus by:
Trusting in God, Believing His Grace, Obeying His Word, Leading Others to Know Him
Come as you are and join us for Worship at 11:00 a.m.. Adult Bible Study meets before the service at 9:45 a.m. Kids' Sunday School resumes in Sept.