Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Navigation Tools

by contributing writer Brian Austin

A recent trip to the Bay of Fundy brought something home to me rather forcefully. Navigation tools are far advanced from the time Samuel Champlain established a settlement at present-day Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia in 1605. In many parts of the Bay, narrow channels can be easily crossed at high tide in 10 minutes with a small motor boat or even a row boat. Most of the people who regularly make those crossings have all the navigation tools available. Some of the more seasoned ones can read patterns in the waves and currents as easily as most of us read print. But every year a few of them get caught when a fog bank comes in quickly. Every year a few get caught in a sudden storm. Most make it through somehow. But a few don’t.

Present day print resources provide outstanding tools for navigating life. Very few people who attend our churches and use our libraries will not own a Bible or at least have one in their home. How many of them are making the crossing, but their GPS is sitting on a shelf at home? It’s usually easy, quick and comfortable. They’ve done this before and had no problem. Yet life has a way of bringing fog-banks and storms. Our churches are full of people who don’t read their Bibles. Their GPS is sitting on a shelf somewhere and not turned on. They have all the right tools, but they’re not using them.

Virtually everyone coming through our doors has access to the Bible and many Bible Literacy tools. It’s a Spiritual GPS with the maps and charts astonishingly accurate and up-to-date. Probably 2/3rds or more of those people rarely if ever use those tools. I can’t fill that gap. Our pastors can’t fill that gap. But together, just maybe, we can stimulate enough interest that people will begin to read the Bible for themselves. Together, just maybe, we can bring enough balance to the bits and pieces they know that they will begin to hunger and thirst for a deeper grasp.

Maybe what we need as a church – maybe what the people listening to the preaching and using our library need is a storm – not enough to shipwreck us, just enough to remind us that the tools so readily available have no value for us unless we actually use them.

Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it's Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Joshua Week 6

book of Joshua sermon series
Joshua gives one final exhortation to the Israelites at the end of his book.  In 24:14-15 he calls the Israelites to choose ‘this day’ God or gods they will serve.  Then he takes a stand and says, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” 

Reflect on the God or gods that was/were worshiped in your home growing up (ie. Jesus Christ, money, success, material possessions, status…).  What did you see in your family that helped you?  What didn’t help?  What about your household today?  What God or gods do your children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbours see you worshipping?  Do you need to make a change today to be more fully devoted to serving the Lord Jesus Christ?

Looking Forward To The 'Not Yet' While Being Thankful For The Now - Sermon Video

Friday, October 17, 2014

Joshua Week 5

Read the summary of the allotment of land to Israel in Joshua 18:1-7.   Notice that the tribe of Judah anchors Israel’s settlement in the south while the tribes of Ephriam and Manassah (house of Joseph) will be the first to receive allotment in the north.  Both tribes are favoured.  Why?  Could it have something to do with the ancestors that bear their names (Read Genesis 37 to see Joseph and Judah in the same setting along with their brothers)? 

Have you ever been treated with favoritism or been passed over because someone else was favoured?  How does/did that affect you?  What advantages and disadvantages are there for those who are favoured?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seeing God's Hand In Everyday Things

by contributing writer Kristen Webb

potluck & praise
On the evening of Sunday, October 5 I attended the Potluck & Praise night at the church. While we were eating we were encouraged to discuss a question asking whether we have noticed God's hand in our lives.

God's hand in my lifeGod's hand prints are all over my life. In fact the very food I had been blissfully eating at the potluck portion of the evening was an answer to prayer! I am allergic to wheat and few other things like eggs, almonds and lima beans. I don't feel too bad about having to avoid lima beans but the wheat is really hard to miss out on. I was not looking forward to the potluck as I imagined it would be a lot of dishes that looked fantastic and made my mouth water that I could not eat. It is torture to walk by yummy things that people have prepared and not put them on my plate. So before I went to the potluck I prayed and asked God to help me with willpower so that I would behave. When I got there I discovered there were other people who are also gluten-free and they had brought yummy food! It is not half as hard to pass up gluten-laden dishes when there is lots of tasty stuff I can eat. Thank you God for enabling me to not only stay gluten-free but gluten-free and still happy because that is a big deal!

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Joshua Week 4

Joshua sermon series, discussion questions
Read Joshua 10:12-15

Notice God's power over the sun. 

Now read about the Amorite god of the sun in this Wikipedia article (only the 2nd paragraph). 

Notice how Utu is depicted as emerging from a mountain, traveling across the earth, and then returning to a mountain hole (cave). He carries weapons, doles out justice, stands with one foot on a mountain, and he decides the fate of the dead.

Keeping the above themes/words in mind, read Joshua 10:16-28. What do you notice? What similarities are there between the Amorite kings and Utu? (Hint: caves, death, 'one foot'...). What does this story reveal about Israel's God when compared to one of the gods of the Amorites?

Discernment For Busy People - Sermon Video

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Read Any Good Books Lately?

By contributing writer Brian Austin

As church librarian, I have the privilege of managing a treasure of almost measureless value. I love books. The eyesight issue that has created a personal struggle for the last number of years has not diminished that love at all, although it has reduced my personal reading drastically. The HMC Resource Centre has been a personal work of love and ministry for more than 31 years now. I suspect the time is coming soon when it would be healthier for the church and Resource Centre if I stepped aside and someone else gave leadership, but I count it a privilege and an honour to still be deeply involved. 

I take delight in watching toddlers love for books. It is a rough love and torn pages are part of it. But the simple joy they find even before they can read – not caring what page they open to or even if the book is right side up – just caught up in something full of wonder. . . 

 I want so much to have our teens reading – though a part of me cringes when a new book gets carried in a backpack for a week. Signed out once it shows more wear than a book stamped 20 times that our seniors have been reading. Still, from my perspective, finding another book that will grip that teen is one of the places real ministry happens. 

 A lot of main-stream teen fiction is scary stuff. Some of it is brilliantly written, way beyond my skill as a writer. But if the message is dangerous, and it often is, the very brilliance gets a hold on a young mind and draws them back for more. It thrills me when I find wonderful teen fiction with biblical truth woven into the story. When I get that into a teen’s hands and they come back for more – then a prematurely worn out book is an excellent investment from my perspective. 

I don’t know how to compete with TV and iPads and computers. Kids are growing up with so much technology and according to some research, with increasingly short attention spans. I can get all uptight about that, or I can remind myself that the greatest teacher of all time used sound-bytes 2000 years ago. I don’t think any of Jesus’ parables take five minutes to tell. I wonder if there is a message there for us authors. As a librarian I can focus on what I can do something about – searching for and buying the best children’s and teen books I can find, and encouraging the kids who do love to read, getting to know their interests a bit and pointing them to books that fit. 

For me there is another huge, almost impossible hurdle to overcome. An ever increasing percentage of the people who use our library have never read the Bible for themselves. If they come regularly to our church they have heard preaching that is always Bible based, but at best that gives them snippets of the Bible’s message, not the whole of it. The best intentioned preacher joining forces with the best intentioned authors cannot fill that void. As a church librarian with a treasury of rich, theologically and doctrinally sound resources available, I cannot fill that void. Reading about the Bible’s message, no matter how beautifully done, is not and cannot be the same as actually reading the Bible for itself. 

If I can ever summon the nerve to do it, people will come into our church some Sunday morning to find the library door locked, a big poster of an open Bible, and the question in huge block letters: “Have you read any good books lately?” Maybe I’ll picture an e-reader on the poster as well, a nod to people younger and more technologically connected than me. It will be a reminder to me as much as to anyone else, because with eyesight issues, my Bible reading has also suffered. 

Brian Austin is a published novelist, poet, fish enthusiast, and church librarian. He has been an active part of HMC and it's Resource Centre for more than 30 years. He and his wife live in Durham.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Choosing Discomfort: Communion Is Not Just A Pretty Ritual

by contributing writer Heidi Eastman

Church is sometimes too comfortable.  We have cushy seats and we sit with the people we know and like. Even communion is comfortable, with the pretty silver trays filled with pieces of tortilla (with a gluten free option) and tiny thimbles of grape juice.  We partake while listening to beautiful, reflective music and often leave the service without a second thought about the meaning of the ritual we just participated in.   

Jesus' death was messy and dirty and chaotic.  Communion is clean and organized and quiet.  The two are worlds apart. The bread is the body, the wine (or juice) is the blood but how can we connect bread and juice with the brutal death Jesus suffered?

I will never fully understand (nor do I want to) the agony Jesus faced while dying on the cross but occasionally, I try to focus on the brutal reality. The reality that Jesus was beaten violently, forced to carry the instrument that was going to be used to kill him, nailed upon a cross - completely naked, for everyone to mock and spit at -  waiting for death to come.  Every single breath would have been agony as the open cuts from his beating would scrape over the cross.  And if breathing hurt, can you imagine the pain of projecting his voice so people around could hear him?  Yet he chose to seek forgiveness for those crucifying him, to assure a man dying alongside him that he would be with him in heaven, and to make sure his mother was taken care of.  The physical pain would be indescribable, but the emotional pain?  The pain of being killed by those you love unconditionally, because one of your closest friends betrayed you?  That pain is unfathomable!

So the next time the silver tray comes your way, try choosing discomfort.  Next time you take the bread, actually think about Jesus' body.  Think about what He suffered for you.  When you take the wine, actually think about His blood, poured out willingly and without complaint.  The only reason we have the privilege of partaking in the beautiful tradition of communion is because of the ugly, violent and messy way our Saviour died. 

Will you approach this Sunday with a little more thought and reverence? Will you set aside the worries of your week to really focus on what Jesus' sacrifice means? Will you choose discomfort?

Heidi Eastman lives in Neustadt with her husband, two daughters, and a beast of a dog. She has been an active part of the HMC congregation from the moment she was old enough to contribute.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hearing & Following God's Ridiculous Requests

by contributing writer Kristen Webb

Has God ever asked you to do something you thought was a bit odd, strange or just plain illogical?  

Did you have the courage to do it or did you chicken out?  

When God asked you did you get angry or excited? 

Over the last three years I have been going through a long period of God asking me to do some frustrating things.  In the past I would get angry or fearful or I'd bitterly say, "another character-developing opportunity" when God asked me to go through difficult situations.  Because of my attitude these situations where extra unpleasant and though I did develop character I also developed doubt and bitterness. Over the last three years I have embraced a new attitude: one of faith, knowing God loves me.  I was eagerly waiting to see what cool things Jesus would do to sustain me in the midst of the chaos - to make good come out of bad. 

My three year journey began with a very unfortunate incident.  I was walking across the road and I was struck by a truck.  (Do not, under any circumstances, try to take on a truck on foot - it does not go well!)  I was jaywalking and he failed to look or stop before he turned out in front of me.  I broke my leg at the femur - like right in half so it was dangling at a strange angle when I tried to lift it up.  I also re-injured a concussion that I had gotten a year previously from being tossed off a horse head first when it fell in a hole at a gallop.  This accident was not God's fault - it was human error - and for the last three years God has been making good come out of it.

I have learned so many things!  For instance, how to hear God even in demanding situations.  Just like the sermon last week about how to learn good discernment: God has been teaching me to listen carefully, be alert, surrender and trust God for victory.  Because of the leg and the concussion I have had to be very still for very long periods of time.  It is amazing how much easier it is to hear God when you are still and quiet.  I am a very goal oriented person and I like to get stuff done - I do not like to rest.  However God has taught me to rest and actually enjoy it and benefit from it.

With my concussion I have progressed to only needing quiet rest about 4 times a day for around an hour a time.  Right after the accident I pretty much rested 24/7.  If I do not rest I get headaches of epic proportions that makes any kind of any activity debilitating.   Reading quietly or watching TV or even talking on the phone with my eyes closed does not count as rest.   I must make like a mushroom, and spend lots of time in a dark, quiet bed doing nothing.  At the start this was very frustrating and boring, but I got better at it. (And if resting were an Olympic sport I would so get gold!)  

I discovered that the quiet worked really well for listening to God and if I surrendered to Him, He would give me peace and joy.  Because I did not have my brain cluttered with all my busy plans I found I could be alert to hear God's voice and hear Him better than ever before.  He has been very clear that He wants to me to keep resting as much as I need to and give my list of things I need to get done to Him.  I have learned to trust Him for victory over my anxious heart and He has calmed me down so much.  It is very hard to get anything done when you need to rest as often and as long as I do.   However, I have seen God do supernatural things to my heart and to my schedule and He has come through. 

Now when I have to go rest I feel safe and peaceful instead of frustrated and driven.   You might say my life is a bit ridiculous when it is interrupted with sleep so often throughout the day.

God asks me to rest and that seems to be a counter-intuitive request if your goal is getting stuff done.  But I have discovered that for me obeying God means resting and He gives me such a joy and relief in that.  He has shown me that all the down time has been a wonderful opportunity to pray and to meditate on His Word.  These two acts have totally changed my life in so many good ways.  God's Word is so awesome and following it is the path to true contentment and satisfaction.  I do sometimes still feel frustrated and wish I had more time to get things done but when I run to God He tells me to be patient and do what He asks.  This works so much better than trying to do what the world says you must do to be considered successful.

We sing a song at church called The Rock Won't Move and it really describes my journey through the last three years.

The Rock Won't Move

When the ground beneath my feet gives way
And I hear the sound of crashing waves
And all my world is washing out to sea
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

The rock won't move and His word is strong
The rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The rock won't move and His word is strong
The rock won't move and His love can't be undone
The rock of our salvation

My hope is in the promise of Your blood
My support within the raging flood
Even in the tempest I can sing
I'm hidden safe in the God who never moves
Holding fast to the promise of the truth
That You are holding tighter still to me

On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
The rock won't move the rock won't move
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest in His unchanging grace
The rock won't move the rock won't move
CCLI Song # 7005719

Just like the Israelite's laid rocks from the middle of the river to remember what God had done for them, I want to keep blogging what God has done for me.  I want to remember so my faith can be strengthened.

Kristen Webb boards horses in the country with her husband and three daughters - one of whom has special needs. She has been part of the HMC congregation for almost eighteen years.   You can find her over at her own blog, My Wild Ride Through The Door Of Faith.