by Rev. Dave Long on April 24th, 2017

​One of our goals in 2017 is to engage in a spiritual exercise of self-reflection.  Together, I want to consider the following question, “How do we determine if we are accomplishing what God has called us to accomplish?”  The scriptures seem clear that self-reflection is a healthy part of Christian spirituality. Consider the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Galatians,

“​For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. For each will have to bear his own load” (Gal. 6:3-5 ESV).

It’s not hard to imagine that right knowing, being and doing must merge in our lives if somehow, we hope to pass the test.

Self-conceit is aided and abetted by self-deceit. That’s why Paul tells everyone to test (dokimazetō) his own actions not sentiments. I think we can become distractedly sentimental about the faithfulness of others (i.e. parents, grandparents, spouse, friends, etc.).  Paul here suggests that rather than comparing yourself with others, ‘best practice’ might be to step back and take an objective look at yourself and your accomplishments.

I can remember one of my high school teachers constantly challenging my ostentatious class: “Make sure you’re not just legends in our own minds.” Good advice!  Paul seems to be advising the same thing here. The advice begs the question: Is spiritual health really that easy to misjudge? Can we really miss the mark such that what we thought to be “something” can turn out to be really “nothing”? Can we get to the point spiritually where we misappropriate someone else’s spiritual health and success for our own?

While we would never deny the collateral effects of other people’s faithfulness in our lives (its benefit to us); faithfulness does not necessarily affect our own (motivate us to be faithful). You often see a faithful person devastated by an unfaithful partner.
The context of Paul’s warning in Galatians is the “load sharing” nature of Christian community: Together, we have a responsibility for and toward each other.  My point, and Paul’s for that matter, is not to heap up condemnation on our backs, rather, it is to head the commendation of God.

While addressing the various issues facing the Corinthian church, Paul makes a similar challenge.  He writes, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test” (2 Co. 13:5 ESV)!
The implication seems to be that Jesus Christ in you is discernable. And the task of testing requires being open to the commendation of Jesus:  He has something to say to you, about you, and over you.  This we have in common. Do we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying?

Yours for growth,
Dave Long

by The Updater on January 26th, 2017

This time last year I invited you to participate in a “church-wide spiritual exercise” whereby each of us would ask God for a word and scripture verse for 2016.  It was my privilege to receive these words and verses from many of you and then pray and track with you on this small faith journey.  Now at the beginning of 2017, we are endeavoring to build upon this initiative.

You might be wondering: Why ask God for words and verses? It becomes clear from reading the Bible, particularly Luke-Acts, that hearing the voice of the Spirit is a definitive marker of the early church.  Together, genuine “Christ followers,” were not only capable, but longed to hear the voice of God and that longing was matched by their willingness to obey what they had Discovered Together.

Consider the time Peter and John had to give a defense before the “Rulers and elders of the people” for “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (Acts 4:2-NIV).  Just prior to their “hearing” before the Sanhedrin, in the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter had boldly healed a “crippled beggar” at the temple gate called beautiful (3:5-7); then, that once-disabled-now-able-bodied-worshipper boldly “walked and jumped and praised God in the temple courts” (8-10); then, as the crowds rushed Peter and John, Peter boldly testified to the curious masses the Good News of the Kingdom (11-26) and despite Peter and John’s arrest and overnight imprisonment by the captain of the temple guard and Sadducees, the “believing men grew to about five thousand” (4:1-4).  When Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John Alexander and others questioned them, Peter “filled with the Holy Spirit” boldly witnessed Jesus (8-12).

Notice three important things: First, Luke records that this bold defense left the impression “that these men had been with Jesus” (13). What a compliment! Second, when the Rulers and elders of the people “commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (18), Peter and John boldly replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (19-20). Third, this was the moment those who should have been hearing/obeying the voice of the Spirit could have but didn’t.

I am convinced that the Spirit-inspired-boldness Peter and John demonstrated, later compounded with prayer. “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through your holy servant Jesus” (29-30). Luke then records that “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (31).

[TOGETHER] Are you open to hear God’s voice?  [TOGETHER] Are you willing to obey God’s direction?  [TOGETHER] Are you willing to be bold about both?  Folks, God never tires of proving His goodness and faithfulness through our willingness to be FULLY ENGAGED.
Last year my word was INTENTIONAL (Ephesians 5:15-17). This year it is BOLD (Acts 4:31)!
What word is God giving to you? Ask HIM!
Definition: “Boldness describes the courageous manner of those who preach the gospel (Acts 2:29; 4:13, 31; 9:27–29; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26; 19:8; 26:26; 28:31; 1 Thess. 2:2; Phil. 1:20).”

by The Updater on May 12th, 2015

​Acts 1:7-8 (ESV)
[Jesus] said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

I can remember being asked to serve as a character witness for a friend who had broken the terms of his “conditional sentence” in what he confessed to be a “moment of weakness.” In fact, his “indiscretion” proved to be a foolish action based on poor judgement. Let’s face it; isn’t that always the case?  It certainly is in my life.

It was quite a weighty responsibility to act as a witness before the Provincial Court.  As I reflected on the responsibility, two questions begged to be answered: What was I a witness to? And who was I a witness for?

The fact is, I was not so much a witness for a defendant, who happened to be a friend (who was guilty as charged); rather, I was a witness to the truth.  

I was so, not because I was bound by oath to speak the truth and nothing but the truth, but because I am bound to the Spirit of Truth.  

I am a witness to the Truth, regardless of whether I am summoned to an earthly court, and so are you.  

The fact is, all of us who are in Christ have been summoned to witness to the dynamic and ongoing salvific work of God in this world.  

I am convinced that in Christ, we do this best TOGETHER.  

I’m reminded of how Luke bridges his gospel account (volume one) with the book of Acts (gospel account volume two).

“1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen” (Ac 1:1–2).

Implicit in the transitional statement “began to do and teach,” is the Truth that Jesus continued “to do and teach” throughout the book of Acts.  Of course He did so by the Holy Spirit through the Church.  

Some would argue that The Acts of the Apostles should be re-titled the “Acts of the Holy Spirit.” Later on in that same chapter, Luke records Jesus saying that the band of Christ followers would be witnesses.  

Not unlike my situation as a character witness in the Ontario Provincial Court, two questions beg answering with regard to Jesus’ statement: What were they a witness to? And who were they a witness for?  Acts 1:8 says,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 

The band of Christ followers TOGETHER were charged with the task of witnessing to the Truth by both declaring and evidencing the character of the King and His Kingdom.
This is still our charge today! 

At Calvary “Together we Tell” the good news that Jesus is still at work in our world.  The beautiful thing about it is, the same power that was available to the disciples for the task of “witnessing” and “demonstrating“ is available to us.  God makes Himself available to us, in the person of the Holy Spirit, to be good witnesses!

Together we Tell. Yes a weighty responsibility, but something He empowers us to do.

Today our witnessing together is in fact “Acts of the Holy Spirit.”

Just think, we are called upon by God to be character witnesses.

I think back to my experience in court.  It was one thing to be the only character witness on behalf of a friend.  It’s quite another to be counted as one of many witnesses to the truth.

by The Updater on October 15th, 2012

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