Made to Worship – July 2019

Now this is an interesting and somewhat provocative title. Normally you might think of us as being “made for worship.” Made to worship tends to leave the impression of obligation and duty. Worship is something that God is simply worthy of to such an extent that rocks will even affirm it if man doesn’t (Luke 19:37-40). Have you thought of God being that worthy of worship? And what is worship anyway?

Worship is ascribing worth-ship to someone or something. When you worship you acknowledge and express the degree of worth. So, how worthy is God? The Lord is great and greatly to be praised (1 Chron. 16:25). He is worthy to be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise (Neh. 9:5). The heavens even declare the glory of God (Psa. 19:1). But are they made to do this?

This is where it gets tricky. God is not tyrannical and demanding of praise like earthy kings may do (Dan. 3:1-6). God’s worth is so great that see Him, to recognize His majesty, to behold His glory and to be overwhelmed by His presence will require a worshipful response. It is required because there is no other appropriate action and attitude. That is why every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9-11). So, how will you be made to worship?

What attitude do you bring before God’s presence? We can be made to worship out of duty or indebtedness. However, we can also be made to worship out of devotion (2 Cor. 11:3). What makes us worship is the spiritual drive from a heart of love. Just because you feel compelled to worship from the depths of your being does not mean that it is insincere. Allow yourself to be overwhelmed by Him again and rediscover the joy of being made to worship because we were made for it.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril

 


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Who Are You? – June 2019

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo & Juliet) That may be true on some level but the rose has not attachment to or expectation arrived from its name. We do attach a sense of identity to our names.

God chose to change some names in the Old Testament. Abram means “high father” but that was changed to Abraham: “father of multitudes” (Gen. 17:5). Jacob means “at the heel” or as “one who takes another’s place through treachery. God did not want that to stick with him and therefore changed it to Israel, which means either “contends with God” or “God contends” (Gen. 32:28)

Jesus also chose to change someone’s address. Simon is a popular Greek name and could be related to the Hebrew word for robust. Jesus saw something other than the belligerent personality that other saw. Jesus called him Peter which means “a rock” (Matt. 16:!6-18). That rock was founded on the revelation of God.

The Bible also has other people who didn’t go by their birth names. Barnabas was born Joseph but got a nickname that means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Saul was a Pharisee who persecuted the church but sometime after his encounter with Christ in a vision he became known as Paul (Acts 13:9) and all of his letters are addressed as from Paul.

So, why am I writing about all these name changes? Freedom Centre is the third name for this congregations. The first two had to do with their location and affiliation: Beverly Pentecostal Tabernacle and Clareview Pentecostal Assembly. However, in the early 2000s the church felt led to change its name again but this time in relation to its calling: Freedom Centre Church. It’s not simply about having a name but about how we identify and see ourselves. It’s also about the future that God has in His heart for the church.

At our annual congregational business meeting, I told those there that the elders had a discussion about this and reaffirmed our commitment to be the Freedom Centre. Those who were in the meeting soundly agreed. Now we are left with the task of working that commitment out. Living in the freedom that Christ intends for us, along with leading others into that freedom, will take dedication and diligence. Let’s work together to see God’s destiny for this church fulfilled.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril

 


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Renewal – April 2019

Easter is coming! Spring has sprung! The sun is more present in our days as we move into summer. The cold, dreary, dark days of winter are becoming a faint memory (until autumn at least).

We are in a season of renewal. It’s a time for grass to start growing again and deciduous trees to put buds and flowers on their branches. As a child, this was the time to go looking for pussy willows to snatch up and bring home.

While all of this renewal is happening around you, have you considered that, like our environment, we too need seasons of renewal in our spiritual lives? Easter is a celebration of the power and life that brought Jesus back from the dead. We are having a water baptism on Sunday, April 14th and in that we celebrate and symbolize being raised to new life in Christ—we were dead in our trespasses and sins but through Christ’s death and resurrection believers have been born again (Eph 2:1-5). However, is that it? Or, is there more?

You can only renew what was new. (Huh? you may ask) I said in one of my sermons last month that part of the struggle that people have with the Christian message of needing to be born again is that we think we’re alive without Christ. As I stated earlier, without Christ we were dead in our trespasses and sins … not mostly dead; all dead. Once someone receives Christ as Saviour and Lord, they are made new creations (2 Cor 5:17). Once you’re a new creation, there can be a need to renew along life’s journey.

One other aspect of spring is mud. My dog likes to tuck it into his paws. I’m sure he isn’t purposefully trying to get mud on the floor in our house but unless we watch and clean his paws the floor will get dirty. His paws and my floor need a lot more renewal in the spring. Jesus even taught that we can be clean but put up dirt walking in the world (John 13:10). We all need renewal. The disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:4) but also afterwards as they continued serving Christ (Acts 4:31). Paul encourages us to be continually renewed in the Holy Spirit (Eph 5:18). He even writes: “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16)

Be encouraged brothers and sisters in Christ. Be renewed.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril

 


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Credo – Mar 2019

I’ve spent most of my life working on aligning what the Bible says with what I believe with how I behave with what I preach and teach. I would hope that all followers of Christ would seek for this alignment. The Latin word for “I believe” is “credo,” from which we get the English word “creed.” A creed, therefore, is a statement of belief.

A song that greatly impacted me earlier in my walk with God was simply titled “Creed.” While there are many songs with this title, this song was by Rich Mullins and David Strasser. (You can find this song easily on YouTube if you would like to listen to it.) It’s taken from the Apostles’ Creed, which was developed in the early church as a baptismal confession.

I memorized the Apostles’ Creed during my teen years. There is a solidness to these early church confessions. There is also a depth to them that is often missed when it is simply seen that way. I am not equating faith statements with the Bible. The derivative cannot equal the source. However, I am concerned with both the solidness and depth of Christians today.

The chorus of the Rich Mullins song has always gripped me:

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it
No it is making me
It is the very truth of God
And not the invention of any man

What I truly believe, not only informs my thinking but affects my life. And, if the source of that truth is truly God, then that truth is making me instead of my making truth. I become more of a reflection of a holy God instead of God reflecting fallen man. Information without actualization is trivialization. We should not trivialize the truth of God.

I trust that as our church journeys through the Apostles’ Creed that it will be transformational and not trivial.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril


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This One Thing – Feb 2019

Life today is full of distractions. I’m not saying that there haven’t been distractions throughout the history of the world but that there is more reaching out to grab your attention than ever before. When I was growing up, I had tv, radio, books, sports and friends, but generally you had to go to your distraction. Now we carry our smartphones everywhere so we can be distracted by social media, email, texts, games, streaming services and whatever other apps you install … not to mention the phone itself. Plus, we can have these apps push for our attention. Even when using computers or smartphones for valid reasons, we get advertising and spam emails that pop up.

We can be just as distracted and interrupted emotionally. We can be distracted by unforgiveness and resentment. Negative self-talk can distract us from accomplishing the things we should be focussed on. Wishful thinking about the future instead of concentrating on the present is a distraction. (I’m not referring to thoughtful planning and goal setting; this is about emotional distraction.) Dwelling on the successes of the past while struggling with the present is a distraction.

The apostle Paul wrote: “… I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.” (Phil. 3:13-16, NLT)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the church cannot afford to get distracted in 2019! We have been charged to “focus on this one thing.” To be spiritual superstars … oops, no. To have our destinies fulfilled … hmm, no again. To feel significant and satisfied in life … um, a no again. We cannot afford to be distracted by even the good things that may come as a by-product of doing the one thing. The one thing we are tasked with is making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) and to do so means that we must be good disciples of Christ ourselves, since disciples follow and imitate those who disciple them. The church must focus on this one thing and let Jesus worry about the rest (in line with Matt. 6:33).

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril


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The Christian Journey – Jan 2019

We’re starting a journey this month … more like continuing a lifelong journey. There are many aspects of the Christian journey. I have worked on and continue to work on the spiritual disciplines: prayer, worship, giving, Bible reading, Scripture memorization, mediation, service, community, etc. While these all are important, we can lose sight of the forest for all the trees. While there is no forest if there are no trees, there is something lost if we fail to recognize what its all about.

I’ve hinted at it already but the whole of the Christian life and journey is about discipleship. The spiritual disciplines are about exercising and growing in our discipleship. The love we express to the Lord and our neighbours is about being a disciple of Christ. The commission that Jesus left us with is about being disciples who make disciples (Matt 28:18-20).

Paul writes to the Colossians: “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” (Col 2:6-7 ESV).

We receive Christ Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. We are supposed to continue walking in Him in the same way we received Him. If a believer only received Him as their Saviour and friend, then they may have difficulty growing as a disciple because they did not receive Him as their Lord. Our minds and hearts more readily receive discipline from our Lord than our brother/friend/saviour.

The plan for Freedom Centre for January and February of 2019 is to examine discipleship—the lifelong journey of a Christian. May it stir our souls and spirits to better be the disciples that Jesus call us to be.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril


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What Are You Giving for Christmas? – Dec. 2018

I was talking with my wife, Betty, today and she asked me about Christmas presents. This is often an important conversation for parents at this time of year. She also desires to know what I want for Christmas (which I usually don’t know). She also needs to tell me what I’ve already bought her for Christmas. 😉 While this is normally what we discuss when it comes to Christmas presents, she wanted to get my thoughts on what Jesus wanted for Christmas.

I’ve thought about this before but not during this season. It struck me that I had not thought about it this year. Has my life become so cluttered / busy / distracted that I’m forgetting what Christians should be focusing on in this season? Just because I am busy, that does not mean that I should lose the focus of Christ at the centre of all of life.

During our last Prayer Summit, I felt led to share a passage of Scripture from Philippians, part of which is: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Phil 2:14-15, ESV) This reminded me of how many people, Christians included, are during this busy season of shopping, and baking, and schoolwork due, and exams and, and, and. Yes, it can be busy, but where is the “peace and goodwill towards mankind?” (Luke 2:14)

I chose the cover art for this month’s bulletin: “Uncluttered.” I appreciate people who assist in the church and share the load. There are too many to name and I don’t want anyone to feel devalued by having some listed and others not. There are so many people involved in ministries that may seem more or less obvious but are no different in importance. Things don’t simply happen on their own but people desire to give Jesus a gift—the gift of returning to Him the love, devotion and service He has given to us.

So, what gift are you giving to Jesus this Christmas? It’s not about money or skills or talents or time or effort. Unclutter yourself from all the things and get back to the heart of the matter. Give Jesus your love and your life. When we have that back in focus, all the other things can be sorted properly and we can actually enjoy Christmas, in this season and year-round.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Pastor Merril


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Magic Dragons – Oct 2018

As I was musing about the upcoming legalization of marijuana for recreational use, my mind drifted to a song that was thought for some time to be linked to it: “Puff, the Magic Dragon.” The co-authors of the song say that it is not about smoking pot but rather a simple children’s fantasy song … and I have no reason to doubt them. According to Wikipedia, as early as 1964 people were making connections between the song and cannabis use. It seemed like a place for a mental springboard for my musing this month (though, again, it was not the intent of the authors of the song).

Puff – it seems we are always looking for an easy answer. It seems more and more people don’t want to bother worrying about or trying to address issues that can be solved with a pill or a puff. The use of drugs and alcohol to combat stress and emotional difficulty has been on the rise in North America. While there are clinical reasons to correct chemical imbalances, people may instead choose numbing and covering their struggles rather than dealing with the anger, strife, fear, etc. As life gets difficult, people can turn to numbing substances to escape reality (one report noted that “one-in-five men in the Russian Federation die due to alcohol-related causes, compared with 6.2 percent of all men globally”).

Magic – it seems to promise more than it delivers. Ok, I am not one of those who don’t believe in going to the doctor or in not using medication (sorry for the double-negative). The Apostle Paul even tells Timothy to drink some wine for medicinal purposes (1 Tim. 5:23). What I mean by “magic” is similar to “puff” in that people can look to pot (or other substances) to somehow be the silver bullet that slays all your problems. The concept of magic is of a supernatural force in action outside of God and this is what I believe many who will smoke marijuana outside of clearly limited medicinal versions (with very little to no THC) engage in to some degree.

Dragon – it seems harmless in the eyes of many but that cute dragon can bite your head off. On a purely anecdotal level, I have smelt more pot being smoked in the last few months than at any time before in my life. Many claim that it doesn’t dull the senses or pose any health risk but even the Canadian government still posts documents about the risks. If there was no impairment, then there would be no need for regulations concerning driving under its influence. Then there is the concern of it being a gateway drug to other substance abuse and the ramifications of that. We are supposed to remain sober-minded lest the dragon get us (1 Pet. 5:8; cf. Rev. 12:9).

The government and people of Canada do not dictate the morality of Christ’s Church. Just because something is legalized does not mean that it is good or appropriate for Christians. If Canada legalized prostitution, the church would not therefore say it was ok to engage in (especially since it’s prohibited in the Bible). The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC, with whom our church is affiliated) stance concerning mood altering drugs and alcohol is to abstain except in the case of medical prescription. Medical prescription in this way is for helping the person to think rightly. Paul wrote that he would not let anything control him (1 Cor. 6:12) and that leaders especially must avoid being addicted to or affected by a mood altering substance (1 Tim. 3:3; Tit. 1:7). While we recognize that church attendees and members may be working towards abstinence from alcohol, cigarettes, or other legal but addictive substances, we will be calling our church leaders to a higher standard. We most certainly caution against the recreational use of marijuana and warn against puffing the magic dragon.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril

 


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It’s Still Good News – Sept 2018

I came across a quote that is supposed to have been made by a nineteenth century evangelist named Rodney Smith: “There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, but most people never read the first four.” This is a call to us to not only read the Bible but also to be read by others. Paul put it this way: “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” (2 Cor. 3:3, NLT) Paul agrees and disagrees with Rodney, as do I.

There is only one gospel, not five. All four of the writings we call the Gospels are a specific type of biographical narrative that has been typed as a gospel. However, each one is titled “The Gospel According to ________.” What this is saying is that the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ is one truth told by four witnesses in our Gospels. Paul is also saying that we are to be the witnesses to the truth of the gospel by how it has affected our lives. Paul even says that there is only one true gospel that should be told. (Gal. 1:6-9)

The truth of God’s grace and its powerful impact upon our lives is something we should always be allowing others to read. The truth of the gospel of God’s grace intersects with our imperfections too. We are not presenting a gospel that cannot reach others but one that truly is good news that can connect with every life, as exemplified in our own.

So, what would you say is the gospel according to you? Is it still good news? Gospel means “good news.” I believe it still is. Let’s get better at both believing it and sharing it.

Journeying with you,

Pastor Merril


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There Was Once a Dream – August 2018

You may be familiar with the movie quote that I allude to in my title. It comes from “Gladiator” where the Caesar tells his general, “There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it – anything more than a whisper and it would vanish.” As I was asking God about what to write this month, this came to mind. There was once a dream that was Freedom Centre. Such a statement can be provocative – eliciting a strong emotional response. Whether you have been at Freedom Centre for long or not, we all become part of something bigger than ourselves with a sense of destiny or direction. We face this in our own lives as we graduate from grade school with a vision or promise of some sort of achievement in life. We all have a dream. Then when the circumstance of life intersects with that dream, we can become discouraged and disillusioned. The second word, disillusioned, is probably a most accurate way of describing it and yet to say so is to also risk losing the dream. The difficulty we face is that we often interpret and extrapolate the dream instead of investigating and exploring the dream. The dream God puts in our hearts often does not come out how we envision it. A good example is to consider the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Jesus. If Jesus had looked and lived as many expected, they would have received Him as their Messiah. We can look back and see how Jesus fulfilled prophecies concerning His being rejected and needing to die for our sins. However, how easily would we have seen it if we were with His disciples at that time. Jesus even told them that He had to die and rise again but they still missed it. Also, consider how visions and prophecies can seem to be speaking of something that happens in an instant or over a short period of time and yet the realization of them can take time and process. I believe there still is a dream in the heart of God for Freedom Centre. I believe there is a dream for your life in Christ. It is not a thing of the past but of the present and future. We may have missed seeing the process that brings a completeness to the dream, but it is still at work. We may not see the valleys between the mountain tops but they are part of the journey. I want to encourage you to press forward in God for the promises of God are “yes” and “amen.” (2 Cor. 1:20) Journeying with you, Pastor Merril


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