From the pastor, 2017 - 2018

oct   ·   nov   ·   dec - jan


    God Knows   (September 2017)

    Psalm 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God. (NIV)

    Do you know what I just read on the Internet? Did you see the video of what just happened...? Do you know what we're watching on TV right now?...

    We live in a world in which technology has brought the world to us. News of all sorts -- and the more dramatic, supposedly the more important, or at least the more urgent -- is accessible to our fingers, our eyeballs, and our brains, instantly and incessantly. Dramatic, sensational news, especially in audio and video formats, claims our attention every minute of every day.

    We seem to be unable to turn it off, and the effects often feed restlessness, uncertainty, and fear. Enough already! But what can we do to restore order? Or at least find peace and strength to cope? Psalm 46 is a great place to start.

    "God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging... Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall... The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress... Come and see the works of the Lord... Be still, and know that I am God." (Psalm 46, selected verses)

    We have heard and watched this summer of fires in British Columbia and a hurricane accompanied by torrential rain and flooding in Texas, to say nothing of acts of terrorism and the wars that continue to shock, destroy, and impair life for so many throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. It is good to be reminded that the psalmist in Psalm 46 had in his mind’s eye mountains falling into the ocean, desolations wrought upon the earth, and wars raging to earth’s ends. In such vivid and terrible circumstances he is led by the Holy Spirit to affirm: "The Lord Almighty is with us." The psalmist was a person of faith who knew this God and was reminding himself and all who would know that God is God, and God knows.

    There is no news that is news to God. There is no news that is new to God. God knows.When we know and remember that God knows, we will be able to deal with the "news" around us much better. First of all, although it may be "news" to us, we are not the first to know, and we need not be the first to share it. Let us remember that much "news" is not worth telling, or repeating. Second, let us ponder with gratitude that God cannot be "shocked" by what may shock us or others. If we ask God to fill us with the Holy Spirit -- the same Spirit who inspired the psalmist in Psalm 46 to write, "Be still, and know that I am God." -- then the peace and the strength which the psalmist knew can and will be ours too.

    Jesus was often confronted both by his disciples and others attempting to bring to his attention some news or other about people or events that were disturbing or troubling. Jesus was unperturbed at such news. Even when the disciples were afraid of drowning in a great storm, Jesus slept peacefully, and upon being awakened, shared that peace with them as he quieted the winds.

    Even and especially in the midst of a world in chaos, Christians need not fear and shall not be moved. Our peace and calm are examples to share with others who are searching for reassurance and equilibrium and courage and strength, to make sense of a world incessantly in motion and so often bobbing into chaos. Let us, by our peacefilled presence, show and share the presence of Jesus with those around us. Paul exhorts us: "Let the peace of Christ rule your hearts." (Colossians 3:15, NIV)

      Your pastor, in peace and stillness, because I know God knows,

        James T. Hurd

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    Who or What?   (October 2017)

    Proverbs 23: 7 - "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he." (KJV)

    On a very warm [read “hot”] late September evening, I was standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, wearing a Tshirt. The Tshirt, in relatively small letters, had the name “Gracefield Christian Camp and Retreat Centre" written on it, along with the camp logo. I wasn’t really intending to advertise or call attention to the camp, but had grabbed the lightest, coolest shirt I could find, before making a very fast trip across the street to pick up a couple of ingredients needed to complete cooking supper. I was focused on the “what” of my trip: I needed onions to make spaghetti sauce, and mushrooms would go well, too.

    The cashier was a young man, very pleasant and courteous, and after greeting me, immediately remarked, “Gracefield — my best friend worked there!” The conversation immediately moved to identify his friend, whom I knew, and went on to talk about how we each knew this friend. Clearly, in a city of million people, we are not so distant from one another as one might think.

    What struck me upon reflection, though, is that for this young man, the focus was not on the “what” — but on the “who”. His association of Gracefield was with a person, not a place. Even though he noticed the “what” (my shirt identifying a place), he wanted to focus on the “who” (his best friend).

    Reflecting on this encounter (after my cooking and eating were finished), I was motivated to do a little Bible study. A search for the word “what” in the NIV translation turned up some 2,291 instances — but a search for the word “who” in the same translation turned up 4,269 instances. Almost twice as many verses focus on the “who” as focus on the “what”. What might this mean? Who is trying to get (and keep) our attention?

    Where is our focus? As a pastor, I am called to minister to people — the “who”. Yet in setting a daily agenda, so often my focus is all too easily fixed on the tasks at hand — the “what”. I am challenged, though, both by the unexpected example of the task-oriented cashier (who was very efficient) but who focused on the “who”, and by the priorities of Scripture (whose principal author, the Holy Spirit, speaks of the “who” twice as often as the “what”). Is my focus on the “who” rather than the “what”?

    Some things — and some people — get lost in translation. The NIV for Proverbs 23:7 reads, in part, “ … he is the kind of man who is always thinking about the cost …” which rightly relates what the original says to the context. Yet the old KJV translates the verse, in part “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he …” In fact, the verb “to be” is not expressed in the original Hebrew, so it is not wrong to read the verse this way: “As he thinks … so he …” In modern English, we might say, “As one thinks, so one is.”

    Jesus went on to teach that rather than what goes into the mouth, it is what comes out of the mouth — and the heart — that makes one unclean. What we think has a direct impact on what we say and do.

    If we are always thinking about the “what”, we will more likely talk about and act upon things — and be focused on agenda items, and tasks. If, however, we devote our thoughts to the “who”, we will more likely be focused on the people around us — those whom we are called to serve and love in Jesus’ name.

    Let us ponder the apparent two-to-one ratio in Scripture. The Spirit seems to speak of the “who” — the people, twice as much as the “what” — the things. With God’s gracious help, let us order our thoughts, our prayers, and our lives accordingly.

      Your pastor, with a heart for whom Jesus lived and died and lives still,

        James T. Hurd

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    Puzzles?   (November 2017)

    Jigsaw puzzles can be fun to put together. Children often learn the concept of shape by piecing together simple puzzles of two or three wooden pieces, and then progress to puzzles involving a dozen pieces, and thereafter more complicated ones, including some with several hundred pieces. Adults, especially those retired, sometimes enjoy the challenge of recreating a picture puzzle with a thousand or more pieces.

    In admiring one of those larger puzzles recently, I was struck by how many of the pieces were very similar in colour. The central feature was a pair of very colourful loons in flight, but the background included large expanses of both sky and water, and it was quite beyond me how all those tiny and very similar (both in colour and shape) pieces could ever be sorted out and fitted back together correctly. Yet the finished result was a beautiful scenic landscape.

    Making sense of the puzzle of our lives is somewhat similar to solving a complicated jigsaw puzzle. There are a few bold events that stand out, but there are a great many ordinary days that can seem all-toofamiliar, similar, and tedious. Lost in the middle of them, we find it hard to figure out what they represent, or how they fit together in the larger framework. Sometimes the big events seem too big, and we question what else is left. Yet when all the pieces are put together, the result is that we discover that all the parts really do fit together, and do so in a way that contributes toward the creation of a beautiful whole.

    We are reminded by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (NIV) As we move through the days and years of our lives, we only know in part how things fit together. One day, though, the puzzle will be complete, and the whole canvas will display a beautiful picture that makes sense.We will be able to see how each piece — each event — fits with all the others, and we will realize fully that all the parts what we perhaps thought to be ordinary or “boring” each had its contribution to make to a meaningful and beautiful whole. The big events will be set in their proper perspective.

    The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God is not a haphazard puzzle-designer.

    Jeremiah 29:11 - “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

    In the midst of trying to put together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, we are greatly helped by having a picture of the completed puzzle as a guide to assist us. Although this side of heaven we do not have such a picture to make sense of the puzzle of our lives, we do have the promises of God in Psalm 139 who has numbered our days according to His infinite wisdom.

    We also have the affirmation of Paul in his letter to the Romans that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)

    As we have opportunity to admire puzzles put together, let us remember and be encouraged by God’s handiwork, yet unfinished, as He weaves the tapestry of our lives, and of our life joined together in Jesus Christ, in God’s infinite wisdom and to His eternal praise. One day, the result will be complete, and all who are part of the fabric of His church will see clearly, and admire the whole.

    In Christ, grateful for puzzles solved and those yet to be,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    A sign?   (December 2017 - January 2018)

    Luke 2:12 “ This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

    Signs are markers.When travelling, I look for signs. I can read a map, and I have even followed a GPS on occasion, but maps sometimes are outdated and GPS gadgets have been known to lead people astray (bad data in, bad data out)! I prefer a sign that is immediately present and visible. Usually such signs confirm that I am where I think I am (or prove to me that I am definitely not where I want to be). Signs help us to get our bearings and, when we approach our destination, to have confidence that we are in the right place.

    Long ago, certain shepherds travelled around the countryside near Bethlehem, tending sheep. A messenger from God appeared, and announced to the frightened shepherds some news — very good news, but most likely confusing news. The good news was that “a Saviour”, a longhoped for Redeemer and Ruler, had been born. Confusion, though, was quite possible, in that the Saviour was not appearing in the form of a mighty conquering sovereign, but as a little child — a newborn baby. Clearly, the news was “breaking news”, but it would be a developing story. All the facts were not yet out.

    The messenger, however, told the shepherds to expect and look for a sign: “a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”. Now when the shepherds travelled into Bethlehem to follow up, they knew what to look for: a baby wrapped in cloths in a manger. Animal feeding troughs were not usual beds for babies, and so the sign for which the shepherds would be looking when they arrived in Bethlehem would be distinctive: a manger, occupied by a wrapped-up baby.

    Luke is careful to tell us (in verse 16) that when the shepherds arrived, they found the baby “who was lying in the manger”. The sign was very much part of the discovery, and confirmed for the shepherds that they were in the right place, and in the presence of the promised Saviour.

    Today, many people are looking for all sorts of signs. Some want to know what the weather will be like; some want to know whether it is a good time to invest in an opportunity; some want to know if a job or position open is right for them; others want to know if they have met the “right” person to be partner or spouse. Still others want a sign that God is really worthy of trust.

    The celebration of Christmas offers an opportunity to remember that God gave the shepherds a sign, and that sign proved to confirm to them that they had heard rightly the good news — news that was true — and news that was to be trusted, and acted upon. Not only did the shepherds travel until they came to the sign, but thereafter they “spread the word” (verse 17) about the child, and they praised God for His faithfulness and the gift of Jesus as the Saviour of the world.

    Ancient signs recorded in the Bible still point to everlasting realities. God is present through the Holy Spirit and at work in the world and in the lives of ordinary people travelling through the world in our time. Let us learn the signs, follow them, and rejoice when we find confirmation that we are in the presence of our Saviour, and invite others to discover the signs too.

      Your pastor, rejoicing in the sign of God’s presence and the hope rooted in Jesus Christ

        James T. Hurd

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