Weekly Devotionals

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 14
June 17, 2020

“Normal: conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected”

Covid19, Black Lives Matter, defunding police, economic melt-downs, businesses closing doors, social distancing, wearing masks. 6 months ago these things would not be considered “normal” by any stretch of the imagination, but they are now our current reality. The longer we live with these things, the more “normal” they will become. Many in our midst lived through other deviant normals such as WWII, the depression, the Cold War, and threats of nuclear war. Each time there were adjustments made – a new normal found. I recall talking to an older woman who said something like, “Honey, you young folks think us old folks don’t like change, but let me tell you we have gone through more change in the past 60yrs than you could ever imagine. I guess we’re just tired of it now.” The memories of the older generation harken back to other times that were “normal” such as one-room schoolhouses, riding a horse to school, finally getting running water, or their first telephone. Imagine a normal that didn’t include a phone or battery-powered watches (remember watches?)!

I will be officiating at a wedding this weekend – many of the wedding plans were thrown out the window once the virus struck. Getting outfits for the groomsmen became a nightmare, reception venues changed, invitations turned into announcements, and managing the challenge of social distancing becomes a headache. (Do I wear a face mask or a shield??) Plans for schooling have changed, plans for vacations are on hold, plans for summer ministries are in flux, planned surgeries and appointments are off track. On top of everything else, we were sad to hear of the sudden and unexpected loss of Chris Newton this past week. Her family and friends will now face the agonizing adjustments of finding a different normal without her and plans that might have been made with her are gone.

The Bible offers us some advice,
James 4:13-15 “Now listen to me, you that say, "Today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money." You don't even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears. What you should say is this: "If the Lord is willing, we will live and do this or that."

“If the Lord wills…” or as I recall hearing it growing up, “Lord willing…..” is a reminder that there is only one person who remains unfazed by all of this. In abnormal times and with constantly changing plans, the one constant we have is the Lord. No matter if we live or die, thrive or barely survive, it is by the Lord’s will that we exist and in the Lord’s hands that we find our meaning and purpose.

To Jesus, His Father’s will meant everything. Seeking His kingdom first will help us align our priorities in proper order and help us to focus on what truly is important. We can stop looking for “normal” and continue to be flexible in our planning because we know our Lord cares for us, we know that we are deeply loved by the Father, and we have a Comforter to guide us safely through this world on to the next when that time comes.

Maybe it is time to get on with it and embrace whatever this reality is trusting the Lord to guide us into His perfect will – to take advantage of this unsettling time in the world and bring hope, truth, and spiritual guidance to those who have been shaken. Some churches are reporting unprecedented numbers of people coming to Christ RIGHT NOW. Let’s stop waiting for “normal” to return and charge forward with the Lord as our banner (Jehovah Nissi) and watch the power of God’s Spirit to redeem the lost around us. The question is will you be a participant or an observer?

Pastor Tom


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 13
June 11, 2020

When church leadership establish a congregational focus for the year, not everyone gets on board with it. Some people are averse to having others set goals for them. Some are content to keep coasting the way they are enjoying their status quo life. Others enjoy a good challenge knowing that their church leadership actually care about their spiritual growth and want to encourage each person to follow the commands of Christ. So, which one are you? Pick one…

  • “I’m too old to change”
  • “I’m too busy to change” 
  • “I don’t see the need to change”
  • “I don’t like people telling me what to do.”
  • “I don’t know what’s going on”
  • “I like the challenge but don’t know where to start”
  • “I have already set goals for myself to grow deeper and to reach out to others” 

This is a simple reminder that these goals are a shortened version of what Christ said are the two greatest COMMANDMENTS from His Father. To love Him with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our strength and all of our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Over the last 3 months, there has been a significant drop in life-group attendance and only a handful of people have been joining us regularly in our weekly prayer times online.

Discipleship, Bible study, and prayer are key components to going DEEPER. They are each clear indicators of our willingness to grow in our dependant relationship with our Father in Heaven. Reading a prepared devotional paragraph is not the same as searching the depths of God’s Word just as saying grace over your food is not sufficient for meaningful conversations with God.

Willow Creek Church, with all its programming and ministries and extensive facilities packed with people each week, came to the conclusion that their people had become overly dependent upon their church to provide spiritual food each week instead of being self-feeders. In other words, when the church is no longer available –will they seek God apart from their pastor or life group leaders praying for them? Will they open their own Bibles and let the Spirit guide them into God’s presence in His living Word, or do they have to have someone else write out spiritual thoughts for them to read apart from the Bible? Are members motivated and competent to feed themselves spiritual food? Going deeper with God in order to reach farther in your circle of influence with the Gospel should be the heart cry for every believer.

To that end, we will be initiating a handful of small groups – ones that major on Spiritual Growth & Accountability, and will be book-based and led by one of our staff or ministry leaders. Some groups will meet in person, others will zoom. Some will meet early in the morning others during the day or in the evening depending on the needs of the group members. Will you take this step to go deeper with God? I hope so. Contact me personally if you are interested in being in an Accountability Spiritual Growth Group and I will help match you up with a leader. What a wonderful journey this could be for you!

Blessings.
Pastor Tom


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 12
June 2, 2020

“I’m still processing [what has happened in America this past week]. My heart has been on a rollercoaster. There will always be racism because we live in a fallen dark world, however the collective Church can be the catalyst for change if we would stand together and put Christ on display. The pulpit has been too silent on incidents such as this, and it’s time for brothers and sisters of all races and denominations to stand up.”
Carl Shack, Jr. Founder and President at Christian Men United

A few years ago I spoke at a Christian Men United conference in Orlando, Florida. The topic was “Bridging the Gap” and the focus was on the gap that remains between Christians in the African American community and Christians in the White community. I guess they thought a Canadian would be a neutral speaker. I made a friend at the conference, the founder of Christian Men United, Carl Shack Jr. After being appalled at the events unfolding among the communities already strained by the coronavirus, with the rioting, protesting, burning, and looting each night for the past 6 nights, I texted Carl asking how he was processing it all, and what I could do. His response is posted above. Then he asked, “Please pray for my heart and also for guiding my 21-year old son through this.” I can’t fathom what a black father must have to say to his son that would never even cross the mind of a white father. Unfortunately, Carl’s experience in this world is very different from mine largely because of the colour of his skin.

The advice theologian Karl Barth gave to ministers of the Word, was to preach using the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. His point was that we are to be founded on the Word of God, but also aware of what was going on in our world around us so that we could pray more effectively. So often we watch the news or read the paper and shake our head at how crazy things are. But I have a sense that this time it is different. There is a visceral desperation among both African Americans and the wider ethnic communities that is new. Many are at the breaking point like never before. Athletes, entertainers, politicians, and students in visible minorities are joined by hundreds and thousands of ordinary people who are tired, maybe even broken-hearted, because things just don’t seem to change when it comes to racist behaviours and especially when it comes from those sworn to serve and protect the people.

The Christian response should be clear:

  • “Love your neighbour as yourself” – even if our neighbour is a different skin colour, a different race, speaks a different language, has a different religion, and eats weird food!
  • “In him there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, or free person. Instead, the Messiah is all and in all. Therefore, as God's chosen ones, holy and loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” (Col 3:11-12) The same Jesus in all of us regardless of race or colour and makes us all family!
  • “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) Self-explanatory.

It is no longer enough to say that I am “colour-blind” when it comes to race, or that “I just love everyone the same”. Talk is empty – I am pretty sure it’s time for action.

  1. We must stand up against injustice, against thuggery towards the minorities.
  2. We must speak up instead of turning a blind eye and not wanting to get involved.
  3. We must look up to God for his heart of compassion and love for anyone and everyone.
  4. We must step up to the plate for Asians, First Nations, and people of colour when no one else will – like the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:31-33). Or, will God’s people cross to the other side of the road….like the priest and Levite?

Ask yourself the questions I ask myself:

  • When was the last time I had a person of a different colour or race in my home?
  • Do my children invite any friends of colour or from other races home to hang out?
  • Do people of other races invite me to their home?

Yes, ALL LIVES MATTER, but not all lives face the same injustice in society. May the people of God demonstrate God’s heart for others – just as happened at Pentecost, just as happened on the cross, just as will happen when Christ returns to bring His people to be with Him!

Grace and peace,
Pastor Tom


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 11
May 26, 2020


“Jesus said, ‘I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18). He is the builder of the Church and He is building it according to a set pattern and for specific purposes; His pattern and His purposes.”
Ralph Howe

Rick Warren in his Purpose Driven Church book suggests that these purposes are Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Mission and that they are derived from the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37–40) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). During government recommended social distancing, as a church, we can still provide Worship online, Discipleship online, Mission through our giving and support of missionaries, and Ministry as we call and provide for the needs of others. But the one thing we just cannot do adequately from a computer screen is Fellowship. A letter from a distant loved one is nice. A phone call from a faraway friend is kind. But a face to face talk, a warm embrace, a hug – cannot be beat!

We have been unable, during this covid19 crisis, to fulfill the purposes of the church. We cannot embrace, touch, smell, or feel the warmth of our friends next to us. One of our church members came by my office this week and said with emotion in his voice, “This is what I miss the most – sitting and talking with my friend.” There is something about actual proximity that we crave as Believers – being with those who we have laughed with, prayed with, served with, and worshipped with. There is a bond that the Spirit of God provides for us to connect with others on a much deeper level than with non-believers. We have a social connection with our other friends, but with fellow believers we have a spiritual connection – one that began when we were born again and one that will last for eternity.

It is not our purposes for the church that really matter; it is Christ’s purposes that matter. It is His church, His body, His bride, His people, His holy nation, His kingdom of priests that He called out from the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous Kingdom of Light. He designed His church to be a living body that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against. I must confess, I am not quite sure what that is talking about. But what I can tell you is that the bond between Christians cannot be broken by any force of nature, any force on earth, or any force in the spiritual realm. That bond will only be broken by believers who walk away from the body, who put pride before forgiveness, who put their ego before humility, their resentment over reconciliation, or who let their hurt hold sway more than their love. Sad how we can break such an unbreakable bond between us and other believers simply by welcoming into our life the very things Christ died to keep out of us. The true church is comprised of overcomers, faithful ones, ones who will not give in to the pressures of the world regardless of the consequences and who by choice put into practice the fruit of the Spirit each day.

It is in this time of “crisis” that we truly find out what our priorities are – whether they are heavenly or earthly, whether they are Christ-centered or self-centered, whether they are focussed on the Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of darkness. Throughout history a good crisis has always had a winnowing effect on the church, where the chaff blew away in the face of danger and the grain stood firm, where the weeds withered and the wheat grew deeper roots. Sometimes the church had to grow smaller in order to have a much larger impact.

It is the purpose of Fellowship to strengthen and encourage one another, to be the support for the weak, to lift up the fallen, and to walk shoulder to shoulder in the face of trials, temptation, and testing. Next week, June 7 our church doors will be open for Fellowship. Call the office now to be one of the first 50 to join together for Fellowship – intentional encouragement, prayer, and support. Bring a lunch and a drink, bring a lawn chair, bring a smile and a good story, and lets Fellowship like never before – 11:30 am-1:30 pm. (Bring a mask please!)

Excited for Fellowship,
Pastor Tom Blackaby


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 10
May 19, 2020

“I asked the daunting question; ‘If my church were to cease to exist today, would anyone notice we were gone? Would anyone even care to know, or even notice that the church is gone as the body of Christ has been so active in the community loving Jesus?’”
― Jonathan Hayashi

Over these past few months, I have grieved over the loss of visitors at our church. When people join us online anonymously they cannot sense our church’s family atmosphere, the welcoming smiles, or the warm greetings our congregation offers visitors. It is difficult to express our warm characteristics and qualities through an online service. It is also challenging to “get our name out there” in the community by only using a computer, but, we are doing what we can.

What I realize is that the goal is not so much us seeing visitors coming to our church building as it is God reaching new people through His people – masked face to masked face. Right now the priority is HIS church (universal) instead of OUR church (local). There is absolutely no reason we cannot see His kingdom grow while our own faith community numbers are flattened by the virus. I rejoice when I hear people speaking of opportunities to pray with neighbours, to advocate for a relationship with God to their co-workers (at a distance), to share their hope in God when the opportunities arise. It is truly the church deployed over the church gathered.

When the missing 12 yr old Jesus was finally found back at the Jerusalem temple after a few days searching, his parents asked why he had not departed with his relatives 3 days ago. He answered, (Luke 2:49) “Why did you look for Me? Do you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” Some translate this as Father’s “house” – a good understanding would be Father’s “concerns”. It would be 18 more years before Christ began His public ministry, but even at a young age, He knew where His priorities were. His relatives didn’t make it a habit of being in the temple. His parents had no ongoing connection to the temple. But Jesus did – it was where His Father made His earthly presence reside. It was also where Jesus could debate and dialogue with teachers of theology at a level he could not do at home in Nazareth.

Paul said, (Galatians 2:20) “I no longer live, but the Messiah lives in me, and the life that I am now living in this body I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” It is the Messiah in us that wants to set our Kingdom priorities in order. It is the Messiah in us that still wants to be about His Father’s concerns through us. No matter if the “church” gets to gather together or not, no matter if we are at the office, the grocery store, or talking to our neighbour over the fence in our backyard, the essence of the church is still to be the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). His body is not meant to be a couch-potato body, or a junk food fed body, or a body isolated from all others locked away in fear. Being born again means letting the life of Christ live and thrive through us through the indwelling Spirit He sent to every believer as our ever-present companion.

We will meet together soon enough, but in the meantime, the challenge is to put into practice all those things you have been taught in Sunday school, that you discussed in Life Group, that you heard explained and applied during the hundreds if not thousands of sermons you have heard over the years. Will you “be about your Father’s concerns” in the meantime? When we come together again, will you have anyone that you will be bringing with you? Something for us all to think about.

In His service – Pastor Tom Blackaby 


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 9
May 12, 2020

"God has not called us to be easily fooled.
Gullibility is not a Christian virtue."
Ed Stetzer

No doubt you have heard the reports that the coronavirus is: an accidental leakage from a Chinese lab, bio-warfare from US troops, anti-Israeli / anti-Semitic / anti-Muslim, bioengineered, Chinese/US biological weapon, hospital ship attack, population control scheme or a spy operation gone bad. These are called conspiracy theories because they have been debunked, proven false, and are illogical if not absurd. Such “theories” prey on people’s fears, suspicions, and ignorance. Yet people still want to believe them.

Sadly, these falsehoods are pushed by Christians as much as anybody and it leaves them looking gullible and naive. Ed Stetzer points out that as God’s people we are not to bear false witness (tell lies) and sharing conspiracy theories hurts our witness when we claim we are followers of Jesus, who is truth (CT Apr 15, 2020). Innocent lives have been ruined and people have committed suicide due to the overwhelming harassment and threats of “theorists”. So, who CAN you believe?

Certainly not tabloids, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

One of the things I have prayed for over the years is wisdom and discernment. These are crucial when counseling people or in deciding whether or not someone is trustworthy and telling the truth.

King David said, “The LORD looks down from the heavens upon humanity to see if anyone shows discernment as he searches for God” (Psalm 14:2).

David’s son, King Solomon wrote to his son, “My son, do not let wisdom leave your sight. Carefully observe sound judgment and discernment”, (Prov 3:21), and...

..."Wisdom characterizes the speech of the discerning, but the rod is for the backs of those lacking discernment” (Prov 10:13).

One of the stars of the Old Testament, the prophet Daniel, is described by his king as one in which the “spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, discernment, and extraordinary wisdom” Dan 5:14.

There are times when it is nearly impossible to discern the truth of a situation, and people are getting scammed every day by evil, heartless people because they can’t see the lie. Paul fortifies believers with his prayer, “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; so that ye may approve the things that are excellent” (Php 1:9-10).

I am not sure why it is we are so quick to think evil of people, or suspect our leaders of perpetrating an injustice upon us, or believe any made-up thing people think they can get away with. Maybe it is human nature.

My prayer is that Christ’s nature in me will overcome my human nature and that His Spirit of wisdom and discernment will guide my mind and heart as I navigate news sites, magazines, websites, and the like. I want to be more kingdom-minded and less worldly focussed in my thinking and in my reactions. I am concerned about the impression I leave with people too. Do they get more a sense of trust, confidence, and respect for God or do they get politician-bashing, suspicions, and fear-mongering from me? Hopefully, it is the former.

Thoughtfully,
Pastor Tom Blackaby


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 8
May 5, 2020

“This lockdown has enough me time to help you to get your life together. Refuse to come out of this lockdown being the same.”
― De philosopher DJ Kyos

Winston Churchill is supposed to have said, “Never waste a good crisis”. Whether he said it or not, Churchill was an astute politician, and some would say, philosopher. He had a very unique perspective on things and will forever be remembered as the Prime Minister who inspired his nation leading it through the worst crisis they had ever faced. Few of us will have statues made of us or schools and streets named after us like Churchill. But facing a crisis with a resolute determination to come through it stronger and more unified is fodder for the legends future generations recount. A crisis forces people out of their comfort zone into uncharted territory. A crisis is a time of re-evaluation, of reflection and of setting one’s priorities in order. Have you done that? Have you taken time to really evaluate what is most important in your life? Are you where you thought you would be at this point in your life? What changes are in order?

Many successful businesses began after a person was fired from their job. “it was the act of being made redundant that forced the change in approach – they needed a push. Living in the comfort zone can lead to an individual operating below their potential.” [Andrew Low – Real Business]. The fact is, most of us prefer the status quo, the known, the routine, or the expected day to day activities. Many people like to coast along until retirement and live out their lives according to long-established traditions. The problem is that too often life throws a wrench in our plans. A virus, a diagnosis, a crisis, an economic crash, a war, or a conniving business partner changes everything. We are forced to find a plan B or even a plan C.

A crisis has the ability to force us to look at our life to see if what we have been chasing after is actually worthwhile or if we have been on the wrong road all this time, chasing the wrong dreams or goals. How should we be connecting with those who are important to us? How should we be spending our discretionary time? Are we putting all of our efforts into the right things, or should we really be going down a different path, a different vocation, a different future? Will the legacy we leave be worthy following, or will it be cashed in quickly by the next generation? Don’t waste a good crisis.

These are unprecedented times and they call for an unprecedented evaluation of our life, our goals, our direction, and our future. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “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”, but then He follows it with, 12 “’Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”

Maybe you have come to realize the importance of consulting God when it comes to planning your future, setting your priorities, and establishing your goals. Don’t waste a good crisis. Some things shouldn’t go back to “normal” ever again. “I will be found by you” says the Lord, “when you seek me with all of your heart.” Maybe it’s time to do more seeking.

Prayerfully,
Pastor Tom


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 7
April 28, 2020

“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.”
Mark Twain

"I get so angry when you do that!”, “I can’t believe you didn’t remember to….”, “Why don’t you listen?” “Just forget it, I’ll do it myself” “Sometimes I wonder why I married you…”

How’s it going with you, in your home, in your marriage, with your kids? One of the consequences of the added stress these covid19 virus restrictions bring is anger in its many forms. Outbursts, silent treatment, passive aggressive, accusations, demeaning statements, sarcasm, may make YOU feel better, but they also make the situation WORSE. I’ve heard that a cornered animal will always attack in order to defend itself, and these isolations, fears, cautions, distancing, and inconveniences all can add up to feeling cornered. So we too often lash out at those closest to us. So, take a deep breath. Count to 10. Walk away and ask if hurting the ones who love you most is the best course of action. EVERYONE is stressed. NO ONE is unaffected by this – from the isolated seniors to the children kept from their playground.

Reflecting on what it looks like to be Spirit-led, or to walk in the Spirit may help. The evidence of which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Ephes 5:22-23). I have no business pointing fingers at others as I too feel the stress of the moment and can easily give in to outbursts of anger and go on the attack. God help me. Help me reflect the character of Christ. Help me love instead of accuse. Help me show patience rather than hostility, gentleness instead of harshness, kindness instead of disregard, peace instead of irritability, and self-control instead of lashing out. We are in this world, but not of this world any longer. We have a kingdom that cannot be shaken, a God who is unfazed, a Lord who governs all, and an ever-present Spirit in us. The Scripture offers us guidance with our anger:

James 1:19 “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”1Timothy 2:8 “Therefore, I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without being angry or argumentative.”Ephesians 4:26 "Be angry, yet do not sin." Do not let the sun set while you are still angry.

A final thought on anger attributed to Aristotle – “Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”

Grace and Peace, Pastor Tom


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 6
April 21, 2020

Corporate worship will always be a rallying point, but the gospel mission of the body will require all of the body. We are interdependent. There are no spare parts. No spectators. No unimportant days. No second-class callings.
(Jeff Christopherson)

Well, here we are still: not facing a crisis, not ending a crisis either, just “stuck in the middle with you”. The initial panic is gone, and now we plan our days trying to judge which store will have the product we need, or the shortest lines, and the widest parking spaces so we don’t touch anybody’s anything. We are being lulled into a new normal – one where we must “get on with it” or, as the Brits say, “Carry on and keep calm”. We realize some things will change forever, hopefully for the better: better awareness and preparation for caring for our vulnerable seniors, the incarcerated, the homeless, and the technologically challenged! Better national self-sufficiency and less dependence on other countries for essentials. Better rationing of supplies at the grocery store!

We are past just cocooning to weather through a difficult time, and now we must cautiously step out, to live, and even get involved. Fear still keeps some people in the shadows, but others are walking into the light, talking to people they may never have noticed before, planning random acts of kindness to lift the spirits of those around them. My family have done a few things to put smiles on people’s faces, and others have done the same for us. We have realized that we are not enduring bombings by terrorist, or secretly arrested and hidden away for political reasons nor are we huddling with thousands of others in refugee camps, or without medical care or police protection should we need it. We have access to plenty of food, gasoline, medical attention, electricity, clean running water, telephones, online connections and a government who seems to genuinely care about its people. It seems like the majority of Canadians will come through this relatively unscathed and mostly just inconvenienced. Some will be dealt a far greater blow.

Maybe you too have found a renewed appreciation for one another, for family – particularly those who live away from us – for good friends – and for our church. We’ve realized just how interdependent we are and how much we long to sing together, laugh together, have coffee and snacks together, and to share life together. There are no spare parts in the body of Christ and no spectators either. It was not God who put a spirit of timidity or fear in us, but He does promise to be our strength, our provider, our comfort, and our ever-present help in times of trouble. May our families, neighbours and fellow citizens see God’s people as the backbone of our society and as those who will serve others before ourselves. I say step out, reach out, and shout out to let people know we have a Great God and the wise thing to do is turn to Him for answers, for help, for comfort and for inner peace.

We acknowledge the losses people are facing, financial, social, freedom, and personal. A middle-aged family friend of mine will be slipping into eternity shortly due to brain cancer. She lived a good life and one that made a difference in the lives of many young people over the years. She leaves behind a husband, two children and several grandchildren, but also a legacy of faithfulness to her Lord. No spare parts in God’s body – no spectators either.This week we have watched in stunned silence a shocking, senseless, barbaric act of violence on the other side of our country – the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. The irony was that he was dressed as a person who has sworn to protect our people. Canada needs hope more now than ever. No spare parts in God’s body – no spectators either. Now is the time for God’s people to make a difference. What will you say? What will you do?

Grace and peace
Pastor Tom Blackaby


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 5
April 14, 2020

"The Season has shifted so I let go of what I am used to and walk bravely into the unknown because I know God is right beside me with each step”
(A Modern Day Ruth)

At the start of 2020 God impressed upon several of our church leaders that this would be a special year, a significant year, maybe even the best year in years for our church. I am still holding on to that thought. The “season” has definitely changed, and we can no longer depend on what we were used to anymore. The neighbourhood is changing, the congregation is changing, society is changing and we are in the epicenter of unprecedented changes in our economy, our workplaces, our schools, our shopping – even where we can go outside has changed – for a season.

Also, at the beginning of the year we presented the theme “Going Deeper, Reaching Wider” written on the lenses of a pair of glasses. Could it be that God is truly preparing us for a time of significance? Could it be that we are to be searching the depths of his wisdom and knowledge at this staying-at-home time in our life? Could it be that there is a God-ordained time of quiet solitude and a bewilderment that will only be resolved in His presence to equip us for what is around the corner?

Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

I sense that self-isolation and social-distancing may be our call to sidle up to Jesus, the One who gave us His glory in order that the world may know Him through us. We need to be searching out the depths of His wisdom and knowledge right now – to take advantage of this unique moment in history. Jesus prayed,

John 17:20-26 (edited) “I pray also for those who will believe in me…I have given them the glory that you gave me…to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me...I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Seasons always bring some kind of change. Some hate change; others see change as a new opportunity. Some changes are almost imperceptible, other changes whack us over the head! What are you doing with the glory Jesus gave you? How will you use it in these unsettling times? People need to know at this time it is crucial to look past their present circumstances and look to the One who loves them and who has been beside them with each step they take.

Watch this week for opportunities to use the glory Christ gave you for His purposes. Remember, Christ is not only praying for you, but He is in you, cheering you on, guiding your steps, and making available to you His unfathomable wisdom and knowledge. Ask Him to show you in whose life He is working around you and how you can be gloriously useful in His hands and for His purposes. Go deep with Him and He will reach others through you.

Galatians 2:20 “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

TWB 2020


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 4
April 7, 2020 

“I realized that all my life, my values were based upon typical middle-class American values: hard work, doing good, living well, owning things, following the rules & being the best I can be… but God clearly says, ‘those are not MY values. I value justice, mercy, and humility.'”
John Green

Too often we impose our values upon God as though He needs our perspective, our wisdom, our creativity, and our strength. God does not. God needs our attention. God wants our Spirit-guided obedience. Rick Warren says, “God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible.” How is your character doing? Are their cracks in your armour or is your character holding up well?

David writes, (Psalm 123:2) “Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.”

Waiting upon the Lord for His perspective, His guidance, and His timing should be the primary activity of His people. Oswald Chambers, an army chaplain and pastor once preached, "Shut out every consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only- My Utmost for His Highest", which became the title of his immensely popular devotional book. Chamber’s desire, in the midst of false personal accusations, in the midst of serving in the British army in Egypt, in the midst of sickness leading ultimately to his death, was to live a life giving his utmost for his Master and Lord.

If in the midst of the annoyances of constant handwashing, social distancing, every entertainment venue closed, isolation, and hit-and-miss grocery shopping, you can stop for a moment to engage in a heart-felt conversation with God, He may reveal to you in His mercy, what He sees going on around you. When He does that, consider it an invitation to join in with what He wants to accomplish in the midst of this crisis. Few understand the constant annoyances and attacks Christ endured while on earth, yet He was mightily used by His Father. He, as our elder brother, set the example that we should walk in His steps. In the midst of it all, keep your eyes on Him, the author and perfector of our faith, and you will see His glory revealed in and through you.

Heavy-hearted but hopeful,
Pastor Tom Blackaby


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 3
March 31, 2020

When Frank Laubach wrote his book: Prayer the Mightiest Force in the Word: Thoughts for an Atomic Age, the world was still reeling from the throes of war. He writes:

"Prayer is likely too undervalued by all but wise people because it is so silent and so secret. We are often deceived into thinking that noise is more important than silence. War sounds far more important than the noiseless growing of a crop of wheat, yet the silent wheat feeds millions, while war destroys them. Nobody but God knows how often prayers have changed the course of history. Many a man who prayed received no credit excepting in heaven. We are tempted to turn from prayer to something more noisy like speeches or guns, because our motives are mixed. We are interested in the making of a better world of course, but we also want people to give us credit for what we have done."

Secret prayer for others all during the day is an acid test of our unselfishness. Our little selves must fade out, leavening a self-forgetting channel, through which God's warmth flows unhindered in lovely unending prayer. The highest form of communion is not asking God for things for ourselves, but letting Him flow down through us out over the world–in endless benediction. In the old Hebrew story, Sodom needed only ten good men to be saved. Now the world needs ten million. Anybody Christian enough to have read this far must be on that ten million or there will not be enough to save our age.”

Right now it seems all we can do is pray for one another, but that has been the most important thing all along that we can do for one another. I have heard recently, “This must be happening for a reason”, “I wonder what God is trying to tell us”, “Maybe God is using this to wake people up to their lack of control, and remind us that He alone is in control”. What God is up to is up to Him. Prayer is where we find out what our role is to be. Right now, there is loads more time to pray than ever before – with our family, while we go for a walk, for our relatives, our church family, and others.

You CAN make a difference:
* Pray safety and peace for those who are locked in care facilities unable to see their family, and for families who are prevented from seeing their loved ones.
* Pray protection for the millions of poor people who see no way to survive this, for incarcerated people who can’t be isolated, for military people trapped on ships, for front-line workers who are scared to do their job or are tired and overwhelmed.

Smile more, be more kind, and patient and gracious towards others – and remember whose we are. He is still in control, He is still Master, and He is still gracious to all who call upon his name.

“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
2 Timothy 1:7

Sincerely,
Pastor Tom Blackaby


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 2
March 24, 2020

“During the fourth century, a deadly plague struck the city of Caesarea, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the Roman Empire. Panic ensued, and people fled the city. But one group didn’t panic or flee. The Christians intentionally stayed. Eusebius, the Church historian of that period, notes, “All day long some of them [Christians] tended to the dying and to their burial, countless numbers with no one to care for them. Others gathered together from all parts of the city a multitude of those withered from famine and distributed bread to them.” Years later, the Roman Emperor Julian bemoaned the fact that Christians handled themselves so much better than his own pagan priests and their adherents did.”

Similar reports came from China after a major earthquake where Christians were one of the few groups helping rescue trapped neighbours from the rubble. Christians serve a higher purpose, a nobler cause, a masterplan led by a risen Saviour.

Hope. In times of crisis, people are more apt to talk about life and death issues and concerns they have with family and future. Christians should always be ready to share the hope they have in Christ and His care for His people.

Stewardship. Make the best use of your time if you have to be quarantined. Get out your Bible or some Christian classics that remind you of God’s sovereignty and His plan to redeem a lost world. Write some letters of encouragement, connect with relatives and friends you haven’t heard from in a while, see if any of your neighbours need any help.

Pray. Pray for medical professionals who must regularly come face to face with this virus as do drug store employees and grocery store workers. Be kind to one another and realize some people are not handling this well at all and are emotionally on the edge. Ask God to show you how you and your family can make a positive impact on those around you.

Connect. It is easy to cocoon yourself and your family in survival mode, but in doing so you become unavailable as God’s ambassador of hope and grace to others. Phone, write, text, Facetime – connect with others who are also as concerned as you are and encourage one another. Maybe reconnect with someone God has put on your mind- people are always more spiritually open in times of crisis.

Reach Out. Remember your pastors and church leaders stand ready to chat, pray, talk, laugh, support you any way we can. Reach out to us - even encourage your teenagers or children to talk with one of us if they are particularly concerned. Sometimes children get lost in the details of life, but they are important to us too!

“If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news, you will save it.”
Mark 8:35

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Tom Blackaby


 

Pastor's Perspective // CV19 Week 1
March 17, 2020

Dear Brookswood Church Family

The events surrounding this Covid-19 virus may well define this generation for years to come; it will bring out both the best and the worst in people as we figure out how to take care of our own families while taking care of those in need around us. While the vast majority of people will be inconvenienced by the economic and social impact of the virus, others will face far more serious consequences to their livelihoods and potentially serious impact to their health.

As Christians we remember we serve a great God; One who loves us and is ever-present in our time of need. The Bible implores us 1) not to worry, 2) help where we can, 3) trust in the Lord, 4) have a long term view of things. We are not immune to what happens in society nor are we above being impacted by the same things as our neighbours. The bottom line is, we are a church FAMILY that will step up and care for each other as needed.

As we are not physically meeting together, but still want to encourage one another in the Lord, here are some initiatives you can expect to see in the coming days from your church:

1. We will provide WEEKLY SERMONS. Sermons will come via email attachment each week for you to read  with your family that will include study questions, items for prayer, and ways to be involved. We will also attempt to record weekly messages you can view and listen to online as we determine the best way to provide it. – interestingly enough, Cal Netterfield is scheduled to preach on “Church as Family” this week!
2. We still have a PRAYER CHAIN to lift your needs to the Lord.
3. We will regularly send you some FAMILY ACTIVITY RESOURCES that can be done with kids at home
4. We will endeavour to make REGULAR PHONE CALLS through the directory checking on you and your family with a special focus on the most vulnerable. – (Shepherding & Care Ministry)
5. We will collect names of community people who offer to help and matching them up with those who have needs (driving, food, medications, etc.)
6. We will accept any and all suggestions for how we can serve our church family better and make a difference in our community. (Lead Team chairman)
7. We will trust our government leaders and health care professionals to do their best to care for Canadians and we will cooperate with their recommendations - but our ultimate trust is in the Lord.

Please know that your Lead Team and staff are always available to talk on the phone (new directories available – office@brookswoodbaptist.com (mailto:office@brookswoodbaptist.com) ). This is a time for each person to step up and connect with others in your life group, in your circle of friends, with shuts ins, and neighbours. It is a time to show faith more than fear and peace more than panic.

Grace and peace to you and your family.

Pastor Tom Blackaby