The Bible as a Mirror

One of the many things that I love about the Bible is that it interprets our lives prophetically. In fact, I suspect that is one of the reasons that the Bible is both hated and loved. When people read it, they see images of themselves clearly portrayed. It’s no accident that the Bible calls itself a “mirror.” (see James 1:23) So much emphasis is placed in Christian circles on learning the correct methods of Bible interpretation. I wish there was a greater emphasis on how the Bible accurately and thoroughly interprets us.
Pay attention to the images that come to your mind when you read the Bible. It’s one of the ways that the Holy Spirit will reveal truth to you. Truth that will “set you free.” That’s what happened to me a few weeks back when I came across a passage in which Paul describes his true feelings about the church in Thessalonica. I actually blogged about it at the time but feel the need to revisit the text from a different angle.
1 Thessalonians 2:
“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time,
in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire
to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—
but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting
before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.”
Paul said that he was feeling “torn.” Most of us are feeling that way about not being free to gather at the church house to worship our great God. We are feeling “torn” between the science that seems to be telling us one thing and the theology that tells us another. Unfortunately, we are suffering a lot of clashes between the two.
But we pray that it is only “for a short time” as Paul told his church family. We are discovering the phenomena that a relatively short “lockdown” feels much longer than it actually is. But this too shall pass. Patience is a virtue.
It’s helpful for me to acknowledge but not obsess over the fact that we can’t be as physically close to one another as we desire right now. Change your focus to thank God every day that your – “heart connection” – as Paul calls it, remains true and strong as ever. We may be restrained for the time being, but our love for each other is only deepening in the forced separation.
The spiritual community was so strong in Paul’s thinking that Satan himself could not interrupt the love that God’s people have for one another. Nor could Satan’s hindering dull the anticipation of the second coming of Jesus Christ. As a means of encouraging the saints in circumstances that are difficult to bear, he reminds them of the one great event that produces hope and peace for the Christian. This could be one of the greatest benefits to the pandemic. We, the Church, recover the deep conviction that Jesus is returning just as He said, and we will be ready.
Waiting with you, church family,
Pastor Deric

Advent Wreath 2020

I’m honoured to be pastoring a Baptist church that is cordial toward seasonal faith traditions (among many other things!) And one of those traditions is the lighting of the Advent Wreath at Christmas time. As an aside, keep in mind that the lighting of the Advent wreath may be the most universally Christian tradition there is, aside from communion and baptism. We light a specified candle at the beginning of each of the four Sundays of Advent to remind people about the major themes of the Christmas story. And then on Christmas Eve we light the centre white candle that represents the coming of Jesus Christ. Picture the four candles encircling the ONE larger white candle in the middle. The birth of Christ is central to Christianity with hope, peace, love and joy orbiting Him. Much more could be said about the Advent wreath.
So, with our Advent season significantly altered this year, it seems especially fitting that we stop and reflect, even more than in previous years, about the four themes of the Advent wreath.
Hope. The Jews in particular and the world at large languished for the “thrill of hope” that came with the birth of Jesus. He brings hope even in the darkest circumstances. That’s why this past Sunday the benediction from Romans 15:13 was pronounced. It reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Linger on this verse for a few moments. Memorize it and take it into your heart. It will light a candle of hope in your heart that cannot be extinguished, for, as Romans 5:5 promises us “hope never disappoints.”
Peace. Christmas marks the arrival of the “Prince of Peace” who came to bring “peace with God” and “the peace of God” to rule in our hearts and minds. Jesus Himself, called by Paul, “the indescribable gift” gives us peace as a legacy gift. He said in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” One of the hallmarks of the Christmas story is when the angels appear to the shepherds and proclaim, “Peace on earth,” in Luke 2:14.
Joy. What would Christmas be without singing JOY TO THE WORLD (the Lord is come)? The Christmas story is saturated with JOY. So much so that the yet unborn baby John the Baptist reacted with JOY in the womb of his mother Elizabeth upon hearing the voice of Mary, the birth mother of Jesus. The angels announced the birth of Jesus as “good news of great JOY that will be for all the people.” I’ve always loved the word of Isaiah about JOY. He said, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
Love. Christmas is the celebration of God’s love for the world in giving us His Son as the Saviour of the world. He is literally a gift of love. That’s why John said that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” The greatest virtue of all (remember 1 Corinthians 13) explodes in the Christmas story. The God who is love poured His heart out in the Christmas manger.
And then of course, we conclude the tradition of the Advent wreath on Christmas Eve with the “Christ Candle.” The central candle reminds us of the purity and centrality of Jesus in the Advent season. He is the reason for the season.
Church family! Give extra time to think about the four themes of Advent and focus your faith on what they mean in your life this year. Not to sound trite but you be the candle that your family and friends need to see illuminating their lives. Share Jesus’ love and forgiveness with all who will listen.
Pastor Deric