Do You Mind if I Boast?

Boasting in Faith

I want to “boast” in three things that are building my faith during these trying days.  For those tempted to think that the Bible only warns about the dangers of “boasting” (and it does!) please remember that there are plenty of references to boasting in the good gifts of God, knowing full well that every perfect gift comes from above, from Him.  I challenge you to check your Bible concordance and follow this theme in the New Testament.
1.  Do you mind if I boast about you, my church family?

I’m doing so with all the authority of the Bible and church history behind me.  Listen to the “boasting”  of the apostle Paul,   “But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavoured 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.”  (1Thess. 2:17-20)

Simply put, YOU have already shown yourself to be the caring, giving and faithful family of God that I have experienced for the last 14 years.  As many of you know, we created an online resource for people to both ask and offer to help wherever needed.  I teared up as I reviewed that list this morning.  The resource is new, so the list isn’t populated as I know it will be, but it does already represent the sacrificial and selfless kind of church family that would make any pastor’s heart explode.  I’m so thankful for you.  My faith is bolstered by you, our City Centre church family.

2.  Do you mind if I boast about your church staff?

Since the coronavirus outbreak we start the week with a Monday morning ZOOM staff meeting.  Staff meetings are always a good time for me to see first-hand how blessed we are as a church family to have these hardworking, dedicated and loving people guiding our ministry efforts.  Yesterday’s meeting was incredibly encouraging for me as pastor.  The staff are spiritually minded, passionate and hard working.  They are creating new ways to reach out to you to carry on their mission of “making disciples”.   This forced isolation has highlighted that they are one of our greatest resources.  The building is empty but they are hard at work keeping the wheels of ministry turning for the glory of God. 

And yes, Paul boasted in both the churches of Christ and his fellow workers in 2 Corinthians 8:23-24 (ESV) “As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker for your benefit. And as for our brothers, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ.  So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.”

3. Do you mind if I boast in the Gospel?

Above all, remember Galatians 6:14 (ESV) “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” 

During these trying times Christians are discovering that nothing holds a person up like the Gospel.  The world is rocking with instability. “Men’s hearts are failing them because of fear.”  But the Gospel ground on which we stand is steady, strong and stable as never before.  Our trust in Christ gives us peace.  We have a strong hope that does not disappoint. As my daughter said to me recently “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have hope.”  She’s right.  We have been “born again into a living hope” (1Peter 1).  Christians face the same burdens as everyone else EXCEPT that we have hope beyond this present crisis.  We know the Great Shepherd Himself is watching over us, protecting us and strengthening us. 

JUST TO ENCOURAGE YOU today.  Remember that you are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” in your church family, all of whom are praying for one another.  Remember that we, your City Centre Church family ministry team, are watching over you by prayer and practical ministry.  BUT ABOVE ALL lean into the Gospel as never before.  The ground on which you faith stands is solid rock. 

SHALOM loved ones!

Pastor Deric

Flatten the Curve

We’ve all become uncomfortably familiar with the goal of the public health guidelines for self-isolating: “flatten the curve.”  This effective metaphor for decreasing the spread of the dreaded coronavirus reminds us that we all need to practise safe distancing.  The science is quite simple, stop the spread of the virus by limiting individual contact.  For the most part it seems that the general population are now cooperating with the message (at least here in Mississauga). 

There is another curve that is needs to be flattened and leveled.    

A recent study by CIGNA carried the following headline:  STUDY REVEALS LONELINESS AT EPIDEMIC LEVELS IN AMERICA.  (BLOOMFIELD, Conn) 01 May, 2018 – Today, global health service company Cigna (NYSE: CI) released results from a national survey exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States. The survey of more than 20,000 U.S. adults ages 18 years and older revealed some alarming findings:

  • Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46%) or left out (47%).
  • One in four Americans (27%) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.
  • Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43%) and that they are isolated from others (43%).
  • One in five people report they rarely or never feel close to people (20%) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18%).
  • Only around half of Americans (53%) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.
  • Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations

In a May 2019 report Forbes magazine carried similar statistics for other nations.  For instance,  in a nationwide survey released in October from the BBC, a third of Britons said that they often or very often feel lonely.  Nearly half of Britons over 65 consider the television or a pet their main source of company. In Japan, there are more than half a million people under 40 who haven’t left their house or interacted with anyone for at least six months. In Canada, the share of solo households is now 28%.   Across the European Union, it’s 34%.

Here’s the thing.  Loneliness and isolation were a significant problem before the coronavirus pandemic.  One can only imagine these stats in light of our present crisis.  I have a unique vantage point as a pastor of a local congregation to see how people are responding to this crisis.  By far the number one request that is being made of me is “how can I help someone else?” 

Let me give you just one example that represents many others that I have personally witnessed.  A lady from our church called me to ask if there were families that she could help in some way.  I gave her the names of a few families to which she proceeded to purchase grocery items, dropping them on the family’s doorsteps.  She’s not analyzing, prescribing and obsessing over what’s going on in the world, she’s doing her part to flatten the curve of isolation and loneliness.

She is practising the teaching of Galatians 6 verse 10: 

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith”

This current pandemic will pass but the curve of growing loneliness is most likely going to keep growing.  But the church is uniquely poised to meet the loneliness crisis because of it has two resources to level the curve.  We have THE message of hope and peace in the good news about Jesus Christ our Lord.  And we have THE community where all are welcomed into the family of God as brothers and sisters in Christ.  The church is God’s family on earth where the belonging needs of mankind are met.    It’s quite simple.  The church has been given an opportunity to do good to everyone.  Reach out to someone today and let them know you care and offer to do whatever you can. 
Pastor Deric