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Sunday, 19 November 2017

'WHO ARE WE, O LORD, THAT YOU CARE FOR US?'

By Rev. Brian Wilkie                    
Rev. Brian Wilkie

Pastor of St. Andrew's Christian Community
Rockland, Ontario

_______________________________________________________
PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, November 19th, 2017:
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Broadcast Notes:

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Good News in the Morning is sponsored by Good News Christian Ministries and has been broadcast weekly since 1999. Do visit our web site gncm.ca. Here you will find podcasts of the programs, and introductions to the Ottawa pastors who deliver the Good News to growing numbers of listeners worldwide, and need your regular prayers. Our heartfelt thanks go to all those who support us
financially. And now, here is today’s presentation.

Good morning! I’m your host today Brian Wilkie from St. Andrew’s Christian Church in Rockland. As we begin today, my prayers of the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ will encourage and strengthen you today.

Who are we, O Lord, that you care for us?

I’m very much looking forward to the message we can share together in from God’s holy word, and hope that in every way God will touch you and bless you. The theme of today is, Why does God Care for us. It’s from a passage in Psalm 8, and the key phrase is, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him. But I’ll read you the whole Psalm now and you’ll see the context in which the psalmist is amazed that God could love us.

Psalm 8
               O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
         You have set your glory above the heavens.
               From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
         because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
               When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
         the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
    what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
               You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
         and crowned him with glory and honor.

   You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.
               O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I find that to be a beautiful psalm considering the glory of God revealed in all his creation. In the worship of his church. In the heavens and in the stars. And in the beasts of the field, the fish in the sea, and the birds in the air and all the creatures of the earth. God has made a marvelous, marvelous creation and yet he has given us a special place within that creation, which causes us to pause and wonder. How do we receive such honour from God?

Well, I think that’s a theme very much worth exploring and so we’re going to take a look at that in a few moments.

But here’s a song which focuses on the majesty of God, titled simply, Majesty sung in this case by Marantha from their Decade of Praise album. Would you listen to it with me, and consider the glory and majesty of our Lord.

1)Majesty, Marantha Music, Decade of Praise, 

God is so majestic. so glorious. There are scenes of worship in the old testament and the new, where the glory of God that is so great, that people are overcome. They can’t
speak, and there are times, even when preaching, believe it or not, when I sometimes find myself at a complete loss for words in consideration of the amazing glory and majesty of God.

That brings forward the question, who are we? Who are we in this universe? We are now perhaps more than ever, aware of our smallness in the universe. The scope of even our planet is so much larger than it seemed in the early days in which scripture was written and the New Testament was formed. God revealed himself to people without revealing all the secrets of the universe, without having to first train them in Cosmology. But we may think we’re the first to recognize how small we are in a universe that’s billions of light-years across. But in Psalm 8 we have a psalmist, a poet, perhaps even David himself who is expressing that wonder at how magnificent creation is. How immense creation is! How tiny we are on this planet earth! And yet, even in recognition of this tininess, we have this revelation from God that he cares for us.

We have the intervention of God, over and over again to help and save people. We shouldn’t be troubled by the question of why God doesn’t hear our prayers. We should be more interested in the question of why he does. Why over all the glory and wonder of the universe does he tune his ear to us on this planet?

Now less we think too little of ourselves, we do need to recognize that God has made amazing creatures in humanity. He has made us amazing in so many ways.

I was interested to note from a scientist who pointed out that for anybody who understands logarithmic scales, we’re about the mid size of the universe. For instance, as a body, your body is probably composed of something in the order of 10 to the 27th atoms. That’s actually in this case 7 times 10 to the 27th . Seven with 27 zeros after it. But there are 10 to the 24th stars in the observable universe. That means you are made up of a complexity, that consists of more atoms in your body, then there are stars in the observable universe. You are wonderfully and marvelously made. It’s amazing that God has created human beings and all living things to be so immensely complex.

I read that in terms of the synapses in our brain, the connections in your brain, the complexity of the organ of thought that God has given you.

There are 10 to the 13th synapses, which is more than the number of stars in our galaxy. There’s a thousand trillion, synapses in the human brain. Connections that give complexity to our thought and our ability to do so many wonderful thoughts and speculation, to make decisions and to act with our bodies through the impulses of our brain.

So we are marvelously made. It’s interesting that when we describe ourselves, we describe ourselves in some very lofty terms. Of course we call ourselves humanity. In Latin call our species “homo sapiens sapiens” which means wise, wise man. Homo sapiens-sapiens. We thinks a lot of ourselves - as the smartest creatures ever to live, and who knows, in terms of created beings in the material universe – perhaps we are. We haven’t plumbed the depths of that yet.

However. God, when he made Adam, gave him a very interesting name 'Adam.' Because it’s derived from the word  for what Adam is made of. He’s made of earth. He’s made of dirt. He’s made of dust. And so his name reflects his origin. And if you have a science fiction bent, you might translate Adam as literally, Earthling. Or creature of dust. And so there's a sense of our identity within the created order. Within the order around us. I find it amusing sometimes that we use the word 'stardust' so poetically. I’m remembering a song from the sixties, I think, which described us as a stardust, "we are golden" as though being made of star dust set us apart from the rest of creation. But from a cosmological point, God formed earth out of star dust. That every element that exists, every atom that exists, is formed out of the waste materials of stars. We are star dust, but star dust is earth dust. We are part of ordinary creation. And that should humble us a little bit, but should also help us to recognize the glory of all that God has made.

We need to look at what it means to be human in God’s eyes, in order to truly understand how much he cares for us. And we’re going to take a little bit more look at that, but I want Carolyn Arrends to have a word about who we are as she sings 'This Is Who You Are', from her album 'Under the Grace'. Would you listen to it with me?

Who you are, Carolyn Arends, Under the Gaze,

This is who we are. We are made of dust. But we’re also made in the image of God. And that’s a central teaching of scripture that says so much about what God intends for us.

There’s another source of wonder about why God loves us so much. Why he cares for us, and that’s expressed in the psalm when it says, "You made us. You put everything under our feet. The beasts of the land, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, all creatures." One might ask in any day, in any age, why God has entrusted us with so much responsibility? We don’t always seem to exercise that responsibility very well. We act in selfishness and greed. We act in ignorance and irresponsibility. We sometimes do things without considering the consequences, and what we do can have great consequences in the world that has been entrusted to our care.

Why did God entrust us with so much responsibility? These are great questions, and I’m actually as I prepared this message, I was wishing that it was being broadcast before the November 3, Dig and Delve Conference.

This is a conference that happens annually now in Ottawa that really helps people to engage with the big questions, and explanations, and understanding of the Christian faith, so that we’re better able to understand it for our own benefit, and also better able to explain and reason about the faith to people who have serious questions about it. That Dig and Delve Conference is one that has a great deal of involvement from George Sinclair, one of hosts on this radio show, and though it’s a little bit late to be telling you about this year's conference, I do want to plant a seed if you have an interest in knowing your Lord better and being able to talk reasonably to others about your faith, that you keep your eye out for Dig and Delve when it comes around next year. And look for resources on the Dig and Delve website as well, because there are great answers to the great questions, because God has provided so much in his Word and his revelation.

See, when God made us out of dust, he also made us in his image. He made us capable of a relationship with him, and he made us capable of the love which completely fills his being. He made us to love one another. He made us to love him. He made us to walk and talk with God. To know him intimately. He made us to express his love towards the rest of his creation, to care for and manage and responsibly use the creation that he has provided around us.

Creation isn’t intended to be completely at its own direction, but instead is capable of, and it needs to be, carefully watched over and stewarded. God set humans in that role. When he set us in that role he was able to describe us as very good, but we wouldn’t always describe ourselves that way today. He had an unbroken relationship with the first humans starting with Adam and Eve. He had a wonderful and close fellowship with them. And he could count on Adam and Eve to understand his instructions and to do his will. And then, Adam and Eve decided to disobey. They decided to go against the will of God to find their own meaning for what was good and what was evil, and they choose very badly and broke that relationship with God. They became filled with fear and shame, and they also sowed the seeds of all the sin that has followed in the wake of that decision. And so human beings have had a history of anger and rage, a history in fighting and a history of consuming without any consideration of the world around them. And that problem has been so strong in our history.

So we still have the question, why does God care for us? Why does he still care for us after all this time. And the answer to that question is the gospel itself; that God knows he’s able to reach us in our need, and even in our sin, in our wickedness; that wherever we stand in the spectrum of human good and evil, that God is able to lift us up and bring us to new life.

God cares for us and continues to care for us because he knows that he, by his power can redeem us. And he, by working through his son Jesus Christ offering his life on the cross, has offered everything that is necessary for our redemption. We can be restored! God cares enough to give everything for us. And he cares with the full optimism of a God who knows that this night of sorrow can turn into a morning of joy.

And that’s the message that we are giving on Good News In The Morning week by week and through the internet every day of the year.

We do pray that you will turn to this God who cares for you; that you will receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and that he will fulfill in you all that he has purposed for you. 

Let me pray with you right now.

“Almighty God, humanity is such a mixed thing from our perspective. We have fallen so far. But you are the one who made us. You are the one who can remake us for eternal life. Thank you, Jesus, for all that you have given for our salvation and thank you for the promise and the demonstration through the resurrection that you are able to accomplish all that you intend to do. Accomplish it in us, through Jesus Christ we pray.

And now as we conclude this program, here is another song focusing on the majesty and glory of God, which I think is a great song of praise: 'How Majestic Is Your Name' based on Psalm 8, and sung by Marantha Music, Decade of Praise.

Rev. Brian Wilkie
St. Andrew's Christian Community, Rockland, Ontario
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To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link:

Thank you for tuning in. If you have been blessed and encouraged, do tell your friends about this program. Feel free to send in questions and comments via the web site, and be sure to share your good news if you have come to faith through listening. But the program on its own is not enough. Don’t forget to join other Christians in worship in a church where the Gospel is soundly proclaimed, and where it is lived out with compassion, integrity and resolve. We so appreciate the donations on which we depend to keep us on the air week by week. We invite individuals and companies, to donate any amount, any time, or, to sponsor our programs on an annual basis. Please donate via our web site, or make a cheque out to Good News Christian Ministries and send it to 96 Pheasant Run Drive, Ottawa Ontario K2J 2R5, Canada. Be part of the movement that is affecting lives worldwide!

May you come to know Jesus Christ personally and profoundly. May the Holy Spirit reside deeply within your heart, and may you feel our heavenly Father surrounding you with his constant, abiding and accompanying love.Good News In The Morning is produced in the Studios of News Talk Radio 580 CFRA.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

'SALT OF THE EARTH'

By Rev. Brian Wilkie                    
Rev. Brian Wilkie

Pastor of St. Andrew's Christian Community
Rockland, Ontario

_______________________________________________________
PODCAST LINK to CFRA broadcast - Sunday, November 12th, 2017:
____________________________________________ 

Broadcast Notes:

************************************************


Good News in the Morning is sponsored by Good News Christian Ministries and has been broadcast weekly since 1999. Do visit our web site gncm.ca. Here you will find podcasts of the programs, and introductions to the Ottawa pastors who deliver the Good News to growing numbers of listeners worldwide, and need your regular prayers. Our heartfelt thanks go to all those who support us
financially. And now, here is today’s presentation.

Good Morning!  I'm your host today, Brian Wilkie of St. Andrew's Christian Church in Rockland.  As we begin today, my prayer is that The Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ would encourage and strengthen you today! I'd like to thank Tony Copple for his sponsorship of today's program, and on behalf of the Board of Good News Ministry's wish tony and his wife Laurie Ann all of God's Blessings as they embark on a new chapter in their lives, following the call of God to service in South Africa with through Iris Ministries. Tony has been a crucial part of GNCM for many years, serving on the board, as our chair, and organising sponsorships and much of our web presence. Thank you Tony!

Salt of the Earth

Today I want to speak to you about the theme of being the salt of the earth. It’s a familiar expression in the English language and we say it about people that are really good solid people, and this expression, salt of the earth, comes from the fifth chapter of Matthew reading from verses 13 to 16 where Jesus is teaching, in the sermon on the mount. 

 (Mt 5:13–16).
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Jesus gives us some encouraging and challenging words in the sermon on the mount and this passage coming right from the beginning of the sermon on the mount, just after the beatitudes places its importance before us as a summary in a way of what kind of people we ought to be.

In this passage being salt is a good thing, like being light in a room giving light to everyone in the house, and so perhaps we need to like at what salt is not, in this context. Because the image of salt has many different meanings in different situations.

Well, we’ll get a chance to take a look at what this is and what Jesus is saying to us in a few moments, but I’d like to focus for a moment on the idea of being light of the world in which a song is sung by Marantha! Music, “Shine Jesus Shine”, focuses on Jesus as the soul force of the light as we are light of the world. Would you listen to it with me?

I’ve always enjoyed that song, Shine Jesus Shine, it’s really a prayer that we would see God's glory break out into the world, But God seems to be saying in this passage, that we are one of the sources of his glory breaking out into the world.

That we will be the light of the world, and it seems conditional on the idea of obedience to the way of Jesus, because otherwise we’re light that’s put under a bowl.

He starts by saying we’re salt of the earth and that’s what I want to focus on. The idea of salt and what does that mean to us and how can we understand its purpose in directing our lives, because salt, as I said in the introduction, can have negative ideas.

If we say someone is salty, we might not mean it’s such a good thing. In fact, I think the expression is derived from the character of sailors in days gone by when sailors could be counted on for some pretty coarse language and pretty raucous behavior in the port towns. That was a characterization in the past and the idea of being salty in our language, that is using coarse language, is something that we’re specifically instructed not to be. We’re not to be coarse and offensive, and of course, the idea of course language can be kind of a sliding scale. What’s impolite in one context, might be perfectly normal in another place, because the language changes from place to place. But God calls us not to be coarse with the people that we’re with, not to be rude or impolite in the way that we converse with other people.

The idea of being salty in others ways can be a negative image, even within scripture you can see where the writers of the New Testament through these people God instructs the Christian church, not to be salty in another way. For instance, both Paul and James talk about people who criticize and curse other people with their words, and then go on to praise God, and they say, ”can fresh water and salt water flow from the same fountain, from the same spring?” And they say.. of course not. This should not be, that our mouths should be used for only praise, and that praise would be considered as fresh water, giving life to the world around it, not salt water.

And so we’re not to be salty in being negative, and being slanderous, gossipy, in having malicious talk come out of our mouths in cursing, but instead, we ought to be filled with blessing and speaking the things that edify other people. In both these contexts, salt has something to do with what comes out of our mouth, our spoken words. And that’s an important part of the instructions we are given in scripture is not to be poisonous with our words. For that’s another meaning of the word salt. That’s not intended when Jesus says you’re to be salt of the earth.

In the old testament one of the hardships that the people of Israel faced when they were invaded by foreign armies, is that armies had a tendency to try and ruin the land so that the country that they invaded wouldn’t be able to recover from their invasion well. And they would salt the earth. They would put salt onto the fields to a degree that would prevent them from flourishing and producing fruitful harvests. And that’s clearly not the meaning of the scripture today when God calls us to be salt in the earth. 

In fact, he’s obviously speaking about a good thing.  So what is it that Jesus is talking about? He’s talking about salt in some of its other functions.

The metaphor has this meaning, that salt is used in two major beneficial ways. Salt is used as a preservative. The very thing that can make it a poison in too great a concentration, is what’s able to keep some things good over the long term and prevent bacteria from decaying and corrupting things. Salt is a preservative is one of the things that God is calling his church to be. To be able to preserve goodness and to keep things fresh and useful over the long term. By holding onto the values of the gospel. By preventing the corruption and decay that is so common in the world today. Preventing that from entering into the fellowship of believers and trying to be salt in the world and prevent the world from sliding down dangerous slopes into decay and destruction. That’s an important function of the people of God, the disciples of Jesus Christ. That God calls us to work as a preservative in the world.

Salt also adds flavour. I think that’s the major thing we think about salt. Many people have a habit, even before tasting their food, of sprinkling a little more salt on it because it always taste just a little bit better that way. We can use too much salt for our health. But it’s also possible to use too much salt for flavour. But many of us have gotten so accustomed to salt, that we do end up using too much. Salt adds flavour, and brings out the flavour in the food that we’re eating, and Christians, disciples of Christ, people who are following Jesus were intended to bring out a particular flavour in the food that is the world, in the goodness of the world.

There are different spices. Some bring sharpness, some bring out a spiciness, some cause bitterness, others cause sourness. What does salt do? We would probably describe it as bringing out the good flavours that all ready exist in the food, emphasizing the good, and bringing that to the attention of the palette. We can be salt of the earth in that way. We can bring out the good and emphasize what God has blessed the world with, as we are salt of the earth.

The main message here, is indeed, that we can make a difference in the world. And that’s why I’ve chosen for our next song today, a song by Jaci Velasquez, with precisely that title. We Can Make a Difference. Jaci sings from her album Heavenly Place. Let’s listen to it now.
Yes we can make a difference. And the idea of bringing out the goodness of the world is an important part of being salt in the earth. But what exactly is the characteristic in us, as followers of Jesus, that can help us be salt in the earth?

Well Jesus is giving us a clue because he’s imbedded this in the middle of the sermon on the mount. Or the beginning of the sermon on the mount, and he’s just spoken on the beatitudes. It would be wonderful to spend a great deal of time just analyzing the beatitudes for what characteristics Jesus wants to see in his people.

He said blessed are the meek. Blessed are those that who mourn, who are able to look at their problems and face them with compassion. Blessed are the poor in spirit, and even to his disciples in one version of the Beatitudes, it says blessed are you who are poor. People who have given up and made sacrifices in order to be God's blessing in the world. Blessed are you if you endure persecution and keep faithful to God. Blessed are the people who have let their lives and their character be shaped by God. The Beatitudes are often neglected as part of Jesus’ teaching because they go against our innate sense of wanting to be important; Wanting to be powerful; Wanting to have our own way.

Instead, Jesus calls his people to submit to God's way, and to be strong in weakness and to let the strength of God shine through. That’s part of being salt in the earth and everything that follows in terms of Jesus teaching about how to treat our neighbors with love: How to honour God in our prayers, and how to give generously and to serve faithfully and joyfully in the world around us.  This is all about what it looks like to be salt.

But God emphasizes right in this passage that there is a danger, that salt could lose it saltiness! What happens if salt loses its saltiness?

Now with salt, itself, it’s true... If you take the salt out of salt, then there's nothing left. You can take the glitter out of diamonds and you’ll still have a strong, hard material that’s useful for all kinds of industrial purposes.  You can take the glitter out of diamonds and they’re still diamonds. But if you take the salt out of salt, you’ve got nothing left. Can salt be restored? If it’s been diluted in water the chemical salt can be re-concentrated by evaporation or reverse osmosis, or electrolysis.

But how can we be restored if we’ve lost the characteristics that mark us as Christ's?
Well the scripture is full of stories of restoration and instructions on being restored. About being devoted to prayer. About accepting the forgiveness of Christ and believing, trusting God that there is a new start available. There is the grace of God that gives us a new heart and a new life.  For those who have never embarked on this new life, it’s coming to accept Jesus as Lord and letting him renew you, because no other power on earth can renew you, and give you this new life. For those of us who are Christians, and sometimes discouraged in our capacity to love, we just need to continue to press on, to trust God, to be devoted to him in prayer, and to continue to pursue him. One thing about salt, is that it works better in concentration.

Not a single grain of salt do we put on our food, but we put many grains of salt. Salt has its best effect when it’s gathered together and encouraging one another. And so in these ways we can be restored as salt of the earth.

But we need to take some time now to pray to God and be devoted to prayer. So would you bow with me?

“Almighty God, we give you thanks and praise that we can make a difference in the world if we allow your Holy Spirit, and your renewing power, to work in us. And so we ask you to renew us. Make us devoted followers of Christ. Make us salt in the world, light to the world, so that we may glorify you, our Father in Heaven. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

As we close today you will hear the song, My Lighthouse, by the Rend Collective Experiment.
And I do hope you’ll take this beautiful message home, that Jesus is, and can be eternally your lighthouse.

Rev. Brian Wilkie
St. Andrew's Christian Community, Rockland, Ontario
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To listen to the above broadcast, click on the following link: