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In it, Not of it - Our Place in the World

Posted by donna on February 3, 2020

Later this Spring the AGC will celebrate our National Conference with the theme; In it, Not of it - Transformed. As I thought through the implications of what it means to be in the world, but not of it, I concluded that there is a greater purpose for us as believers to be here, at this time, wherever God has placed us. That purpose is eternal and therefore we must have an eternal perspective rather than an earthly or temporary one.Romans 12 2.png

Too often we fall into the danger of short-sightedness, of only seeing current circumstances and we fail to see God’s bigger plan. In the immediate, we see difficulty, hardship, illness and suffering. We see broken relationships and a world that seems to be spinning out of control.  

Shortly before Jesus went to the cross He prayed for His disciples, and for those that would follow Him as a result of their ministry; you and me! We often call it His “High Priestly Prayer” (John 17). It is a beautiful prayer and worthy of much study. In John 17 verse 15 Jesus prays; “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one”. Our place is in the world. However, we are not of the world because we have been transformed through the power of the Gospel. We don’t belong to the world, this is not our home, nor our destiny. We are just passing through, and while we are here, we have a purpose.

As we move through this year, I’d like to focus this blog on the theme: In it, Not of it, as a challenge to understand ourselves better, our purpose and our mission wherever God has called and placed us. We are here for a purpose!

Jesus said in John 8:12; “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Those who have put their trust in Jesus no longer belong to this world, we have an eternal hope. Yet, we also have a place here and now. Jesus never prayed that our Heavenly Father would remove us from this world, rather, that we would be kept from the power and influence of the evil one. Our purpose here is to reflect the light of the Gospel to those that dwell in darkness, who are lost and without hope.

Understanding our place in the world is a starting point. We must engage with that purpose while we have the opportunity. Let me suggest three common activities that help us engage our purpose in the here and now:

  • Allow the transforming power of the Gospel to reorient our understanding of why we are here.
  • Allow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to help us boldly share the hope we have in Christ with others who have no hope.
  • Allow the truth of the Gospel to be our vision when difficulty and discouragement come, remembering that we are only pilgrims here, this life is not a destiny, it is a starting point!

Learning to live eternally in the here and now!

Rev. Bill Allan
AGC President


Biblical Resolutions for a New Year

Posted by donna on January 6, 2020

I’ll be honest, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I’m too much of a realist, and I hate setting myself up for failure! I typically would be one of the 25% who abandons their resolution within the first two weeks of January! It is also very depressing to hear that only 8% of people who make a New Year’s resolution keep or achieve them!

bulletin board.jpgA quick google search brings out some interesting facts about New Year’s resolutions. Most are self-focused. The top four resolutions, according to one study are:

Diet & health-related - 71%                             
Exercise more - 65%                                     
Save more, spend less, pay debts - 32%               
Quit smoking/drinking - 21%

 


Christmas and the Gift of Grace

Posted by donna on December 2, 2019

The perfect gift for the person that has everything! That’s what the commercial said as it went on to describe why everyone, especially the person who has everything, would need one of these special super-duper gizmos. I didn’t buy the sales-pitch, and I didn’t buy the super-duper gizmo. If a person has “everything,” why would they need something else?

gift.jpgA gift is often unexpected, undeserved, valued and treasured because of the thought that went into selecting and presenting it. As it is with the Gospel. It’s the greatest gift of all time, for all people. We could do nothing to earn it ourselves, even though we often tried. It was undeserved because of our sin. It is valued and treasured because of the cost Jesus paid suffering and dying on a Roman cross. And it was, and still is, freely offered to all who would receive it.


The Impacts of Grace: #3 My Perception of Others

Posted by donna on November 4, 2019

bottle shoes.pngBefore you judge, walk a mile in my shoes . . .    Grace impacts our life at times in ways we wished it didn’t. We all find it easy to rush to judgment based on outward appearances, rules, and our own sense of right and wrong. Judging others, in some way alleviates our own guilt until we’re confronted by grace. Why is that? Grace impacts our life.

If the impact of grace on my life first begins with my perception of God, then moves to my perception of myself, then the most logical next step is that: it impacts my perception of others. And therein lies the conundrum we often face. Before I judge, walk a mile in their shoes.

Re-enter the elder son. In the Parable of the Prodigal as told by Jesus in Luke chapter 15, the elder son was upset by the younger son’s return. It’s not recorded whether he was just as upset when his younger brother left, or whether he was upset when he received his half of the inheritance. But he was angry when his brother returned. He would not reconcile with his brother. He was angry at his father; he judged his brother’s actions and totally disregarded his own sin of moralism.


The Impacts of Grace: #2 My Perception of Myself

Posted by donna on October 1, 2019

The Roman poet Ovid wrote about Narcissus in Greek mythology. He was very handsome and very proud. When he saw his reflection in a clear still pool, he could not stop looking at himself, nor pull away. There he died of thirst or starvation, depending upon the version you read. The term narcissist is a word often used in today’s selfie-focused society. Perceived external beauty triumphs over inner beauty, integrity and character. To make ourselves better in all ways, we grace 2.jpgjust need to compare ourselves with someone “less” and believe the lie that we are better.

Grace has a way of bursting that bubble. As we saw last month, grace first impacts our perception of God. When we see who God is, when we understand His nature and His character, our focus on self shifts.

In the Parable of the Prodigal the elder son was angry at his younger brother’s return. He would not celebrate, he would not go into the party, even when the father came to him. He responded to his father with selfishness and self-focus;


The Impacts of Grace: #1 My Perception of God

Posted by donna on September 9, 2019

What sets Christianity apart from any other religious system is the relational nature and character of God. He wants to be in relationship with us. We were created to have relationship with Him, and He celebrates when we do. Jesus tells us, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).  Sept blog.jpg

The Parable of the Prodigal as told by Jesus is about grace and highlights how grace impacts us in three ways. First, it impacts our perception of God. We all easily identify or self-identify with one of the main characters in the parable. If we are honest, it would be with the elder son. Too often, our perception of God is that He is only pleased with us when we obey the rules and "colour within the lines” as required by religious obedience and observance and, therefore, we are deemed a good person. 


Grace Rejected - Part 2

Posted by donna on August 1, 2019

grace.jpgThe apostle Paul when writing to a very complicated and problematic group of believers in Corinth used these words to describe love; Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things; believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The same can be said of grace. Grace is never intrusive in our lives; it is a gift that was paid for by another and is freely offered to each of us.

The Parable of the Prodigal highlights the contrast between hedonism and moralism, and the failure of both in the face of grace. The hedonist easily recognizes this failure. After coming to his senses, the hedonist realizes his waywardness and the waste of his life and resources, and he eagerly accepts grace extended. The moralist, on the other hand, has much more difficulty in accepting grace extended. Enter the elder son, part two.


Grace Rejected - Part 1

Posted by donna on July 4, 2019

blog.jpgThe Parable of the Prodigal, as told by Jesus in Luke 15, is not primarily directed to us as believers. It is not just a story of a wayward son who came to his senses and returned home to a loving and forgiving father. Nor is it a story that primarily focuses on the younger son as representative of sinners in need of grace. It is a parable with a point, which Jesus directed to the religious leaders of that day.  He was speaking to those who saw themselves as better, as superior, as “good” because they, unlike the younger son, obeyed the rules including all the religious requirements of their day. They believed that they somehow deserved better.

Enter the elder son … “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:25-28a).


A Tale of Two Deaths: Grace Unexpected

Posted by donna on June 13, 2019

june blog.jpgEveryone loves a story with a happy ending; boy gets girl, the ranch is saved, Timmy gets rescued from the well, Superman defeats Lex Luthor . . . you get the picture. But what happens when the story doesn’t end like we want it to?

Last month, we saw a father’s joy in the Parable of the Prodigal when the lost son returns; “For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24). It’s a story with a happy ending. We won’t get to the part of the story about the older brother just yet, that would be jumping ahead. Let’s take a side trip to the times when life does not turn out as we expect, for it is there that we find grace unexpected.                                                                                                                                                                                                              


The Celebration of Grace

Posted by donna on May 2, 2019

Every family celebrates. Be it birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or some other significant event, we celebrate. To celebrate is to recognize something special, something unique. To celebrate is to acknowledge the occasion with some social gathering or enjoyable event.

“But the father said to his servants, bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf and kill it and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:22-24).

prodigal 2.pngIn the Parable of the Prodigal, the father not only received his son back and restored him into the family, he also threw a party! Remember the son’s confession, that he was not worthy to be called his father’s son?  He said to his father, “make me like one of your servants.” All of that faded as he was welcomed back with a grand celebration. Why would you celebrate someone who had so dishonored and rejected you? Because of GRACE.