Your Word is Truth

As he prayed to the Father for his disciples, Jesus asked that they be sanctified by the truth.
Then he declared,
“your word is truth” (John 17:17).

God speaks reality

In other words, not only is God’s word true, but it is itself the standard of truth, against which everything else must be measured. All that comes from the mouth of God corresponds to reality. He cannot lie. He never “spins” anything. He has no hidden agenda. And, though God does not tell us everything we can know, he has told us everything we need to know in order to know and obey and glorify him in this world (Deut. 29:29). He has told this to us in the Scriptures which he has inspired, and which are profitable for our training and equipping in this life (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

A Good Reminder

It’s good to remember this in a time when many are becoming either more gullible or sceptical towards the truth claims we read and watch and hear about. Whether on YouTube, Facebook, or _______ (insert favourite news source here), some are asking, where can we find the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

Don’t Trust the News?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust the news. There are credible voices in our country and community; journalists that have served well for years, and have therefore earned an appropriate level of trust. But not everyone out there in the Land of the Internet deserves our trust. It’s easy to read or watch something and hit the “post” or “send” button, without establishing who the source is, what his or her credentials are, and whether or not he or she is truly an expert in their given field. It is a trustworthy saying: “Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Good News You Can Trust

But God’s word is truth. Over the constant din of airwave and Internet, God has spoken, and what he has told us is trustworthy. “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2). Jesus Christ is God’s message, God’s “Word” to us (John 1:1). Jesus is himself the truth (John 14:6). In him we have true forgiveness, true redemption, true freedom, and
true hope.

Whatever news you come across, whether good or bad, credible or suspicious, interesting or inane, keep your ears tuned to the message that matters. Keep your eyes focused on the Christ who has come, revealed to us in the Scriptures God has given. “The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (Isaiah 40:8). His word is truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
 
Pastor Jonathan Kroeker


Be Like Bereans

…they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)

When the Apostle Paul came to town, no one knew what kind of reception he would get. Which is why he must have been pleased when the Bereans gave him a good one.

It happened on Paul’s second missionary journey, when he and Silas stopped in the Macedonian city of Berea. Unlike the Thessalonians, who started a riot not long after Paul showed up, the Bereans were “of more noble character” (Acts 17:11) because they not only received Paul’s teaching eagerly, but also examined it biblically.

An Example to Imitate

In this way, the Bereans serve as an example for anyone, anywhere, at any time who listens to the teaching or preaching of God’s word. Whether at church or at home, whether on TV or online, whether on a printed page or radio station, whether on CD or cassette (does anyone still have those?), whether on a hard pew or a La-Z-Boy recliner, we ought to receive the word with eagerness and discernment, like the Bereans.

Approaches to Avoid

On the one hand, it’s possible to be eager but not discerning, like someone who gobbles his food without even knowing what’s being served. On the other hand, it’s possible to be discerning but not eager, like someone who is too picky to eat anything. We should be neither of those. Instead, like the Bereans, we should eagerly receive the teaching of God’s word, but be careful to make sure that it is in fact the teaching of God’s word.

Questions to Ask

This means having not only an eager heart, but an alert mind and an open Bible. It means asking questions like:

• Is the speaker taking the passage in context, or twisting it out of context?

• Is the speaker bringing out the true meaning of the text, or reading another meaning into the text?

• Is the speaker drawing my attention to the biblical text, or mainly just to him or herself?

• Is this teaching consistent or inconsistent with the rest of Scripture?

• Is the speaker preaching the true gospel, or adding to or subtracting from the gospel?

In this time when we can’t meet together as a church, what a blessing it is to have endless options for hearing the teaching and preaching of God’s word. But, as we do so, let’s be both eager and discerning, like the Bereans, because our own spiritual wellbeing, the health of our church, and our witness to the world depend on it.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker



Virtual Lord’s Supper?

This past Good Friday (April 10, 2020) was the first in my memory that our church did not gather to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as we normally do.  Understandably, this has left many of us with a sense of loss. This has also left some of us with a question: “Should we celebrate the Lord’s Supper online?”

Pastors and church leaders are arriving at different answers. And certainly, as we form opinions and discuss this with others, a good deal of grace and humility is needed. After all, no books have been written on this subject, no Church Board has ever had to deal with this issue, and there was no “Pandemic 101” course in seminary (though that might soon change).

Nevertheless, I believe there are strong biblical reasons why we should not attempt to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in an online, or “virtual” format. I’ll briefly mention just one of them here: the Lord’s Supper is meant to be a physical embodiment of a local church’s union in Christ.

When the Apostle Paul gives instructions to the Corinthians regarding the Lord’s Supper, he uses the phrase “when you come together” no less than five times in the same chapter (1 Cor. 11:17-20, 33-34). The necessity of gathering together to observe the Lord’s Supper follows from what Paul has previously written:

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread” (1 Cor. 10:16-17; CSB).

Because the Lord’s Supper is a physical display of how the “many” become “one” in Christ, it follows that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated as we “come together” to demonstrate our union in Christ, and to remember all the blessings we share together as members of his body. 

This is why Paul has such strong words for those who go ahead eating and drinking separately without regard for others (1 Cor. 11:21) and why he exhorts them instead to “wait for one another” (1 Cor. 11:33).  Anything less is a failure to recognize the Lord’s Supper as a visible, physical, corporate embodiment of the salvation we share in common with one another
in Christ.

If the Lord’s Supper requires a gathered and not scattered congregation, then it is not difficult to see why we should refrain from attempting it online. But what should we do in the meantime? We should lament the fact that we’re unable to gather, and we should long for the day when we can. We should identify more compassionately with persecuted believers around the world who cannot gather with each other, and shut-ins from our own congregation that cannot gather with us. And above all, we should pray and seek the Lord as a scattered church, trusting that he is with us, that he will sustain us, and that his grace is enough for us until we are able to be together again.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker



Buried Expectations

“…he was buried…”(1 Corinthians 15:4)
 

We live in a day of disappointment. The current pandemic, along with our protective measures, has already managed to take away much of what we love and look forward to, and it seems there is no end in sight.

School and sports activities, NHL playoffs, Spring Break trips, outings with friends, visits from grandchildren, high school graduation ceremonies, church worship gatherings and more have been wiped clean from our calendars, leaving only square upon square of blank, empty space.

We prefer to speak of these things as having been “postponed” instead of “cancelled.” But, as time passes, we realize that at least some of the things we’ve postponed we will never enjoy. Time keeps on plodding relentlessly ahead, leaving behind a graveyard of dashed hopes and unmet expectations. 

When the Apostle Paul summarized the gospel, that which is “most important” for Christians to know, believe, and rejoice in, he reminded his readers that Christ was buried. Christ the Messiah, the Lord, the hope of Israel—the one who spoke like no one else, who healed the sick, who fed the hungry, and who even raised the dead to life again—this Christ died, and was buried. His heart stopped, his flesh went cold, he was placed in a tomb and shut inside, accompanied by nothing but darkness.

The burial of Christ brought untold grief to those who not only loved and followed him, but had set their expectations on him: “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21), said the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In the moment of grief, it must have seemed that all their hopes had been buried in the tomb along with Jesus, never to be seen again.

But, as Paul reminds us, “he was buried” is not the end of the gospel message: “he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4). The miracle of Jesus’ resurrection happened just as God had foretold, according to the time God had planned, and by the power that God alone possesses. And along with Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb, the
disciples’ hopes were also raised to life again, although in a new, unexpected, and even better way than before.

Belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ doesn’t shield us from disappointment in this life. But those who have set their hope on him have every reason to be confident: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). In Christ, every good and godly hope that has been buried will be raised to life again, in new, unexpected, and even better ways than before. Being with him will make up for every loss, and seeing him will outdo even our best expectations. In Christ, nothing that is truly good is ever cancelled, but only postponed, until the day we are raised and
reunited with him.

Pastor Jonathan Kroeker



Our Eyes Are On You

“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

 

King Jehoshaphat was afraid. A “great multitude” of Moabites and Ammonites had come against him for battle. And so he sought the Lord. He proclaimed a fast in Judah, and the people came together to seek the Lord’s help.
 
Jehoshaphat stands among the people of Judah, in Jerusalem, in the courtyard of the temple, and he prays. He calls upon the God of heaven; the Lord who rules over all. He recalls God’s past deliverance and future promises. He reaffirms both his own and his people’s commitment to and dependence upon the Lord.
 
Then King Jehoshaphat concludes his prayer with a remarkable confession:
 
“…we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12; ESV).
 
For a king to admit his own powerlessness before his people goes against our leadership intuition, and might even seem unwise. After all, a king is supposed to know what to do in a crisis, and have the power to get it done!
 
Leaders do have responsibility to make plans, take action, and use the authority they have in times of crisis. But there are some situations before which a leader is so caught off guard, so ill-equipped, so overwhelmed, that humility and earnest prayer before God and others must be the first response.
 
In Jehoshaphat’s situation, a king of lesser character might have tried to put on a brave face, fake his way through, and come up with a plan—any plan—rather than admitting powerlessness before an advancing enemy.
 
But Jehoshaphat does what a spiritual leader must do in a situation like this. He calls the people to seek the Lord. He directs their attention, not to himself, but to the Lord, who is their true King, Deliverer, and Rescuer before the advancing enemy. In a time of extreme trouble, Jehoshaphat turns the eyes of the people to the only one who has all the power and knows exactly what to do.
 
Before the advancing COVID-19 pandemic, many of us, including leaders of business organizations, schools, churches, communities, and countries, feel powerless and unsure of what to do. This is an uncomfortable place to be, but it is not a hopeless place to be. Why? Because in times like these, more than any other, we have opportunity to humble ourselves and ask the Lord for help. We have opportunity to remember God’s promises to us in Christ, and recommit ourselves to him in faith. We have opportunity to seek the Lord and set our eyes on him alone as our ultimate hope and help.
 
In response to Jehoshaphat’s prayer, the Lord provided a stunning victory. The people of Judah did not even have to fight themselves, but only observed the Lord’s powerful defeat of their enemies. It was a victory that God gave to his people entirely by grace, in response to their faith and dependence on him.
 
Believers in Jesus Christ can know that our greatest enemies—sin, Satan, and death—have been defeated through the cross of Christ. By his life, death, and resurrection, Christ has won the final victory, and salvation is entirely a gift of grace, given to those who humble themselves, admit they are powerless to save themselves, and set their eyes on him by faith.
 

Today, even though we may feel afraid, powerless, and uncertain of what to do, there is something we can do. We can seek the Lord and set our eyes on him, confident that his grace is enough, that his promises won’t fail, and that his kingdom is coming. And, when we keep our eyes on Christ, we can be sure that, no matter what trouble we face today, what we will see and experience in the end will be far better than anything we could have ever imagined.



A Prayer for New Homeschool Families

As schools have closed because of COVID-19, many parents in our church began homeschooling their children today.
Would you join me in prayer for these families?
 

Father in heaven,

You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness to us in Christ.

We thank you that because of Jesus’ death on the cross for our sins, you have forgiven and cleansed us and
called us your children. We thank you that you give wisdom generously when we ask for it in faith. ​We thank
you that you have given us the Holy Spirit to comfort and strengthen and help us in our time of need.

We pray for moms and dads that are working outside the home and in the home, that you would give them wisdom
to figure out the complexities of work and childcare and how to arrange all of this.

We pray for parents who are feeling stressed or panicked, that you would give them clear minds and calm hearts,
that they would be able to plan and organize as necessary, and that they would have realistic expectations of
themselves and their children, and would not exasperate them.

We pray that you would help children honour their parents by listening, obeying, staying focused, and doing
their best. We pray that children would glorify you as they learn about the world you have made. 

We pray that you would help parents to be patient as they try and figure this out; patient not only with their
children, but patient with each other, and themselves.

We pray that parents and children and husbands and wives would be willing to apologize and forgive
and ask for forgiveness when necessary, remembering how you have forgiven them in Christ.

We pray that no one would give in to anger, frustration, or despair during this time, but that families
would persevere in faith and dependence on you.

Even though this will be challenging for many families, we pray that you would provide moments of joy
and laughter and learning together. We ask that you would bless each family with grace, mercy, and peace during this time. 

In all of these things, we pray that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ would be evident in our hearts and
homes, and that you would be glorified in our lives and church.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.



May the God of Peace be With You

Hey Rowandale church family, because I’m in 14-day isolation, and we can’t gather together for worship tomorrow, I’m making some short videos that I hope will encourage you. Here’s the first one.



Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Every now and then someone makes the assertion “Muslims and Christians really worship the same God.” It’s a comforting thing to say, because what it means is that even though you call him Allah, and I call him Jehovah, we’re really on the same page theologically. People make statements like this in an attempt to minimize the differences between religions.

It’s important to recognize that the reason we hear things like this is because we live in an age where tolerance and inclusion are the only acceptable standards by which to operate. According to the policy-makers of our culture, we must accept everyone as equal and every practice as acceptable. If you state that someone’s beliefs are wrong, or that their lifestyle is out of line, you are a bigot. To avoid this, people try to find every possible indication of commonality


Read more...

What is a Marriage?

 
It seems that for the last few years everyone has been talking about gay “marriage”. Here in Canada, gay “marriage” was legalized on July 20, 2005. In the United States, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay “marriage” on June 26, 2015. Christians everywhere are asking “Now what?” What are we to make of all the fuss over gay “marriage”? Where should we stand on this issue? How do we talk about it amongst our friends and colleagues?
 
As Christians, recognize that we operate in two spheres – the sphere of God’s Kingdom and the sphere of this world. Neither sphere shares the same values as the other. That’s what makes it so challenging for us as Christians to live out our faith in the world. Let’s look at the gay “marriage” issue from the perspective of both spheres.

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Seven Great Things About Being a Christian

 
  1. You have been saved from eternal lostness.
There’s nothing worse than not knowing where you are or how to get somewhere. It’s a very disorienting feeling and can lead to frustration and despair. Your soul was made to live forever. The question is where will your soul be living after you die? If you are a Christian, you know the answer to this is that you will be forever with the Lord (I Thess. 4:17) in a place of eternal joy and contentment. (Rev. 21:4) The Bible calls this “salvation” and God offers it to anyone who will receive it.

Read more...