My heart has been heavy all week with the tragedy of what is going on in Syria. As a new mom, I have been thinking of these families who are suffering and whose children are dying. How can they bear it? And this week Pastor Dan shared an update from his trip to Greece — hearing about the refugees who are trapped in these camps, perhaps for the rest of their lives is so disheartening. Where is their hope?

These are the questions the Psalms ask often. Where is the hope? Why is God far off? And so this Sunday we prayed through Psalm 10 in the service. I am reposting it here as a reminder to pray through these words, asking God to remember those who are suffering around the world today.

Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
    who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
    he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
    in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
    your laws are rejected by[b] him;
    he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
    He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”

His mouth is full of lies and threats;
    trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
    from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
    like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
    he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
    they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
    he covers his face and never sees.”

12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
    Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
    Why does he say to himself,
    “He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
    you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
    you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
    call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
    that would not otherwise be found out.

16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
    the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that mere earthly mortals
    will never again strike terror.

OK, on to this week’s sermon, which you can watch right here.

We read Luke 2 and Revelation 7 this week, and I loved the connection! We’re in the season of advent right now, which anticipates Christ’s coming — both His birth and His return one day. And although the Christmas season is joyful, there is an aspect of advent that is meant to make us ache. Advent encourages us to long — to beg for the long-awaited Saviour who is going to make things right. As we prayed through Psalm 10, we felt this. We longed for God to defend those in need, to step in and punish the evildoer. We asked Him to no longer hide Himself, but to show up in glory and triumph.

And this is what advent is about. We are waiting for Christmas — the day when Jesus is born and God’s answer is finally here. And now, day-to-day, we are waiting for Christ’s return. We are wanting the restoration to be complete, for every tear to be wiped away, for suffering to be gone. We want the pressure, the tribulation, to disappear forever.

And so reading Revelation 7 at the Christmas season is just perfect. It is here that we get a glimpse into what is coming — the Lamb worshiped by every tongue, tribe and nation. All is as it was meant to be. There will be no more need for advent, no more longing for His coming. He will be here, the ache will be gone, and hope will be realized.

So, at Christmas a few things come to mind:

  1. Pray and do. Let advent do its work. Allow yourself to feel the ache and longing. Things are not yet restored, and so many are in need of spiritual salvation and physical help. Pray for those who are in need. Do what you can to serve and love those around you. Pray for the salvation of those who don’t know Jesus.
  2. Make a choice. If you are not sure your salvation is secure in Jesus, get on it! We all face a choice — and we will either spend eternity with Jesus or we will not. God asks us to repent, to turn from our sin and acknowledge Him. Without Jesus, there is no other way. If you have accepted the Lord, make a choice to be that radical disciple Pastor Dan talked about. What does it truly mean to be a disciple of Jesus? As Dan said, it means we are secure, but not safe. We may be called out of our comfort zone for the sake of His name. Make a choice to step out.
  3. Rejoice! Jesus came, born as a baby to fulfill the promises of God and bring us salvation! And Jesus is coming! He will return one day to make all things new! We have such great hope in this. Rejoice in it this Christmas season!

 

Pastor Shawn’s sermon on joy can be found right here.

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This week we talked about joy and what it actually means. During the Christmas season, we often hear about being joyful, but what does that look like, exactly? Does it mean we’re always happy, always smiling, always jumping up and down with excitement? I hope not, because if so, I’m probably not a consistently joyful person.

But Pastor Shawn talked about joy as something that comes with great news. We read from Luke 2 when the shepherds heard from the angels that a Saviour had been born. This good news would ripple for the rest of eternity — it would change lives and bring the joy of eternal life!

I liked how Pastor Shawn pointed out that great news comes with a choice. We don’t have to be joyful about the news of Jesus. We can choose to reject it. Each of us has a choice to make when it comes to Jesus, who He is, and our need for Him. That choice has consequences of eternal life or eternal death, but we are free to make it. But for those of us who choose Him, the joy that we experience is not controlled by outside circumstances. It is made complete in knowing that He is in control, He is our salvation, and He is our hope.

So, as Pastor Shawn pointed out, we are now rooted in the one who brings joy, even when our situation isn’t joyful.

As we prepare for Christmas this season, I know we have a variety of different situations in our church body. Some are happy, some are in pain, some are suffering, and others are rejoicing. No matter the situation, if our salvation and rest is found in Jesus Christ, our response can be joyful. It is the hope we have in the great news of Jesus that brings us joy!

You can watch this week’s sermon right here.

golden harvest in sunset

golden harvest in sunset

We are in the first week of advent, and Pastor Shawn led us through a message of hope. But what is advent, exactly? Advent is one of the seasons that many churches celebrate in the church calendar. It is a month to anticipate and prepare for our celebration of the birth of the Messiah, Jesus! Advent is a version of the Latin word for “coming.” We are preparing for the coming of Jesus — born as a baby long ago! During advent, people often reflect on when Jesus was born as a baby, but also look forward to the hope of when Jesus returns someday. Oftentimes, churches focus each week on a different theme of hope, love, joy and peace.

If you’re interested in celebrating advent with your family this year, all you need is to do a quick Google search! You can find lots of info on the themes, Scripture readings, and ways to celebrate and anticipate Jesus’ birth and His second coming. If you’re looking for a good book to read as a family this advent season, I highly recommend John Blase’s “Touching Wonder.” It is a beautiful book about the Christmas story and you can order it from Amazon here.

Pastor Shawn talked about hope today as he led us through 1 Peter 1. In this chapter, Peter reminds his listeners that God has given us a living hope, no matter what is going on in our lives. If things are temporarily good, we have hope. If we are temporarily suffering, we have hope.

I love the reminder that our God is a God of hope. This is what He gave us when He sent His Son into the world. He showed us that He had not forgotten us. He showed us that the plan of redemption He had been working on for so long was going to be fulfilled.

And what’s incredibly powerful is that in the here and now, we have hope. We are not just waiting for someday when God returns and restores all things. Yes, we hope for that, but we also know that right now, Jesus has begun to make all things new. When Jesus died and rose again, He put God’s restoration in motion. So for those of us who are Christians, we walk in that restoration and work with the Lord who is redeeming. We bring hope to others. We, as disciples of Jesus, have the honour of partnering with Him as He works good out of every situation.

So, this week, dwell in the hopeful promises of God and bring that encouragement to others!

This week’s sermon is available to watch right here.

overcome-for-web

This week, we took a look at Revelation 4, an amazing chapter where we get to enter into the throne room of God. Were you there during worship when it was read aloud? I got chills thinking about and praising our amazing God who is holy, holy, holy!

This vision John receives is amazing — this glimpse into heaven gives me goosebumps as I picture the majesty of our God who is worshiped endlessly in heaven.

I like how Pastor Dan pointed out that we all worship. We were created for worship — and all of us honour someone or something. We either worship God or something else — money, power, ourselves, sex, etc. And I know in my own life — although I say I worship the Lord — I often find myself spending more time focused on “worship” of things that have nothing to do with Him. How grateful I am for His great grace and mercy in my life!

In this beautiful throne room of God, there is a lot of activity taking place. And what is most notable is that the activity all centers around God. He is the one who receives all of the focus and praise. There are lots of images here that we may not fully understand. There are 24 elders — who do they represent? The apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel? Maybe. But what is most important is what they are doing — worshiping the Lord continuously. In his book, “Reading Revelation Responsibly,” Michael Gorman says about this passage:

The worship of God is the heartbeat of the cosmos, even when we humans on earth do not see it, participate in it, or value it. Only God is worthy to receive what others, especially powerful political figures, may want or demand: our total devotion, our praise, our crowns.

Only God is worthy. And so we must decide — will we worship the Lamb or will we worship the things of this world? Will we accept His way and understand our need for His salvation? Or will we go at it on our own. Pastor Dan pointed out that when we die, all of us will be in the hands of God. And it will be then that, according to what we’ve decided about Him, we will either spend eternity with Him worshiping and rejoicing, or we will spend eternity separated from him in hell. The Bible reminds us that all of us are separated from God from our sin. None of us is righteous enough to reconcile ourselves to Him on our own. But, thanks be to God, He loved us so much that He sent His Son into the world to die for our sins. He offers us salvation because of His great love and mercy. The offer is there. It is up to us to recognize our sin, to repent and accept His gift of salvation, and to start living our lives as His disciples. He offers His grace freely. Don’t push it away!

This week take some time to ponder Revelation 4. Read it in different translations and soak up the beauty of this chapter!

Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,

who was, and is, and is to come.

You can watch this week’s sermon, “Wholehearted” right here.

overcome-for-web

This Sunday we continued in Revelation 3 by looking at what Jesus had to say to the church in Laodicea. This church was wealthy and unconcerned — neither hot nor cold. Jesus goes so far as to say that He’s about to vomit them out of His mouth because their lukewarmness is so disgusting. While last week’s letter to the Philadelphians was the most positive one, this week’s letter to the Laodiceans is the most negative. Jesus has nothing good to say about this church.

While listening to this sermon, it was easy for me to make connections between the church in Laodicea and the church in North America. We are wealthier than most of the world, and we are not in fear of true suffering. This likely makes us complacent and seemingly self-sufficient. It is probably normal for us to feel this way, which is why it is something for us to be aware of and work against. I know that in my own life, when things are going well — when my relationships are good, when I feel comfortably financially, when things are going my way — I suddenly lose my desperation for God and His Word. I find myself praying less. I cry out less frequently for God’s mercy and grace. But when something goes wrong in my life, I am reminded of where my true strength and comfort comes from.

We tend to forget when things go well. That’s why this chapter is such a good reminder to us — we need to remember all the Lord has done, in the good times and the bad. Personally, that’s why I love taking a look at all the holidays God wanted His people to celebrate in the Bible. They were all throughout the year and they encouraged God’s people to remember His great deeds. God knows we are forgetful, so all throughout Scripture, you see Him asking His people to take the time to remember and not forget.

This is a negative letter to the church in Laodicea. However, as Pastor Dan pointed out, Jesus loves this church. He says that He rebukes and disciplines them because He loves them. (Similar to me sternly saying “no” to my little boy when I found him swishing his hands in the toilet water this morning … I do it because I love him. 🙂

Jesus asks them to be earnest (zealous) and to repent. He asks them to open the door of every area of their lives, to welcome Him in so that He can change them for His glory.

Jesus was disappointed with the church in Laodicea, but He wasn’t finished with them. He moved toward them and asked them to hear His words and listen to the Spirit.

We might be right to compare ourselves here to the church in Laodicea. But that does not mean that God is done with us. He invites us to repent. I just finished reading all of the prophets in the Old Testament, and God spends so much time asking people to repent, to turn around, to remember Him. He wants to show them grace instead of discipline.

He does the same for us. He invites us back to wholehearted love and service of Him!

 

 

Hello! My name is Denise Snyder, and I am one of the pastors here at CrossRoads. For the past year, I’ve been on maternity leave taking care of my little guy, Theo. I am now back at work part-time, and one of the things I’m excited to be able to do again is some blogging for our CrossRoads blog.

One of the things I used to do last year was a bit of commentary each week after the Sunday sermon. I’m going to be picking that back up again, so if you’re wanting a bit more after the sermon each week, or if you’re in a sermon-based group and want some extra info, here’s the place to find it!

You can watch this week’s sermon right here.

So, I’ve been loving this sermon series in Revelation. I always kind of stayed away from Revelation because I find it confusing (along with everyone else). There are all kinds of things in this book of the Bible that can be hard to understand, which is probably why people have so many different theories about exactly what it means. Ultimately, though, I think the main thing we need to remember about the book of Revelation is that it is about Jesus! He reigns. No matter what. He is victorious and one day everyone will acknowledge it.

overcome-for-web

This week we looked at the church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7-13. Of all the letters we’ve been looking at addressed to different churches in the book of Revelation, this one to Philadelphia is the most positive. The people of Philadelphia have kept God’s word and not denied Him. As Pastor Dan pointed out, God has opened the door for evangelism in Philadelphia. They have the opportunity to share their faith and to continue to proclaim the name of Jesus.

Pastor Dan mentioned that here at CrossRoads, we like to pray for three people who don’t know Jesus. Those three people are the ones we regularly lift up, asking the Lord to reveal Himself to them so that they might come to know Jesus as their Savior. What struck me about this yesterday is that — whether it’s for the three people I’m praying for or for someone else — part of this prayer should include asking God to open my mouth to share the Gospel!

I know some people who love to evangelize. They talk about Jesus all the time and sharing the Gospel — our need for Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins — comes easy to them. But this is not true for everyone. Sometimes it feels awkward or pushy to talk about Jesus. But the Bible reminds us that it is God’s power that can help us share the truth. In Ephesians 6:19-20, Paul asks for prayer that God would give him the words to speak. It is the Holy Spirit that draws people to Himself, and He can give us boldness to share! This is a comfort to me, and also a challenge. I must be obedient to share the Good News about Jesus with others. And, if I truly believe it is life-changing and life-saving, I will want to share it!

Ultimately, as we looked at this passage, Pastor Dan pointed out three things: We can trust Jesus, our unshakeable foundation. We can walk through the doors that He opens for us to share the Gospel. And we can trust that He does and will reign over all the earth!

October 16 to November 13, 2016

The Mission of Operation Christmas Child is “to demonstrate God’s Love in a tangible way to needy children around the world and together with the local church worldwide, share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

We can all be involved in packing SHOE-BOXES! Anyone can bless a child by filing a box with school supplies, toys, hygiene items, clothes and more, and then adding a personal note and photo. Each box is an expression of hope, joy and love to hurting children. Our Canadian boxes will go to Haiti, Nepal, Ukraine, Costa Rica, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Senegal, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.

A Story from Uruguay:

A teenager named Florencia had been attending church for a few months when a shoe-box distribution event happened. She was happy when she opened her shoe-box and school supplies were there. She was even more amazed that her shoe-box also contained kitchen tools, which are not a common shoe-box item. But they were perfect for Florencia because since her mother started working outside the home, Florencia was the one who cooks for everyone in her family!

God knows what each child needs and He is faithful to provide it.

For more information and stories about OCC visit Samaritan’s Purse or call 1-800-303-1269. Check out these Facebook sites: Operation Christmas Child Canada or  Operation Christmas Child – Central Alberta

Empty shoeboxes, brochures and coloring sheets will be available in the foyer on October 16 to November 6, 2016.

Church contact: Peggy Kingcott: peggykingcott@shaw.ca or 403-342-1227

It’s so simple! A Box, A Label and Shop!

OCC Word Cloud 2016 500

 

James wrote in 5:13, ‘Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing.’

Interesting. This subject matter was in my heart, from a slightly different angle, as I pondered a family reunion that was on the calendar to attend. My reflection was – I am not proud to say – of the, ‘O Lord help me survive this!’ genre. It’s not that I dislike family reunions – they are actually a great place to eat, sit, test your memory, and grow your listening skills. People want to chat. People want to share about their lives, their kids, their kids’ lives, their pets’ lives – a treasure trove of topics really. All the more frightening? Maybe.

I realized early on before the event, I was quivering with anticipation. And not the positive kind. In fact, quite the opposite. I hadn’t been scarred at the hands of any past reunion participants. I hadn’t been ruined by the inevitable T-shirt, attenders are asked to wear. So what was my problem?

Me. I was getting in the way of myself, and more importantly, in the way of God to work through me. I fully knew that this reunion would be attended by largely unchurched individuals. What an opportunity for Jesus! It was here when, through prayer, I asked God to move my heart & mind from dread to receptivity. To be open to interactions. To expect possibilities. My focus shifted from me, and onto God and others. Interesting. James did instruct us to pray when we are hurting!

After arriving, eating, finding my memory somewhat name retentive (I’m as surprised as you are!) and meeting other reunion-ites, my spirits lifted as I glimpsed no T-shirt tables! ‘Yes!’ I shouted to no one in particular – my newly bought reunion top still in place.

I then bumped into a cousin-in-law Heather, who greeted me with a hug and announced she had almost died last summer, to which I replied – me too. Heather embarked on her health journey which rivaled any heavyweight Hollywood movie by big name producers. I was indeed astonished that she had not died. Heather was moved to tears in the telling of the tale, now over a year in the past. She invited me to tell my story. And as did Heather, I wept as I recalled for her the account of my experience.

I must describe this as a deep connection. A sisterhood rising from the aftermath of hospitals, meds & recovery. Heather asked me an interesting question as I shared my story – did I have any death dreams? My answer – no. Hers – yes. She dreamt she had a tray of tea & cookies to serve to people just at the edge of her vision. As she approached this glowing yet vague crowd, an arm reached from the side and gently halted her explaining it wasn’t yet time. Go back, were her instructions. She obeyed and awoke in her hospital room. I asked her – do you suppose that was Heaven? She answered – absolutely not. When I probed further into her adamant answer, she qualified it by her surety she would not be given admittance into Heaven in the first place, so it simply couldn’t have been Heaven. Do you not know what I ‘was’? What I ‘did’? What I ‘believed’? – she asked. Do you not know my past?

As she shared the details of this ‘past’, I was stunned. Not by her tragic testimony but the belief, and further, the acceptance of her eternal lostness. Heather had, for a brief time, been a part of a church when her children were younger – wanting something more for them. And through this, she had come to an awareness of Him. And an awareness of her even larger sin.

I reflected back to her what I had heard to ensure I was clear: that she was dirty, damaged and destined to be unadmitt-able. That based on her past choices, she would be ever unworthy. That the God she believed in was not ALL powerful, just somewhat powerful being as He could not find His way to her around the sins. And that Christ died for SOME on the cross but not all. So His sacrifice clearly was not enough. Is this what I am hearing? – I asked.

Shaken she quietly offered – I hadn’t thought of it like that.

Do you suppose He did die for you after all? – I asked – For everyone? That NONE should perish? That His love is the power? That you – bad choices and all – are worthy?

Her answer – yes.

Tearfully she reached for me, and I to her over a rough and faded picnic table, as the Scavenger Hunt was announced. This is why I came this weekend – Heather declared. To which I replied – me too. I wept again knowing He had created and crafted this moment for both of us. To experience Him and each other in a synchronized dance of pain and the past. Of regrets and redemption. Of healing and Heaven.

Heather and I hugged many times over the weekend, and affirmed with each other that moments planned by our Father are around us and available, have power and promise, and are life changing.

We both left the reunion different. Secure. Peaceful.

Are you hurting? Pray. Do you feel great? Sing.

I’m still singing!

Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for giving me a unique place to serve using my gifts and talents to make a difference for you and in the lives of your people. In Matthew, Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
The harvest is plentiful in Red Deer but the workers are few so would you raise us up to be available. Lord, give me the courage to be brave and obedient in serving you. Show me the specific role you have for me. Help me discover the gifts and talents you have given me.
Make us a church that encourages each other and builds each other up. Fill us with your Spirit so that we can serve from full hearts. As we are obedient to your calling, may your Name be glorified as we seek and ask, “Lord, where would you have me serve?”
In Jesus Name, Amen

thinkstockphotos-478923847

golden harvest in sunset

Becoming Assured

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

Do you have a rising concern within, about the downward moral spiral of our nation, province and region?  I do!  Do you long to see the Holy Spirit of God sweeping across entire families with a spirit of repentance, turning them to Christ?  I sure do!  I believe that the Lord wants to put in motion another great awakening where people cry out to Him for mercy and to experience life-transformation in the process.  It will happen as we enter in to the call of His heart in the verse above.  He wants us to become a people who seek Him continually.  “Without Him we can do nothing!”  We desperately need Him all the time, every day.

So my invite is to humble yourself before Him, asking Him what He is grieved with in your life and then surrender that up to Him. Friends, let’s turn from our wicked way, so we become assured that He hears our desperate cries for mercy and will respond.

Pastor Ken Lehman