March 26, 2017
This is where you will find the sermon recording, LifeGroup Study Guide and additional Q&A's for Sunday, March 26, 2017.
Click here to download the study guide for March 26/17
March 19, 2017
Scroll down to find the sermon recording, Study Guide, and additional Q&A's for Sunday, March 19, 2017.
March 12, 2017
Scroll down to find the Study Guide, additional Q&A's, and a video we showed during the Q&A time for Sunday, March 12/17. (Sorry, there is no sermon recording for this week.)
Additional Q&A's coming soon!
March 5, 2017
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February 26, 2017
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February 19, 2017
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February 12, 2017
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February 5, 2017
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January 29, 2017
Scroll down to find the audio sermon recording, study guide, and additional Q&A's for Sunday, January 29, 2017.
January 22, 2017
Scroll down to find the sermon, sermon slides, study guide, and additional Q&A's for Sunday, January 22, 2017.
Here Are The Additional Questions Received In The Service Regarding “Can God Relate to Me?”
See Pastor Ben’s Responses To These Questions Below.
“Questions Are OK” Text# = 587 315 2531
Q - Is “Son” a nonliteral term?
A – Yes and no. It is nonliteral in that God does not have a son in the way that I have a son, by the means of biological reproduction. It is literal (a more technical word would be ‘ontological’), though, in the sense that when God wanted to communicate his own nature and the inner relationship of his being, “Son” was the term that he chose. Like in John 3:35. The sonship of my son and of God’s Son is not a ‘one to one’ correspondence, but there is real truth communicated to us by understanding Jesus as the Son of the Father. The word “Son” is not just a filler word, it has real meaning, pointing toward what the relationship between Jesus and the Father is like.
Q - Did Jesus still have his divine nature when he lived as a man? Or did he just not “use” the divine part at that time?
A – Yes, absolutely. Even from before his birth, Jesus was both fully human and fully divine. There is a technical term for Mary (theotokos) that means precisely that: the baby in her womb was fully God, right from the moment of conception (‘theotokos’ means ‘God-bearer’). One of the key passages that discusses this is Philippians 2: “Though he was God . . . he gave up his divine privileges . . . and was born as a human being.”
Q - Did Jesus empty himself of the “Godness,” the divinity of His person of the Trinity, while on earth doing His thing?
A – He never stopped being God, but he set aside the power and privileges of being God so that he could become and live as a real person, just like us. (The technical term for this is kenosis.) Even upon taking the nature of a servant, he remained fully God. The implication of this for us is, in part, to remember that the power and prestige of God can be set aside without him ‘losing out on’ his divinity: what makes him God is his holy love, as in 1 John 4:16.
Q - Did Jesus experience the Holy Spirit like we do while he was on earth?
A – Yes, but in a fuller and richer way because he was without any sin. Sin is an obstacle in the heart of each of us that stands in the way of full fellowship between us and God in the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 2:17 and Hebrews 4:15 remind us that Jesus was in every way like us, except without sin, so that there was never any impediment between him and the experience of the Holy Spirit. Our experience of the Holy Spirit is rich and full: we encounter the same Holy Spirit in the same way – in reliance upon him for closeness to God and for the power for holy living and effective service – but to a lesser degree because of the sin in our lives.
Q - We hear that people say Jesus and God are the same. Why does John 14:28 say at the later part of the verse that the Father is greater than I?
A – Great question, and very widely discussed in Church history. First off, it is important to balance this passage with others in John. John 1:1 says that the Word (Jesus) was God, in John10:30 Jesus says that he and the Father are one, in John17:21 Jesus says that he and the Father are one, and that he is in the Father and the Father in him, and in John 20:28-29 Thomas calls him God and Jesus affirms him. So the clear message of the book of John is that the Son is equal to the Father. With that as the background, we can say that it is a very hard verse to interpret. :) For myself, I was most helped by Kevin Giles who said that things can have an ‘order’ to them, without one being ‘less than equal’ to another. The Father is the source of the life of God; in that way, he is greater than the Son in the order of the Trinity, but equal in person and worth.
Another, alternative way of looking at it would be to think of Jesus as speaking of the fact that in becoming human he had emptied himself of the grandeur of divinity when he came to earth (though not the nature of divinity), and so the Father was greater than the Son in light of the Son’s experience of this emptiness: the Son became less so that he could suffer and die on our behalf, which the Father never did. He remains equal with God the Father in glory and honour, but became less than the Father for our sakes in the experience of his taking on the nature of a servant. John 17:4-5 seems to point to this conclusion: the Father and the Son shared in glory before he became a man, and then the Son was restored to this glory after his resurrection; in between those two he can say that ‘the Father is greater than I’ without denying the full and glorious divine nature he possessed for his whole life on earth.
Q - Even with the power of God with us, why is there still so much tragedy?
A – This is a huge question – and a good one – that books and books have been written about. The short answer though is that suffering and tragedy is the result of Sin in the world. In Genesis chapter three, after Adam and Eve rejected God’s plan, we read that everything became broken, including our relationships with one another, and even the very earth. Romans 8:22 says that the earth itself groans, waiting for the final restoration, and 2 Corinthians 4:4 talks about the devil as the ruler of the present age. The terrible tragedies that happen occur because the world is totally broken on account of Sin. That is, of course, only a very thin answer. Tragedy is hard, and confounding. But we also remember that God himself, in Jesus Christ, entered into our tragic world and made himself a co-sufferer with us. And one day, death and sin and Satan will be defeated and the world will be made new . . . that’s God’s plan. In the meantime, because of the freedom that God has allowed us humans, the world is a broken place, and we all see the consequences of that. This is, in part, why our hope is for the life that is to come. This life itself cannot be made fully good. Only with re-creation will our world be restored to the way that it was.
Q - When we read, "In the beginning..." My question is: Is there a pre-beginning?
A – I think that there was. In the New Living Translation, John 1:1 says that in the beginning, the Word already was, and was with God. The Triune God already existed before God created the world, and even before the creation of time. God has always existed, even when the world did not. Before the beginning, God already existed and enjoyed life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, there was not a ‘pre-beginning’ of ‘stuff’ that the world was made of, except in the case that God himself was the maker of it. When we create, we create out of something else: we take wood or steel or chemicals, and turn it into a ‘creation’. But God’s way of creating is different. He creates out of nothing, and there is nothing that exists that he is not the creator of. The Bible doesn’t talk about a ‘pre-beginning’, but it is very clear that everything in creation comes from God, even the ‘stuff’ it is made of. But before the creation of the world, God already was.
January 15, 2017
Scroll down to find the sermon, sermon slides, and additional Q&A's from Sunday, January 15, 2017.
Here are the additional questions received in the service regarding “Can I Trust the Bible?”
See Pastor Ben’s responses to these questions below.
“Questions are OK” Text# = 587 315 2531
“Here are the ways I would begin to answer these (hard!) questions. :) “ Pastor Ben
Q - Do you think the Bible should be read literally in order for it to be trusted?
A - I learned a phrase when I was at seminary, that we ought to read according to the ‘plain sense’ of Scripture. That is, we allow that the Bible is a divinely inspired book, written to and for human beings at a certain point in history. We read and look for the ‘plain sense’ of what the Bible is trying to say, or teach, in each section. That means that sometimes we read allegorically (when we are looking at an allegorical passage), or sometimes we read ‘poetically’ (in a poetic passage), but that in every case we allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate our reading and allow the Bible to say what it wants to say. I found this thought provoking article on the internet if you would like further reading. http://craigladams.com/archive/files/should-we-take-the-bible-literally.html
Q - Is the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witness the same as our Bible?
A - No, it is not. The New World Translation of the Bible, from the Jehovah’s Witnesses makes a number of key changes to reflect their own theological predispositions. In particular, it shows a clear bias against the doctrine of the Trinity which is one of the centre-points of the Christian faith, the ancient creeds of the church, and of the Christian and MIssionary Alliance.
Q - I know people that don’t trust the Bible because of all the different translations, there aren’t any genuine original copies...
A - There aren’t any original copies, that is true. (PS -- the technical term for the original copies is the ‘autographs’) -- The Bible however has an amazing record of being preserved well over the years. There is a great article here http://www.allaboutthejourney.org/bible-manuscripts.htm that describes how well attested the Bible is. The multitude of translations is actually a mark of what the Bible actually is. It is the Word of a God who wanted to speak in a language that we could understand. So it is right and good that because we often speak and read English in different ways and at different levels, that we should have the Bible in different translations -- each one faithfully communicating the meaning of the original Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic text. Jesus himself quoted from the Greek translation of the Old Testament on occasion, showing that a translation of the original text into a language that the hearers could understand is still the true word of God. This technical article gives a couple examples. http://www.bible.ca/b-canon-jesus-favored-old-testament-textual-manuscript.htm
Q - How do you explain the authenticity of the Bible to someone who is not a believer and thinks that it is just a bunch of writings of different people put together? They would not believe anything about inspiration.
Q - What is something that we can share/do as believers to show non believers that there is truth in the Bible? (other than showing God's love through our actions and what we say).
A - There is always an element of faith when we approach the Bible; we have to choose to trust it. But it’s greatest strength is its consistency. If someone was really interested, you could ask them to read two of the Gospels -- say, Mark and John -- and ask them if they felt that Jesus was represented consistently in both. And in so doing, the Word of God itself has the opportunity to speak.
Q - How do we balance the message of the holy wrath of God with the holy love of God?
A - Well, you are right. We have to balance them. We need to be aware at all times, and sensitive to the context of the people we are in connection with. A great place to meditate is the Psalms which are full of love from God, but also wrath. If we are out of balance to one side or the other, switching our daily Bible reading over to the Psalms for a while may be just the remedy. Balance is sometimes difficult to maintain, but God knows how to communicate both his wrath and his love in each circumstance according to how he is needed -- like when God spoke to Elijah in a needed whisper in 1 Kings 19, after having answered in fire on Mount Carmel.
Q - How do you know that the stories in the Old Testament are true not just stories?
A - We don’t know... in the modern scientific method sense. We have to trust that the Bible is true in all that it affirms. But it is worthy of our trust. We trust the Bible because we trust the Spirit of God who inspired and illuminated it. There are however a number of other ancient sources that we can look at, which demonstrate that the Bible ‘fits’ well within its context. The Law and the histories are written in ways that would have been understandable to the people of Israel; and many of them would have experienced the things that had happened.
Q - To what extent do the teachings need to be adjusted for cultural relevancy?
A - The shape of the Bible is often adjusted to our context. It has, for example, already been translated into a language that we can understand: English. The content of the essential teachings of the Bible is not, however, adjustable. Sometimes we will have conversations about portions of the Bible that reflect the culture of the day, and whether they communicate principles that would look different in our day and age. (We drink juice and not wine at communion for example, so that we remain a safe place for anyone who has struggled with alcoholism themselves or in their family. But in each case we celebrate the spilled blood of Christ for our sins.) But in every ‘adjustment’ that we make, we must be careful that we remain faithful to the Bible’s clear message of the reality and problem of sin, and of God who in love sent his Son to die for our sins and bring us to new life. Good question! And one that we will face again and again: faithful to core teachings even if they are uncomfortable; flexible to allow God to work in creative ways and for us to express the timeless truths of the Bible in culturally appropriate and comprehensible ways -- even in new ways.
Q -Historians do acknowledge the validity of oral histories. So, in the Old and New Testaments, do oral histories factor in? Were they used and how?
A - There certainly were oral histories that factored into the Bible. The things that Jesus said and did, for example, would have been remembered and passed on from person to person until the time they were written down many years later. Nowadays, when we write everything down, oral history can mean ‘bad’ history, but not so in ancient times. Oral histories were excellent ways of passing on information, and the community would know the stories and be able to correct alterations. Especially in the case of the New Testament, all the authors were those who had witnessed Jesus himself (see 1 John 1:1-2 and Acts 1:21-22 to see that the disciples were very aware of this requirement -- the story of Paul as receiving a late revelation of Christ is in 1 Corinthians 15). Moreover, although there was a period of oral tradition, the books of the NT were written while the original witnesses were still alive and could say ‘yes, this is really how it was’. This is one of the reasons why other ancient books are not in the New Testament, because although they spoke about Jesus, they were not connected to the original disciples of Jesus, and were not written down sufficiently ‘anciently’ to have been subjected to the ‘fact check’ of the original apostolic community. Acts 20:35 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 would be examples where Paul quoted from an oral history.
Q - Are there any translations we should avoid?
A - Yes. We should avoid the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses because it is anti-Trinitarian and was translated with bias to avoid certain theological positions. It has been my experience that all of the mainstream translations are good, and the important thing in choosing one for yourself is one you can read and understand, and that you give God the opportunity to speak to you through it.
Q -What should our response as a church be to these situations?
Homosexual not claiming to be a Christian. Homosexual claiming to be a Christian.
Should our response be the same?
A - Our response of Christian love and of hospitality, and our focus on the transformative work of Jesus Christ in each of our lives, should be the same for every person, including those who experience same sex attraction, who are involved in homosexuality, or who are impacted by homosexuality. So long as it is denied expression, that is, so long as it is neither fostered nor acted upon, same sex attraction, just like every other kind of attraction to persons other than one’s spouse, is not an impediment to full participation in the life of the church nor to becoming a Christian. Homosexual activity, however, would be an obstacle to baptism, to membership, and/or to ministry within our church. The C&MA in Canada does not perform or endorse homosexual marriages. Our church does, however, welcome all people to come and hear the message of the Gospel, to participate in church life, and to be forgiven and transformed through encounter with the risen Jesus Christ. The manual of the C&MA in Canada has an official statement regarding homosexuality, which is on p 72-73 of this link: http://www.cmacan.org/uploads/content/cma-manual-2016-3.pdf
Q - In the Bible, God often “hardens” people’s heart to achieve a purpose for His people. Or when an “evil spirit from God” came upon Saul. How do we understand these verses where God seems to intentionally use “evil” for his purposes, but that evil actually comes from God?
A - That is a challenging question. The standard answer would be, for example in Pharaoh’s case, that first Pharaoh hardened his own heart, as in Exodus 8:32, and only after that God hardened it. So too with Saul, that God allowed a spirit to torment him, not that he was the originator or commander of the spirit. You are right to say that evil never comes from God. But even in the Bible, we come across sections where we see evil at work . . . like in Habakkuk 1 and 2 . . . but God is in control, even when evil is at work in the world. That is the best way that I understand difficult passages like this one: God is always supreme, even when it seems like evil is at work; and that he lets us encounter the fruits of our own rejection of him, even withdrawing his own protecting hand that often keeps us from straying too far.