From the pastor, 2008 - 2009

oct   ·   nov   ·   dec - jan   ·   feb   ·   mar   ·   apr   ·   may   ·   jun

 

    On the mountain of the Lord ...
    or at least on the mountain with the Lord
      (September 2008)

    Isaiah 2: 3 - "Many peoples will come and say, ĎCome, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." (NIV)

    During our vacation this summer, we climbed the highest mountain in New Brunswick. On the top of Mount Carleton sits an abandoned lookout shack, formerly manned by a chosen few who were appointed to keep watch over huge tracks of forest for the first sign of smoke or fire. Now replaced by airplane surveillance, the fire tower is a deteriorating wreck, and the road leading to the base of the mountain an overgrown rock-strewn track resembling a goat path.

    Yet the upward hike was a pleasant if strenuous walk, and the view from the summit simply beautiful. A vast blue sky, bedecked with white clouds, stretched out over picturesque lakes nestled within a sea of deep green forest. Having started our upward journey the day before from the bottom of the ocean at low tide at the Hopewell Rocks, we could truthfully say that we had travelled from the depths to the heights. Right well could we sing at worship at Parkwood on the first Lordís Day upon our return: "This is my Fatherís world" -- one "of rocks and trees, of skies and seas" -- one full of wonders which His hand has wrought.

    Yet a retreat to nature afforded us much more to contemplate than simply the beauty of the Lordís creation. One was reminded that throughout recorded history, men and women have sought -- and found -- the Lord of the creation in the midst of the beauty of that creation. Finding God in such surroundings has been for many the tonic for the renewal of hope and strength and peace amid the discouragements and challenges which our living in this fragile, fallen and frazzled world so often entails.

    Abraham when coping with the call to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of his loyalty to God found "on the mountain of the Lord" that "it will be provided", and in finding Godís grace in the ram caught in the thicket, worshipped Jehovah Jireh -- the Lord who provides. So too should we know afresh that God the provider will supply all our needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.

    Moses ascended the mountain of the Lord to be given a passing glance of the Shecinah glory of the invisible God, and to receive firsthand on tablets of stone the law revealed and written by the Lord that all might live according to His design. So too should we be convinced afresh that the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul, and the ordinances of the Lord are altogether righteous.

    The prophets Isaiah, Micah, and Zechariah each summoned the people to ascend the mountain of the Lord to find God in His dwelling place and to learn of Him. So too are we called to seek the Lord with all our hearts, and to find that He is very near, and the more so in the person of Jesus, the friend who sticks nearer than a brother.

    It may not -- now or ever -- be possible for all to go physically up any mountain. Yet the good news is that God has descended in Jesus to live with us, and that upon invitation, the Holy Spirit lives within us, lifting us to live with Him. May we each ascend the hill of the Lord, and dwell in His holy place, wherever we may reside or travel.

      Your pastor, grateful for having climbed the heights, and privileged and eager to return to journey through the common and everyday paths of our life,

        James T. Hurd

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    Elections, Leadership, and Discernment   (October 2008)

    A change in government usually grows out of dissatisfaction. In some parts of the world, such a change comes about through a violent revolution, in which an armed uprising results in a sudden change of regime. In a democracy, an election affords the people an opportunity to express their opinion concerning those who have been serving as their leaders and representatives. In our modern world, the media afford us a great many opportunities to hear and see expressions of opinion both positive and negative concerning those who have been serving and those who aspire to serve as our elected officials.

    We can learn a great deal by reflecting on what has happened in other times and places, and especially on what God has written for our guidance in the Bible.

    I Samuel 8: 1-7 - When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

    In ancient Israel, in the period when the judges ruled, the last in the long line of judges was Samuel, a wise and godly leader. As the day of Samuel's departure drew near, he named his sons to follow him in office. Sadly, though, Samuel's sons, Joel and Abijah, were neither public nor God-honouring servants. We are told that they "accepted bribes" and "perverted justice". The proposed remedy sought by the council of the elders was to ask God for a king.

    God grants their request, but is not pleased with the desire of His people to be like "all the other nations". The first choice of a king is Saul, who is described as being "a head taller" than all others. He is a king in the mould of the other nations, but he is rash and impatient, and causes both God and the nation of Israel much grief.

    In selecting Saul's successor, the Lord reminds the people that His choice of leaders is not based on outward size or appearance -- rather "the Lord looks on the heart". He has the elderly Samuel anoint the shepherd boy, David, the youngest of his brothers and deemed by his father too young to appear in the council of those assembled for the "election" of the new leader.

    Yet David is to be leader, and though his actions display much of human weakness and many failings, God empowers Him to lead His people in the midst of many challenges in both their external and internal affairs.

    The root of God's dissatisfaction with His people and the spring of ancient Israel's troubles was that in asking for a new and different leader they were rejecting God. The Lord Himself desired to lead His people, and desired that all who would follow would put their trust and confidence in Him. God uses the human instruments of kings, just as he used the human instruments of the judges, but it is not in nor on the human leader that we are to rely. It is upon God himself that we are to rest.

    Let us approach the pending election with due responsibility for the choice that is ours to make among competing candidates, but let us repose our trust in God to lead and govern. Let us remember that those whom God chooses are those after his own heart, regardless of the outward appearance or "image" that is said to be so important in our media- and image-enamoured age.

    Prayerfully,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Remembering the persecuted church   (November 2008)

    2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 - We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. (NIV)

    The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has encouraged member congregations to participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, to be observed this year on Sunday, November 9th.

    The newswire of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recently carried a story giving details and some background concerning persecution currently being directed against Presbyterian and Reformed Christians in Iraq. Excerpts of this material are provided here, to help to remind us of the plight of our fellow believers, and to stimulate us to greater effort in prayer, on their behalf.

    "Pray for the Christian community in Iraq and particularly the northern city of Mosul, where more than two dozen Christians have been murdered in recent days by militant Sunnis.

    Mosul, the second most populous city in Iraq, is the site of the ancient biblical city of Nineveh and home to one of Iraq's five Presbyterian-Reformed congregations.

    Hundreds of Christians have fled Mosul since the spate of killings began.

    The Mosul church is the oldest in Iraq, having been established in 1840. ... It was out of the Mosul church that God sent missionaries to Baghdad, Basra and elsewhere to plant new congregations. Iraqi Reformed and Presbyterian people call Mosul the 'mother church.'

    When Saddam Hussein seized power in 1979, the Mosul church fell on hard times and nearly closed. Only pastoral home visits by the minister of the Kirkuk church preserved the Christian community in Mosul.

    With the loosening of restrictions on church activity in 1990, the Mosul congregation began to rebuild itself ... Pastoral duties were provided by the Rev. Haitham Jazrawi of the Kirkuk church and the congregation elected three elders "who carried out the majority of the ministry of our congregation," one elder said.

    In 2001-2002, two successive Egyptian pastors served the Mosul church, which grew to about 75 families and conducted extensive outreach to villages around Mosul.

    Internationals -- including the Egyptian pastor -- fled Iraq and by the end of 2004 the ministry of the Mosul Presbyterian-Reformed church was back in the hands of the three elders.

    The situation has steadily deteriorated since then. ... Death threats -- face-to-face and by telephone -- became a steady occurrence and in 2006 one of the three Mosul Presbyterian elders was kidnapped and killed.

    "That was a big shock to the church," the elder said. "Many of our faithful began to withdraw and not come to church anymore. The church was closed for several months."

    Only 27 families remain in the Mosul church. "Ministry in Mosul is now extremely difficult. Every Sunday morning, I have to call the custodian, who lives near the church, to ask if it is safe in the neighborhood to come to church. If the custodian says it is not safe, I call all 27 families to tell them we will be meeting in different private homes," the elder said.

    On Oct. 12, Kirkuk's pastor Haitham Jazrawi sent the following e-mail:

    "Dear brothers and sisters in Christ the Lord,

    This e-mail is a prayer request for Iraq, the people in general and especially the city of Mosul (known also as Nineveh) and the Christians there.

    During the last 4-5 days, around 25 Christians (some say 40) were killed in the streets in different parts of the city for religious and political causes. In the past people used to be kidnapped, threatened, and a ransom was paid to be freed. Now they're being killed without prior notice and the government hasn't done anything so far. Even the media didn't cover it until the third day.

    Many Christians fled to the nearby villages and cities where they're living under severe conditions (families are actually sleeping in their cars). Fear and worries fill the place.

    We're praying for the terrorists who think that they're doing so for God to wake up and know who's the real God. We're praying for the believers and the nominal ones to get closer to Jesus, for the many families who lost a loved one, their houses and money that they'll never forget that no matter what we lose, we'll still have the places Jesus is preparing for us in heaven.

    And finally, we're praying for Christians who live in the safer area that they remember and do as Jesus asked: "For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ's, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward" (Mark 9:41).

    We're starting to fast for three days for Iraq and its people like the days people of Nineveh fasted at the time of Jonah. For that our suffering will turn the eyes towards our Saviour. Let's lift our hands together asking for peace from the King of peace in Jesus' name.

    "I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).

    Grace and peace to all of you."

    Iraq is only one of three dozen countries on the list of nations in which Christians are at the present time living and witnessing amid serious persecution. Let us not abandon them by failing to pray.

    In Christ, remembering His suffering for us, and remembering those who suffer for Him,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Travelling in the storms of life   (December 2008 - January 2009)

    Travelling during snowstorms is tricky. It can be dangerous; it is sometimes scary. At the very least it is messy. Walking involves crossing street corners, and can include either climbing snowbanks or wading through icy puddles. Using a vehicle requires the use of a brake pedal, which sometimes will bring the car or bus to stop where we want to stop, but other times may result in a long and unpredictable slide. Trains, though running straight on the rails, can be slowed by storms, and arrivals can be delayed. Airplanes can be held up for hours and luggage lost, stranding travellers.

    Though we may be tempted in the face of all these potential problems to "batten down the hatches" and stay at home, living in community requires us to take some risks in travel.

    Travelling is also more than simply a physical moving from place to place. There are economic conditions to be faced, "troubled waters" which we must navigate. As I write this, BCE Inc., which for years was known as Bell Telephone, and one of the most stable and dependable companies in the country, has lost forty percent of its value overnight. One day recently the Toronto Stock Exchange fell almost ten percent -- in a single day! Cutbacks, layoffs, plant closures, and deficits seem to be both topics for the news but also harsh realities for many individuals, families, and communities.

    For others travel involves a migration. A move to a new house or residence may result from a change in health or family situation. Enrollment in college or university or the offer of a new job may require travel to a new city and all the challenges of finding oneís way in a new environment. For new immigrants, travel entails embracing a whole new way of life in often very unfamiliar surroundings.

    Travelling -- whether a walk in the neighbourhood, a trip across the country, or a journey through economic or political change -- is often tricky, dangerous, and scary.

    The celebration of Christmas offers us an opportunity to grasp that one of the great truths of life is that God chooses to travel with us. Christianity is not first a "religion", but rather life lived in the companionship of God, as our fellow traveller. God -- as Spirit -- chose to visit the earth he created and to take on human flesh, that he might accompany us in the journey of our lives.

    John 14: 5-6 - Thomas said to him, "Lord, we donít know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life." (NIV)

    It is so often so reassuring to be travelling with someone else rather than going alone. Yet the most assurance is to be found in recognising Godís Son as our fellow traveller. This is especially so as we travel through uncertain economic conditions. When the Bible reminds us that God has pledged never to leave nor forsake his people, it is interesting and significant that the promise is joined to Godís express counsel that we are to trust in Jesus rather than in the riches and comforts that this world tries to offer us for insurance.

    Hebrews 13: 5-8 - Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. (NIV)

    May our annual observation and celebration of Christmas serve to remind us that Jesus is our fellow traveller, and that amid the changing and challenging conditions and circumstances of our lives, He will remain faithful, as we journey with Him. In His company, we can travel securely, but travel we must, and travel we will, even amid the dangers and challenges.

    Your fellow traveller through the storms of life,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Surprise!   (February 2009)

    Doctors in California who had made careful preparations to help a woman deliver seven babies were startled when they found she was carrying an eighth. Surprise! ... Students enrolling in fall courses at York University last September had their lectures and labs come to an abrupt end in early November when the contracted faculty went on strike. Surprise! The federal government, planning late last year on continued annual financial surpluses, announced this week that the country will run large deficits instead. Surprise!

    In reading the record of the lives of the early Christians, I was struck recently by the reaction and response to surprises in their lives. In Acts 27 and 28, we find that Paul, while travelling to Rome as a prisoner under guard, is shipwrecked. By God's providence, his life and the lives of all who were travelling with him are preserved, and the motley band of sailors, soliders, and prisoners find refuge on the island of Malta. Two remarkable surprises follow. First, while Paul is gathering wood to fuel a fire, a snake crawls out of the brushpile and fastens itself on his hand. Saved from shipwreck only to be attacked by a snake? Surprise! Second, after fully expecting Paul to swell up and die, the islanders wait in vain, and discover instead that Paul's prayers result in healing for the father of the chief official of the island. Life in place of death? Surprise!

    No matter how carefully we plan our lives -- whether the small events or the big ones -- we are subject to surprises. Surprises happen! How we react to those surprises is important. There are some principles which when understood can aid us in keeping our balance when we are surprised by circumstances.

    First, we need remember that God is not surprised. He sees the end from the beginning, and though He may be filled with joy or with sorrow at events that transpire, He is never caught off-guard. Living near, and walking closely with such a great God will help us and calm us when we are surprised.

    Second, we need to anticipate that His mercies are new every morning. While we may find that life "throws us a curve" every so often, we are promised that to those who ask, God will supply generously to all and without finding fault wisdom to respond to the changing circumstances and challenges of life.

    Third, we need to embrace surprises as God-given opportunities for His grace to touch us and to flow through us to bless others. If we treat each unexpected encounter that crops up on our calendars as a curse to be avoided if possible and endured if necessary, we will rob ourselves and others. On the contrary, if we receive surprises as new invitations to discover the plans and designs of a creating and sustaining God, who desires to shape life for our ultimate and eternal good, then we will be fit to be agents of benefit and blessing to others, and we too will find the Lord's blessing.

    I am glad that life is not without surprises. Yet I am grateful most of all that I know and serve the God who sees and knows all things and is not surprised.

    With prayers for God to surprise you with His goodness, and to enable us to surprise others with His love,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    The Most Excellent Way   (March 2009)

    I recently picked up an old postcard provided for the use of soldiers on active duty during World War I. It had a place on the front for the name and address to which the card was to be sent, and a few printed lines of text on the back, with the instruction to the soldier to cross off the ones that did not apply, along with the strict warning that if anything were added the card would be destroyed instead of delivered. The choices were few and simple: he could say that he was well, sick, or wounded; he could advise that he was being discharged, and he was allowed to report that he had or had not received a letter recently. He could sign his name. Nothing more.

    In an age of cell phones, e-mail, text messaging, Facebook chat lines, and video conferencing, we have more ways to communicate than ever before. In our information-rich age, we have more content that we can communicate than any previous generation.

    In spite of this, communication remains the big challenge. So many messages get lost. The battery in the telephone dies. The e-mail message goes astray. The wireless network goes down. The fax transmission gets scrambled. The video feed fails. People complain, "I never got the message."

    Then there is the question of content. What should I send? Is more information better, or will it be overload? Should I forward this story, or joke -- or not? Is my message clear, or does the one receiving it need the background from previous messages? All too often, the message is misunderstood.

    In view of all these choices, I suggest that these two basic questions must be asked: (1) What do I have to communicate? and (2) How do I communicate it?

    An ancient letter from God written by the apostle Paul provides some clear but surprising answers.

    1 Corinthians 12: 31b - "Now I will show you the most excellent way." (NIV)

    Paul says that even if our communication is personally delivered, face-to-face, and even if what we have to say is nothing less than the truth of God's perfect word, what we say is completely useless -- unless we communicate it in love.

    He goes on to tell us: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Corinthians 13: 4-7, NIV)

    Let us ground our use of the telephone and the computer in love. Let us ask ourselves before we speak or write or text-message, "Does this communicate something God would want me to say?" If so, what is the best means to share this, so that the one receiving the message is able to receive it and know we love them?

    Written in truth and in love,

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    Is winning everything?   (April 2009)

    Luke 12: 15 - "A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (NIV)

    Several times recently I have heard a player or a coach say, "Winning is everything." Is it? Is an evening in the company of friends spent watching a sports competition "nothing" if one's favourite team loses the game? The conversations over the game may have strengthened the bonds of a friendship which may provide far more strength and comfort in the future than celebrating a fleeting victory in the present ever could provide. There is more to a hockey, basketball or soccer game than simply winning.

    When the political candidate or party which one has supported loses the election, is everything lost? In Canada, at least, we would admit that the "losing" side still retains the right to speak and argue in the court of public opinion. The right to vote in another election remains. The opportunity -- and responsibility -- to communicate with those elected has not disappeared.

    Those who have "won" certain gains -- through education, business, or investment -- may appear (and in some senses be) better off than others who may have failed to pass the test or gain the business or return. Yet the experience gained through the "loss" may well fit one to succeed in the future. Winning is not everything.

    Jesus introduces the parable of the rich fool by reminding people that life is far more than possessions. The fool whose plan was to build even bigger barns to hold his huge harvest so that he could put his feet up and do nothing the rest of his days is confronted with his own mortality. Before he sees the light of the next day, he is summoned away to face God.

    Even if one is successful in accumulating material goods and storing them, the risk of loss, either sudden or gradual, remains.

    Recently, I had reason to sort through a box of materials put away in another place some twenty years ago. The materials had been packaged carefully to preserve the contents. As a result of having been moved from its original location, the box had at some point been exposed to dampness. Opening it, I discovered that the contents had suffered, and instead of being carefully preserved were now musty, dirty, and damaged beyond repair.

    Matthew 6: 19-20 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy ... but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy." (NIV)

    Jesus won the greatest -- and most important -- victory of all time when he remained sinless to His final breath. He won the victory over sin, and death. In rising victorious to be crowned King forever on the throne of heaven, Jesus is the real and lasting winner. His winnings -- of paradise and eternal life -- are secure. When we place our trust in Him, we gain an interest and share in those winnings. All our losses and defeats here and now are to viewed and evaluated in the light of what He has won for us. Let us hold our earthly possessions less tightly and let our defeats rest less heavily upon us.

    Jesus Christ is risen today!

      Your pastor,

        James T. Hurd

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    What lasts forever?   (May 2009)

    Last week, all the Loeb grocery store signs disappeared, replaced with Metro labels. This week, General Motors announced that Pontiac cars will soon cease to be made. Present and former employees of Nortel wonder if one day they might wake up to discover that a once-dominant company might no longer exist. For all of us, the speed and scope of change and decay affect our lives in many ways.

    A visit to Gracefield last Saturday helped put things in perspective for me. We went to enjoy a day's canoeing on a lake now once again free of ice after another winter. The lake as a part of God's creation is still as beautiful as it has been for years well beyond the number of birthdays we have counted.

    My canoeing was interrupted by a call to come to the aid of the workparty organised by the property committee to deal with a freak and sudden change. Last fall, a survey was made of all the decaying trees that should be culled to ensure public safely. One tree not on the list, however, was the massive, apparently healthy 100-plus-year-old white pine that towered over the East Block washrooms, separating the "Hes" from the "Shes". In February, a mighty wind blew through, and snapped this great tree off twenty feet above the ground, sending it, providentially not across the new roof of the washhouse, but crashing down on the power line leading through the trailer park, blowing out the transformer on the main Hydro line, and taking down the secondary power pole supplying electricity to the washhouse, the trailer park, and the camp's workshop.

    The power company replaced the transformer, but informed Gracefield that since the power pole had been installed by the camp, its replacement (and a second pole now required by law to sustain the line to the workshop) were the responsibility of the camp. To save the cost, estimated at several thousand dollars, of having the power company install the poles, the camp's property committee proposed to do the job voluntarily.

    I joined a crew of nine other men who had cut down two cedar trees, which when trimmed and stripped were each twenty-six feet long and six inches in diameter at the thinnest point, and dragged them, with the aid of a truck and a chain, from the other end of the property through swamp and snow, and were preparing to attempt to install them. Our one minor problem: the base of the old pole taken down by the falling tree remained well-anchored in the ground in the specific location where one of the new poles needed to be. We began digging with shovel and pick axe, and quickly discovered that a few choice hundred-plus-pound rocks had been firmly planted around the base of the old pole, to a depth of four feet. Several hours and a sore back later, we managed with chains, iron bars, and a cinder-block fulcrum, to excavate the rocks and pull the old stump. Shovelling out the sand, we finally struck at a depth of five feet the bedrock of the Canadian shield. Using a series of ropes, all ten of us then managed to raise the new pole, and with the aid of gravity have it drop into place. As we paused to muse on the work involved, we all acknowledged that the crew who had installed the old pole twenty-five years earlier had done a good job: it was not designed to move! We consoled ourselves with the thought that it might well be our grandchildren who would have to do the job next time!

    We are reminded by the author of Psalm 102 -- a man afflicted by trouble who amid change and decay is prone to wonder about what will last -- that God is the everlasting One.

    Psalm 102: 25-27 - "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." (NIV)

    The author of the letter of the Hebrews also is thinking about God, and fixes his eyes on Jesus, the "exact representation of his being" (Hebrews 1: 3). He then quotes these same words from Psalm 102, to call his readers -- who have been ejected from their synagogues for embracing Jesus and are struggling to find their feet amid the loss of their traditions, friendships, positions, and so much else -- to fix their gaze and their hope solidly upon Jesus. He is the Rock, his way is perfect, and those who stand upon Him shall not be moved.

    The psalmist concludes his affirmation of faith and hope in this way: "The children of your servants will live in your presence; their descendants will be established before you." (Psalm 102: 28) The new Gracefield governing group is beginning to talk about a 100-year plan for the preservation and development of the property. What do we want to pass on to our grandchildren and their grandchildren after them? Amid all our changes, let us embrace firmly the One is who is eternal and unchanging. May the legacy we leave for others be one of faith in Jesus and faithfulness to Him, even if we expend much toil, sweat, blood, and tears.

      Your pastor, not too much worse for wear, and grateful to spend energy building upon the Rock,

        James T. Hurd

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    For Jesus   (June 2009)

    3 John 5 - "Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you." (NIV)

    One of the essential questions to which we need to have a deep, satisfying and enduring answer is "For whom are you working?"

    If we are struggling with our daily tasks, and find little satisfaction in them, it is vital that we recognise that one of God's designs in sending Jesus is to give us one for whom to work who is a gracious and satisfying employer. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that on the day of judgement when the righteous are welcomed into paradise, they will be amazed to discover that they have fed and clothed, and visited when sick and in prison none other than Jesus himself, when in fact they have been visiting and clothing and feeding one of "the least of these brothers of mine". We often do not truly know those whom we serve, but we may be surprised to discover that they are none other than Jesus' brothers and sisters. One day we shall be surprised to see that here we have been serving Jesus as we have served them.

    In John's third letter, he commends his friend Gaius for taking care of the personal needs of fellow Christian disciples, even though they have arrived in his midst as strangers. He reminds him that such service and attention to their practical needs is really care for God.

    I had the privilege of attending this year's parliamentary prayer breakfast. The speaker, Ravi Zacharias, told us of meeting between certain Christian leaders and certain leaders of a organisation known for its commitment to the use of violence to destroy modern Israel, in which meeting he was given the opportunity to ask only one question. His question, to one of the leaders of Hamas, was simple: "Do you remember what God said to Abraham when he stood over his son Isaac, with the knife ready to fall to sacrifice him?" The answer being "No, I don't," Dr. Zacharias seized the moment to answer his own question by pointing out that God said, in essence, "The Lord will provide the sacrifice", and caused Abraham to see the ram caught in the thicket -- and then went on to tell the terrorist leader about the Son whom God had sent to be the sacrifice, concluding by saying simply and plainly to this effect: "Until we accept the sacrifice God provides, namely Jesus, we will continue to offer our own sons and daughters on the battlefields of life."

    Here was an unexpected opportunity to share the good news of God's redeeming and reconciling work in Jesus. Afterwards, while leaving the once-in-a-lifetime meeting, Dr. Zacharias was accosted by the man with whom he had the conversation, who came up to him, greeted him with a kiss on both cheeks, and expressed his hope that they would meet again.

    We do not know what seeds of Jesus' love which we may plant in another's life today may bear fruit tomorrow. Let us recognise, though, that our present and future satisfaction with how we live life will depend on whether we have lived for the Lord -- for Jesus -- or for ourselves.

      Your pastor and fellow servant,

        James T. Hurd
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