Video

The old man by the sea

20160713_134614I found him… the old man by the sea.  He really does exist.  But let me back up a little.  I just returned from a trip to Canada’s northeast corner, Nova Scotia.  My roaming imagination was full of ideas about Nova Scotia – ship wrecks (remember Titanic), superstitions, stories of Anne of Green Gables and old Victorian tales, and old churches and lighthouses covering the rugged sea coast.  And my imagination was not disappointed!  Whenever I travel, it’s more than just sightseeing for me.  I like to see the people who live there, hear their stories, and learn what they can teach us about their part of our world.  During these uncertain and sometimes fearful times that we live in, the old man by the sea taught me a lot.

Our tour bus unloaded on a small jutted island near Halifax, Nova Scotia just long enough for us to stop and take a picture of the scenery.  There were a few fishing boats, a small café, some old houses and a picturesque lighthouse.  As we walked up to the lighthouse with our cameras, there was an old man sitting on the front porch of his house that sat at the corner of the lighthouse.  We had to cross his yard to get to the lighthouse.

“Come on up!” he greeted everyone in a rusty old seaman’s voice.  He waved and smiled.  “Take as many pictures as you like.  You can walk in my yard.  Come on up and talk.”

And so we did.  Mr. Cutler was his name and he was 92 years old.  The row of small yellow houses next to the lighthouse has been in his family for generations.  With his long white beard and weathered face of an old sea captain, he sat in his chair at the helm of his front porch.  Whenever the tour buses rolled in, he would hang up a few handmade bags to sale, sit outside and greet the visitors to his island.  (My picture here doesn’t do him justice, but he is sitting in the white chair behind the pole with a homemade bag hanging on it, and the lighthouse in the background.)

20160713_135221 (2)

Mr. Cutler taught me a very important lesson that day.  He could have been bitter about all the loud and unruly tourists coming to his quiet island and stomping through his yard.  But instead, he embraced it and wanted to share what he had.  He knew he had something special.

Embrace Life.  It is to be shared.

For the rest of my trip through Nova Scotia and Quebec, I was quite amazed at all the churches I passed – old ones, elaborate ones, historical ones.  In earlier times, the people of northern Canada often had a hard life with harsh winters, but their faith and hope in God was very evident in a landscape dotted with churches.  It was said that the people never went more than ten miles without building a church so the families never had to travel more than five miles in either direction to get to church.  Here are some of my favorite ones that I saw along the way.

1-Halifax

2-Halifax (3)

The star constellation in the blue background of this church is confirmed to be the exact constellation on the day Jesus Christ was born.

3-angel4-sea(2)

5-Prince Edward Island (2)

6-bus

7-ship(2)

8-montreal      11-montreal(2)

This church with the round dome is the 3rd largest church in the world, from Montreal.

15-bus

No matter where you go, if you stop and look, you can always find evidence of
God’s Hope in the world.

feet with waves cropped

 

In Jesus’ Words: Where two or three are gathered in My name (Matthew 18:15-20)

wedding-prayerThe couple didn’t want to see each other before their wedding, but they wanted to pray together. (Image source: K.D. Burke Photography. Article from The Blaze, June 15, 2013)

Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

Wouldn’t you like to have Jesus as a guest at your wedding?  Some people say they don’t believe in organized religion or the control of a church.  Some people prefer to worship Jesus from the privacy of their homes, but are not comfortable attending a church or Bible study.  However, there is something very wonderful that happens when believers come together in prayer, in worship, and in celebration.  It is like an invisible strength.  It is an indescribable power, like a boundary of protection.  To the outside world, it may not look like much, but to the spiritual world, it is the most powerful thing.  Jesus said He is there among you.  And where you have gathered with two or more in His name, God has intervened.  You have fought off more demons than you know.  You have aided in more answered prayers than you know.  You have changed the world.

As difficult as this world may be at times, can you imagine how much worse it would be without our prayers?  Christians may not be feared by man but are feared by demons.

~ Matthew 18:15-20  Jesus’ advice to the church ~

“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.

Again, I assure you: If two of you on earth agree about any matter that you pray for, it will be done for you by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”

feet with waves cropped

In Jesus’ Words: The Prophet, the Messiah and the Rock (Matthew 16:13-19)

who-do-you-say

Who is Jesus?  Who is the Messiah?  Who or what is the Rock?

 

 

 

 

This small passage in the book of Matthew reveals a lot and questions a lot.

~ Peter and The Messiah  Matthew 13:16-19 ~

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He asked them, “Who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

“Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”

Even today, some people call Jesus a prophet.  During Jesus’ time, people knew he was more than an ordinary prophet and thought he must be one of the great prophets who had come back to life.  How else could they explain Jesus?  But Jesus did not answer the disciples by saying he was a prophet.

Whether you believe Jesus as the Messiah or not is up to you, but the one thing Jesus never is – just a prophet.  That is a weak compromise which means nothing to any faith.  Either Jesus is who he said he was, validated by Peter as revealed to him through God and witnessed by all the disciples, or, Jesus was just a very good man.  There is no in between and no reason for it.  Jesus as just a prophet means nothing to the Jews.  Jesus as a prophet means nothing to the religion of Islam because only Mohammed matters in their faith.  Jesus as a prophet to other non-Christians means no more than any other teacher or philosopher.  And prophets die.  None of these ideas of a prophet will make a difference in your eternal fate.

Jesus also said Peter was the rock on which he would build his church.  Catholics take this to mean that Peter was to be the leader (first pope) of the one church.  I’m not sure about the titles, but Peter was certainly blessed and had a very special purpose in bringing the message of Christ to the rest of the world.  What is most important to remember is that Peter had a great faith and he acted on it!  And because of that, Jesus’ church and family now includes all those who follow Jesus as the Messiah, their Savior.  The church is not a building or a denomination or even following a certain preacher, but a faith built on the cornerstone rock of Jesus Christ.

And the forces of Hades will not overpower it.

Go, Tell It On The Mountain!

little churchOne of my favorite childhood memories is sitting on the floor listening to this Christmas album on the record player.  I would hear the children’s happy voices singing and the friendly man’s voice announcing each song, and I wondered what it was like to be inside that warm and cozy church singing along with them.  For many hours, I would listen and gaze into the windows of that cardboard church, trying to catch the nuances of their laughter and songs.

We all have that yearning – to be loved, to be happy, to know that there is more.  On Christmas day, when all the shopping and baking are finished and the stores are closed, the world stops and we remember this very important day.  It is the day that changed the world forever.  It is the day that was promised and prophesied from the time of Adam and Eve.  It is the day when a host of angels descended from heaven and announced it to the world.  Wise men traveled from far distances to bring gifts.  King Harod tried to kill it.  But from this one day forward, hope is available to every person in the form of a Savior.  It is this day, born from very humble beginnings that God came down to earth.

For those that believe and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, we will all meet someday in heaven, and I’m sure we will have some wonderful stories to share!  For now, let us go and tell everyone about what is inside that wonderful little church!

Go, Tell It On The Mountain.

Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

The shepherds feared and trembled
When lo! above the earth
Rang out the angel chorus
That hailed our Savior’s birth:
Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born
And God sent us salvation,
That blessed Christmas morn:
Go, Tell It On The Mountain,
Over the hills and everywhere;
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
That Jesus Christ is born.

Peter, I have prayed for you

1825church

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.  Matthew 16:18.

I came across this magnificent looking church recently while taking a walk through the park of a nearby town.  According to the sign posted outside the church, it was built in 1825.  At a time almost 200 years ago, the country was in a period of rest in between two major wars.  The American Revolution had ended almost 40 years earlier, and it was about 40 years before the start of the American Civil War.  Located in a part of the American South where many old buildings were burned during the Civil War, this church stood as a testimonial to what Peter and the other disciples had fought and died for almost 1800 years prior to the beginning of this church.

I sat in the park across the street from the church, sipping my latte and enjoying free      wi-fi, while I wondered what battles had been fought on this ground for my religion and other freedoms we enjoy today.  I heard the church bells ringing in the background while people hurried back and forth to the train station down the street, or to the coffee shops and restaurants nearby.  Did they know what this grand church represented and how a brave and faithful man called Peter lead the way for the first Christian church and for all the others that followed?  But Peter’s story wasn’t always a brave one, and he was known for little faith at times.  Then something changed that.

The story of Peter’s denial of Christ while Jesus is being taken away by the guards at the Garden of Gethsemane is a widely known story told throughout history.  It’s been said there were 300-600 men there that night to take Jesus away.  Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him three times and will abandon him in his greatest hour of need on this night.  Peter emphatically says he will do no such thing, but he ends up doing it anyway.  Yet there is more to the conversation between Jesus and Peter that night, a lesser known part to the story.  Jesus said to Simon (for he was not yet called Peter, the rock):

“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”   Luke 22:32

I have prayed for you… Jesus prayed for Peter.  Even before it happened, and even though Jesus knew what Peter would eventually do, he still prayed for him.  Jesus, the Messiah, about to be betrayed and handed over to guards, was praying for Peter.

And when you have turned back… Jesus was not focusing on Peter’s shortcomings or sin.  He was more concerned about his turning back, his repentance, his future.  Jesus was praying that Peter would become stronger as a result of his trial, and that his strength would become a greater help to others.  Jesus never belittled or embarrassed people because of their sin or lack of faith.

Even today, Jesus prays for us.  He is fighting for us, interceding on our behalf, praying when we don’t feel like praying ourselves.  It’s not about the straying away or falling down that is most important, but it is about the turning back, the repenting, the change of heart.  It is in that moment of repentance and faith that we are brought to Jesus.  It is knowing we have Jesus helping us back up.  That is the essence of Christianity.  This theme of Jesus’ ministry is found throughout the Bible and it is found in the redemptive stories of people’s lives being told today.

So the next time you pass by a grand old church or hear the church bells ringing in the background, stop and think of Peter, whom Jesus prayed for and who went on to build up and strengthen the Christian church.  And know that Jesus is praying for you too.

feet with waves cropped