A Free Sample of Jesus

I have a friend from England who is a pastor there; I wanted to share a simple question he asked that got me thinking:

What does a free sample of Jesus look like?

What it actually looks like will be different for each of us, and the same for all of us. It will be different because we all have different experiences, meet people in different places, and have to respond and react to different circumstances. But it will be the same because we are asking God’s Spirit to help us to emulate Jesus in those experiences, with those people and in response to those circumstances.

What if we saw ourselves as “free samples” of Jesus? When people get to know us there is an opportunity for them to actually get a taste of what Christ is like through our words, actions, and our own relationship with Jesus. As the Psalms say, “taste and see that the Lord is good”.

How can you live TODAY as a free sample of Jesus?

Tips to Keep Hospitality Simple

This past Sunday I spoke about how hospitality is central to the Gospel, specifically towards strangers. Since we have a big emphasis on Green Tables, today I want to share some quick tips about how to keep hospitality simple especially as it relates to meals.

  • Have a few go-to-recipes. Pick a meal that you’re good at, that you enjoy, that you know you can prepare quickly, that your kids enjoy… something that works well for you.
  • Get the family involved. Make it a team effort to sweep, set the table, etc. so that it doesn’t all fall on one person.
  • Let people serve themselves. This saves you time putting food on plates, lets guests pick how much or what they would like to try, and helps keep the table lively as people interact more. Everyone wins!
  • Let your guests help. This might sound like a funny suggestion, but many people are happy to help make the time together easy on everyone by bringing part of the meal, helping prepare it together, or even clearing the table and doing dishes afterward. This can be great time bonding and naturally creates conversation as you interact. They may even introduce you to a new dish or skill you’ll want to add to your repertoire!
  • Remember your guests are there to see you. Don’t worry about being overly fancy or impressive, be yourself and get to know each other better. Prepare a meal that allows you to visit, not one that takes you away from your guests.

These tips have come from my own experience, though I’ve gained lots from the insights of others. (Here’s a good link to check out.) What tips would you share with others?

What Ships are Built For

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
– William Shedd

Many of us imagine the church as a safe harbour from a stormy life and world. This is of course true, in a sense. The church is meant to be a place of healing, restoration, and so on. But the goal of a church isn’t to gather people in and keep them huddled and distant from the dangers of the world. Instead, the goal of God’s healing and instruction is to equip us to go back into the world to serve and make the Kingdom of God known.

In His most lengthy recorded prayer, Jesus says this to the Father about those who follow Him:

I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. … Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.
John 17:15, 18

We have a mission, a purpose. We weren’t built for the harbour.

It’s in the ocean that we can truly feel the wind of the Spirit filling our sails, God guiding us and moving us forward, pressing His grace into our hearts and minds.

Where You go we will follow…
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be afraid
Just set your sail
Let’s risk the ocean
It’s only grace
Let’s risk the ocean
It’s only grace

Making the Most of Family Meals

At Cornerstone we talk about the importance of Green Tables. The moments of everyday life are moments that God can readily use to do His work. When we talk about Green Tables it’s often along the lines of sharing our faith with others, but the same ideas apply to raising our children as well.

I recently came across an article online, not from a Christian source, that really gets some of this, and had some really practical suggestions worth thinking about.

Another site summarized the main article this way: “Meal time isn’t about eating; it’s about sharing with the people you care about most.” In our busy and fast-paced world we often see food as fuel, we grab it on the run, eat it on our own or in a rush. What if we started to think about our meals less in terms of food and more in terms of the people we care about?

    Here are some of the helpful ideas mentioned:

  • If supper time is too difficult, try sharing breakfast together.
  • Get your kids involved with making the meal.
  • No TV, cellphones, or tablets.

As Christians, shared meal time is also a great time to talk about things we’ve been learning at church, to practice praying together, and talk about how we’ve seen God active in our lives or the lives of others. If you’re not used to this it can feel uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth pushing through the awkwardness. It might even help to talk about why it feels awkward! Also talk about why you’re going for this, what you want to see happen by sharing not just food but also the most meaningful parts of your lives together. It’s worth it!

We Have Nothing in Common…

Unity in Diversity

May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 15:5-6, NLT

On Sunday I sat in Stratford listening to Pastor Stephen draw attention to the message Paul shared under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: if we can live together in unity while possessing a diverse range of ideas, backgrounds, social standings, etc. then the world will see the wonder of Christ among us, as He is the ONE we have in common. That is such a powerful truth! Especially when we have nothing in common… except for Christ. Then it’s clear that He is the only thread that ties us together and He gets all the glory!

At Cornerstone we want to live as that kind of united and harmonious community. We also want anyone who comes as a guest to experience a deep awareness of being welcomed into that, and into what God is doing here. One lady I spoke to is new to all things church, much less our church, and I was so pleased to hear her describe Cornerstone as feeling “like family”!

What an incredible witness to the power and love of God when a diverse group of people love each other and readily welcome others in. This is Good News for all people, isn’t it?

Here’s a challenge… at the next service you attend, when it comes the “Meet and Greet” moment, find a person in the room that you imagine you have the least in common with and introduce yourself with a smile. Be the one to walk across the room, build a bridge, and get to know your brother or sister in Christ. After all, we are family.

How thing are done around here

Yield Sign

As a church we’ve continued to read through the letter to the Romans. In chapter 14 into 15 the author, Paul, challenges us to focus on the essentials of our faith and not to allow secondary or “disputable” matters to divide us. I thought I’d take a moment to look at this from a cultural angle as well.

In the pages of the New Testament we see a clash between two cultures. First, the Jews. They understood there was only one way to be faithful to God and this meant being Jewish in every way: culturally, religiously, and socially. Then, with the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of His Holy Spirit, now there were other people of faith that weren’t Jewish in any way. (There’s one word to cover the big group of everyone-that’s-not-a-Jew: “Gentile”.)

A lot of New Testament ink is devoted to the massive implications of this cultural change; I’ll focus on one thing. In Acts 15 the clash has become intense. The Jews want the Gentiles to act Jewish, with a long list of do’s and dont’s, but others see that as unnecessary. In the end they settle on a very short list of practices they easily agree on, realizing that the essentials of faith are most important and not their way of doing things. It’s simply about following Christ!

Over the past decade Charlottetown has seen tremendous growth in its immigrant populations. That means there are new faces to see, new languages being heard, and new ways of doing things. At Cornerstone we’ve made a real effort to embrace all people and welcome them to be part of what God is doing among us. These changes can create conflict, even when we’re open to change.

I want to encourage us as a church to continue being willing to do things in a new way so that new people are welcomed in, without it being unnecessarily complicated. If we worry that things aren’t being done “our way” we’ll likely miss seeing things done “God’s way”. The culture that we have now as a church will look different, and that can be a wonderful thing! Fortunately, we believe that God makes unity possible in the midst of all kinds of diversity… social, economic, cultural, generational, etc. A Christian is a new kind of person, and a church is a new kind of community that is only possible by the power of God within it.

Take some time this week to thank God for the people in our church who are different from you.
Pray that we would be more concerned with doing things in “God’s way” of love rather than “our way”.

“God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” – Peter (Acts 15:8-11, NLT)

Around the Table

Author and former-pastor-now-professor Mark Buchanan:

I’m beginning to realize why Jesus placed such a priority on sitting down to a meal with someone. Something happens around a table that doesn’t, or only rarely, happens elsewhere. It’s some magic that can’t be conjured, manufactured, or faked. Stories are told. Histories are remembered. Dreams are evoked. Laughter breaks out, and sometimes tears. A depth of honesty emerges. A sense of shared humanity weaves hearts together.

At Cornerstone, this is part of what we call #GreenTables. (Click the link for more)

With Every Act of Love

God put a million, million doors in the world
for His love to walk through;
One of those doors is you…

I’ve been a big fan of Jason Gray and his music for a long time. He’s a Christian with deeply thoughtful lyrics matched with catchy popular music. His latest album was just released, and the lead single has some great thoughts well worth sharing. Enjoy!

)

The song was inspired by this passage from N.T. Wright’s book Surprised By Hope:
“Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness;” says Wright, “Every act of care and nurture, comfort and support . . . every deed that embraces holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world—all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. . . . What we do in Christ and by the Spirit in the present is not wasted. It will last all the way into God’s new world.”

What acts of love have helped you see and receive the love of God?

What act of love can YOU do today?

This Week’s Invitation

I’m going to ask you a question, ready?

Who could you invite to church this Sunday?

Now pay attention to how you felt when you read that. Here are some likely responses, see if one matches you…

That’s sounds good, someone came to mind right away!
Great! Now why not invite them right now?

I couldn’t think of anyone.
OK, here’s a simple idea: for the next 7 days, anytime you leave through the front door of your home pray a short prayer asking God to keep your eyes open for someone you could invite next week.

I thought of someone, but I know they would say “no”.
Maybe they would, or maybe they wouldn’t. Don’t say no for someone else; at least give them the chance to make the decision. There are many things I enjoy now that I never would have even thought about until someone gave me a opportunity and an invitation.

I thought of someone but I’m too scared/embarrassed/shy to invite them.
You’re not alone – literally! God is with you as you face your own fear/embarrassment/timidness. There is a verse that speaks to us when we find ourselves facing situations outside our comfort zone: “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6) If someone in your life knows you care more about them than whether or not they go to church with you, they won’t mind being asked to join you in going to something that means a lot to you. They may still say no, but it’s not a rejection of you or your friendship; keep loving them!

I would be arrested and imprisoned for practicing my faith publicly.
Really? There are countless people around the world that face this kind of persecution everyday, and yet they pursue Christ willingly. Some of them are actually dying to be able to invite their friends to church. I don’t say this to bring you guilt, just a new perspective. How will you use your freedom today?

Some of these answers are a little simplistic, but the goal is to get you thinking and even doing. If going to church is something meaningful for you, it’s worth sharing with those closest to you. Most people appreciate being invited to something their friends enjoy, so long as the invitation is thoughtful and authentically warm. So… who could you invite to church this Sunday?

Podcast Problem?

If the podcast is not available or there is a problem, please email podcast@cornerstonebaptist.ca

Stay Connected

One Church, Multiple Locations: