Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Out Of The Habit?

Recently, there have been a few long time (but inactive) members of our church who have returned to Sunday morning worship. When told they had been sorely missed they confessed that they had missed the fellowship and corporate worship here at the church as well. Asked why they have been away for so long, the answers were similar.

 “We just got out of the habit.”

 You know, that’s very easy to do. A psychologist told a small sales group I was with many years ago that it takes an average of 21 days to form a habit. Good habits or bad habits. The example he used was asking us to take off our jackets and put them back on. As we began to put the jackets back on, he stopped us.

 “Now” he said, “Notice which arm you start with. Take it off and put it on again, starting with the other arm.” We did that, and to a person we all felt very uncomfortable using the other arm. The Dr. then challenged us to spend the next 21 days using the other arm first in getting dressed. At first it was awkward and downright difficult. It required conscious effort and thought. But as the time progressed, it became less awkward, and within three weeks it had become the normal way I put on a shirt or jacket.

 We are creatures of habit. In everything we do. It runs the gamut from how we dress, our daily routines, and our spiritual lives as well. If you are in a habit of quiet time with God in His Word and in prayerful communication with Him, you will do those things automatically. You simply appropriate the time needed. If you are not in that habit, it is difficult to get into that routine. It requires some effort at first. By the same token, if one allows other things to pull us away on a recurring basis, it is very easy to “get out of the habit”. In fact, we are forming a new habit.

 Same thing goes with being an active member of the local church. Now understand that I am not saying that serving God in the local church should ever be “routine” or “just a habit”. We should first be motivated by a changed life in Christ, the leadership of the Holy Spirit, and a sense of love and duty to the Lord and His Church. Our service to Him does become “second nature” and corporate worship and fellowship with other believers are just two of the sweet benefits.

 But sometimes, even with the best intentions, we allow conflicting things to “get out of the habit” of being an active part of the local church. The Devil will use anything, sometimes even those we love, to draw us away from our focus on Christ and our service to Him and His church.

Well, as you know, I could go on and on, but let me draw this to a close. Sunday, September 15th has been designated as “National Back To Church Sunday”. It is an interdenominational effort to encourage folks who may have “gotten out of the habit” to reconnect with the local church. It is at the church where we can come together and worship our Lord with like minded believers. It is at the church where we can build close personal relationships around the Word of God. It is through the church where we can do world wide missions through our personal participation and our financial support. It is through the church we can impact our family, our city, our region, and the world for Christ.

If you have been “out of the habit” and are physically able (as I know some of our precious readers are not) won’t you make an effort to come back to church? Start today to work on creating a new habit, one as simple, yet important as being in your place and doing your part. Bring your family. God’s church is for every age group. When we gather for worship, it should look like the Body of Christ, multi racial, little ones, teens, young adults, middle agers and “keen agers”!

 I hope to see you on Sunday, September 15th. Bible Study in small groups begins at 9:45. Worship service begins at 10:45 sharp. Bring your Bible. Bring your family. Bring your tithes and offerings to the Father. Bring a friend.

 And to our dear members who are homebound and unable to come, you can be a tremendous help by uniting with us in prayer. Pray that God will bring true revival among our people. Back to Church Sunday would be a great place to start!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Testimony To The Saving Power of Jesus Christ

Pictured here is Brother Harry Tang. 

Harry Tang is the embodiment of 2 Corinthians 5:17  " Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

Harry was born in Viet Nam in 1951to Chinese parents. For the first half of his life he lived in Viet Nam and Taiwan, and a short time in Hong Kong.  He came to the Greater Toronto Area about 30 years ago.

Harry is typical of many of the multiplied thousands of Asians who have immigrated to our northern neighboring country of Canada.  He is polite, hard working, respectful, raising his family and "minding his own business".  He was not a deeply religious man but he lived his life by a high moral code.  A few years ago, Harry's wife passed away leaving him with two sons to raise.  He was what we would call a "good man", but yet there was something missing in his life.  He was searching for something that had eluded him for nearly six decades.

Seven months ago, Harry's life changed forever.  It was then that he had been confronted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through the efforts of Pastor Jolly Ampong and the members of the All Nations Baptist Church plant in North York, Ontario in the Greater Toronto Area.  North York is a large city within itself and it is heavily occupied by Asians in general, Filipinos in particular, and Orthodox Jews. 

God had brought Pastor Jolly and his wife, Mary Jane, to this place from their native island of Mindanao in the Republic of the Philippines.  Jolly had earlier planted a Southern Baptist Church in Manjuyod in the province of Negros Oriental.  It was only natural that he would feel the same calling for church planting, although he was in a very different place from his native tropical land.  In October, 2013, ANBC Toronto will celebrate their second anniversary.  I have been invited to bring the message at their anniversary service and I hope to be able to do so.

Like all church plants - anywhere - ANBC Toronto has faced challenges, as they seek to fulfill the Great Commission, and plant a vibrant Southern Baptist Church made up of folks from different people groups.  Thus far, it is primarily and ethnic Filipino community of believers, but Brother Harry is an example of how they are seeking to reach out to all of the ethnic groups in thier city.  It is a huge challenge, but Jolly and Mary Jane are people of great faith.  Their training by SBC missionaries in the Southern Baptist Seminary in Davao, Mindanao, and thier love for the Lord and for lost people, have prepared them for the task.

This past Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, along with four other members of Westmoreland Baptist Church, I was privileged to spend time with this young but growing congregation of believers.  Brother Harry Tang shared his testimony with us and I was once again moved by the simple yet profound testimony of one who had been spiritually dead, but had found abundant life in Jesus Christ.  Harry now tells of witnessing to his two grown sons, and other Chinese friends of his.  His demeanor is one of joy and love and new found grace through faith in Jesus.  In just a few weeks he will be married to the church secretary, and they will begin their lives together, as members of this young, "Purpose Driven" church, telling others of the abundant life they have found in Jesus Christ.

I am thankful to be the pastor of a church who has chosen to support the work of ANBC Toronto, through our financial giving, through prayer, and through personal participation.  We are in the beginning stages of planning a church wide mission trip to Toronto in the coming months.

The Greater Toronto Area consists of more than 6 million people.  It is the fourth largest metropolitan area in North America and has very few evangelical churches. 

I encourage all readers of this blog who know the Lord, to pray for Jolly and Mary Jane Ampong, ANBC Toronto, for Pastor and Mrs. David P. Smith and the Vine Church in Mississauga, Ontario (whom we also spent time with last week) and the work that they and other SBC church planters are doing in that great metropolis.  Toronto is a big place.  Pray big for the Lord's work there!