January 2019

Reading Scripture through the Lens of Context

Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount? Just flipped open your Bible to Matthew 5-7 and read it start to finish in one sitting? Did you walk away from that sermon feeling overwhelmed, maybe scared, or confused? I know the first time I read it, I thought it was hard.



I wonder what it would have been like for the original audience. As people coming at this sermon so far in the future, and knowing the end of the story, I think it's hard to place ourselves in the crowd, what they would have taken from Jesus' sermon, what they would have thought about what he had to say. But even with the perspective we have now, I think it's still a hard sermon to just read once and understand fully.

In this sermon, Jesus makes statements such as;

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (5:17-20)

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (6:34)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (7:7)

These verses, taken out of context, and given a quick read, may leave you confused, intimidated, or even scared, which is why context is always important when we're reading scripture. I like to tell our students that we are 2000 years too late to this conversation to glaze over it once and fully grasp it. The Bible requires, and deserves, more attention than that.

Well, a lot of this makes a whole lot more sense if we go back to the beginning. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' first big public sermon. He has only called four of his twelve disciples by this time, and he's sitting them down to teach them about the kingdom of heaven. His first comment about it? Matthew 5:3 records it like this, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Or, as the NLT translates it, “Blessed are those who realize their need for him...”.

Right off the bat, Jesus says, Look, the kingdom is not for people who boast in themselves. The kingdom is for those who realize they need him, that they can't do this on their own.

We come before God, spiritually impoverished. We have nothing to offer and we come before Him as beggars in need of grace. When we view Jesus' sermon through this lens, it brings a lot of light to what he's saying. And for the past eight weeks in Student Ministries, we've been looking at Jesus' first big public sermon through this lens. It's an important lesson, because when we come across a teaching by Jesus, and we find it difficult, or maybe even impossible to understand, it's because we're trying to do it on our own strength, when Jesus has called us, from the very beginning of His ministry, to rely on him, and not ourselves.

I hope this encourages you this week, church.

Mike Sanders, Director of Student Ministries


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Object Lessons from My Kitchen

Oven MittsI’m kind of embarrassed to share this photo with you. We’ve recently been doing some home improvements, and updating our kitchen was first on the list. Aside from the big stuff, our collection of dishes and accessories needed some refreshing. My girls love to bake - as do I, and they had been suggesting for some time that we purchase some new oven mitts. There was actually a hole at the top of one where your fingers could come out. Once I purchased the new pair, I realized how old and worn out these oven mitts really were. They served us well, however, and helped to bring many great meals and baked goods form the oven.

At this point you are probably wondering why we are talking about some old oven mitts. Well as any Children’s Director would know – everything can be an object lesson for Sunday school! I began to think about those mitts and their function. Here’s a few thoughts...

They Protect

God is our protector and promises to help us through all our circumstances. We all face difficulties and challenges at some point in our lives. I can’t even imagine how many times God has protected me or my family from various troubles. Similar to the armour of God, I like the image of God coming between us and the valleys of life – a shield.

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm 110:114

“But you Lord are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3

They Cover

I like the comparison of God covering our lives and giving us His word and truths to live by. We can take comfort it knowing that the Creator of the universe has got everything “covered”.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4

“Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” Proverbs 30:5

They Help

Those old worn oven mitts were helpful in getting the job done. Without them it would be very difficult to complete what was started. I know that we serve a great God who wants the best for us. He helps us more than we could ever imagine….or deserve.

“But those who hope in the lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Tanya Chant, Director of Child and Family Ministry


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Looking Ahead


For those of you who don't know, before I started working here at the church, I worked in retail. (Glorious retail!) And, although I loved the people I worked with, I was so happy to move into the role I have now. I'm especially thankful as the Christmas season rolls around.

This past Christmas, our family was celebrating at my sister-in-law’s home. And as we were eating our Christmas dinner, my husband Mike said, “Hey Jo, remember the last time we were here for Christmas, we were packing up to go home at this time because you had to start work the next morning at 5a.m.”. Because, if there's one thing you know working in retail, it's that Christmas isn't truly Christmas if people can't go shopping for great deals on Boxing Day.

It just seems like people are always concerned with the next thing. Never content with where we are now, we constantly look to what might lay ahead.

To keep going with the retail theme, one year in late January I remember trying to buy some winter boots for my son who had grown out of his pair. No luck, they've already got the sandals out in the shoe store. Looking to buy a nice summer dress in July? Sorry, they've already rolled out the fall flannels. Sometimes this incessant looking ahead drives me crazy!

With one exception.

On December 26, after all the excitement of Christmas is over and I finally have a moment to rest, I sit down... and I think about Easter. Because the story of Christ's birth is beautiful and miraculous, but it means little to us without the incredible, powerful, life-giving work of the cross.

Sometimes these days after Christmas can be disorienting. You've spent so much time looking forward to a certain day, and – in a flash – it's here and gone. But Emmanuel, God with us, is as true and powerful today as it is on Christmas day, and as it was 2000 years ago. So after the wrapping paper has been cleaned up and the decorations are packed away, let's remember that, as God's people, we still have so much to look forward to. We have new life in Him, and an eternity to worship our Christ the Lord!

Jolene Sanders, Director of Worship

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

                                                                                                                        - 1 Peter 1:3-4


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