Adam’s Family

Addams Family

They’re creepy and they’re kooky

Mysterious and spooky

They’re altogether ooky

The Addams Family

 Do you remember the bizarre TV family that this song refers to? Gomez and Morticia Addams, heading up a strange collection of relatives, including a dwarf-sized ball of hair with a hat, a disembodied hand, a robed uncle with his own personal electrical current, and two normal-looking children who are actually as weird as everyone else in the family.

The Bible points out that we all belong to another ooky family – Adam’s Family. Romans 5:12 says that “sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and in this way, death came to all men, because all sinned.” It seems that Adam’s sin of disobedience to God had a far-reaching consequence: an inclination towards sin and an inheritance of death for all who would come after him – the whole human family. Yes, that includes you and me. Adam started a family that would be sinners by nature, right from birth. “But”, one may protest, “can a pure, innocent little child have sin in his or her heart?” Every parent knows the answer to this question. Soon after the veneer of helpless babyness cracks, the undesirable character traits of our great, great, great, etc. grandfather become apparent, just as they did in us, and just as they will in generations to come: selfishness, coveteousness, stubborn pride, greed, jealousy… sadly, the list goes on.

So here we are, some of us displaying our sinful nature in bizarre easy-to-see ways, and others seeming outwardly normal, but nonetheless carrying and ultimately displaying the characteristic traits of Adam’s Family. Is there any escape from this hopeless generational nightmare? Paul addresses this in Romans 7:24-25, when he asks and answers this question in the same breath: “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Yes, there is rescue from Adam’s Family! It is through a new Adam, so to speak – Jesus Christ, who through the Holy Spirit is establishing a family line of people who are being made free from their inheritance of sin and death in Adam by receiving salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to do the Father’s will, which included being crucified for our sins, dying and rising again, and forced open the door to the Adam’s family mansion, allowing all who desire to escape to be rescued and renewed through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul puts it like this in Romans 5:18-19:

“Consequently, just as the result of one trespass [Adam’s sin] was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness [Jesus’ death and resurrection] was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam] the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man [Jesus Christ] the many will be made righteous.”

Do you suppose that there is no “ookiness” in you, that you don’t really belong to Adam’s family? Allow God to search your heart, pointing out your sin, and it will become as clear to you as it probably is to others. Or perhaps you know all too well that you are from Adam’s family line, and you can’t see any escape. If this is the case, I encourage you to fix your eyes on Jesus Christ, who has already broken down the door to Adam’s house and is willing to give you a place in God’s house, as part of His family. I encourage you to reach out in faith to Him, and truly receive a new inheritance that begins in this life with moral transformation and continues throughout eternity in fellowship with God as His dearly loved adopted sons and daughters.

Sweet.

May the Lord bless you,

Robert Baron

 

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We were Made for This!

April 9, 2013 Leave a comment

Eric Liddell

This is Eric Liddell – or an actor who played Eric Liddell in the movie “Chariots of Fire”. Eric Liddell (the real one) made headlines during the 1924 Paris Olympics when, after breezing through the heats, he refused to run in the 100 metre final because it was scheduled on a Sunday morning – the day and time when God’s people go to Church. So he went to Church on that Sunday, then later in the week ran as a last-minute entry in the 400 metres – which wasn’t his event – and promptly won the gold medal!

This wasn’t the only thing that irked the Olympic gurus. Eric had this irritating habit of running “funny”. Contrary to all scientific sprinting theories of the times, Eric would run normally for a while, then begin lifting his knees high, throwing his head back and dropping his jaw, running like a crazy man. Then he would win.

When questioned about his unorthodox style, Eric Liddell simply stated, “When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” So it seems that this world-class sprinter, when doing what he was made to do, became supercharged by the joy of the Lord!

I’m sure we can all relate to this. Sometimes in life when we find ourselves doing exactly what we were cut out to do, we can gain such strength and endurance – and joy! – that even in the face of hard work and long hours we can shout joyfully, “I was made for this!”

The Church in our city can take a lesson from all this. These days, often the Church seems just plain tired. And it’s not the kind of tired that doing less fixes. In fact it seems that the less the Church does, the more fatigued it becomes. Perhaps this is because the Church needs to be doing more of what it was cut out to do. We need the joy of the Lord that comes from doing what we were made for, and the Spirit-stoked energy that proceeds from this.

But, what are we made to do? What are we cut out for? Happily, the Word of God gives us some key insights into this question. These insights come in the form of the “identity” things that Jesus says about His Church. There are many times when the Lord helps the Church understand who we are. I’ll just mention three.

First, we are ONE. This may be news to some of us in the Church as we continue to fragment, compartmentalize and isolate ourselves as households and local Church fellowships, but Jesus considers us to be one, a perspective which is summed up in His prayer to the Father as recorded in John 17:20b: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…” So when we gather as the parts of the Body of Christ, cooperating to be His hands and feet in this world, we are doing what we were made for!

Second, we are SALT. Jesus says, “You are the salt of earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matt. 5:13) According to Jesus, the Church is made to have a preservative influence on the world around us – preserving the truth that hope is still to be found in this world – hope in Jesus Christ. So it makes sense that we get out of the saltshaker and into the world, doing what we were made to do; preserving hope in Jesus in a world that has lost all hope, and bringing the flavour of Christ to a world that has become tasteless.

Third, we are LIGHT. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus calls the Church “the light of the world”. So as the Church, we are made to shine the light of God’s character in our dark world. The life of Jesus demonstrated that God is kind, patient, and generous, blessing the righteous and even the unrighteous, because of who He is. And when we as the Church shine the light of God in our fallen world, we are doing what we were made to do. Acting any other way doesn’t make sense. Jesus puts it best: “A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

So we are one, we are salt, and we are light. How can we as the Church do these things we were made to do, so that we can get out of the churchy doldrums and feel God’s pleasure as we function according to our design?

I’m glad I asked. On Sunday, May 26th starting at noon at the new Bomber stadium, the Church in Winnipeg will be getting together to celebrate Jesus at the One Heart City Church service. It will be a great time, but more than that, it will be the Church being ONE, which is what we were designed to be. I know that we will feel God’s pleasure as we gather.

The One Heart city-wide Church service is actually the kickoff event for another great opportunity to be what we were made to be. This opportunity is called Love Winnipeg – a chance for the Church in the city to be salt & light, working together as local fellowships in our city to preserve and shine, reflecting the character of God in our communities through neighbourhood cleanup projects, helping hands and practical expressions of God’s kindness to those around us. Here at WECC, we will be helping Discovery Children’s Centre on June 4th as we partner to provide a Family Fun Day for hundreds of people in our community. What an excellent chance to do what we were made to do, blessing and serving both this child care centre and the community around us!

Of course, there will always be critics of the Church as we attempt to be what we were made to be – salt & light together in a world that desperately needs our help and our message. But, as with Eric Liddell, the criticisms lose ground to a victorious Church that, although at times running awkwardly, is feeling God’s pleasure.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob       

Living Letters

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

God is accused of lots of things, but one of the most ironic is the charge that He is not paying attention. We often say, “Why doesn’t God hear me? Why doesn’t God speak to me?” The truth is that God hears and speaks to us regularly. It’s us who often aren’t listening – we tend to stick our fingers in our spiritual ears and belt out a hearty, wilful rendition of Yankee Doodle while the Lord tries to get OUR attention.

This past week, the Lord spoke to our family of Churches in an interesting way. We believe that for the last while, He has been trying to get our attention about His mission for us – His Church – in this world. It’s all about our role as ambassadors for Christ – ministers and messengers of reconciliation between God and people. We have preached about evangelism, we have taught about hospitality and reaching out to others, we have done activities to practice sharing our faith… All with OK results. Not great, but OK. Then the Lord sent us a letter.

More than one letter, actually. Eleven, to be exact. Francine, one of our members, happened to come in contact with a group called Missionaries to Canada. It was a team of young people from Indonesia and South Korea who were living out a call from the Lord to come to Canada and share Jesus with Canadians! You might think, “Wait a minute. Isn’t that our gig? Isn’t Canada the one that sends missionaries to those countries?” The answer is a sad, “We used to.” Now we’re too enlightened to do that. And this “enlightenment” has caused our nation to become a spiritual shadow of its former self. The Lord knows the trouble that Canada is in, and He has answered our nation’s need for Jesus by sending Christians from other nations to bring the light of the gospel into the enlightened darkness that we have wrought, and to encourage Canadian Christians to pick up the torch again and reach out to the lost all around us. He is sending living letters to Canada.

As a result of this initial contact with the Missionaries to Canada, this team of international missionaries visited us for a week. They stayed in our homes. They ate with us. They provided presentations and equipping for us. They sang. They taught. They served. They testified about what Jesus had done in their lives. And they spoke to us in English, a language that many of them had only begun studying four months ago. Far from home, way out of their comfort zone, into a frigid zone, in our homes, in our Church, around the table, these young people became living letters to us. The Lord sent them and spoke through them about His heart for the lost, and His desire to see us doing Jesus’ work on the earth, with an eloquence and an effect that easily outdid any best-selling book or cool video on the subject.

The week we spent with the Missionaries to Canada was profoundly impacting. That’s because the Lord sent them and spoke to us through them. Sending living letters is just one of the myriad of ways that God uses to get through to us. I’m glad He doesn’t give up trying.

Are you feeling like God isn’t paying attention to you these days? Maybe He is already sending you a living letter. He does that.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Busted

November 4, 2010 3 comments

Last Thursday was a normal day. At least it started out normal. I worked, met with people, worked some more, then got ready to cycle home. I particularly like this part of the day – not just because it’s home time, but because the bike ride home is my chance to process, pray and get some exercise at the same time.

So there I was, riding my bike down St. Matthew’s Avenue, when in the blink of an eye, it all stopped being normal. As I crossed the intersection at St. Matthew’s and Dominion, a car left its place at the stop sign and came barrelling towards me.

I’ve sometimes wondered what it would feel like to be invisible, but I can tell you that it doesn’t feel too good when there’s a car coming. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first, and then came those moments that people describe as being “in slow motion”. I had a chance to think a lot of things in that second or two – “What’s this guy doing? Doesn’t he see me? He doesn’t see me. What am I going to do? I can try to veer right. Too late, he’s right here. I’m going to get hit. Oh, well. Here we go.”

Crack.

The car’s bumper hit my leg just above the ankle as I started to veer to the right. My bike disappeared out from under me, I landed half on the car, half on the street, then all on the street. Sprawled out on the road, I was still in hyper-thinking mode, so in a flash I took a mental inventory of my body – Head? Check. Back? Check. Arms? Check. Miraculously, everything was fine, except for that red-hot vice squeezing the life out of my lower left leg. It was a new sensation that quickly topped the charts in my lifetime “Pains I Have Felt” category. At times like this, what’s really inside a person comes out. To my relief, what came out was, “Jesus, help me!” If it was something else, it would have been embarrassing.

At this point, some might wonder, “Where was God when all this happened?” “Was your guardian angel doing a Sudoku when that car hit you?”

That one is easy. God was right there. In the few minutes following the collision, while I was on the road in my own little world of pain, I became aware that in those few minutes, the police arrived, the paramedics arrived, and the RCMP arrived (just happened to be passing by)! Almost instantly, traffic was being directed and I was being assessed by some really nice people. To top it off, in the midst of all this, as I called out to the Lord to help me, I actually heard a voice say, “Rob, I’m here.” I would have been cool if it was Jesus, but it was the next best thing. It was Brad! – one of my dearest friends, and a fellow pastor. By this time I was beginning to wonder if this was all a dream, but my leg was strongly contradicting that idea. I suddenly stopped my writhing and said in disbelief, “Brad? What are you doing here?” It turns out that he was “just passing by” too. I was able to borrow Brad’s cell phone to call Karen to let her know what happened, and I was able to receive prayer and encouragement from Brad, who “just happened” to be right there on the scene. It was so strange that it was almost fun – almost. So I know exactly where God was at the time. He was right there helping me. I felt honoured, actually.

Perhaps one might wonder why, even with all the crazy post-incident care, I still got hit by the car. Was the Lord a few minutes late? Well, the street signs where I got hit didn’t say “Pearly Gates” and “Streets of Gold”. They said “St. Matthew’s” and “Dominion”. I would feel ripped off if I got hit by a car in heaven, but here on earth, bad things happen. It’s because we’re surrounded by human beings, who are constantly either making bad things happen or having bad things happen to them. It’s the way the world has been since our earliest ancestors turned their backs on God and decided to go it alone. So it’s hard to stay completely out of harm’s way in this old sinful world.  But it’s encouraging to know that the Father sent His Son Jesus to redeem us and give us another chance for a new life here, and eternal life in heaven for all who place their faith in Him.

So as I took my life’s first ambulance ride to the hospital, I wasn’t wondering where God was, or why He let me get hit by a car. I was considering His kindness to me in sparing my life, and that even though we live in a fallen and broken world, the Lord has mercy on us amidst the fallenness and brokenness. I was also thankful that, having placed my faith in Jesus, he was my Friend, faithful to walk with me through the ups and downs of life – and what a Friend!

I started to cry. The ambulance attendant asked me if there was something wrong. I said, “No. I’m just so grateful”.

The attendant probably thought that I was in shock. I may have been, but I was also seeing things more clearly than I tend to on the “normal” days. So it’s complicated, but sometimes days like last Thursday are as necessary as the normal ones.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” – Psalm 23:4a

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Categories: Rob's Blog

I Love This Stuff

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I love Church youth conferences.

Let me be clear. It’s not because I’m young. It’s because God still has plans for His Church beyond our generation, and young people are a big part of it. As it happens, it’s often at these youth conferences that the Lord fills, envisions and equips those whom He calls to do great things for the advance of His Kingdom on this earth. I love seeing that. And the fact that God is still calling young people to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is a hopeful sign of His love and care for His Church, now and into the future.

Back in ‘96, I was asked to speak at a week-long Salt & Light youth conference called “Nailed.” The Lord showed up memorably and powerfully there, leaving planned post-session activities empty while young people chose to stay in the chapel, worshiping the Lord and praying for one another until the wee hours. The cool part of me being so old is that I have been able to see that many of the young people who attended that conference are now in positions of leadership in the Church today. What a privilege to see the good, lasting fruit of power encounters with the Lord!

Which brings me to Consumed 2010. It’s our Salt & Light Central annual youth conference, which happened at Mount Zion Church in Bemidji, Minnesota over the September long weekend. One hundred twenty-five people gathered to hear from the Lord, and respond to Him. We had great times of worship, and we heard excellent, practical messages from Andrew and Norm. I spoke about God the Son, Ron spoke about God the Father, and, after a challenging message about repentance from Brian, God the Holy Spirit spoke about Himself. That night there was a corporate power encounter with the Holy Spirit, with most of the young people at the front praying, worshiping, crying, laughing… it was a sight to behold. And the good fruit of this manifestation of the Holy Spirit began to be seen immediately. A bunch of the young people who had never been baptized felt that they must. And so, off they all went walking a quarter mile at midnight to the lake to be baptized. Ron MacLean, who presided over the baptisms, happened to have his handy headband light, which solved the pitch darkness issue. But nothing could solve the water temperature issue. But hey, they’re young. And Ron is intrepid.

Of course, there was great food, great worship and great friendship at the conference, but it was all eclipsed by our great God, who showed up in love and power in an amazing way during the weekend. The result for me and for many was refreshment, joy and hope.

And so passed Consumed 2010 into the history books. The young people who were there will be talking about it for some time, because many have never seen anything like it before. But I have, and I eagerly await the emergence of a new generation of leaders in the Church, whom the Lord is calling to serve Him wholeheartedly in the advance of His Kingdom in the days to come.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Surprise!

August 12, 2010 Leave a comment

I never thought I’d see the day.

I was surprised. That’s it. Surprised.

But this is no small matter. First, having been a pastor for more than a decade, there isn’t much that manages to surprise me any more. And second, I have the kind of mind that likes to put two and two together. I love puzzles and mystery novels. I take pride in solving them. So the fact that I was 100% surprised last Thursday night is a compliment to those who surprised me. That would be the whole Church.

In retrospect, the thing was executed brilliantly. Those who were responsible chose a deviously simple way to throw me off the scent – they put me in charge of the event.

So I set about to plan our Big House Group event, not suspecting that all of my preparations were to be ultimately ignored, and that my requests for assistance in this or that capacity for the evening were greeted with passive acceptance and quiet, knowing smirks.

I even preached! And everyone just let me share my devotional, knowing that the whole event would shortly be shanghaied and that the evening would be taken from my hands as soon as I was done talking.

Then Danielle came up to share a song that she had innocently volunteered to sing. When that song turned out to be the Flintstones’ “Happy Anniversary” song, I vaguely suspected that something was amiss. When a picture of Karen and me appeared on the screen with the words “Happy 25th Anniversary” emblazoned on it, I wondered if this had to do with us. And when our parents and the Warkentin’s and Sandee came in through the stage door amid balloons and flowers and congratulations, adding themselves to the unusually large attendance at this big house group, I was pretty sure there was something going on. We were surprised. By the whole Church. They knew about this for weeks, and Karen and I didn’t have a clue.

So the rest of the evening was devoted to blessing us on the occasion of our 25th anniversary. And what an evening it was! Blessing followed blessing, as Cari sang an original song about us, as we were put through humbling, challenging games and questions (to the delight of all), as our sons performed a song that was particularly meaningful to us, as the Church gathered around us to pray for us, and as a presentation line formed to contribute towards our honeymoon holiday. Afterward, a wonderful reception was prepared for us downstairs, crowned by an incredible “pièce montée” cake fashioned by Joel. I was alternately in tears and laughter through much of the evening.

So the whole Church planned this 25th anniversary party to bless us, and we didn’t even know. That’s cool. But what is even cooler is that there was something that the Church didn’t know. They didn’t know that these days I had been feeling the effects of many months of work without a holiday, along with the daily pressures of leadership in the Church. They didn’t know that I was asking the Lord for a word of encouragement to bring refreshment to me along the way.

But God did. And I received that word of encouragement in the best way imaginable – through the love, care and support of our families, and of God’s people in FireLight and LivingStones, the ones whom Karen and I have devoted our lives to serving, for the Lord’s sake. Needless to say I am indeed refreshed, encouraged and grateful. Even though we all knew some things and didn’t know others, God knew about everything.

It seems that the Lord loves surprises too.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Eph. 3:20-21

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Whose foot is that?

June 3, 2010 1 comment

So we Marched for Life again recently. That is, a variety of Churches from a variety of denominations and cultural backgrounds rallied together and participated in the Manitoba League for Life’s March for Life, which started at the Forks and ended at the legislative grounds with speeches, songs and such. The March for Life is in support of the value and dignity of human life, right from the womb to the sunset years.

In a normal world, one would expect that any event in support of human life would be universally applauded. But sadly, this is not the case in our present social climate. As we marched down Broadway, some of the hands being shown to us by onlookers were not being clapped together in support, but were being resolved into one finger, accompanied by suggestions about where we should march to.

What’s up with that? Why would a peaceful gathering of families marching in support of human dignity be jeered and sworn at?

It’s because of a collision.

In our nation, we place great value on human rights, which is a good thing. But we have become so obsessed with rights – especially those that favour us – that common sense is rapidly becoming uncommon amongst extreme rights activists and their unfortunate sock puppets, certain politicians. So when the inevitable collision happens – that is, a collision between the rights of two people or two groups – there just isn’t enough common sense at hand to avert disaster.

What happens when rights collide in a society of rights worshipers? Sadly, it’s just like in junior high: the more popular rights win. This is what has happened with the abortion issue. Normally rights find their balance in the give-and-take of their co-existence alongside other offsetting rights, but because of the successful efforts of extreme feminists to popularly promote women’s rights over all others, anything appearing to get in the way of these rights is superstitiously and summarily crushed, even a baby’s right to be born after it has been conceived.

Of course, this one-sided view of rights doesn’t make sense, but sense is not in abundant supply among extreme rights activists. That’s how the Canadian government can be criticized for not including abortion funding in “maternal and child care” aid given to needy nations. That’s how a woman can proudly post her abortion procedure on YouTube. And that’s how, when shown a photograph like the one above and asked, “Whose foot is that?” an abortion activist can seriously answer, “That’s not a foot” or, “That foot belongs to the woman.”

We have a long way to go to help our nation come to its senses. I believe that ultimately common sense will prevail, and when it does, it will be a rude awakening for our country. Some mistakes have passing consequences, but the mistake of sacrificing the lives of unborn children on the altar of women’s rights has had huge repercussions, and when our nation faces this one, it will need to hear about a God who forgives.

So we march now, and pray for revelation for our country. And hopefully, when the penny drops and our nation comes to its senses, we will be there to minister mercy, not judgement.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob