Have you taken up your cross?

MCF-ANTON- 2016-03-24

Matthew records that shortly after Jesus miraculously fed thousands who had come to hear Him speak about the Kingdom of God, Jesus had a conversation with Peter about His identity. When asked, Peter mentions the crowds thought Jesus was either John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets from long ago. Jesus asked “what about you?” especially considering Peter and the other disciples had witnessed Jesus do some extraordinary things and say some remarkable things about God. Peter’s response to Jesus’ question was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter witnessed Jesus heal the sick, saw Him challenge the religious leaders, and heard Him talk about God’s Kingdom in a way no one had ever heard before. If Peter was even the slightest bit confused as Jesus’ character it certainly would have occupied his thoughts when Jesus suggested that He would be arrested, persecuted and killed. This was unimaginable for Peter to comprehend and He even told Jesus that it would never happen. This resulted in Jesus’ rebuking Him. What may have been even more shocking was Jesus’ suggestion that if people wanted to be His followers they would have to take up their cross.

On Good Friday we reflect on Jesus’ death. We may see Hollywood’s depicted images of the flogging and the crucifixion or we may even read some historical accounts of this punishment. It is also possible that we read a newspaper headline and hear about present day Christians being crucified in the Middle East as groups try to force their ideologies into the region. We know crucifixion was a very cruel and painful method used by occupiers to keep people in line. Peter also knew what the cross implied firsthand, as he probably witnessed a country man tortured in this way. We, like Peter cannot help but wonder what Jesus meant when He said that to be His follower we are expected to take up the cross; daily as recorded by Luke.

Does it scare you to think about taking up the cross? Have you thought about what it means for us who are disciples to take it up daily? Do you wonder if it means to put yourself in harms way so as to spread the gospel? Do you think it implies that we, North American disciples, should be persecuted daily?

Will you consider what it means to deny self and take up the cross and follow Jesus? Do you consider denying self requires that we give up anything that we would want or seek that would hinder our doing the will of God? It does not mean that if we want something it is necessarily wrong. It means we must take our wants and desires down from our throne and place Jesus and His will as the governing power in our lives. Would you think about taking up the cross as meaning that we give our whole life to God, as Jesus gave His life for us? It could involve bearing burdens but in fact it is deeper than that. It is a total dedication of life and ensuring it is given to His service in anything and everything.

Please think about the signification of this whole weekend and don’t hide away from the reason it was required and the expectation our Saviour has placed on us. Like relay runners, the cross has been passed to us so that the good news and the hope of Jesus’ death and resurrection can be brought to our families, neighbours and friends. Think. Commit. Pray. Take up your cross.

Do this to remember me.

MCF Anton - 2016-03-18

On the evening before Jesus was taken to die He shared a meal with His disciples.  In a letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians he records some of the words spoken by Jesus at that dinner.  Words that His followers were asked to remember in the days and years to come.  Words that would make more sense to them following the crucifixion and resurrection of their Lord.  Paul shares, “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 1:23B-25).

Christian churches re-enact Jesus actions during the Eucharist rite. Every Sunday, somewhere around the globe, congregations repeat the actions of Jesus while reminding Christ followers of His words.  Participants become acquainted with the sacrifice Jesus made, the victories won and the salvation offered.  As the service comes to an end and the congregation slips away to their homes, is it just the words from that last supper that Jesus asked us to remember or is there more?

Scripture shares that, often when Jesus woke, He slipped away from the others and prayed.  Does Jesus want us to remember this?  Does He want us to remember that daily we can and should speak to God our Father?  When He reached out and embraced the lepers, the poor, and the sinners, did He want us to remember that this is what He meant by loving our neighbour?  When He turned over the tables in the temple and scattered the moneychangers, did He want us to remember that God deserves our respect and reverence and that we should not be complacent in our worship of Him?  When He went out to teach, sleeping wherever He was invited, at times eating the grains plucked from the fields, and owning nothing, did He want us to remember that there are more important things in life than material possessions?  Did he want to remind us that at times our pursuit of possessions and personal pleasure sometimes distracts us from loving Him with all our being?  Did He want us to remember that salvation is a gift from God and there is nothing we can do to earn it?  When He sat on a hillside and told those who had gathered around Him that He was the source of eternal life and that only by believing in Him could they be saved, did He expect us to remember His words when we got caught up in trying to figure out how to be good enough for Him?  When we partake in communion does He want us to remember that we are sinners who can be forgiven because His body was broken and His bloodshed?

This upcoming week we will be reminded of the process of Jesus’ dying, however it is important that we remember the purpose of His dying. He died so that reconciliation with the Father became possible, He died so that we may live with Him.  He died so that sin would not bind us to the eternal grave that could separate us from Him.  Jesus was born, lived, taught, was arrested and brutalized, crucified to death, and rose from the grave so that sin would no longer keep us from Him.  He gave His all so that we could have much.  All He asks is that we remember and respond to His offer so that when He comes back, He can take us with Him.

There is hope worth talking about

MCF - Anton 2016-03-17

Several weekly letters shared by the MCF have encouraged us to pray daily asking God to strengthen us and give us wisdom so that we may share His gospel message of hope to our family and friends. We have been coached to ask the Holy Spirit to prepare people for divine appointments during which time we can point them to the hope Jesus offers. Unfortunately, no matter how often we hear God can prepare and motivate us to be disciples making disciples, many actually fear the possibility that God will arrange a meeting. Although we believe in the great commission to share the Gospel many are hesitant for various reasons, including the fear that we will mess it up because we do not know what to say. We trust God but many would rather have those encounters later when they think they will be more prepared. Regrettably, many around us are asking “where then is my hope” as they face their world and so we must step up and trust God not to arrange encounters, but to be present with us overseeing our interaction.
What happens if you pray for an engagement and you get a phone call out of the blue from a sibling who tells you that their spouse has some dreadful disease?  This individual has known you all your life, knows about your secrets, your shortfalls, and knows how you had previously reacted poorly to life around you? How do you respond if they ask “where then is my hope” and ask you to pray for them? Do you remind yourself of your fear and tip-toe around the conversation and try to end the call quickly or do you offer an unscripted prayer of hope that stems from our own hope in Christ?
Christ followers are people of hope in a world filled with hopelessness. Their hope rests on future salvation, the resurrection of Jesus, and eternal life with God. They help others discover hope in their lives. Christ’s disciples (us) offer hope that Jesus can be present in daily bringing comfort, strength and wisdom even when life seems to take a turn for a worse. We can offer counsel not to ignore life’s problem and can share how our Lord will shoulder them with us. Without explaining or quoting all we know in scripture, we can share what we know about hope in our own lives and we can do this with confidence that God will use our words and His grace to affect those we talk with.
During Easter people will speak about the crucifixion that was meant to kill the hope of Christ’s first disciples. There will be focus on the pain, suffering and sacrifice as well as the joy associated with the miracle of the resurrection. The ascension of Christ to heaven will be recalled and there will be emphasis on the promise of a returning Christ. However we must not forget that from the empty tomb came the hope of an everlasting interactive loving God who wants to be with us daily. It is that hope that needs to be shared with those we have prayed about meeting. It is that hope we see for them and so we must gather up the courage to share it with them this Easter season. It is a hope worth talking about.

The Buddy System – The Sentinel Program

Early in my military career I was trained to perform the role of Ships Diving Officer by the Fleet Diving Unit – Atlantic.  The training was rigorous and of the 30 candidates who started the course, only 9 finished the program, which was apparently the norm.  Though challenging, I loved the experience of suiting up and entering the underwater world where there was adventure as well as risk.  Because of the risks, every diver was teamed up with a “buddy,” and the primary task that we had was to make sure our buddy was safe – always.  To drive the message home, we practiced sharing one tank through “buddy breathing,” we worked on underwater tasks in pairs and there were times when were literally were tied together at the wrist, particularly during night dives.  Having been trained as a lifeguard prior to joining the military, I had an understanding of the value of the buddy system, but those night dives raised the concept of the buddy system to a new level.  At first, being tied together, was awkward, it slowed me down when all I wanted to do was to complete the task, the mission that I had been assigned, but it was the way we were to do things, so I followed the procedure.  Eventually, being in close proximity with my buddy became second nature and I found myself instinctively always checking my buddy every 10-20 seconds or so, and rarely being out of arms-reach.

Years later, I introduced my oldest son to diving.  He was a natural, “a chip off the old block.”  On one dive we were particularly adventurous and dove on a wreck in the Saint Lawrence River down to a depth of 120 feet.  We hadn’t intended on diving that deep when we started out, but we were so enthralled by the wreck that we neglected to check our depth gauges until we arrived at the bottom.  Upon realizing our depth, we immediately began our assent, but we figured that we needed to make a decompression stop at 50 feet, just to be on the safe side.  We found a ledge on an outcropping and were just looking around, when I caught a glimpse of something falling beside my son, who was about three feet away from me.  I looked directly at him and saw that his weight belt had just fallen off and he was ascending.  I reached out and grabbed his ankle and held on like a pit bull.  At almost the same time I reached down to the ledge and grasped his weight belt.  I then pulled my son back down to the ledge and handed him his weight belt, which I then helped him cinch tight!  We finished our decompression stop and ascended to the surface.  That was a close one!  When we got back on shore, we emotionally decompressed and I was grateful for my training that stressed being within reach of your buddy.  Had I not been able to grab my son’s ankle, he would have ascended rapidly and uncontrollably risking injury to his lungs and even death.

In the book of Luke, chapter 10, Jesus is recorded as explaining to a lawyer what it means to “love your neighbour as yourself.”  The explanation Jesus gave is known as the story of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus’ explanation is similar to the buddy system I had been trained in.  As a follower of Jesus, we are called by Christ to look out for our buddy.  According to Jesus, we are not to be observers, but we are to be actively engaged in assuring the well-being of our neighbour, our buddy.  “Who is my buddy (neighbour),?” the lawyer asked. Jesus’ response was whomever you see in need.  “But, there is so much need that I see!”  Start with the person who is within reach, he is your buddy.

So, nice story, but what can you do practically.  The Commander of the Canadian Army issued an operations order on 9 December 2015 to launch a program called “Sentinels.”  The program leaders are the chaplains, and the program’s purpose “is to strengthen unit cohesion in the collective effort to prevent and identify psychological distress that can affect the well-being of [military] members.”  My read of the Commander’s intent is he is calling out for men and women who will be “Good Samaritans” to their fellow military members.  While designated as the leaders for the program, the chaplains must rely upon you who are in uniform to be what the Commander has called “Sentinels.”  My view, is that the Commander’s call is an opportunity for Christ-followers to love their neighbour as themselves.  So, what can you do… contact your unit chaplain and volunteer to be a “Sentinel.”

The Commander of Heaven has called each of us to be a Good Samaritan, a good buddy, and the Commander of the Canadian Army is inviting you to do that which Christ has called you to within the military.  Please let me know as well as the MCF prayer team when you have signed up and we will pray for your effectiveness by joining the mission.

Until All…

Gerry Potter
Colonel (Ret’)
Military Christian Fellowship of Canada/

Fraternité Chrétienne Militaire du Canada.

Link to Additional Resource from CAF website