Saying Good-Bye To A Sports Legend

George Gross, affectionately known as ‘The Baron’, will be largely remembered for his contributions as a sports journalist. A Toronto Sun article, published on March 22, gives a brief overview of George’s journey. I had the privilege of officiating George’s funeral service last Thursday. So popular was George Gross, that we were unable to hold his funeral in his own church (St. Giles Kingsway Presbyterian). Instead, we packed almost 600 people into a nearby United Church sanctuary. Many well known sports figures were in attendance; from Red Kelly to Tie Domi, to Pinball Clemons. Tributes were given by George’s good friends, Peter Worthington and Bill Stephenson. A third tribute was given by his son, George Jr. John McDermott sang Amazing Grace. By the time I got up to give some biblical reflections, the service had reached the one hour mark. Mindful of the time, I confess that I was hugely tempted to truncate my message. I didn’t. I’m glad I pressed ahead. George Gross will be largely remembered as a sports journalist, but I wanted to add an extra layer to the memories of those in attendance. George Gross was also a faithful Christian man. In spite of an intensely busy schedule, George seldom missed Sunday worship. He was supportive of the many ministry initiatives here. He was supportive of me. George was a good friend. He will be missed.

I invite you to view some of the video footage of the service for George Gross, provided by the Toronto Sun.

Protected Areas

Maybe I’m the only one, but I suspect that I’m not. We tend to have protected areas in our life. There are aspects of our life that we don’t want other people to meddle with. There may even be parts we want to keep hidden from friends and family. Perhaps we have been successful in creating some space, some insulation, protecting these areas of our life from others. But have you ever thought about God’s ability to access them? Have you ever considered the fact that nothing can be hidden from God?

I don’t point that out to scare you. I don’t see God playing the intimidation card on us. I do, however, think it is helpful to admit that nothing escapes God’s notice. I think it is important to note that God cares about even the ‘small’ details of our life. I don’t find that to be scary; I find that to be hugely comforting.

This morning I resumed a teaching series, based on the apostle Paul’s letter to the Colossians. It’s entitled, Let’s Be Different. Today we examined Colossians 3:18-24 and noted that Jesus cares immensely about how we get on with our spouse, our children, and our parents. Jesus cares immensely about how we get on in the workplace. Paul’s main point: Jesus is supreme over every aspect of our life. Have a listen and let me know your thoughts.

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Want a shortcut? Read my sermon notes and let me know your thoughts.

The Party is Not Over!

There’s nothing like having a blogroll comprised of sharp thinkers who write really edifying stuff. Carey Nieuwhof might be the most prolific blogger on the roll in terms of the frequency of his posts. It’s great reading; down-to-earth and easy to apply. Recently, another good friend of mine, Jeff Loach, began blogging. Jeff may be a newbie to blogging, but he’s a seasoned veteran when it comes to communicating biblical truth in understandable ways. I’ve just read a short post by Jeff, entitled, Easter’s Over? I hugely appreciated this. Easter is not over…in a sense, it is never over. The Resurrection of Jesus has forever changed the order of things.

I’d love to help keep you thinking about Easter and its profound implications for our lives. I dug up (electronically speaking) my sermon notes from Easter 2004. If you struggle with discouragement or doubt, you may find this to be a timely antidote.

Know of any other helpful online articles/messages on Easter? Post them in the comments section—let’s keep the celebration going!

Are These Helpful?

Last week I went on a little road trip to Buffalo to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs play the Buffalo Sabres. On the walk from where we parked to the HSBC Arena I could see some young men in their twenties handing out some sort of flier. Thinking of the kind of crowd that gathers for a hockey game, I assumed this would be a flier advertising for a nearby pub.

My insatiably curious nature led me to extend my hand to see what was being handed out. To my surprise, it was a ‘Gospel Tract’, which read ‘Eternal Life is a FREE Gift.’

I no sooner had put the tract in my pocket for future inspection when I noticed that one of the young men was wearing a sign (with an Old Testament reference that I didn’t quite catch on the walk by) and was preaching about the coming judgment and our need to repent.

In the two sentences I heard while passing by, I didn’t hear anything that was out of step with what the Bible teaches. To their credit, the guys handing out the tracts were quite pleasant, and weren’t the least bit aggressive. Part of me was impressed by the courage of these young men. But, quite honestly, another part of me was a bit embarrassed by their approach.

Perhaps those reading this blog post will tell me I’m just a coward when it comes to boldly sharing my faith. Hey, that’s what blogs are about–you get to tell me when you think I’m offside, nuts, or just plain wrong (just do so lovingly please).

I certainly do not want to be unkind by referencing these audacious young lads. But I am eager to hear what you think–are ‘Gospel Tracts’ a helpful way to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ?

Of course, I realize that open air preaching is not some new phenomenon. The call from the young man to ‘repent’ belongs to a rich history of preachers from George Whitefield to John the Baptist to the ancient prophets of Israel. My question then, isn’t so much about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, as it is about the helpfulness of such an approach in our day.

Some might say that the spiritual need of our day is no different than any other day. I would concur with that. But our day is different. Bibles are more readily available today than at any other time in history. The Scriptures are available in more languages today than at any other point in history. The internet puts over a billion people a Google search away from learning something about Christianity. In North America, at least in Buffalo, NY, there are hundreds of local congregations for citizens interested in Christianity to choose from.

So, I think it’s worth asking: Does street preaching attract or repel people? I don’t doubt that God could use such means to transform lives. Most Christians I know appreciate that the Message has power (Romans 1:16). But is there a better way, a better context, a better backdrop, for sharing the Christian message with others?

That’s what I’m looking for–a better way–not a formula, but an approach that honours the person I’m seeking to reach. I worry that those who passed by the young men felt little else but condescension.

I wouldn’t want anyone to regard me as being condescending to them. It’s possible that I’ve made people feel that way in the past. That’s not good. And so here I am asking you: Are there things we do or say in error, or in haste, that contributes to the hardening of an individual’s heart towards Christianity? Can we mess up, at least temporarily, someone’s approach to Christ?

I realize that God can work through my errors. I recognize that God’s plan is not thwarted by my shortcomings. I’m so glad about that!

I just don’t want to cite God’s sovereignty in salvation (Romans 9) as my justification for being reckless in how I present Christianity to others. I want to be respectful. I want to be compassionate. I want to be patient. Those who shared the Good News with me modeled all of those qualities. I don’t think the ways and manner of the messenger is irrelevant here. I’d love to hear how you are working this out in your life.

Back to the ‘Gospel tracts’—most of the ones I’ve read present a rather awkward string of Scripture references. And in such a limited medium, some essential truths are invariably omitted. I do appreciate, however, the pragmatic advantage of placing something small, concise, and coherent in the hands of those willing to entertain what Christianity teaches. If you’re interested in such a resource, the best I’ve seen is by John Piper. The pamphlet is called ‘Quest For Joy‘. I love that title. We all want joy. John Piper gets us heading in the right direction.

Come For A Drink!

I am delighted to announce that the proposal to launch The Well received the necessary go-ahead last night from the leadership of St. Giles Kingsway.

What is The Well? For a look at the formal proposal, just click the link. As for my informal take, The Well is church re-tooled for the 21st Century.

The Well seeks to be an irresistible environment, out of which the Message of Jesus Christ is proclaimed and lived out.

The Well is for skeptics. The Well is for those seeking answers. The Well is for those who have had less than positive church experiences. The Well is our rebuttal to those who only imagined churches as boring and irrelevant. The Well is for everyone……The Well is for you.

 

The Well will aim for excellence in 4 key areas:

The Message – relevant, Bible-based, practical

The Music – upbeat, ‘cutting edge’, and aimed at supporting the message that Jesus is the most worthy recipient of our affection and devotion

The Environment – friendly, comfortable…from parking lot attendants, to greeters, to the person serving you coffee and a bagel, we’re committed to making you feel welcome.

Children’s Ministry – creative, exciting, and safe. Your children will be attended to by compassionate and caring adult leaders.

 

Are you in? The Well is scheduled to launch on Sunday, September 7, 2008.

Between now and then there is a ton of stuff that has to happen to prepare the environment. If you’re reading this, please pray for us. If you live in, or near, Toronto and you want to support The Well with your time and/or resources, please be in touch. I’d be delighted to include you, and to have you share in what God is doing here in central Etobicoke.