Hope for the Future

As we end 2015, we’d like to be able to face 2016 with hope. The question is, what’s the basis for your hope? Is it your determination to do better? Is it somebody’s promise that you’d be promoted? Is it founded on past performance? Those may be valid reasons; but they don’t carry foolproof guarantees. We need something more reliable upon which to build our lives.

The book of Lamentations was written in the aftermath of the fall of Jerusalem. As the title implies, it is a collection of 5 poems mourning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the exile of the people. It explores the devastating pain of being under God’s wrath. God, who had been their covenant Lord, and who had been their protector and provider over the years was now acting as their enemy [3:1-9]. Such was his wrath toward them that he is compared to ferocious wild animals lying in wait [3:10-11] and to a hunter [3:12-13]. To make matters worse, he knows that God’s...

Read more

God became man; so what?

If your life is anything like mine, this year has left you worn out and you're hoping that the Christmas holiday would provide some needed refreshing. As I think about the marvelous mystery of the Incarnation, I appreciate the words of the author of Hebrews, who wrote:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18).

They provide tremendous encouragement to us, who...

Read more

"Dear God, from Toronto" - A Spoken Word

Dear God

 

The city has forgotten You,

You have become hidden between

interjections

Lost among a swamp of jokes

You,

Who is Lord of everything

has become a word to express

anger, disdain, and bigotry

given up for things more flashy

smothered to avoid humility

and most of all missing in the city

 

Where in the darkest hours,

the street lights are the angels

and hell is a train delay

Where sin is as clean pressed and well kept as suits off King Street

and gates to the afterlife are hospitals lining University

Where people go to Church Street on Sunday morning

to nurse their hang-over’s with close company

and Yonge and Dundas spills with heads that bob like fish

Confused; are we koi or conmen?

Swimming on the heat waves

Drowning in the sky scrapers

It’s difficult to care when there are so many

in this genetic pool.

Individuals

So caught up in celebrating our

differences

We ignore the one thing that makes us

similar

So quick to compete to see whose

festival shines...

Read more

Reflections on the LeadersFor Mission Trip

I must confess that when the Ormoc cohort began, I was rather disappointed. I had come expectingto see 50 pastors who would train other pastors. Instead, there were only about 30 attendees, of whom less than half were pastors or pastors-in training. I was jet-lagged; the cohort was more comfortable in Cebuano and I was already struggling to communicate in my native Tagalog. Combined with my trepidation at facilitating for the first time, I found myself wondering if I’d sentenced myself to five years of frustration.

Providentially, I was partnered with Hannibal Muhtar, whose experience and encouragementgot me on track. As I got to know the participants, I began to realize that even if only 7or 8 of them fit our vision of training pastors capable of training other pastors, our time was by no means wasted. One pastor had already finished teaching the first book to his congregation; another had translated the material for the sake of Cebuano-speaking pastors; yet another had 9...

Read more

Longing For Home

This Sunday is Father's Day, and this has always been a hard holiday for me.  Unlike most people in the congregation, I don't have an earthly father that I can or want to celebrate. So I often ignore Father's day festivities and attend a worship service somewhere else, just so people won't feel sorry for me. The person I knew to be my biological father was nothing more than that, just someone whose genes I inherited.

Even before my parents split up, he was never around. I don't remember what it was like to have someone affirm my worth, encourage me, and wipe my tears. At school, I had to be content with making Father's Day gifts for my brother or having no one else to give them to. Growing up without a father, few tried to take on that role, but none could. I was broken. 

I sought my self-worth in and tried to cover up my loneliness with relationships, busyness, and a myriad of things that would keep my mind and heart occupied. But at the root of...

Read more

The Greatest Accomplishment

"But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.."  Matthew 22:34-38. 

At the Men's Retreat, the guys of Living Hope Baptist Church gathered in fellowship and encouragement. Lead by speaker Ken Davis, men gained Biblical insight into what unity, love, and faithfulness look like at home and at church, by challenging each man to put others before himself, and through the question, "what is the greatest accomplishment you will complete in your life?". In response to this question, anyone would think first of big, news breaking successes as the greatest possible accomplishment, but as Christians,...

Read more

'Singspiration'

On a particularly fresh Sunday night, the first of its kind since Toronto finally left winter in the dust, Mount Pleasant Baptist Church aired out the evening with their third installment of ‘Singspiration’. 

The brain child of three pastors, conceived over coffee, ‘Singspiration’ worked like a magnet, reuniting not only the trio’s friendship but their churches. This combination brought joy to their hearts for a reason that we were to discover that night. Since then they have been taking turns hosting the event. Naturally the first happened in Scarborough Baptist Church, since according to Pastor Stephen Hamburger: ‘it always starts in Scarborough’. But that night it was finally Mount Pleasant’s turn, hosted by Pastor Lucien Atchale, promising an eclectic spread of colors and harmonies with the addition of Thistletown Baptist Church and Living Hope Baptist Church. 

The praise team tackled the challenge of re-energizing a...

Read more

A Foretaste of Heaven

Every year for the past few years, our young people have gotten the chance to escape their lives in the suburbs or the city for a two-day retreat to Priceville, Ontario. And every year, someone either forgets to bring a towel or decides not to shower the entire weekend. And I mean every year. I guess you could say it’s become a bit of a routine for us, and maybe a dangerous one at that. We’ve been going to New Life Camp every winter retreat, and I’ve come to realize how easy it is to fall into the trap of familiarity, comfortability, routine.

But this year was a bit different. Well, a lot different. We had a pastor, who we never heard of before, preach - Pastor Hassan Bell from Thistletown Baptist Church; and we were told people from other churches were attending too - Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Christie Street Baptist Church, and Ennerdale Road Baptist Church. 

I’m sorry, who? 

Don’t worry about it. They’re good people. 

This...

Read more

Jesus: The Suffering Servant

At the center of the Christian faith lies a picture. Christian art and architecture, literature and hymns, are dominated by the symbol of the cross. A symbol, however, both invites and demands thought and reflection. What are we to make of this symbol? What does it tell us about God and the world, or about our nature and ultimate destiny? Why is it that at the center of a faith in a loving God lies a symbol of death and despair – the dreadful picture of a man dying through crucifixion? The cross is indeed a mystery, something difficult to understand, but charged with meaning for those who despair of the apparent pointlessness of human existence, who feel lost in the world and overwhelmed by its concerns and anxieties

So writes Alister McGrath at the beginning of his book, The Mystery of the Cross. Indeed, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is, to this day, a stumbling block to many. It defies human comprehension. It is an event that can be understood only as it is explained to...

Read more

When The Game Is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box

Is it true that 'if you aren't prepared to lose all of your friends during a game, you aren't playing hard enough'? Well, on Saturday, February 28th, 2015, members and friends from our congregation had an opportunity to test that theory. Our Evangelism Task Force organized a games-filled afternoon of Taboo, Apples to Apples, Scattergories, Mad Gab, and others, as opportunities for players to test their skills, and forge alliances with or against other players. I had the chance to teach and facilitate a few games, demonstrating my obvious nerdy game prowess.

It was a joy to see members of all ages and all walks of life being able to let go and just enjoy each other's company for a few hours. It was a rare chance to see usually reserved members like sister Ruth, really impress with her descriptive genius during a game of Taboo. For some teams, their command of the English language was challenged while playing Mad Gab which required reading the strange...

Read more