Monday, December 31, 2018


December 2018

by Linda Cliff

BLESSING:  (Merriam-Webster) the act or words of one that blesses; approval; encouragement; a thing conducive to happiness or welfare; grace.

     Over the past year I have been writing a monthly essay for my friend so she could post it on our church blog.  This promise of one essay each month for a year was my birthday present to her.  The other day she told me this gift has made a difference as she only had to be responsible for 40 posts rather than 52, hence a Blessing to her. 

     She is not the only one who has been blessed.  Hopefully some of you have received value if you have been reading the blog.  I know I have.  I just did a quick review of some of the topics I touched on this year.  Prayer seems to be the most frequent topic as well as some amazing books by Yancey, C.S.Lewis, and Wilberforce.  My commitment to my friend is what took me to the church library each month, but I feel the Holy Spirit had a hand in the choices that were made.  As a result I have also been much blessed by this monthly commitment.  I found the book Real Christianity one of the most compelling books I read.  So much so that I couldn’t stop talking about it and as a result others have sought out the book.  The book on the comparisons of different faiths and sects was very enlightening and worth reading to gain an understanding of the beliefs of those we meet in our daily lives.

     This month I read When Jesus Wept, a book of fiction by Brock and Bodie Thoene based on the life of Lazarus. It is a book I
found displayed in the public library so felt it must be there for me to read!  The author takes the well known story of Lazarus being raised from the dead and creates a back story for the reader. 

     I found the description of Jewish life and customs in Judea during Jesus’ ministry helped me to understand the turbulent circumstances of the time. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of John the Baptist and his ministry. There were many descriptions of wine culture, growing of vines, harvesting the grapes and making of wine, reflecting on Jesus as the True Vine. 
     However, I did find some of the fictional accounts of the Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha difficult to accept.  But it is a work of fiction and the right of the authors to create as they wish.  The book was easy to read and easy to recommend for some light reading over the Christmas season.

    What’s next you may ask?  Well I am thinking of taking an online course and will make some blog posts about what I’m learning.  I have a New Year’s Challenge to you.  Make a commitment to do something that will be a Blessing to others during 2019 and I believe you will blessed as well. 

A post script from Linda
Library News

Start the New Year Right!  Help yourself to a book from the display by the Library.   These devotional books will help you spend time with God each day.  When finished keep the book and pass it on to a friend.  


Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

We wait

Hands stilled
Hearts turned to Bethlehem
We wait

On a snowy hilltop
In lush valleys
On an icy street
In candlelit sanctuary
We wait

In awe and reverence
With humility and joy
We wait

O come. O Come Emmanuel. Your people wait. 

Monday, December 17, 2018

Keeping in Touch

Do you send Christmas cards? Do you make a once-a-year phone call in December? Do you wonder why?
Many people claim that a friendship isn't worth preserving if you only touch base once a year. I disagree. Old friends scatter, they are no longer part of our day-to-day life, but they are part of our history. They have helped shape our characters. 
Christmas is a good time to renew those ties, to tell those who are far away that you still think of them, that you treasure their memory, and that you wish them Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and every good thing this world has to offer.
We've had examples of that spirit at SPPC in the past few weeks. Barb and Carla went to visit Joan in Calgary. They carried cards and gifts and good wishes with them. 

They brought good cheer into Joan's life. They reminded her of her home congregation. They reminded her that she is loved and missed. They were like a visit from Santa, only for seniors instead of kids. We pray for Joan often on a Sunday morning. How fitting that there should be an in-person visit at Christmas.

One of the joys of belonging to a worshipping community is the friendship of fellow-believers. When circumstances require that we cannot meet together in the pews on a Sunday morning, we can still care for each other, still extend the right hand of fellowship, still keep each other in our prayers. Another of our congregation celebrated her 99th birthday a few weeks ago. Age has sapped her physical strength but not her good humour nor her delight in cake and candles and visitors. 

I hope you send cards, or e-mails, or make phone calls this Christmas season. I hope you warm your heart with memories of happy times and good friends. I hope you bask in the glow of Christmas past. A one a year journey of remembrance is better than none at all. Say hello to an old friend.

Christ commended us to love one another. John 13:35
Paul urged us to nourish our friendships. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians Ch.6:10

Monday, December 10, 2018

Vision ➔ Action

For the past several months session has been putting together a proposal called Vision 20/20--a plan for the future of SPPC. One of the goals of this vision was to increase membership. 

Like many Presbyterian congregations, we are made up of members and adherents. Adherents are often faithful workers in the church but who have not taken the formal step of becoming members. On Sunday ten of those people officially joined the congregation of Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church, nine by affirmation of faith and one by adult baptism. Even though all ten of these people are long-term adherents, there was a special atmosphere of celebration to the service. Fittingly, worship included the sacrament of Holy Communion.  A high Sunday, indeed.

Another initiative of Vision 20/20 was the development of a prayer team specifically for this enterprise. Included in today's bulletin was this message from that prayer team, including the following points.

  • It is known that Christian prayer indicates the degree to which we are aligning ourselves with God's ultimate purpose.
  • God wants his lost children to be found and His church to grow.
  • God cares deeply for the church and for the lost. He desires us to care also.
  • SPPC will not grow if we do not pray for growth. Jesus said: "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Matt 9:38

The message asked the congregation to pray daily throughout Advent and beyond, including these prompts:

  • Pray for unity amid diversity. Eph. 4; 1-3  that our congregation may walk in a manner worthy of the calling God has given us. That we treat each other with humble and gentle hearts.
  • That we would seek the Lord 2 Chron 7:14-15. God has promised in scripture that He hears prayers. We call upon that promise as we seek guidance for the future of the 20/20 plan.
  • That we would pursue peace. Romans 14:19. Lord God, you desire peace and unity and encouragement for SPPC. Help us pursue what makes for peace. Give us discerning hearts and the courage to be obedient. On our own, we can do nothing, but we "...can do all this through Him who gives me strength." 
  • Phil 4: 13.
  • That we would follow Jesus. Luke 9:23-24. God has asked us to deny ourselves, tuke up our cross and follow Him. Through prayer we desire to become more and more like Jesus, individually as as a church body.

The above is a mere summary of the prayer requests. If you don't have the full script as printed in the bulletin, you can drop by the church and pick one up -- or pray what is on your heart.
Many thanks to the prayer team for offering such thorough and specific counsel on the type of prayer that the leaders of our congregation crave. Please do your part to bless this enterprise.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Real Christianity

Real Christianity by William Wilberforce 
Revised and updated by Bob Beltz

William Wilberforce was a most remarkable man, and has been described as the greatest reformer in history.   Millions of lives were changed because of Wilberforce’s determination to change the society of his day, and put an end to the slave trade.  Real Christianity gives the reader access into his theology, his spirituality and his passion.

This book was written 200 years ago and in his introduction Wilberforce states his purpose is to write about faith and to point out some of the problems with the beliefs and actions of those who already claim to be Christians.  He states he is disturbed when he sees the majority of so-called Christians having such little understanding of the real nature of the faith they profess.  So starts a book that is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

He divides Christians into two camps.  The cultural Christians who live a surface type of faith.  They are able to talk about religion in generic terms but rarely use the name of Jesus or speak of His death on the cross or His resurrection.  They do not recognize their sin and have no understanding of the work of the Spirit in their lives.  Authentic Christians are those who have a passion for Christ, they live lives of great excitement, true humility, hatred of sin, humble hope, firm faith, heavenly joy, ardent love and unceasing gratitude.
Wilberforce goes on to show how belief influences behavior of the cultural and authentic Christian. 

I am not going to go into the book in depth as I feel you should read the book. Ed, note: It is in our church library. Here is a 200 year old book that has as much relevance to Christians today as it did when written.  There are parts of the book that deal with practices that are no longer part of our world but it is easy for the reader to substitute current practices in today’s society.  Beltz has done an excellent job of modernizing the language but remaining true to the original text. 

We often look for "how to" books to point us in the correct way to do things.  I felt that after reading this book I was given a blueprint of how the Authentic Christian life should look.  I had a better understanding of what sin looks like, of what the Holy Spirit does in the life of the Authentic Christian and of how my love of Christ should be influencing my actions.  I will paraphrase one idea that resonated for me.  Wilberforce stated that if many Christians were on trial for being Christians, their cases would be dismissed because of lack of evidence.  I do not want to be that Christian.

“Real Christianity is all about living as Jesus lived and doing what Jesus did.  It is a must read for everyone serious about living all and only for Christ”. (Walt Kallestad)

Review by Linda Cliff