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Michael Voll

#Blessed are the Merciful

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I think we have all been on the receiving end of mercy.

As a kid, I would have tickle fights with my dad and after five seconds of sheer torture/bliss I would yell out “mercy!” in an effort for a brief reprieve. Of course, he may have been slower to mercy than I would have liked, but he always let off so I could catch my breath long enough for me to cry out “more!”

As a young teenager, I was mowing my pastor’s lawn when he was on holiday with his family. I wanted to do the best job possible. I got carried away in my enthusiasm and took the weed eater around their new kiddie pool. Needless to say, it cracked, and all the water spilled out. I started to cry…I knew I was in trouble. Days later I did the walk of shame to his front door to apologize and to promise to mow his lawn for free until the debt was paid. He paid me for my work, put his hand on my shoulder and assured me that it was ok.

How have you been shown mercy in your life?

How Do You Show Mercy?

Now here’s the million-dollar question for all of us. How are we showing mercy to others?

Mercy is showing forgiveness for the guilty and compassion for the suffering. It’s the way followers of Jesus should live.

We forgive much because we have been forgiven much.

Jesus told a story about a servant who owed an amount that he would never be able to repay. Instead of being thrown into debtor’s prison, he was forgiven by the King of the land. Of course, the servant is excited, he has been given a new lease on life. He is free. What a great story!

But there’s more.

This same servant, on his way home from his meeting with the king, sees another acquaintance who owes him some money. Rather than saying, “Hey bro, this is your lucky day, your debt is canceled” he shook him down. “Pay up or I’ll have you thrown in prison!”

How ungrateful could this man be? He had been shown mercy beyond reason, and now refused to give it to someone who needed it as well. What kind of person does this?

Me. You. All of us.

Mercy or Justice?

We want mercy for ourselves and justice for others.

When we wrong someone, we want them to give us the benefit of doubt. When they wrong us, we often want them to feel the hurt.

Is it any wonder there is so much pain in the world?

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” I want mercy, so I better be an agent of mercy.

Here are a few things you can do to show mercy this coming week:

Listen to those in crisis. In our fast-paced world, a listening ear goes a long way.

Look for people with unmet needs and help them. If it’s in your reach, just do it.

That’s mercy.

Blessed are the Poor

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The modern-day hashtag (#) surfaced in August 2007 on Twitter. Since then it has grown in use and is now a staple on Instagram and Facebook. These hashtags are a way of arranging discussions/posts so they are easily searchable.

Some of the most popular hashtags are #love, #photooftheday, and #happy. For the last few years, #blessed has been used and abused to describe a favourite outfit, vacation destination or extravagant meal.

I think that is what almost everyone wants. Blessings that fulfill our every dream, desire and longing.

#Blessed

But is this what it means to be blessed?

Not according to Jesus.

In Matthew 5 we read some of the most famous, and difficult, teachings of Jesus. In the Beatitudes (the “Blessings”), Jesus describes what a happy life really looks like.

And it’s not what Instagram stars or celebrity preachers might make it out to be.

Know Your Condition

The first quality of a happy person is to be “poor in spirit.” Wow. If Jesus was trying to start a marketing campaign for his teaching, he was doing a pretty lousy job. Poor in spirit just doesn’t draw us in, especially in 2019. But Jesus knew what he was talking about, and he still does today.

If we want to live happily, we must start at the bottom. We’ve got to know about our condition. We don’t have it all together, aren’t self-sufficient, and were never intended to do life apart from God. To those who think they can make their way to God on their own steam (the religious),  Jesus responds, ‘Become like a child, that’s how you get into my Kingdom” (Matthew 18:3).

Kids know when they need help. They ask for help all the time. That is a key to happiness. Know your need for Jesus, and ask for his help. And he will help. 

The second quality of happy people is that they know how to mourn. Once again, not exactly the kind of message anyone would expect in a sermon about happiness!

Know the Good News

This mourning is deep grief over our brokenness and sin. The Good News of Jesus is only good when we know how bad the situation was for us.

Romans 3:23 reminds us that “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.”

All. Everyone. No exclusions. No matter how nice, good or generous we have been, we still don’t measure up.

But Jesus offers forgiveness. He offers freedom.

People who mourn over their brokenness and understand their need for a Saviour should be the most forgiving people around.

Life is pretty good we are forgiven, learn to forgive ourselves, and forgive others who have hurt us.

#blessed.

generoUS in our Reach

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So much is out of our reach.

As little kids we went on tiptoes in an effort to grab a cookie off the counter and as adolescents, we may have struggled to reach the top of the volleyball or basketball net. As a guy of very average height, there are still things that I can’t reach in my home without the effort of a step stool.

Reaching for an object is one thing, reaching an objective is another thing entirely.

Big Plans

Too often we believe the lie that because we can’t make wholesale political or economic changes or cure world hunger by ourselves, that there really isn’t much of value that IS in our reach.

That is simply not true.

We often get so focused on what we can’t do, that we forget what we can do.

And what we should do.

What Jesus commands us to do.

Jesus didn’t have a lot of patience for people who refused to stand up for those who needed an advocate or lift a finger to help those who needed a hand. Inactivity is still an activity. It is a choice. You can choose to do the right thing or you can choose to do nothing. Choose wisely.

Small Steps

Instead of feeling powerless about what you think you cannot change, look around. Be prayerful and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Open your eyes to the people you may have overlooked.

Open your ears to the conversations in your workplace.

Open your heart to be moved with compassion.

Open your hands to do something.

Who is in your reach? Who can you impact positively by pausing for a brief conversation, a text of encouragement, a few hours of help on a project?

Jesus generously reached out to you and me. So pass it on to others.

True community, change, and joy generally starts by reaching or stepping out. So many people need your reach now.

This is something we all can do. Don’t miss out on the joy that generosity brings.

generoUS with our Cash

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Money. We all need it, and most of us don’t seem to have enough of it. One person said, “I have enough money to retire comfortably…as long as I die by Tuesday.” Another person quipped, “The only exercise I’ve done this month is running out of money.”

There is a universal need for money. It’s how we feed, clothe and shelter ourselves. Without it, life can get pretty bleak in a hurry.

Who Owns You?

Jesus knows that we need money. He had bills, food to buy and taxes to pay (see Matthew 17:24-27). In fact, Jesus mentioned money a lot in his parables and teaching. He talked about things that were important to people.

However, Jesus also knew that money had a very sneaky way of becoming the sole reason for existence. It can quickly become a slave master, stealing freedom from its unwitting victims in a heartbeat. And Jesus doesn’t want us to be in slavery to anything or anyone, his desire is for us to be free (Galatians 5:1). The tighter we grip money, the tighter its grip is on us.

The antidote to being a slave to money?

Generosity.

Generosity Chips Away at Greed

When we let go of our unhealthy obsession with money, it loses its power over us. In a generous person, money becomes a tool for good and blessing rather than being the reason for their existence. Their mood is not determined by their bottom line, it is determined by their trust in God. Jesus is their Provider.

In an encounter with a rich man who had everything he ever wanted but still felt something was missing, Jesus got to the heart of the matter in a hurry. “Sell all you have and come follow me (Matthew 19:21).”

Jesus didn’t command this of all of his followers, but He obviously knew the unhealthy obsession this man had with his money and possessions. Although this man did everything he could to follow God, this was one step too far. Money was not something he was willing to let go of. That required more trust than he was willing to give.

So he walked away sad. Brokenhearted. Full of grief.

Generosity Brings Joy

I wonder how often our lives have been filled with sorrow rather than joy because we were holding on to the little we have, instead of trusting God to take care of us and to allow Him to flow through us?

I am thankful for the tremendous generosity that the people of North Pointe demonstrate. You give, serve, and use your things to help others. Let’s keep this spirit of generosity going! Let’s trust God and take him at his word that we reap what we sow. So let’s sow generously. 15 people will be baptized tomorrow. Your generosity on so many fronts has made this possible!

If you haven’t been very generous with your cash, or feel like you cannot be, start small. Start with something. The results will surprise you. God has a way of honouring our obedient steps towards doing the right thing.

The Power of Thankfulness

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We have had a really amazing Autumn so far in the Edmonton area. Some would say that the last month or so has been better than our whole summer, especially from the standpoint of weather! I am enjoying the fall colours, and the cool mornings don’t really bother me, especially when it warms up by the afternoon.

Seasonal Blues

But I do notice that now that the days are shorter, there is a seasonal sadness or weight that can set in. At first it is a bit imperceptible, then it grows, multiplies, and if not treated or dealt with, can slow me down and steal away joy that I would normally have in the little things of life, like a hot coffee, a joke from one of my kids, or a meeting to discuss future plans for the church.

Do you go through times of heaviness when seasons change?

Thankfulness to the Rescue

It’s no coincidence that in Canada, where the weather turns colder much faster than that of our neighbours to the south, that we celebrate Thanksgiving a month ahead. It is through giving thanks that we have the power to break through the blue that can threaten to derail us!

In Isaiah 61:3, God gives a promise “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  

A spirit of despair can also be translated as a faint spirit, or a spirit of heaviness. Despair, heaviness, and becoming faint-hearted are all realities that we may face from time to time. Some wrestle with despair or depression on a more serious or clinical manner. And almost everyone will face it on a seasonal or circumstantial level. However you may experience the heaviness of despair, the one thing that God wants to do is exchange that despair for praise.

Making It Practical

How do we praise when we are weighed down?

I practise thankfulness at the very beginning of my day. Thankfulness begins to strip away the feelings that build up and become one giant, weighty wall. For each thing I write down, it is like stripping off a weight from the bar at the gym. Before long, what was once heavy is now much lighter and manageable.

Today if you are feeling blue, try combating it with a list of things you are thankful for. Maybe at first, it will be difficult, but you will slowly warm up!

Often I have started my list with the mundane or obvious.  Maybe for the blanket I am wrapped up in, or the fact that we have forced-air heat in our house. As I progress to number 10, I begin to thank God for the opportunities and challenges he has given me. I may even thank God for the cold weather that comes with living in the best country in the world.

This weekend, may you experience the praise that sweeps away despair by practising thankfulness. God is good, and he will get you through. It just may take a first step from you…”God thank you for…”

generoUS with our Time

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This week we are starting a new series called “generoUS.” We will be talking about a few of the many ways that we can be generous, and I’ll be zeroing in on how we can be generous with our time on Sunday.

Time is Precious

Time is our most precious commodity, as it is not renewable. If you make a poor investment or buy something you regret, you can always make that money back. However, when you waste time, you will never get it back. It’s gone.

Forever.

That is probably why people most of us would rather buy the whole box of chocolate almonds that our child has to sell for their sports team than have to sell them door to door over the course of a few evenings. And, who are we kidding, those chocolate almonds are awesome! To be inconvenienced for a few hours is frustrating. Time is money! Plus we have to check Facebook and post our starts about all the almonds we have to sell…

Busyness

We may very well be busy, but we wear busyness like a badge honour. The more busy we are, the more important we are. And yet, when I look at the life of Jesus, the most important person that ever walked the face of the earth, busyness does not come to mind. He had a lot to do, but he certainly wasn’t hurried.

Jesus always made time for the most important things, like spending time in prayer to his Father (Mark 1:35). The more demands he faced, the more time he spent with God. I wonder if we would be able to be more generous with our time if we gave more time to God each day?

The Power of “NO” for a Powerful “Yes”

At times Jesus said no (Mark 1:37-38). There were many people that Jesus did not heal. Many that he did not comfort. He had a mission, and he fulfilled that mission, in large part, because of the things he did NOT do. Is there something you should NOT do so you can accomplish what you OUGHT to do? Remember, not every urgent need is yours to attend to.

Our investment of time is absolutely key to fulfilling God’s design for our lives. I am thankful for the people who have invested their time into me through counsel, teaching and correcting me in seasons when I needed it most. And you can be one of those people who is generous with your time, expertise and talents. When you are, you make a tangible difference.

At North Pointe, we aim to bring people to a place of Real Hope, New Life, and Lasting Purpose through a relationship with Jesus Christ. We can only do this through MANY people (like you!) offering their time generously. If you aren’t currently involved, would you consider how you might be in the near future? It just might be the TIME of your life.

There is More Stretching

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Have you ever felt like you were being stretched to the limit?

I certainly have. There have been times when I wondered if I could bear another moment of grief, shame or pain. I just needed a moment of relief, or I might snap in half.

Stretching is Healthy

However, stretching is a healthy part of life. Without stretching there is no growth. If a child does not grow, we get very concerned and make doctors and specialist appointments in an effort to determine the problem. The athlete stretches before, during and after a play in order to have the greatest range of motion and to perform at their peak. A hunter pulls the bow its max in order to release the arrow at the greatest velocity possible. The farther we are stretched, the farther we will go.

When Jesus was on the earth he had a message to share that made a lot of people very excited, and others very upset. He came to bring something new, but this new message would stretch some people to the breaking point.

You are Stretching me!

In Matthew 9:15-17, Jesus tells a parable about cloth and wine. Jesus had a way of using ordinary, everyday examples to make a profound point of eternal significance. He said that you don’t put a patch of new cloth on an old garment or put new wine into old wineskins. The reason? New cloth will shrink once it has been washed and pull away from the old material, leaving a gaping hole. So much for all the mending work! And new wine ferments and expands in a wineskin. Wineskins were made of animal skins. New skins would be able to expand with the expanding wine, while brittle, old wineskins would not be able to stretch. The result? A really big mess.

The point of all of this?

A New Thing

Jesus came to earth to do a new thing, to pour out new wine that would purify the people and fill them with joy unlike anything else they had experienced before. But this new teaching couldn’t be added to their old religious structures. The old structures could not contain the new teaching. It would require something new altogether. In the same way, we can’t just add Jesus on to our lives like we would add a bracelet or watch to an outfit. Jesus needs to do a new work in us from head to toe. And sometimes even the good structures we have in our lives and churches need to change as well.

And this can be a stretching experience.

At times the new wine that Jesus wants to bring can make us uncomfortable and cause us to stretch in ways we thought we never could! Faith grows by taking steps that aren’t always certain.

Worth The Pain

But the payoff is worth all the stretch marks. Jesus wants to grow us and launch us into a future of blessing and goodness. He wants to work in us to do great things for the people around us. This holds true for us personally and as a church.

I believe our greatest days are still ahead of us.

Jesus is stretching us like a slingshot is pulled back…so that on its release it can shoot higher and farther and faster.

There are awesome things that God wants North Pointe to accomplish to bring Real Hope, New Life, and Lasting Purpose to the people “beyond our green fence.”

Let me assure you, the stretching will be worth it.

Building a Legacy

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It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they put their heads together.

In the Clouds

My knees were shaking on the viewing deck Empire State Building in New York. My mind raced as I wondered “Is this old building safe?” This question was quickly followed by, “How could it withstand the punishment of wind, rain, snow and even an airplane crash for over 89 years?” Amazing. Or consider the pyramids of Egypt or the Mayan ruins…the ingenuity of people to create and build is mind-blowing for me, a non-engineer.

In the book of Genesis, we are told about a tower that was being constructed out of bricks and mortar (chapter 11). This was quite likely the worlds first skyscraper, a majestic building with aspirations to touch the heavens, or at least to get high enough to have a pretty awesome view. People have their plans, but God his own. The people wanted to make a name for themselves with the tower (sounds eerily familiar today), but God knew that their intentions were evil. They just wanted to do their own thing, and live in disobedience to God, who had commanded them to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Instead, they all decided to hang out together.

The Downside of Unity

What is interesting is that when these people came together with a common language and a common purpose (build a tower), they were very efficient and very productive. In fact, even God realized that nothing was impossible if people put their heads together (Genesis 11:6).

So God confused their language and the project stopped.

Unfortunately, many times when people put their heads together, the results can be catastrophic. Selfishness, pride, and hatred often fuel our dreams. A lot of terrible things like war, genocide, and business devoid of ethics results in a lot of harm.

But there is Hope.

There is MORE.

Because of Jesus and his work on the cross, we can be cleansed of our sin. We can be made new. Transformed. And then we bring transformation to the world around us.

The Upside of Unity

Jesus wants us as his followers to be unified, of one purpose, and filled with the Spirit. And when we come together in that Spirit, we can do the world immeasurable good.

Because people have come together in the power of the Holy Spirit, hospitals and orphanages have been built, clean water has been sourced, solutions for malnutrition have been generated and new technologies have been developed to microfinance sustainable business around the world.

Think about what good could happen if we as a church were unified, with one voice? Think about what we could do if we set aside our differences and preferences to impact our city and nation for the good?

I am thankful that North Pointe has a solid reputation in the community for making a tangible difference through our programs and presence. Let’s keep up the good work, and believe for more in the coming days, weeks and months. When we are unified, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Let’s be a church that builds a legacy of love around the world rather than building a tower to ourselves.

There is More!

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In 10, 9, 8, 7…

There is something powerful and exciting every time I see a video of a rocket launch and the deep voice that accompanies it, slowly counting down the numbers to lift off.

When the engines ignite, and the rocket breaks free of the tower, there is an expectancy of adventure, exploration and hanging on for a great ride!

Ready to Launch

This weekend at North Pointe we are launching our programs and ministries for the fall. This is also a time of adventure, exploration and hanging on for a great ride, and we want you to to be a part of it!

We are hosting the community for our annual Fall Family Carnival on Saturday, September 7. This event is free and goes from 10am-3pm. It is a family event that will have every age smiling. Will you consider who you could invite to come with you? Each year people decide to check out North Pointe on a Sunday because of the warmth they felt at our Carnival.

Then…Sunday morning, in all three services (9:30, 11:00 and 12:30) we are going to be celebrating what God is doing in and through our congregation. This month we will be doing a series called “There is More.” Let me assure you, regardless of where you find yourself at in life, God has more in store for you, and he wants to work more through you.

There is MORE

In Philippians 1:6 the Apostle Paul boldly states, “I am certain that God, who began a good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”  Paul is certain that God will finish what he has started in us. He is not done with us yet. He has more in store for you and me! So regardless of how you feel or what you’ve been through, you don’t have to be confident in yourself or your own strength, you can be confident in the strength that comes from Jesus alone.

Jesus accomplishes change in us through a series of small things. More always starts with little. What little things do you need to begin to do to reconnect with God? Maybe you need to connect with him for the very first time. May I suggest that you start by showing up this Sunday? You will be glad you did. Then step out of your comfort zone at try out Alpha. Or sign up for a bible study. Or just eat bacon with some guys (Men’s Breakfast on Sept 14th!).

Jesus isn’t finished with you yet. Take confidence in this truth today.

It’s time to launch.

There is MORE.

Blessings.

Pastor Michael

Bringing Hope One Person at a Time

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 In the last week, our home has been buzzing with the excitement of labeling new school supplies, resetting sleep schedules and determining what clothing we need to buy for the coming year (kids grow so much!). 

Hope in Zimbabwe

In Canada, we have a lot of freedoms we take for granted. One of those freedoms is a quality education from kindergarten through grade 12. This is not the case in many countries around the world. But through the generosity of North Pointe, this is slowly changing. In Zimbabwe, a country with political and economic instability, your giving is bringing stability to families and children.

As a church, we are a supporter of the Village of Hope. At the Village, kids receive a fantastic education, nutritious meals and for many orphans, a home and family to love and care for them. Last year we gave over $25,000 to the Village of Hope, and many others in our church directly support a child at the VOH through ChildCare Plus. Our partnership makes a difference.

This Sunday, Pastor Zowa from the Village of Hope shares with us the final message in our unCommon Sense series called “Powerful Prayers.” Pastor Zowa and the dedicated staff at the Village of Hope understand the power of prayer! 

Hope in Edmonton

We bring hope to kids in Zimbabwe, but we are also sponsoring Nora as she makes her home in Edmonton shortly. Nora is an Iraqi Christian living as a refugee in Jordan. Through a connection with Steve and Patti Hertzog, our global workers in Eurasia, we are sponsoring her to come to Canada. As a result, she’ll have an opportunity she would never have in Jordan.

We can help Nora get settled in our neighborhood. We as a church family are supplying her with home furnishings. On Sunday you will receive a list of items she needs to get started. Don’t wait or hesitate…donate! We want to bless her with new or very gently used items to get her started here in Canada. Let’s make this happen!

In short, North Pointe has an awesome track record of generosity…let’s keep it going! We can make a difference and bring hope to people in our neighborhood and around the world!

See you on Sunday!