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What if...?

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I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:18-20)

I have recently come to look at this verse in a different way. In its context it applies to the process of reconciliation when there are issues between brothers and sisters in Christ.

But here’s a slightly different take, courtesy of a course I recently took.

What if two or three of us were to come together and covenant to join hands and hearts and minds in a journey of spiritual growth? What if we were to meet regularly with the sole intention of providing a safe environment where we could be encouraged by others as they stir us on toward knowing Christ at a deeper level, and be encouragers of the work of the Holy Spirit in others?  What if…

Weary

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Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29, 30)

This, and the verse prior to it, are the gentlest of Gospel invitations in Scripture.

We, as believers, are often accused of beating unbelievers over the head with hell and damnation and demonstrating a lack of compassion and understanding. That is sometimes true, even though a dose of hell and damnation is what some people need to recognize their need of Someone to rescue them from both of the above.

But here in Matthew we have the message for those who have reached that point known as “the end of the rope.” They just can’t do “it” anymore, whatever “it” represents that they once thought would meet the heart cry of their souls. They have discovered that nothing, and no one, can satisfy and they are tired of the chase that leaves them aching and empty.

And Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and …

Face-to-Face

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I once asked my pastor why it seemed as though my prayers hit the ceiling and bounced back at me without ever reaching heaven. He reminded me that unconfessed sin creates a barrier that needs to be removed so that communion is restored between the Creator and His creation.

As I read the verse for today, I was reminded of his words. Isaiah writes: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (59:2)

The expression of the prophet reminded me of a series of messages I prepared recently for a ladies’ retreat and of a revision of that series that I am going to start today. In the first session we talk about seeking first God’s “face” rather than always looking for His “hand.” In other words, desiring God Himself more than we desire His gifts.

As I reviewed yesterday I was reminded that when the Scriptures speak of God’s “face” they are referring to His presence, to that intimacy of relationship that we need to crave ab…

Timing

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David wrote: “…I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:14, 15a)

Few of us understand just how vulnerable it feels to be completely at the mercy of someone else. David understood. How often the shepherd/psalmist/king/fugitive was forced to run for his life, pursued by those who, had they been able, would have left him bleeding in the dust. I wonder if he ever wished for more control over the circumstances of his life?

Today, as we celebrate the resurrection, I marvel again at the One who has control over all things, giving over control to those who arrested, condemned, and crucified Him. But in the celebration of today, we are reminded that the control His enemies thought they had as they sealed the tomb and set a guard over it, was no control at all.

He had never lost it—appearances to the contrary—even on the cross.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 tells us that, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be…

The Deadly Sin

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I once corrected a now internationally famous Biblical scholar (he will remain nameless) when he misquoted this verse. It was mean of me—one of those temptations that I should have been able to resist, but chose not to!

All that is neither here nor there as they say.

The verse from Proverbs 16:18 is well-known: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

This is an example of parallelism, where the second phrase is another way of saying the first phrase. In essence, though the verse was misquoted by my eminent friend, what he said was something like a contraction of the original.

But aside from my secret (now not so secret) delight is getting “one up” on someone eons smarter than me, this verse reminds us of the very danger I succumbed to in taking pleasure in correcting him—pride.

We often don’t recognize pride for what it is. We attach friendly meanings to it, but it is what it is. I found it interesting that my dictionary actually misquoted the verse too. At the s…

Deliverance

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This is one of those verses that prompts the question, “how?” every time.

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” (Psalm 34:19)

No, He doesn’t—at least not always in the way we want Him to.

Yes, there are times when God acts as we anticipate He will, as we pray that He will.

But there are times when He does not. What then? Does that make this verse, along with others like it, a lie?

I remember back to the early days in Venezuela. Our church planting efforts got off to a slow start and we had very few new believers. One of those was a woman by the name of Betty. Her story was indeed one of God’s grace—from someone whose face scared the people sharing the elevator with her to someone whose face radiated forgiveness and joy and peace with God.

She was a walking, talking testimony to what God could do in a life.

Then she got cancer.

We prayed, pleaded, for her healing.

She died.

At the time, we were devastated. But thinking back we actually got what we a…

Good Companions, Good Deal

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One of the first pieces of Scripture I memorized when I was a kid in Sunday School was Psalm 1. So well did I learn it that it remains cemented in my mind to this day. Mrs. Wood, the pastor’s wife and head of the Primary Department ,presented me with a bookmark as my prize—a bookmark I still have. I wish I could manage to memorize as well today as I did sixty years ago! Alas, it is not so easy.

In Psalm 119:11, the psalmist reminds his readers of the importance of memorizing God’s words. He says: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” What is hidden in the heart is what the Spirit of God brings to mind when we are faced with choices and temptations—something that happens every day.

My verse for today comes from Psalm 1:1 and is one of those that comes to mind when I am faced with who to choose as my closest companions. It remains a valuable piece of advice for anyone, young and old, when deciding who should become a close friend, a life-long companion,…