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Finished!

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Sigmund Brouwer tells this story in his beautiful book, The Carpenter's Cloth.

"During Jesus' time there was one way a carpenter let the contrator know a job was finished. A signature, so to speak.

"Imagine a hot afternoon in Galilee. Jesus has completed the final pieces of a job he has worked on for several days. The hair of his strong forearms is matted with sawdust and sweat. His face is shiny with heat. He takes a final—and welcome—drink of cool water from a leather bag.

"Then, standing to the side of his work, he pours water over his face and chest, splashing it over his arms to clean himself before his journey home. Wth a nearby towel, he pats his face and arms dry.

"Finally, Jesus folds the towel neatly in half, and then folds it in half again. He sets it on the finished work and walks away. Later, whoever arrives to inspect the work will see the towel and understand its simple message. The work is finished.

"Christ's disciples, of course, knew…

On Making Painful Decisions

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A couple of weeks ago our small group was working on a study on the life of Moses prior to his decision to flee Egypt after having killed the Egyptian slave master. But much of our discussion revolved around an earlier decision: Moses' choice to not be identified as the son of Pharaoh's daughter but to identify himself with God's people.

"By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter." (Hebrews 11:24)

We talked about how difficult such a decision might be and the temptation to try to influence change from "inside" rather than distance oneself by identifying with those on the "outside."

Yesterday I discovered that an organization I have been volunteering with has openly endorsed a lifestyle choice that I believe violates God's creative design and redemptive purposes. The organization is a great one on many levels and while I applaud their efforts to help the vulnerable in our community with…

Who Do You Play For?

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"Not a team player."

I've heard that phrase several times today as I watched the news swirling around the resignation of a Cabinet Minister of our present federal government here in Canada. It's a phrase I am personally familiar with.

Being part of a team is a good thing most of the time. It's efficient and makes the best use of the individual gifts of those who are its members. More gets done. But it can also be a curse when being part of a team means that individual members are not allowed opinions that differ from that of the team leader, when "the party line" must be towed even if it offends the personal values of an individual member.

I have no idea "who did what and to whom" in the present scandal coming out of Ottawa. Time will reveal the guilt or innocence of the parties involved—maybe.

But the situation stimulated the question: "Who do I play for?" I confess that I like to keep the people around me happy and will, most of t…

There is no "End"

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Somehow it seemed appropriate to end 2018 with this verse:

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

As we enter a new year we are reminded that we are just a little closer to the time when Revelation 21:4 will be the reality for those of us who know the Lord.

Perhaps that reminder is a little more forceful for me today. Early in December, we got news of a cousin on my mother's side who had passed away. Just before Christmas, a FACEBOOK post announced the passing of a missionary colleague and friend. Last night came the news of the death of a cousin on my father's side. For friends and family far and wide 2018 has had its sorrows.

But the promises of Scripture inevitably bring us the reassurance that, for the believer, the "end" is no end at all—it simply signals the beginning of the new order.

No death.

No mourning.

No crying.

No pain.

Obl…

The Ouch Factor

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In recent days a friend on FACEBOOK started a discussion on whether or not physical punishment, i.e. the “strap” applied to children produced violent adults. I responded by saying that I still had the strap that my parents (usually) my Dad used occasionally on my brother and myself. You can see the photo. It is part of a belt off a piece of farm machinery and is about 12 inches long. Believe me, it stings! I have kept it all these years as a reminder that my parents cared enough about us to use it when all else failed to drive home a point they felt we needed to understand.

Because I happen to be reading in Hebrews these days where the Lord’s discipline is discussed, my friend’s post and the instruction from the Word of God made an interesting study.

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes e…

In the Name of Jesus

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I have my pastor to thank for this one. He is working through the Book of Acts on Sunday mornings. Today's message was from Acts 3, the story of the lame man who had an encounter with Peter and John at the entrance to the Temple. His life was dismally the same every day—sitting at the entrance begging people to drop a few coins into his hand. It was all he had, all he expected, all he thought he would ever know in life.

Until...

"When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!'"

As my pastor remarked, with that statement the man anticipated a big payday!

"So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have...'"

Disappointment. And his attention, so focused on these two men and what he might gain from their generosity, probably began to shift away to the next people in the line waiting …

No Light, No Tunnel, No End

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I linger in the blackness, seemingly invisible to passersby. My night is cold and lonely, devoid of the warmth of human touch. There is only God, and though He speaks, I do not hear from Him what I desperately want to hear. He begs me to trust His will, but that will lies heavily upon me, like a shroud. His will is solitary. His will is hard. He bids me be patient, but the fruitless, empty, years pass me by, heaping their rewards on others.

Shared laughter mocks me, as groups of two, three, and four, walk by. Their eyes seem to meet mine but then slide past unseeing. I follow them, heading toward the open doors ahead that they are passing through. I long to cry out after them: “Look at me. See me. Hear me.” I don’t. They are busy with better, more productive, things. I bless the Lord for all their successes even as I envy them those blessings. Like a swift running current, they flow past my stagnant pool. It seems pointless to call out to them. Even if they saw and heard, there is no…