Showing posts from August, 2009

The Devil Didn't Make Me Do It

I always have choices. My problem is that I don't always make good ones. Though it is of some consolation to know that I'm not alone in my my struggle, I also benefit from knowing that, by God's grace, I can do better at decision-making.

In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul writes about beating his body into submission. His great "fear" was not finishing his service for Christ well.

He reminds his readers that even those most blessed by God can fail to make wise choices that glorify God. As 1 Corinthians 10 opens, the apostle uses Israel as an example. They had everything going for them and blew it. The consequences were huge: "…their bodies were scattered over the desert…some of them…were killed by the destroying angel" (10:5, 10)

Then comes the admonition: "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us" (10:11)

For most of us, the blessings of God on our lives are abundantly evident. In spite of all those wonderful gi…

I Wish I'd Been a Bug on the Wall…

Would be possible to eavesdrop in heaven?

I have a love/hate relationship with those little cubicles that pass for work space. There's this wall that really isn't a wall, separating one space from another. But it's impossible to keep any conversations secret from those who occupy the cubicles around you. Those fake walls are bad for keeping secrets, but great for listening in on the conversations of others.

I imagine myself in heaven before the creation of the universe, around the time God is discussing his plan for rescuing us from the mess he knows we are going to make. I think Paul sometimes wished he's been a bug on the wall eavesdropping on that conversation. "…we speak of God's secret wisdom," he writes in 1 Corinthians 2:7, "a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began."

Minus the bugs on the walls of heaven, that wonderful plan of redemption was prophesied, but remained basically a secret during all …

Everything for Dummies

I had lunch with my brother today. After finishing some very nice Thai cuisine, we wandered the mall. I had seen an interesting article earlier that day while I was waiting in the doctor's office. There was a bookstore in the mall so I persuaded Wayne to go in and look for the magazine since I was sure it would be of interest to him. He made a beeline for the books on computers.

There is everything under the sun available for Dummies in that particular section of every bookstore. My brother is no dummy when it comes to computers. Thirty years as a programmer with IBM has guaranteed that, but he is still tracking down the definitive book on some aspect of computing that I certainly don't understand.

He tried to explain it all to me again. I bless his efforts, but I really only care that it works—not how it works.

But the incident brought to mind this morning's verse from 1 Corinthians 1:25: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of Go…

Rescue the Perishing…Word-Filled Wednesday

It's Word-Filled Wednesday and I'm running late—as usual. Susan is hosting us today so go to her blog for much, much, more.

My word for today goes with a picture of beautiful Caracas where there are 5 million people, most of whom still need to be reached for Christ.

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" —1 Corinthians 1:18.

Eternally Relevant

I just met a newly married young couple who head out to Turkey this Thursday for their first missionary assignment. They shared their personal stories and call to missions with the office staff over lunch, and we prayed for them as they face these last two days of whirlwind activities, goodbyes, adjustments, and instant "hit-the-road-running" ministry. Someone welcomed them into the family, and I added that, as the longest running missionary presently with the mission, I could honestly say that they would be well cared for.

Our newest staff member then asked me how long I'd been with the organization. When I replied that I was accepted for overseas service in 1975, his eyes bugged out—that the year he had been born!

Old isn't bad. Old can say some things with authority and personal experience. I could say that these kids would be well cared for because I know how I have been treated over these thirty-some years.

My verse for this morning brings to me a similar reminde…

Progressive Revelation

There is an interesting progression to Romans 14:10-13.

Paul begins with a rebuke: "You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother?" (14:10a).

Oh but, it's so much easier to deal with the faults of others rather than our own.

That brings us to Paul's uppercut to the chin. He writes: "For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord, 'every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.' So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God" (14:10b-12). The other guys will get their opportunity to turn red and stammer just like I'll get mine.

So maybe I should occupy myself with my own failures? That's Paul's next suggestion: "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another" (14:13a).

But Paul makes yet another suggestion. As believers we don't live in a vacuum—you look after your business and I'll look…

The Reason Why

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and prove what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" —Romans 12:1, 2

How does worship express itself? If you pay any attention to the so-called "worship wars" (though that term seems like an oxymoron to me), many people define worship in terms of forms and traditions.

Worship, writes Paul, is a personal sacrificial act of complete commitment to God.

I chuckle at the order of Paul's words as he explains what he means. "Offer your bodies", he writes, putting to death the idea that I can preserve my spiritual integrity (my mind and my soul) even when my body is somewhere it shouldn't be, doing something it might be better off not doing.


Muddying the Message

Today's verse always pricks me.

"…faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of God" —Romans 10:17.

In our desperate attempt to reach people, to be "relevant," we oftentimes run the risk of wrapping the Word of God up in such brilliant and innovative packaging that the message gets missed.

In our desire to not offend and chase people away from truth, we sometimes dilute that truth so much that even when people are attracted to it, they find it lacking in the essential ingredients that made it truth in the first place.

I read a recent blog on a Christianity Today website that featured a video of Dr. John Piper talking about preaching. During his interview, Dr. Piper emphasized the importance of preaching as opposed to the more "entertainment" type methods used to present the Gospel. The comments posted were quite hard on Dr. Piper. Several accused him of being against drama, for example, even though he said during the i…

So, What Did I Forget?

In the space of 48 hours, life has taken an about-face. This afternoon, I board a plane for Toronto. This wasn't on my agenda two days ago.

Normally I have months to plan a Home Assignment, even a short one. Not this time. There is so much to do in a short time, especially since a family of four is moving in to look after the apartment and, more importantly, Abby and Lou Lou Belle, in my absence.

Bills paid, bedding and towels washed, instructions written, cupboards kid-proofed, people advised, house cleaned and oh, bag packed, documents stowed in the appropriate place for presentation at the appropriate moment.

What did I forget to do?

My mind is going in so many different directions. This morning I tried to pray, but it was so hard to focus with my thoughts doing somersaults, and my internal list of external chores growing by the minute.

Letter of introduction so the guards at the gate will allow my house-and-cat-sitters in, clean the fridge, make sure the litter box, the food dis…

Take it to the Bank

Time for Monday Manna over at An Open Book. Slip over there for more thoughts on this wonderful passage of Scripture.

Worried about losing your salvation? Don't. If there were ever two verses that demonstrate how secure the believer's salvation is, Romans 8:38, 39 are those verses.

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Like many of us, those who received Paul's letters probably had their days when they wondered if they were really part of God's kingdom after all. You know, those days when Satan whispers in your ear, "Did it again, eh? What makes you think you're a Christian?" Then there's the overwhelming sense of unworthiness that sometimes morphs into, "No, this can't be true—God save ME?"

In Roman…

These Present Sufferings

Last night a friend emailed me asking for prayer for her mother. Marion has just found out that her cancer is growing. The fear of pain and death, the reluctance to leave her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren behind, has left her anxious. She is only one on my list of people who, for various reasons, are suffering.

Suffering takes many forms, but usually we think of it in terms of the physical. So when Paul writes in Romans 8:17: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory", our natural inclination is to think of physical death. But not everyone will suffer a painful death—certainly not death on a cross. Such suffering wouldn't be a prerequisite for sharing in Christ's glory.

But Paul clarifies the statement in the verses that follow. He writes: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worthy comparing with the glory that will be rev…

Safe from the Storm

Rowboats should have been the vehicle of choice here in Caracas yesterday. In the middle of the afternoon the skies opened and torrents of rain fell. The official government response was to report that nothing unusual was happening; the pictures posted by people out on the street told a different tale. Government should walk in the shoes of the hoi palloi once in a while.

When the sheets of falling rain eased enough for it to be possible for me to see the street that runs in front of my building, the sight was impressive. A torrent of muddy water was racing down the hill from the mountains behind my apartment complex. It flowed down the street, crossed the intersection at the bottom of the hill and then continued to flow down into a nest of houses cradled in a hollow below the intersection. I hate to think how much water and mud they had to clean up.

I was safe and dry—the advantage of living on the 13th floor. I could watch the rain, even enjoy it, from the safety and security of my …

Word-Filled Wednesday—Age

Welcome to Word-Filled Wednesday. This week Lori is doing us the honour of hosting. You can find her and links to other pictures and Scriptures at All You Have to Give. Check it out.

My dear aunt Esther just turned 98. She spent this birthday in the hospital after suffering a stroke last Thursday. The picture reminds me that though we might not be able to hold on to her for long, the Lord will hold on to her forever.

Isaiah 46:4 says: "Even in your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."

Earned and Given

Isn't it amazing how many times you can read a verse of Scripture and still miss some important truth that lies in plain sight within it?

Romans 6:23 is probably one of the best known, and most memorized, verses in the Bible, but when I read it this morning I had an "aha" moment.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

The choice of words here is important.

I earned, by my own efforts, the consequences of my sin. But the forgiveness of that sin was a gift.

I get what I deserve, what I worked for, in the former; I am an undeserving recipient of the latter.

I did the first; Christ did the last.

He fixed what I broke.

The choice of words is deliberate. The Lord could have simply said: "The result of sin is death" but he really wanted to drive home the idea of personal responsibility and the enormity of the grace he was offering.

And I, for one, am happy to have dropped off the payroll of the first, and jo…

The View from the Other Side of the Cross

Paul writes in Romans 6:14: "For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."

The verses that come before this one are part of Paul's explanation on how life changes after an encounter with Calvary. It's a God-thing; specifically a Holy Spirit thing.

Paul admits that old habits die hard, but the truth is that they are dying. The believer, now under new ownership, strives to finish them off as he yields daily to the prompting of the Spirit of God, now resident in his life.

The evidence of this new life will be there for all to see. A believer can't help but seek to please his new Master, and to fight to remove all those things that were characteristics of his old life under his old master.

Paul knows that believers, new and old, will often have doubts about their relationship with God. The constant struggle with the old habits, and the occasional failures that dog our steps, can be discouraging.

Which is the reason for this last s…

Unmerited Favour

It's just a phrase, but in those few words lies a world of meaning.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" —Romans 5:8 NIV.

Two pieces of bread wrapped around a slice of meat.

God loves us.

Christ died for us.

Then comes that phrase that so often gets missed: "While we were still sinners…"

Think on that for a bit. God didn't wait until you, or I, were good enough to be worthy of being saved, or showed some kind of promise that made his investment in our lives a good one.

From before the foundation of the world, he was prepared, and willing, to show us his love through the sacrifice of his own Son. Peter writes: "…you were redeemed…with the precious blood of Christ…he was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in this last times for your sake" (I Peter 1:18-20).

There is nothing I can do to earn the grace of God. There is nothing I NEED to do to earn the grace of God. Before I…

The Theology of Suffering

Books have been written on the subject of suffering. Some people resign themselves to it. Others deny it. The devil gets blamed for it. Sin is thought of as the cause of it. We are encouraged to pray for relief from it. And the pharmaceutical companies make a profit on it.

Paul reduces suffering to its bottom line.

He writes in Romans 5:3, 4: "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Rejoice in suffering? Now there's a novel idea.

My suffering is nothing compared to that of others. Nevertheless, when my hands refuse to work because of the pain, I fuss and fume. I seldom rejoice and thank God that they hurt. Paul would say that I was missing the point. He's right. Though suffering is a product of the fall, God uses it for his glory and our good—if we are willing to accept it as a part of our spiritual growth.

Suffering is meant to be a "God-thing."

I remember fondly a …

Golden Words

Today is Word-Filled Wednesday. For more pictures and the words from THE Word, visit Penny at Pennyraine, our gracious hostess for this week.

My fridge produces only green apples, but I pray that my words, spoken, written, or lived, will be what Proverbs 25:11 describes:

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."

Trust Fund

"As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one'" —Romans 3:10.

Every day, whatever doubt I might have to the truth of that verses dissolve as I look in the mirror of my life. There is no one righteous—least of all me.

There was one exception. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, showed us what should have been, what could be, what is, what will be, when he walked among us.

As a believer, and follower of Jesus Christ, I have been declared righteous even though I'm not—yet. He invited us into righteousness: "Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:20, 21).

In the great faith chapter of Hebrews 11, the writer says of Noah: "By faith he … became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith" (Hebrews 11:7). Paul describes it this way: "… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, fo…

New Furniture in the Old House

It's time for Monday Manna once again, hosted by our wonderful Joanne at An Open Book.

The passage for Monday Manna is Philippians 4:4-9. Joanne is celebrating her birthday today. As I read her post on this verse: "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put into practice," I echoed her thoughts. How wonderful it would be to be able to tell others, as Paul did, to imitate me because in doing so they will be imitating Christ. I'm still working on that, and probably will be for the rest of my life.

What jumps out at me today is the list in verse 8. Paul writes: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." These verses are preceded by the instructions to not be anxious about anything but turn all those anxious thoughts over to God and enjoy his peace by doing so.

I remember the…