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Showing posts from September, 2009

Handmade by God

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Here's a beautiful reminder:

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body." —Psalm 139:13-16a

No "Buts" About It

I could find a few good reasons not to do it if it weren't for that last phrase. After all, there are some people who just aren't lovable and others who don't deserve to be forgiven.

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…" —Ephesians 4:32.

You can almost hear the "buts" rising from cheap seats.

"But you don't know my boss, my wife, my husband, my relatives, my next-door-neighbour, my…"

"But surely Paul didn't mean everyone all the time?"

"But we're talking Paul here—I'm not Paul."

"But that's only if they are compassionate and forgiving first, right?"

It's that final phrase that robs me of all my excuses for not being compassionate and forgiving.

"…just as in Christ God forgave you."

He showed me compassion and forgave me while I was his worst enemy.

He shows me compassion and forgiveness everywhere, anytime, under all circumstances.

If he tells me I can model him…

Passing Off the Hot Potato

Here comes a three point sermon. (I'm sure there is a verse in the Scripture that insists that all good sermons have three points.) This one is from Ephesians 4:26, 27.

"In your anger do not sin:…"

"…Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,…"

"…and do not give the devil a foothold."

Okay, I admit that the second phrase is a continuation of the first. But it does add some new information so we'll count it as a separate point.

Of some consolation is the information that it is possible to be angry and not sin. That shouldn't be rocket science because God has been known to become angry, and Jesus got more than slightly annoyed in the Temple. God's anger was always directed against sin, a good point to remember when tempted to lose our tempers over things that might cause us to sin but are, in themselves, not sinful.

Let's imagine that something legitimately sinful has caused us to be angry. The second phrase reminds us that prolonge…

All Roads Lead to Mission

I sent some time yesterday brainstorming with a colleague about short term missions. He's under pressure to prepare a brochure which will describe our vision as a mission in the area of short term ministry. Since there is hearty debate about what the word "mission" actually means, his problem is not an easy one.

Our war with words often becomes a distraction. Getting lost in the semantics has, for example, clouded the wonderful message of God's redemptive purposes as found in the Book of Romans. We fight over the meaning of words when the message within the context of the rest of Scripture is perfectly clear.

All this to say that this morning's verse is an excellent definition of mission. Paul's heart, like God's, is the sharing of the Gospel. The apostle was a preacher so preaching was his preferred method. But in the end it was the gospel preached by any means that stoked the furnace of his heart.

"Prepare God's people for works of service, so tha…

Theoretically speaking …

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Yesterday I crossed Georgian Bay by ferry from South Baymouth to Tobermory. It was beautiful day. The water was calm, the breeze cool and the sun hot. It was easy to love everybody and everything is sight and out of sight.



So yesterday my verse for today would have been easy:

"Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" —Ephesians 4:2, 3 NIV.

Piece of cake.

In a few minutes, I will wash up, get dressed, have breakfast and head to work. Check with me later as to how well I did on all of the above under a different set of circumstances.

Just like school, the Teacher knows that unless the information is tested under stressful circumstances there is no certainty that the student has really learned.

I got an A yesterday. But today will be the real test.

The Living Dead

Every once in a while I sit down to plow through classic Christian literature. I say "plow" because often the authors of centuries past use language and phraseology that requires work to read with immediate understanding.

They obviously didn't know about fast food Christianity.

I've just begun a classic called The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis. I didn't get any farther than the introduction before I was caught "hook, line and sinker."

Here is one of the gems. The editor, Rosalie de Rosset, writes: "á Kempis is particularly strong on the importance of Christians knowing themselves. 'We can not trust ourselves too much, because grace oftentimes is lacking in us and understanding also. There is little light in us, and that which we have, we quickly lose by our negligence.' He points out the irony that we are moved by passions that we think are real, and that, by implication, may not be at all, and while we 'quickly feel and weigh wha…

Rooted

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I didn't quite make it to Word-Filled Wednesday today, but the picture begged to be posted with the verse anyway.



The picture reminds me that it is possible to be close to the source of life but never take advantage of it. The result is dead wood instead of living green.

Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV)
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever he does prospers."

Driftwood might make a good decoration, but it's a living tree that produces fruit.

Crumbling Strongholds

I'm not sure why I have always had a fascination for books about war—fiction and non-fiction. Could it be that my latent aggression needs some way to express itself? I'd like to think it is more due to some uncanny ability born in me that recognizes that life is a battle. I'd like to think that, honest, though the first statement might be truer.

When I read this morning's verses I was reminded again that the believer's war is not with sticks or stones, rifles, tanks, submarines, or fighter jets. The believer's war is an internal spiritual battle with physical expressions.

Paul writes: "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" —2 Corinthians 10:3-…

The Joys of Giving

One of any pastor's favourite verses to haul out and wave in front of the congregation comes from 1 Corinthians 9:7. Paul writes: "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

The quoting the verse is usually closely followed by the arrival of an offering plate.

The context of the verse certainly supports the application. Paul is enthusiastic about the generosity of the saints in providing material resources for their poorer brothers.

Cheerful giving doesn't just apply to money. I think of all the work teams and volunteers, young and old, who have made sacrifices to step out in faith to give their time and talents to help others in need. I remember the two elderly farmers who came to Colombia many years ago. One was a self-taught expert in all things mechanical and spent his month or so fixing everything that remotely fitted into that category. His friend was a carpenter and made cu…

Letting Go

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" —2 Corinthians 5:17.

The more I think about this verse, the more I realize that unless Paul lied, many of us have a serious problem with letting go.

One newly-minted Christian.

One new creation, fresh, clean, unblemished, pure, untouched, and a host of other words that could be used to describe "new creation."

Everything bad that was from before that moment of being reborn in Christ no longer exists.

Everything is brand, spanking, new.

If this is true, and Paul really didn't lie, exaggerate, or really mean the future tense even when he used the present, then why do we harbour the old even as we embrace the new?

The Scripture recounts one time when Jesus' first touch only produced partial healing (Mark 8:22-25). That passage has always puzzled me. How could Jesus' healing be incomplete? The story is of a blind man brought to the Lord for healing. Jesus spits on the m…

And the Wheels Go 'Round and 'Round

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I haven't been on one of these since I was eleven years old—at least not the wheel called "Ferris."

But life is sometimes like a Ferris Wheel. You know, you go around and around, seemingly heading somewhere only to discover that when the wheel stops, you are right back where you began. Life is circular at times.

At its highest point, everything looks mighty fine. The horizons are clear for miles around. Then comes the slide downward when the wheel heads toward the ground with terrifying certainty. Will it stop gently? Or is there a big crash waiting to happen?

And why am I going around and around, in perpetual motion, and still not getting anywhere?

The head knowledge that all this spinning has some useful purpose in the divine design is not always enough to hold back the despair that it brings. The heart should kick in and issue a trust order, but sometimes it is too weary from the journey and hardly has the strength of will to reach out in faith. I don't know of a ver…

Saying It Doesn't Make It So—WFW

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Word Filled Wednesday is hosted this week by Lori at All You Have to Give. Take a visit over there.

I was walking home from work yesterday when I saw this "note" written on the sidewalk. The verses that came to my mind are an appropriate response.




"The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together
against the Lord and against his Anointed One.
'Let us break their chains,' they say, 'and throw off their fetters.'
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.
Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill…
Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him." —Psalm 2:2-6, 10-12.

Light and Momentary

Word reached us on Sunday that one of our missionaries has thyroid cancer. He had stayed in Canada because his routine check-up showed a few things that needed to be followed-up. His wife and children returned earlier to France to get settled into the school year. None of us anticipated the diagnosis that was to come. There are so many decisions to be made and issues to be dealt with. My heart goes out to them, and my prayers go up to God on their behalf. I can't imagine what they might be feeling right now.

Having that situation in mind, today's verse struck me in a special way.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."

Do my friends and colleagues feel that this is a "light and momentary" trouble?

When faced with the inconceivable, the unexpected, the complicated, the terrifying, Paul reminds us to "not lose heart" (vs. 16), to remember that while our…

Anchored

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Time for MONDAY MANNA, hosted by our very own Joanne at An Open Book. Check it out.

Does God "fudge" a little? Exaggerate? Understate?

We often act as though he does. That's what got Eve into trouble a way back in the Garden of Eden. Satan remarks: "Did God REALLY mean to say that…" She swallowed the doubt; hook, line, and little, wriggly worm. Unfortunately she wasn't the first, and she won't be the last, to not take God seriously when he says something.

Balaam was a little dense, but he wasn't stupid. After God make an "ass" out of him by speaking to him through the mouth of his donkey (Numbers 22), the prophet finally delivered the message to Balak that he couldn't possibly curse the nation that God has chosen to bless.

"God is not a man, that he should lie [ouch!],nor the son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" —Numbers 23:19.

If God did "fudge,"…

Throwing in the Towel

Well, this is the first time I've posted this close to the end of one day and the beginning of another. But I simply couldn't pass up today's verse. Actually there are four of them assigned for today, but I'm going to focus on the last one.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:58: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

I remember the summer I spent working in my home church. I'd just completed my first year of seminary. The pastor must have felt more confidence in me than I felt in myself. He took off for the south to complete a degree he was working on and basically left me "in charge." It seems to me the deacons took flight that summer too. In any case, there were plenty of moments when I wanted to throw in the towel and quit. I got as far as writing the letter of resignation (and a steamy one it was, as I reca…

Oh Boy, Do I Ever!

They say that there is always a family resemblance. The nose, the eyes, the chin, something always gets carried over from one generation to another.

According to Paul, family resemblances are carried through beyond the context of moms, dads and grandparents. He writes in 1 Corinthians 15:49: "…just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven."

Oh boy, can I relate to the first part of the phrase! I'm really earthly.

The good part is, that because of the grace of God, the seeds of that "man from heaven" are firmly planted. Day by day, bit by bit, victory by victory, his likeness replaces the earthly one.

And one day, the rest of the promise will come about: "…we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of nan eye…For the perishable must clothe itself in the imperishable, and the mortal with the immortal…thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" —1 Corinthian…

Looking Upward—WFW

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Word-filled Wednesday is hosted this week by Penny at Pennyraine, so be sure to drop by and check things out.

I'm think fall here because it's a bit chilly in Ontario these days but it's a beautiful time of the fully mature year. I love sunflowers. They remind of the essence of a Christ-follower, forever looking upward toward the SON.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" —Hebrews 12:2a

No Explanation Needed

I'm going to do what bloggers probably don't usually do. I'm simply going to let you read the verses for yourselves. There really is no explanation needed.

As I read the assigned reading for today the first thing that came to mind was one phrase from an old gospel song: "Love was when God became a man…"

This is his example, left for us to follow.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" —1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV.

Lord, allow me to walk in your footprints just a little better today.