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Showing posts from 2010

The Light Has Come

Feel the passion and conviction of John's words as he begins his letter:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and appeared to us…this is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." —1 John 1:1, 2, 5, NIV.

This introduction is similar to the beginning of John's Gospel when he wrote: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning…In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" —John 1:1-3, NIV

These references to light and life echo the words of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist who, …

Losses

I haven't done the research but I suspect that the second letter Paul wrote to Timothy contains the most references to losses of all of the letters that the apostle wrote. Perhaps it's just because the book is only four chapters long. Perhaps Paul is having one of those "down" days. Whatever prompted this not-so-encouraging list of losses, Paul named names in his brief letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy:

Phygelus and Hermogenes (among others) who deserted Paul in Asia (2 Timothy 1:15)
Hymenaeus and Philetus, who tasted the truth and then corrupted it (2 Timothy 2:17, 18)
Demas, who went back into the world (2 Timothy 4:10)
Alexander, who opposed Paul's message and did a lot of damage (2 Timothy 4:14)

At the beginning of chapter 3 and early in chapter 4, Paul mentions other nameless losses to the ministry—those who had corrupted the Gospel or persecuted the believers.

It's easy to focus on the losses in ministry. Unhappily they are many. I suppose…

Leaving Something Behind

In my last move I inherited a couple of suitcases full of old family photos, old anniversary and birthday cards and a few bits and pieces of paper with handwritten notes from my mother. The pictures are often what prompt that "I wish there was someone to ask about …" statement. Many of us look back and wish we had more information on certain people and certain events from our past. Perhaps it is this desire that has prompted many people to encourage the elderly members of their families to write down their stories while they still can. These stories can then be passed down to the next generation.

Peter had similar concerns as he sat down to write the Book of 2 Peter. He knew his time was short and he wanted to be sure that he left something behind after he was gone. He writes: "So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the te…

Incarnational Thinking

A lot of time and effort is expended by mission agencies to train their candidates on how to bridge the culture gap and live incarnationally in the country to which they are being sent. Hudson Taylor, the great missionary statesman of centuries past. was among the first to live and look like the people he sought to win to Christ in China. Incarnational thinking is modeled after Jesus Christ who took on flesh to become one of us; to look like us, to live like us.

Sort of.

In one area Christ was never like the people he chose to look and live like. He never sinned. In that he did not model us.

So as I read this morning's passage in 1 Peter I took notice of the number of times Peter called his readers "strangers" while he was busily exhorting them not to be the same as the people around them, but to be different. He begins his letter: "To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia. . ." –1 Peter 1:1…

Christmas in Hebrews

Tucked away in the heart of an "Easter" kind of message about sacrifices and salvation comes this little Christmas gem:

"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings your were not pleased. Then I said, Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll–I have come to do your will, O God'" –Hebrews 10:5-7, NIV.

The writer imagines the heavenly conversation; Jesus assuring his Father that their wills were in perfect harmony, that he was about to take on a baby's soft and vulnerable skin to set aside the old system of continual and ineffectual sacrifices in favour of what is described just a few words later as: "And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" –Hebrews 10:10, NIV.

God prepared the body of that child. Jesus put aside the rights and privileges of the Son of Go…

The Desire of My Heart

My prayer for all of you out there in cyberspace who might read this post:

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" –Ephesians 3:16-19, NIV.

It's all there:
1. The saving faith that comes from him and brings us unto a personal and intimate relationship with him expressed in "so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."

2. The growth and permanence of that relationship expressed in "rooted and established in love."

3. The power that buries "me" to embrace him as I discover the truth of "how wide and long and high and dee…

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Paul…

As Paul was finishing up his letter to the Roman church he made a request of the believers in that city. He asked them to: "Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem might be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed" —Romans 15:31, 32, NIV.

As I was reading the last few chapters of Acts this morning I was reminded once again as to how God answered Paul's prayers and those of the believers in Rome. Paul had been warned not to go to Jerusalem, apparently by those who were moved by the Spirit of God to deliver that warning (Acts 21:4b). When the apostle got to Jerusalem he delivered to those in need, the charitable donations he had been entrusted to him by the Gentile believers. Then, he immediately went to the temple. Some Jews, opposed to his message, aroused the crowd and Paul was rescued, then arrested, by the Roman constabulary. He ended up goi…

It's Not What You Can Do, It's What You Need to Do

It's funny how the mind works.

I just finished reading through the Book of Romans in my devotions. This morning I got "stuck" on this little phrase: "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ" —Romans 13:14, NIV. I wondered what being "clothed" in Christ would look like. Of course, the context of this verse gives us a list of some of the "nasties" that we should avoid such as: orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, debauchery, dissension and jealousy. Since I'm not having any issues with any of those (well, maybe a little jealousy from time to time!), I wondered what else "clothed in Christ" might look like in my context.

Ministry never ends. There is always more that can be done than there is time or ability to accomplish. That has weighed heavily on my mind lately so as I thought about this phrase from Romans I initially began to think about all that Christ accomplished during his earthly ministry. When I do that,…

Under Renovation

I can hear the sounds of a saw next door. The renovations to the church are moving ahead quickly. In the meantime we "put up" with having to use only the north wing of the church for services while the main sanctuary and the south wing are being torn apart and then put back together. We'd hoped to get finished with the construction and the repainting by Christmas. It might not happen because renovating oftentimes takes more time that originally planned.

But what about the Christmas Eve program? We might still be somewhere in "rough draft" mode by the 24th of December. I apparently echoed someone's remarks when I said that if Christ wasn't above being born in a stable I guessed that we shouldn't be too bothered about having our Christmas Eve service in a less than perfect auditorium.

Less-than-what-it-should-be is sometimes an issue for us. That works in the spiritual realm as well since we are always "less than what we should be." The goo…

"Okay" Doesn't Cut It

"...our prayer is for your perfection" –2 Corinthians 13:9, NIV.

I pray a lot of things for a lot of people but I'm not sure I have ever prayed for someone to be perfect. Perhaps I'm a casualty of the popular adage, "nobody's perfect" which might make a prayer for perfection seem like a silly thing for which to petition the Lord. Perhaps I am too aware (or not aware enough) of my own imperfections, making it feel a little hypocritical to pray for someone else to be perfect when I'm not. Oddly, (or not) Paul must have been thinking the same thing. The complete sentence is: "We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection." The whole context follows the same line. He hoped that he would not fail the test (vs. 6) but his primary concern, and prayer, was that they not do anything wrong (vs. 7). He ends this letter with an admonition to: "Aim for perfection..." (13:11, NIV).

Paul isn't na…

Jars of Clay

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The clay jar from Venezuela arrived in Canada slightly the worse for wear. A chunk of the spout didn't survive the trip. As I read this morning's reading from 2 Corinthians, I remembered the jug.

As what we know as 2 Corinthians 3 closes, the Apostle Paul writes: "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (3:18, NIV)

Paul is adamant throughout his writings that we, as believers must cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the renovation process that began at the moment we came to faith in Christ. Being declared holy because of Christ's redemptive work in us, now demands that old habits be laid aside to make room for the characteristics of Christ.

However, in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul acknowledges that believers are very much like my clay pot and that being so is not entirely a bad thing. He writes: "But we have this treasure in jars…

Putting Up

Since personality profiles hadn't been invented yet, the Apostle Paul missed out on being analyzed and catalogued according to one of the multitude of tools that we have at our disposal today. My guess is that Paul was a choleric (if you follow one system of measurement) or a High D (if you follow a different system of measurement). According to Florence Littauer (Personality Plus, Revell, 1992) a choleric is: "...a dynamic person who dreams the impossible dream and aims to reach the unreachable star...Powerful Choleric is always aiming, reaching, teaching, succeeding...He is the easiest temperament to understand and get along with, as long as you live by his golden rule: 'Do it my way NOW!'" According to the Institute for Motivational Living, a High D personality is characterized this way: "dominant, determined, driven...good problem solver, risk taker, strong ego, self-starter, goal-oriented...good motivator, good at organizing events, values time, result-…

Bodies in the Hallway

Our pastor is working through the book of Acts with us on Sunday evenings. Last night we looked at Acts 5 and the not-so-pleasant experience of Ananias and Sapphira. This couple lied to the church and tried to lie to God. Their judgment was swift–they both fell dead at the feet of those they were trying to deceive.

Normally a study of this incident ends with verse 11 (NIV): "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." However, our pastor kept going until the end of verse 16. The disciples continued to preach and perform miracles throughout the community in spite of the nasty experience with Ananias and Sapphira. But this fear of God associated with their deaths held back some other people from getting too close to the believers. "No one else dared joined them, even though they were highly regarded by the people" –Acts 5:13, NIV. We speculated that perhaps Ananias and Sapphira weren't true believers at all, only hangers-on who liked…

Being Holy: The Impossible Dream?

"Nobody's perfect!" comes the cry of the masses. And we all know just how true that is. Even if we didn't tend to take frequent critical looks at others, an honest look at ourselves would soon reveal the painfully, yet truthful, tale. Nobody is perfect.

Facing this painful truth can led to discouragement and even to thoughts of throwing in the "holiness" towel and resigning ourselves to mediocrity. Perhaps that was why Paul adds this note to his letter to the Thessalonian church: "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" —1 Thessalonians 5:23, NIV.

This little book is dotted with tidbits about holy living and it's easy to forget in the midst of the instructions to be holy that such a project isn't fueled by our own efforts. A car without gas doesn't go far. In the spiritual realm, the fuel that provides the impetus for …

Dead, But Very Much Alive

The Galatian church was having "issues." People had crept into the church and were trying to persuade the believers to retain some of the old beliefs from which the Gospel of Jesus Christ had freed them. Paul called them on their drift back into the old and unproductive paths of believing that obedience to the law could save them. He even went so far as to call them "foolish" (Galatians 3:1).

He recalled the uneasy meeting that took place between himself and the apostles in Jerusalem. The leaders of the early church were uneasy because in those early days after Paul's conversion, the believers were not entirely convinced that this "conversion" was another more than an elaborate hoax to trap them. Some of the Jews were still struggling with the entrance of the Gentiles into the Kingdom. Paul's claim to be an apostle to those Gentiles made him even more suspect to some.

Paul was equally uneasy, uncertain about the reception he would receive from th…

Bite Your Tongue

I knew what would happen but I did it anyway.

I mentioned that a certain person had called the office. The name prompted a discussion where information was shared that might have been true, but it certainly wasn't kind. I should have kept my mouth shut.

This morning's rebuke from James added to the mental "kick in the pants" I had already given myself that had the force of the Holy Spirit behind it. The tongue is a small but deadly instrument. It cuts, and it kills. So James warns his readers: "When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts…

Looking Beyond the Devil

I cringe every time I hear someone headline Satan. He craves attention, feeds on our focus, delights when we make him bigger than life.

That's why I like what James has to say about the struggles that we all face. Rather than making "good press" for the devil, James calls us to look beyond the minor players in the great drama of life to the One who gives us good gifts even when they come wrapped in dirty rags.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything. . .Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" –James 1:2-4, 12, NIV.

Our tendency is to give Satan credit for what God is doing in our lives. We don't usually look on difficulties as "God-thi…

Sign On For Suffering

I love those curious little phrases in Scripture that pique my interest simply because they are unexpected. I found another one in my journey through the Book of Acts this morning.

The context? Saul has been carrying his religious zeal a whole lot too far by persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ. On his way to Damascus in search of believers to throw into jail he has an encounter with the Lord which is recorded for us in Acts 9. Saul's not slow and he immediately recognizes who he is talking to and how huge his mistake has been.

Blinded by the light of the Lord, he is led to Damascus. Instead of chasing down Christians, the seriously repentant Pharisee spends three days praying and fasting. In the Scriptures fasting is part of the act of repentance and without doubt Saul had a whole lot to repent of.

While Saul and the Lord are dealing with the dirt, the Lord appeared to a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. He instructs Ananias to find Saul and restore his sight. The…

Whatever Happened to. . .?

He only appears once on the pages of biblical history. Whatever happened to Matthias?

Jesus had returned to heaven after his resurrection. His followers were shut up in an upstairs room praying, and waiting for. . . well, they weren't entirely sure what it was they were waiting for. All they knew was that their Messiah had promised to send his Spirit to empower them for ministry.

While they waited and prayed, Peter addressed the group, quoting what is now known as Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8. Based on the prophecy, the apostle suggested that it was time to choose a replacement for Judas. He said: "Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection" –Acts1:21, 22, NIV. Two men met the criteria: Barsabbas and Matthias. After they prayed, they drew lots …

Proclaim the Name

I went to my very first Santa Claus parade last night. It felt strange. After all, I grew up in this town and don't remember going to a parade either here or anywhere else. It was quite enjoyable. Moms and dads were out with their kids all bundled up against the cold. Some people had brought their dogs and insulated mugs of coffee or hot chocolate. As the floats went by I looked for a sign of Christ in Christmas. I confess I didn't see all of the fifty floats in the parade, I saw most of them, and with the exception of one, there was no mention of the real reason we celebrate the season. That I could see, not a single church was represented in the parade though I know our church has participated in years past.

Whatever you believe about Santa Claus and the mega-shift that a Christian celebration has taken away from its roots, it seems to me that believers aren't making much of an effort to take a stand for the Christ of Christmas.

John records that the Jewish leaders came…

What Does Salvation Look Like?

Three lessons about salvation back to back.

THE STORY OF THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR (Luke 18:9-14)

The Pharisee counted on his works to get him through the door to the kingdom. He was totally unconscious of the inadequacy of his self-righteousness. But the tax collector knew what he was: "God, have mercy on me, a sinner" – Luke 18:13b, NIV.

Lesson: Salvation comes to the sincerely repentant heart who sees himself as God sees him.

THE STORY OF THE LITTLE CHILDREN AND JESUS (Luke 18:15-17)

The disciples didn't see in the children what Jesus saw. He rebuked his followers for denying access to those who most showed the attitude that we all need to demonstrate. ". . .anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" –Luke 18:17. Some people believe that Jesus is referring to the innocence of a child but the Scriptures clearly state that no one is innocent and no one is justified by his own "goodness." But a child …

Review: The Strategically Small Church

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The Strategically Small Church Brandon J. O’Brien Bethany House 2010 168 pages
At last, someone who understands that the small church isn’t necessarily dead or dying; that, at the risk of being branded for using and abusing a cliché, “good things DO sometimes come in small packages.”
Brandon O’Brien presents a solid case for that self-aware, self-confident small church that recognizes the advantages of its size and is not intimidated by the mega-church mystique. This book is balm to the soul of the majority of pastors who have come away from conferences led by their mega-church brothers, feeling like failures even when souls are coming to Christ and lives are being changed as a result of their ministries. As O’Brien says: “Mega-churches (regular attendance over 2000) make up less than one half of one percent of churches in America…we have allowed the ministry experience of 6 percent of pastors to become the standard by which the remaining 94 percent of us judge ourselves” (pg. 25).
O’Brien d…

Success: It's Not What You Might Think

If there was ever an epitaph to envy it would be this one: "He was great in the sight of the Lord."

When the birth of John, who would be called "The Baptist," was born, the angel who delivered the announcement to his father, Zecariah, was told: "…he will be great in the sight of the Lord" —Luke 1:15, NIV.

John's birth, and the circumstances leading up to it, were miracles. Humanly speaking, he should not have been, but as the angel said to his cousin, Mary, "…nothing is impossible with God" —Luke 1:37, NIV.

We know nothing about John's childhood except the terse words of Luke 1:80 that say: "And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly in Israel."

John was a bizarre figure in Israel. His form of dress would have definitely put him on anyone's worst dressed list. His eating habits, while healthy, would not have made him anyone's popular dinner guest. Perhaps these…

While I'm Passing Through . . .

I read an excellent post this morning written by a friend (http://brendaflemming.blogspot.com/2010/10/lord-you-are-my-home.html ). It was a reminder to me about how important perspective is in determining what our priorities in life need to be.

Added to Brenda's post was an interesting incident that I read about in my devotions this morning. Jesus was coming to end of his earthly ministry and in one of those last discourses he spoke to his disciples about what was to come in the future. Among the things he said was this: "No one knows about that day [the coming of the Lord] or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away: He leaves his house in charge of his servants, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back–whether in the evening, or at midnight,…

WWJD

What would Jesus do? Several years ago this phrase was popularized, reprised from that famous work by Charles Sheldon, In His Steps, published in the late 1890s. In Christian circles the WWJD was everywhere and on everything. The idea was to filter every decision made through the question: "What would Jesus do in this situation?" and then do it.

As I read through the Book of Matthew in my devotions I can't help but be reminded how far from modeling Jesus' example I am. With more examples in hand than I can possibly work through in one blog (brevity being the number one rule of blogging), I will confine myself to one general lesson that arises out of a conversation I had yesterday with a friend.

The Lord never seemed to focus on his own needs. He was totally human, with all the needs common to humanity and all the accompanying temptations. Only on the cross did he ask for something to drink because he was thirsty. Obviously he had to eat and sleep and refresh himself…

Faith Asks, But Doesn't Demand

"When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. 'I am willing,' he said. 'Be clean!' Immediately he was cured of his leprosy" –Matthew 8:1-3.

I wish I had been present when this incident took place. The leper shouldn't have been anywhere near the crowd. People suffering from this contagious and devastating disease were ostracized from society, forced to leave home and family and live in misery as far away from populated areas as possible. When approaching healthy people they were obligated to call out "Unclean! Unclean!" so that people could avoid them. How this man managed to get to Jesus was a miracle in itself.

Jesus' fame had preceded him and the leper came in hope of healing. What most impresses me is his submission to the Lord. He knelt, but then anyone s…

I Hear the Prophet Callin'

My church is busily preparing for Christmas. Snatches of the cantata we are rehearsing run through my mind—sometimes the same line with maddening frequency. Today's line happens to be the name of the cantata and I can't get it out of my head. The brain is filled with "I hear the prophet callin', 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'" (Pepper Choplin, Lorenz Publishing Company, 2009).

As I sat down to do my devotional reading this morning, I was pleased to discover that my journey through the Old Testament has officially ended for this year and I am now reading through the New Testament. Guess what was on the agenda for today?

The Book of Matthew begins with Joseph's genealogy. It's always been a curiosity to me why his family tree is emphasized here since he was not the biological father of the Messiah. I suspect (though I confess I haven't researched this) that the key to that question is found in Matthew 1:17: "Thus there were fourteen generat…

An Encounter with the Book

Yesterday, over turkey and dressing, we got to talking about reading Scripture. I'm pretty sure that one has nothing to do with the other but the latter certainly had to do with my post yesterday on how few people actually bring their Bibles to church. One of my friends showed me his ipod? Cell phone? Blackberry? Whatever it is, my friend can access any passage of Scripture on it. When the Scripture is being read during the service or as the pastor preaches, he follows the reading on his "whatever."

Modern technology gives a new meaning to carrying your Bible to church, doesn't it? The point is, whatever form it takes, it's important to bring your Bible with you to God's house.

This theme of reading the Bible will not go away. I had to chuckle to myself this morning as I read the devotional reading assigned for today. The people have gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate their return and the rebuilding of the city walls. Ezra brings out the Word of God and: &qu…

Remember the Emperor?

There once was a king who, anticipating a special event, ordered two local weavers to prepare him a new set of royal robes for the occasion. The men promised that the suit would be so fine that anyone unworthy or incompetent would not even be able to see it. On the appointed day the two men arrived at the palace with the emperor's new costume. The king stood in front of the mirror as the weavers made a great show of clothing him in his new garments, making obsequious comments about how splendid their ruler looked. They tweaked a little here and tucked a little there. Then they stood back in admiration of their handiwork. The king was astonished. In the mirror all he could see was his royal person dressed in the usual undergarments. But since anyone who was unworthy or incompetent was incapable of seeing the suit, and the weavers obviously saw it, the emperor bit his lip and keep his doubts to himself.

The moment came, and the emperor strode out of his palace to make his way throug…

Cruising Isn't For Christians

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What pastor would have the nerve to tell his people that if they wanted to cruise through the Christian experience, they should go and join the church down the street? Apparently there is at least one, and his church is full of people who are working their passage rather than sitting on the deck basking in the sun.

As I began reading in Ezra yesterday I was reminded that if the church were a vessel, it would be freighter not a cruise ship. The Lord has moved the King of Persia's heart to allow some of the captive Israelites to return to Jerusalem to rebuild. Notice the telling little phrase: "Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem" —Ezra 1:5, NIV.

Anyone could have gone, but only those whose hearts God had moved would have volunteered for the "blood, sweat, and tears" involved in reparation of the disaster that had been left behind…

Oh Daniel, Did You Know, Did You Know?

Pity the poor prophets who had wonderful visions but probably never knew what those visions meant. If they did know, how disappointed they must have been not to see the fulfillment of those dreams.

Daniel is lying down on his bed and God sends him a dream. Among the many fascinating things he sees, the most glorious must have been this:

"As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated and the books were opened. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but w…

The Power of One

I can't count the number of times I've given my seminar on being one in a two-digit world—the wholeness of being single. As I read Ezekiel 22 this afternoon I was reminded again of the value that one person can have.

Let me set the stage. The Lord has again spoken to Ezekiel and delivers a long litany of sins that God's people have committed against their Lord. You name it and it's there somewhere in the first 29 verses of Ezekiel 22.

Then comes a statement that is sad in its implications. The Lord says: "I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. So I will pour out my wrath on them and consume them with my fiery anger, bringing down on their own heads all they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord" —Ezekiel 22:30, 31, NIV.

Just one valiant, righteous man would have held back the wrath of God. Just one.

We look at our own land and breathe…

Whew, A Ray of Hope!

My friend, Joanne, calls him "Freaky Zieky" and he certainly is! As I was reading more of Ezekiel's story this morning, I really felt for the man. He's packing bags to go nowhere, digging holes in walls and then crawling through them. He's trembling and shuddering without the aid of zero degree temperatures. I wonder how many laughed at him right to his face?

You have to give the man credit for humble and persistent obedience. It's not everyone who can make a fool of himself on purpose.

In the midst of all the dire predictions of murder, mayhem and mass destruction, all ably illustrated by Ezekiel, the Lord sends an absolute ray of sunshine. Seemingly out of nowhere Almighty God chooses to encourage the people upon whom his judgment has fallen. He took pity on his prophet. Ezekiel was overcome with grief, and God reached down to minister to him (Ezekiel 11:13).

The Lord says: "I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries wher…