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Showing posts from January, 2010

When Things Don't Look Like They Are Going to Happen

Exodus 5-7

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Let my people go…’” (5:1).

And as much as Pharaoh tried to stop God, there was no way God wasn’t going to accomplish his purposes.

The ruler of Egypt was defiant and said he didn’t know this God so why should he obey him (5:2).

He made excuses for his own convenience: “These people have too much time on their hands, let’s give them more to do and they’ll stop wanting to take off” (5:4ff).

He made life impossible for the Israelites by withholding the materials they needed to do the work assigned to them (5:14ff).

The people were upset and so was Moses because of all these obstacles (5:22f).

But God …

The Lord renewed his promises to his people: “…I am the Lord…I will bring you out…I will free you…I will redeem you with an outstretched hand and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God…I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to…

A Small Exodus

Exodus 1-4

It’s true that you can’t apply literally everything you read in Scripture. But it’s fascinating to me that the timing of my “exodus” from Venezuela so perfectly combines with my devotional reading.

I certainly wouldn’t say, for example, that I have been a slave here and that God has needed to rescue me from servitude (1:11ff). Nor would I say that I’ll have to kill someone in the process of leaving! (2:11-12). And I’m not into circumcision (4:24ff).

But there are overriding principles that I will take away with me from this passage that directly relate to this major move.

1. God is with me as he was with the midwives, Moses and his family (1:20, 21; 2:1-10) and the Israelites. He will rescue me from whatever I need rescuing from.

2. God is sending me and I confess, not to any reluctance to go (unlike Moses), but to some anxiety as to being able to fulfill the upcoming mission (3:11). But here again I claim the promises that God gave to Moses: “I will be with you…Who gave man h…

Doing a "Job"

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Job 38-42

GOD SPEAKS!

I’m putting myself in Job’s shoes.

Lynda, where were you when I …?

These chapters are particularly appropriate today as God speaks to Job using his mighty works among the animals to teach Job who's in charge. I hadn’t intended to take Abby and Lou Lou Belle back to Canada with me, but at the very last minute it seems I have no choice. I am thrilled to be able to keep them but terrified by the journey and the trauma that this move will mean to them. And God speaks today to tell me that he who displays his majesty through the animals will not abandon Lou and Abby on their journey either.



Therefore, Lynda is going to do a “Job” and follow his lead: “My ears have heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” —Job 42:5, 6.

A Singular Privilege

Job 35-37

In these final three chapters of the conversation between Job and his friends, Elihu continues his discourse. The one thing we learn from these friends is that one can speak truth and still be in error. That’s a scary thought, a theological disaster.

But when we speak in our arrogance, taking what is truth and twisting it to suit our purposes, we run the risk of ending up like Job’s friends—condemning the innocent, attributing to God what is not his, and bringing down on ourselves his judgment. God is about to speak, actually to piggyback on Elihu’s words as he “counsels” his friend.

The truth that we find in these chapters is another eloquent description of the wonders of God—something God will pick up on in the following chapters. Elihu rightly asks who is capable of understanding the ways of God. He might think he is (36:3, 4) but he is about to find out otherwise. Still, his description is elegant:

“God is exalted in his power…How great is God—beyond our understanding! The…

One Simple Step Away

Job 32-34

“But Elihu…became very angry with Job for justifying myself rather than God…because they had found no way to refute Job, and yet had condemned him” (32:2).

We’re always right.

An alternate text says that the “him” at the end of this statement does refer to Job being condemned, but rather states that because they couldn’t refute Job they had agreed that God was at fault and had condemned God. He will later say (34:12) “It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice.”

Elihu’s argument in chapter 33 is eloquent, and true. But once again he is assuming that Job is guilty of something that has brought down God’s anger on his head. However apart from that he paints a beautiful picture of how God restores those who come to him in repentance and faith.

“He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state. Then he comes to men and says, ‘I sinned, and perverted what was right, bu…

Just the Tiniest Part

Job 25-27

These chapters are short, but powerful.

Job’s description of a part of God’s works is absolutely amazing:

“He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. He wraps up the waters in his clouds, yet the clouds do not burst under their weight. He covers the face of the full moon, spreading his clouds over it. He marks out the horizon on the face of the waters for a boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of the heaven quake, aghast at his rebuke. By his power he churned up the sea; by his wisdom he cut Rahab to pieces. By his breath the skies become fair; his hands pierced the gliding serpent. And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” —Job 26:7-14.

There are some who believe that if God created the world, he then left it to run on its own. From these verses we know that Job certainly wasn’t one of those. He believed that though nature doe…

Talking Through Your Hat

Job 21-24

Job’s friends have told him that the evil he is suffering has come on account of his own wickedness. He proceeds to refute that by reminding them that there are plenty of wicked men who prosper and never suffer, not even once, during their lifetimes. So absence of prosperity, good health, or whatever, is not necessarily a sign of God’s judgment. The presence of these things is not a sign of his pleasure either.

That argument doesn’t seem to impress Eliphaz: “Is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you? Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless” —Job 22:4, 5. He then goes on to list all the nasty things Job has done. Since we have already been told that Job was a righteous man (1:8), we can only imagine that Eliphaz is “talking through his hat” as my father used to say.

He is in error when he assumes: “Submit to God and be at peace with him; in this way prosperity will come to you. Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words i…

I Will See God

Job 18-20

Job says: “…know that God has wronged me” —Job 19:6

Because he doesn’t answer me.

Because he doesn’t help me.

Because my way is blocked.

Because I can’t see ahead.

Because I have nothing.

Because I have no hope.

Because he is angry with me.

Because I am his enemy.

Because my friends have turned against me.

Because my employees don’t obey me.

Because my wife doesn’t like me.

Because I’m wasting away.

And in spite of this list of wrongs, Job still maintains some faith in the ultimate end of his story:

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” —Job 19:25-27

How human—such lack of faith on one side and such great faith on the other.

If I look at my life I can see the same pattern—moments of doubt and faithlessness and moments of great faith shaken together like oil and water. It is often only after…

Advocate

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Welcome to Word-Filled Wednesday hosted by Christy at Critty Joy. Check out the pictures inspired by the Word of God.

At the end of chapter 16, Job makes a statement that eludes to an advocate in heaven who intercedes for him. What did he believe? Or did he simply say what he was inspired to say without an understanding of its implications?

“Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” —Job 16:19-20.



What a beautiful picture of the advocate we have with our Father—Jesus Christ who intercedes on our behalf as the One who paid for our release with his own blood.

“My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sin of the whole world” —1 John 2:…

Judge Not

Job 11-13

Why is it so easy to “see” the sins of others and not our own?

Zophar takes up the “Job Challenge” with: Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin” —Job 11:5, 6.

If he and his buddies had prayed that God would give Job wisdom and understanding in the midst of all this trauma rather than judge from their “superior” position, it might have been more useful. They assumed because they thought they knew something that they didn’t. The arrogance is obvious.

I suppose this strikes me hard because I am, and have been, listening to the same lofty judgments rendered by some who “know” heaped on others who obviously don’t.

“He is not fit for ministry,” is the current popular refrain directed at someone, I admit, who has a lot to learn. But to say he is not fit for ministry is a judgment call only God can make. If these same people h…

Perspective

Job 8-10

In his despair, Job struggles with God. He bounces back and forth, feeling that God has pronounced him guilty yet protesting his innocence. There is an edge of injustice here: Job feeling God has been unjust and is being unfair.

“Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me; if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty. Although I am blameless …He destroys both the blameless and the wicked. When a scourge brings sudden death, he mocks the despair of the innocent. When a land falls into the hands of the wicked, he blindfolds its judges. If it is not he, then who is it?” —Job 9:20-24.

He is afraid of God, afraid to speak. He wishes for someone to speak for him (9:33-35).

Job confesses to being bitter (10:1). He feels unfairly treated. Anger and bitterness often result in our saying things that were better left unsaid. For example: “Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked?” (10:3). He believes God t…

Announcing…

In case anyone was wondering why the direction of most of my previous posts over the past weeks has focused on change, trust, and other similar issues, here's the scoop.

I've been in Caracas, Venezuela for fifteen years. Prior to that, I served with the same mission on home staff and in Colombia. In total, a sum of thirty years with Fellowship International Ministries.

The time has come to move on. It hasn't been a decision made overnight. In fact, over the last few years the need for change in direction has become more and more obvious. The Lord and I have had lots of discussions about the subject. He always remains calm. I, on the other hand, haven't always been so relaxed through the process.

But here I am, within two weeks of leaving Caracas. I will still be working part-time with the mission, seconded to the Communications Department and am currently pursuing possibilities as a member of a church staff.

Sixty isn't exactly the age to begin a new career, or even …

Riding the Roller-Coaster

Genesis 43-46

Such a roller-coaster of emotions and changing circumstances for the brothers who had so easily sold Joseph into slavery without a thought for their father’s feelings or for the consequences of their actions.

Joseph tested his brothers. Would they save themselves rather than try to save Benjamin? Would they cause their father additional grief by abandoning another favoured child? This time, the brothers passed the test.

Imagine their surprise to discover that this figure of authority who seemed to know so much about them, was really the brother they can once so callously delivered into the hands of Midianite traders.

Joseph was quick to reassure them right from the beginning that their actions, evil as they had been, were divinely orchestrated. “…do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…to preserve a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was …

Riches to Rags

Genesis 37-39

This is a riches to rags story.

Joseph, the favoured son of privilege, ends up as a slave. Hated and betrayed by his brothers, he loses everything he had: home, family, security, inheritance.

In the house of his first master, Potiphar, the Lord blesses him. But that rank and a new kind of privilege as a trusted servant in the household are not his for long. That too is stolen from him by a slighted woman. Joseph loses everything again and ends up in jail for a crime he did not commit.

He goes about his assigned work and gains the trust of the keeper of the jail. If it can be said that one can be privileged in prison, Joseph is that one.

“The Lord was with him” (Genesis 39:2, 21). Some might say that the Lord had abandoned Joseph. I wonder if Joseph clung to the dreams he had had as a young man back in his father’s house (Genesis 37:5-9)? The promise of God that one day everything would turn out as God wanted it might have been the only thing Joseph could keep that no one c…

There's Value in Going Backward

"I'm back to square one."

"Do not pass go, do not collect $200."

In life, most of us don't want to go back to the beginning. In Monopoly we want to go back to "Go," where we started, because it does have certain advantages.

I read an interesting story this morning in my devotions that reminded me of the value of going back to the beginning of our spiritual journey.

Jacob was called by God to return to the land from which he had fled after deceiving his father and cheating his brother. He'd learned a lot of lessons along the way and there were some he still had to learn. On the eve of his entrance into that familiar, but painful, territory, Jacob had an encounter with God, one that changed his perspective again.

When Jacob entered the land he met with his estranged brother—an awkward but moving event. Jacob kept his distance from Esau by settling in the city of Shechem. Eventually the actions of his sons created some serious problems with the neigh…

Staying Put and Moving On

Genesis 23-26

Among the many interesting aspects of these chapters is an incident that jumps out at me. This year I’m looking at my Scripture readings in the light of changes, adjustments, course corrections that have to be made, and what the Scriptures say about them.

Abraham had died. Isaac was living in Gerar under the watchful eye of Abimelech. God blessed Isaac to the point that there simply wasn't room for him and all that he had gained to lived peaceable among the Philistines. There were issues of envy which resulted in some nasty events: “So all the wells that his father’s servant had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth” —Genesis 26:15.

Abimelech asked Isaac to move a little farther away to prevent any more conflict. Isaac did what he was asked and moved, reopening the wells that the Philistines had stopped up when his father was alive—presumably the result of a different generation of envious neighbours at Abraham’s succ…

Prepared for Everything

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Life is spiritually dangerous which prompts Paul to write: "Put on the full armor of God…Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place…Take the helmet of salvation…" Ephesians 6:10-18

Thus armed we launch ourselves into the current. It it there we discovered that there is another river that flows around us. Consider the hymn and think about the picture.



Like a river glorious is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth fuller every day;
Perfect, yet it groweth deeper all the way.

Chorus:
Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blest—
Finding as he promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of his blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry— Touch the Spirit there.

Chorus

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of love;
We may trust him fully all for us to do;
T…

Word-Filled Wednesday—Perfect Peace

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Welcome to Word-Filled Wednesday hosted by Penny at PennyRaine. Make sure to check it out.

We were hunting for some real evergreen in one of the local nurseries before Christmas when from out of inside a pile of clay flower pots popped this little head. I think he goes well with the verse and the attitude that needs to be our theme as we begin a new year.



"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal" —Isaiah 26:3, 4.

In Weakness, God's Strength

Genesis 12-15

Abram continued the journey his father had started. God called him to leave the comfort of Haran to go to Canaan. He knew his destination but he knew nothing about the place to which God had called him. But he went. We have in these chapters a picture of a man in constant motion—not just the motion of moving, but in the struggles of adjusting. The Canaanites were in the land and without a doubt were not pleased to have their space invaded. Sounds like our reaction to immigrants, doesn’t it?

Sometimes those adjustments weren’t well done. Abram adjusted to his fears of having the Pharaoh make him disappear because of his beautiful wife by lying about who she was. Even our heroes of the faith have clay feet from time to time.

Abram had to deal with fractious relatives. Sometime close family ties are better preserved from a distance. Unhappily Lot chose the wrong place to pitch his tent and ended up being kidnapped. That situation turned his uncle into a military leader as h…

Monday Manna—Going into Blessing

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Time for Monday Manna hosted by Joanne at An Open Book. Check out more thoughts on Philippians 4:13 there. I am hooking today's Monday Manna onto my Scripture reading for today from Genesis 10, 11. It works very well—thanks, Joanne.

“Terah took his son, Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran” —Genesis 11:31, 32.

What stopped Terah from completing the journey to Canaan? It would be left for his son, Abram, to respond to God’s call and leave, not Ur, but Haran, to finish the move that Terah had started.

Did the road ahead seem too difficult, too fraught with impossibilities?

We are not told that Terah’s vision of settling in Canaan was the result of his response to the call of God, as was true in Abram’s case. Perhaps that is the important point. Sometimes God’s call is…

It Will Be "Very Good"

Genesis 1, 2

Everything was new and different. Like a baby adjusting to the world outside the womb, every creature God made was making adjustments on those fifth and sixth days of God’s creative process.

Was chewing grass instinctive? What did it feel like to do it for the very first time? The discovery of all the senses and what they did must have been astonishing, like the sweetness of honey on the tongue.

Man shares with the animals his beginning even though he is distinct. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” —Genesis 2:19 and “…the Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being” —Genesis 2:7.

Creation was in part accomplished through the process of separation. Darkness was separated from light (1:4), waters were separated from waters (1:6), water was separated from land (1:9), plants and trees were separated from each other into speci…