Showing posts from March, 2010

An Uncomplicated Family

I've been reading this morning from 1 Samuel 17-20. In summary, the passage concerns the complicated family relationships between David, Saul, Jonathan, and Michal. It's not often that your father-in-law tries to kill you, not once but several times, as was David's experience. But the truth is that sometimes family life can be challenging.

My family relationships are not nearly as tricky as David's were. So for my post today, I am including a picture of some of those uncomplicated people who share a blood relationship with me. We may not see eye to eye on lots of things, but they haven't tried to kill me yet. In fact, we get along just fine, for which I thank the Lord.

Persistent Prayer

In my devotions yesterday I read these words of Samuel: "As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you" —1 Samuel 12:23 (NIV). I'm not sure we think that we might be sinning when we fail to pray, but that certainly seems to be Samuel's attitude.

In my reading this morning, we find Samuel in anguish because of Saul's persistent disobedience. When the Lord tells his prophet that he is going to take the kingdom away from Saul, Samuel immediately goes to prayer. I Samuel 15:11b (NIV) says: "Samuel was troubled, and he cried out to the Lord all that night."

We suppose that Samuel had kept his promise and had been praying for Saul. But those prayers apparently didn't have the effect that Samuel anticipated. Now the end of Saul's reign is in sight, and Samuel goes back to prayer again.

I wonder what that all night conversation was like? What did Samuel ask for?

This morning I talked to the Lord about the l…

When You Blow It Big Time

1 Samuel 11-13

It sounded like a good idea at the time. After all everyone else in the neighbourhood had a king of their own.

It took Israel very little time to figure out that they had made a mistake by choosing Saul as their king. It wasn't that he wasn't capable—he'd just finished rescuing them from the Ammonites. It helped that he looked good, had that "kingly" presence and all that.

But Samuel's rebuke made them take a second look at their decision. The response? "The people all said to Samuel, 'Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.'" (12:19 NIV)

Some things are difficult to "fix" after the fact. Israel couldn't "unking" Saul so would have to live with the consequences. But the encouraging note here is Samuel's response.

"'Do not be afraid,' Samuel replied, 'You have done all this evil, yet d…

Follow That Ark

1 Samuel 4-7

This is one of those curious stories.

Eli is Israel's chief priest. But he's an old man and his sons have taken charge of the religious life of the nation. Well. "irreligious" might be a better word because they are not worthy priests.

Israel is facing one of those persistent enemies that never seemed to go away throughout their history—the Philistines. They meet in battle at Ebenezar (the Stone that helps) and Israel is soundly defeated. Eli's sons, Hophni and Phinehas, get the brilliant idea to take the ark of the covenant out of the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and drag it into battle. Their theory? "Let us bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh, so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies" —1 Samuel 4:3.

Bad move. Bad theology. The ark was sacred and not intended to be tossed around like so much used furniture. And it wasn't the ark that would save them, but the Lord himself.

This part of the st…

Cover Me

Ruth 1-4

"May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge" —Ruth 2:12

Ruth had returned to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Her husband was dead, as was her father-in-law and her brother-in-law. She was a Moabite, not exactly someone who would be received well in Israel. But Ruth determined to stay with Naomi, even claiming the God of the Israelites as her own. Times were tough, until she began to glean at the edges of the the fields that belonged to Boaz.

He was not unaware of what Noami had done in helping her mother-in-law. He pronounces this blessing on her, little knowing that he would be able to act as her Kinsman-Redeemer, and buy her into his own household.

As I read these words the lyrics of an old hymn written by William Orcutt Cushing (1823-1902) came to mind.

1. Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can …

I Didn't Even Notice He Was Gone

Do you want to know what the scariest verse in the Bible is? Nope, it isn't the one about hellfire and brimstone, though that is definitely scary.

Every time I read the story of Samson, this little phrase jumps out at me and pins me to the the wall: "…he did not know that the Lord had left him" —Judges 16:20b. Mind you, some people might wonder why God hung around Samson up until his "Delilah-moment" anyway. I'm guessing that up until this moment, Samson's actions, as strange as some of them might have been, were part of God's program for the Philistines. But caving in to Delilah and breaking his vows as a Nazarite, was "over the top."

God wasn't taken by surprise by what Samson did in telling Delilah the secret of his strength, but that act caused a reaction that none of the other weird and wonderful acts of Samson did not cause. God left Samson. But as if that wasn't scary enough, Samson didn't even notice that the Spirit of …

Do NOT Try This At Home

Samson illustrates well that old saying "bull in a china shop." If there ever was an unlikely choice for a judge of Israel, he fit the bill. Some might describe him as "all brawn and no brain." He didn't seem to "get it," ever.

But if the story of Samson proves nothing else, it does show us that God does work in mysterious ways and uses all kinds to accomplish his plans and purposes in history.

The beginning was promising, commencing with the appearance of an angel to announce the arrival of a special child who would be dedicated to the service of the Lord before his conception. "…the boy is to be a Nazarite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines" —Judges 13:5. Manoah and his wife received strict instructions to follow in preparation for Samson's birth.

The baby was healthy. "The woman gave birth to a boy…and he grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the …

Week One in Timmins

So, I ask myself (knowing very well what the answer is), what happened to the blog that is supposed to happen from Monday to Friday in this particular spot on the cyberspace map?

I was sick. Honest, I was, and I still am. I came to Timmins on the train last Friday. I was coughing then, something I'm sure my fellow passengers on that ten hour trip were less than appreciative of. But my head was still as clear as it can ever get. Things went downhill after that and it has been a miserable week of coughing and blowing. How does the body produce that much mucus? So for the rest of this week, instead of bugging my fellow passengers I've spent my time bugging and contaminating everyone else with whom I've had contact.

But I should still be able to blog and cough at the same time, right? Well, somehow getting out of bed at six in the morning to blog when you're sick isn't too compelling. So I didn't, figuring more sleep was more useful to me than my blogging might be to…

That High and Holy Calling

It could be this new opportunity for ministry that made me more sensitive to this blessing that Moses pronounced on the tribe of Levi in Deuteronomy 33. The leader of Israel is coming to the end of his earthly days. He has brought God's people to the edge of the Promised Land. He will not cross over with them. His duty is done and it is time to take that final journey.

But before he climbs the mountain to take a long, last look at the fulfillment of God's promise to Israel, he blesses each of the tribes that have been such a joy and a sorrow to him over the many years since he led them out of captivity in Egypt.

This is what Moses prays for the tribe of Levi, to the priestly tribe, to the spiritual leaders whose task it is to guide Israel in the ways of God.

"About Levi he said: 'Your Thummim and Urim belong to the man you favored. You tested him at Masah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah. He said of his father and mother, 'I have no regard for them.&…

Steel Bands and Soft Folds

Transitions are always hard. I seem to need constant assurance from God that everything is going to be fine. I'm not sure that indicates a lack of faith. It's possible, but I prefer to liken it to the relationship of a young child to his parent. A child trusts implicitly that his parent will look after him, but still needs to be regularly hugged and reassured. It's a little like justification and sanctification: an already declared and certain state of being but one that is proved and lived out in the crucible of daily life.

So in the midst of the insecurities of transition, I appreciated these words from Moses's charge to Israel and to Joshua at God's instruction: "Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, (transitions and the insecurities they bring can be enemies) for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you…Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the Lord has s…

Of Heroes, Sung and Unsung

A friend lent me D.A. Carson's tribute to his father, Tom, who was one of the unsung heroes of the evangelical movement in the Province of Quebec.

Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor was a worthwhile read.

Don Carson is the only famous name I can "drop" into conversation. He and I were in many of the same classes in seminary back in the 60s and 70s. That he was brilliant then should be no surprise to anyone. I didn't know him well—he was somewhat removed from my circle of friends.

Don's tribute to his father was moving and revealing. It told me a lot about Don's family, particularly his father. But the book also told me a lot about Don—or at least explained Don a little better.

When Don was at seminary he was a cut above all the rest of us. As I said, he was brilliant while the rest of us, for the most part, were average. But one of the things that became clear to me while we were at school together was just how insecure Don was. Perhaps it was the poverty from which…

Copying My Lines

Deuteronomy 17-19

Not too many people remember the “punishment” some teachers used to mete out in public school when one of their students committed an infraction. Let’s say I got caught chewing gum in class. The teacher would instruct me, after making me spit the stuff into the garbage pail beside her desk, to take a piece of paper, and then she would say: “Lynda, write out two hundred times, ‘I will not chew gum in class.’ Maybe that will remind you not to do it again.”

I wonder if that particular punishment grew out of God’s instructions via Moses for Israel’s future kings. God says: “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and theses decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to …

Springing Spring and Other Things

Okay, I admit there are still a few more days to go until official spring but the cats are happy—the sun streaming through the windows is pretty convincing. Mind you, if they had to go outside they might not be too impressed.

I've had some great stuff from the Scriptures to share over the last days but can't seem to get myself organized to post every day. It's frustrating because I hate to be so sporatic, but hopefully once life gets a little more settled, that will change. I can't say when life will get "more settled"—that part is a "God-thing" that I am leaving up to him to put into place.

This morning's reading was from Deuteronomy 13-16. I had a question last night that I was looking for an answer for and this morning's reading gave me the divine instruction. I share it with you because in these tough economic times, it is an application that all of us need to be reminded of.

"There should be no poor among you, for in the land the Lor…