Showing posts from April, 2010

Touched to be able to Touch

Psalm 49-51

As a teacher I am forever being made aware that unless the lesson goes through me first it's guaranteed not to make much impact on other learners. Nowhere is that truer than when it comes to spiritual truth.

David's words in Psalm 51 hit me again this morning with the need to examine myself, and to let God examine me, so that what I want to teach will not be highjacked by my own failure to let truth flow through me and touch my own life first.

The psalmist writes (from his own painful personal experience): "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you" (10-13 NIV).

That little word "then" is huge. I'm working on a revision to a series of studies on what the Bible teaches about angels. J…

Rivers of Peace

Psalm 46-48

"There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells." —Psalm 46:4

The psalm is titled: "Confidence in God our refuge" and speaks for itself. In the midst of whatever turmoil characterizes our lives, God IS our refuge, strength and fortress.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see the works of the Lord…Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress."

Stay in His shadow. There no storm can touch you.

Majoring on the Majors

Psalm 37-39

My eyes slipped over to Psalm 40 while I was thinking on, and praying over, the other three chapters assigned for today.

The dilemma? Well, not exactly a dilemma I suppose, but certainly a question. As always there are more possibilities in ministry than there is time to accomplish them all. I confess I could be better at time management but still, my ambitions are still greater than the number of hours I have to dedicate to their pursuit. So what's the bottom line?

That's when my eyes slipped over to Psalm 40 and fell upon verses 8 to 10.

"I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly."

First of all there is a commitment to do the will of God above all else. That will is connected not just to…

An Army of Angels

Psalms 34-36

I began a series of studies last night as part of our Wednesday night electives at church. The theme of the series is angels and what the Bible teaches about them. Some of us might remember Billy Graham's classic book on angels published back in the 70s and reprinted many times since. We remember Frank Peretti's book, This Present Darkness, a work of fiction that unfortunately spawned some incorrect ideas that Peretti regretted. It was, after all, fiction. And who can forget the more recent television series Touched By An Angel whose reruns are still out there on classic TV. The New Age movement is littered with ideas about angels that don't coincide with what the Scriptures teach.

Angels are everywhere—the fictitious and the factual.

Several people in the group came to me afterward to share their stories about encounters with angels. One even asked if she could come early next week to share with me a dream her husband has had about angels that he wants interp…

Waiting for My Bagel to Thaw

Psalm 31-33

Yes, I'm waiting for my bagel to thaw out. Someone out there is already reminding me that a microwave works really well to look after these details in life. My problem is that I don't have a microwave—one of those things that hasn't quite happened yet in my process of setting up house again. So I have to wait.

Waiting is not my strong point (haven't I said this before—and recently?). I have a sneaking suspicion that many of us suffer from the same disease. Nope, cross that word "disease" out. That's just an excuse for bad behaviour, like Tiger Woods' addiction to sex.

I also suspect that our tendency to impatience has something to do with how many times in Scripture we are told to wait.

Here's another one from this morning's reading:

"We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name" —Psalm 33:20, 21 NIV.

In spite of all our technology, the advances of s…

When God is Silent

Psalm 28-30

I went through a period over this last year when God seemed silent. It wasn't that I thought that he had left me because I could see his hand on my life in many areas. It was just that in the areas where I wanted him to speak, he wouldn't.

I felt a lot like David who wrote: "To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf a ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down into the pit" —Psalm 28:1 NIV. The poet returns to a similar point in Psalm 30:7 when he writes: "…when you hid your face, I was dismayed."

In my desperation for answers that heaven was reluctant to give, I wondered if I had committed some sin that was keeping God from delivering. Since he was still blessing in other areas, that conclusion didn't make a whole lot of sense, but I asked him to examine my life anyway, to search out whatever might be causing the barrier in communication. Finding nothing that would result in such a huge "black …

Avoiding the Assumptions of the Soul

Psalm 25-27

I thought it was kids playing in the hallway, you know, Sunday afternoon visits to granny's apartment where there is no room for kids to do anything. I found out later that night what was really going on outside my apartment door.

It seems that my neighbour down the hall decided to remove an old easy chair that had wintered on his balcony. Just as he got it out of the apartment and into the hall, a pigeon flew out of the chair. Apparently the bird had found a nice warm place to nest. The hoopla in the hallway was caused by the neighbours trying to catch the pigeon and return it to a safer environment. In the midst of all this they discovered that the pigeon had two little "pigeon-citos" that were also resting inside the old chair. It was quite a circus from the sounds of it. I really should have gone out. I assumed one thing, and not wanting to seem like a complaining neighbour I didn't stick my head out the door to find out what the real story was behind …

God to the Rescue

Psalm 16-18

Think about these verses the next time you feel fearful or intimidated or weak.

"In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it.
He parted the heavens and came down; dark clouds were under his feet.
He mounted the cherubim and flew; he soared on the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him—the dark rain clouds of the sky.
Out of the brightness of his presence clouds advanced, with hailstones and bolts of lightening.
The Lord thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded.
He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies, great bolts of lightning and routed them.
The valleys of the sea were exposed and the foundations of the earth laid bare at y…

God is Good—All the Time

Psalm 13-15

I have to admire the man. His brothers held him in contempt as an upstart and thrill-seeker. His father-in-law tried his best to kill him. He was pursued by enemies inside his own household and outside as well. He slept in caves, accompanied by everyone no one else had any use for. Even when he rose to the highest post in the land his family was in shambles and his wife and kids turned against him, adding a few more to the number of his enemies. He mourned the loss of several children and had to watch his back in his dealings with his most trusted advisers.

So when we read the following words we aren't surprised:

"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? 
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, O Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;
my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,' 
and my foes will …

Different Strokes for Different Folks

An incident yesterday got me thinking about how we do evangelism.

A message was left on the church office's answering machine from a woman who uses our food bank. She was upset. Part of the program of the food bank involves a hot meal and a Gospel presentation. This gal had been offended by the Gospel presentation and called to express her complaint.

We know that the Gospel is often offensive to those who hear it. Paul wrote: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing…" —1 Corinthians 1:18,

When I returned this lady's phone call I discovered that, at least in part, she had been offended to hear that her efforts to put her life in order would not be sufficient to gain her entrance into heaven. She was offended by the Gospel. That part of the conversation didn't concern me greatly because we know, as Paul says, that those who are perishing will not understand.

The part of the conversation that did concern me was the fact that the woman …

The Frailest Flower

Psalms 7-9

The violent, unexpected and tragic death of a president and some of his top officials stunned the world.

A beleaguered church leader faces now the resurrection of past evils thought long dead and buried.

The earth moves and thousands lose everything.

As I read the last verses of my Scripture reading for this morning, I was reminded again of just how fragile life is—and why.

"Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph; let the nations be judged in your presence. Strike them with terror, O Lord; let the nations know they are but men" —Psalm 9:19, 20.

Some, if they view God at all, consider him to be a wimp, incapable of doing anything, or so disconnected he doesn't care to act. The psalmist is quick to address that mistaken notion as he writes: "The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the people with justice" —Psalm 9:7, 8.

He is no wimp. He is not silent unless it suits his …

Instructions for Assembly

Psalms 4-6

Someone once said that silence is golden. If you believe that you are probably blessing my name these days because I haven't posted anything for several days.

Well, consider the silence broken.

Truth is, last week was the big move. I am now in my own apartment once again—sort of. Beginning basically from scratch is a huge task. There are so many details to look after—right down to borrowing a screwdriver so that I could assemble the cabinet that holds the television.

I'm quite proud of myself. I don't assemble things. I have trouble following written instructions. Show me what needs to happen and I'll do it, but read a manual…? Happily the instructions for the cabinet came with pictures which certainly helped to get all the pieces in order with all the required screws, nails and fixtures attached.

Following instructions can be a challenge for many of us. Before God sent his written word, he spoke much more visually than he does now that we have the Word of G…


2 Samuel 13-15

Amnon deceived her, used her, and then threw her away like last week's garbage.

Tamar was ruined, raped by her half-brother and condemned to a life of disgrace. Such was the society of King David's day. Even her father did nothing to right the wrong done to her. "When King David heard all this, he was furious" —2 Samuel 13:21.

Sorry, David, fury doesn't cut it.

But David's reaction, and lack of action, is typical. We often get angry at injustice, but never get beyond the anger to the action, to righting the wrongs. The Scriptures tell us that Tamar's brother, Absalom, finally took matters into his hands and killed Amnon. That wasn't exactly the right solution to the problem and could have been avoided if David had done his duty on behalf of his daughter.

So the children with the hollow eyes and the swollen bellies in some faraway land, die.

So the homeless freeze to death on the cold, wintery streets of our cities.

So we don't face…

Listening For The Wind

2 Samuel 5-8

Saturday was a really windy day up here in the north. Coupled with the dryness of the spring, that "stiff breeze" created whirlwinds of sand that danced across streets and yards. The chimes outside my window marked time until well into the next morning. Trees swayed and flags stiffened as though starched. Marg, my hostess, remarked more than once how much she hated the sound of so much wind. It can be nerve-wracking.

Yesterday I finished reading Dr. David Jeremiah's book, Angels, The Strange and Mysterious Truth. It's part of my research for a series of studies I will be leading at the end of the month. As it happened, (though nothing just "happens") he referred to an incident in David's life that I read this morning in my devotions. Here's the scene.

David is facing the Philistines, a lifelong enemy of Israel's. He asks the Lord for instructions before taking any steps to go into battle. The Lord says: "Do not go straight up, …

Imaginary Jesus—My Review

Imaginary Jesus Author Matt Mikalatos - view author info
Contribution by George Barna - view author info

Who hasn't asked the eternal "Why?" question? In our effort to answer our own question when heaven seems silent, we often come up with all the wrong answers or, as in Matt Mikalatos' case, the wrong Jesus to believe in.

For me, Imaginary Jesus had the same shock value as The Shack, though the "irreverence," if you can call it that, of Imaginary Jesus is on the comic side rather than the heavier weight of Young's writing.

Mikalatos takes us on a chase through the ages in a search for the real Jesus. As we wade through the mind-boggling number of imaginary ones, including: Bargain Jesus, Conservative-Truth-Telling Jesus, Emergent Jesus, Feminist Jesus, and 8-ball Jesus, we are accompanied, among others, by the Apostle Peter, a donkey named Daisy, and a reformed prostitute.

Running through the book, like a red cord, is the eternal "Why?" ques…

Never Out of Control

1 Samuel 21-24 

Continuing on yesterday's theme of complicated relatives, today's reading finds David running all over the place being pursued by his father-in-law, Saul. The object is not to hug him and invite him to dinner—unless of course there is hemlock in the wine!

Then comes this line, tucked away among all the murder and mayhem: "Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands" —1 Samuel 23:14.

David's life was anything but easy. Sometimes our lives get a little, or a lot, on the complicated side. And I ask, when those complicated moments come, if I remind myself that unless God chooses to do so to accomplish some divine purpose, he will not allow me to fall into any hands that don't contribute to that purpose for my life.

Doubting God's benevolence, coupled with the idea that God has such control over what does or does not happen to us, might make us break out into a cold sweat. I wonder if David ever sweat over his…