Showing posts from May, 2010

Review of SIXTEEN BRIDES by Stephanie Grace Whitson

Stephanie Grace Whitson
Bethany House
348 pages

I confess. I usually avoid romance novels, and especially Christian romance novels. I have an aversion to cloying, wimpy female heroines and heroes who are under the misguided impression that they are God’s gift to the female race.

The title, SIXTEEN BRIDES, would normally have left me cold, but the trailer piqued my interest. These women didn’t decide to cross the country in the late 1800s looking for husbands. In fact, the war widows headed west to Nebraska following the promise of free land and a fresh start. Deceived by (you guessed it) a man who had, without their knowledge, all but promised them to a town-full of eager bachelors, the women are faced with a choice: keep going and catch a man at the end of the train trip, or get off the train and stake a claim on a new life.

Happily, Whitson follows those few women who defied the odds and got off the train before its’ last stop at the marriage market. I …

I'd Rather Not Move Until You Take My Hand

Though I haven't been chosen to rule a kingdom, I can empathize with Solomon. When the Lord appeared to the new king in a dream, as recorded for us in 1 Kings 3, God asked Solomon what his greatest desire was. Solomon replied: "…I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours" —1 Kings 3:7-9, NIV.

The heart of the request comes in: "give your servant a discerning heart…" Part of my task is that of discovering and mobilizing people to do ministry. In the weeks that I have been here, I've begun to investigate and observe. Sheets of information on the gifts that have been identified in members of the congregation have been handed to me. However, paper, as good as it is, doesn't…

Apparently God is Irrelevant

Some people groan, or grimace, when those of us who actually went through "the good old days" mention them.

It's not fair.

While we have to admit that not everything in "the good old days" was all that good, there are some things that were good and should always be preserved.

As I read this morning, I could empathize with David when he said: "So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands of done, I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land" —Psalm 143:4-6, NIV.

The key to distinguishing between the stuff from the past that is better left behind and those things from the past that desperately need to be preserved appears in that little phrase: "I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done…"

It was God who taught his people what the trappings of respect for him should look like, h…

Looking in the Right Direction

I think I used to be able to multitask. Either I was deceiving myself or, with the passage of time, I've lost some of the knack. Now, with two diverse ministries, both having within them other diverse ministries, I am finding keeping all the "balls" in my head much less in the air, is not easy.

As I was reading the Scriptures this morning a phrase popped out of one of the psalms. David writes: "But my eyes are fixed on you, O sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge…" —Psalm 141:8, NIV. Although David is definitely not talking about multitasking, the phrase seems appropriate to my dilemma.

In the midst of so many things to do, thoughts, ideas, tasks on hold, it's easy to get lost in the "trees" and not focus on the "forest" as the saying goes. David's thought reminds me that if I keep my eyes on the Lord, the SOVEREIGN Lord, he'll make sure that I get done what he wants done. The rest may not happen, but unless it contributes to his …

The Sweet Smell of Spring—Word-Filled Wednesday

Welcome to Word-Filled Wednesday hosted by Susan at Forever His. Take a look, and be inspired by pictures and the verses of Scripture that make them live.

I took a long walk on Monday. The air was filled with the sweet smells of honeysuckle and lilac—the smell of spring. Spring is a sensory illustration of God's promise to bring new life where there was only death, to bring abundance where there was only emptiness. The trees of spring remind me of the promise of Psalm 138:8, NIV: "The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands."

Dry Ground and Lilacs

With yesterday being a holiday I decided to take a long walk. The Weather Channel promised thunderstorms in the afternoon (which never materialized) so I set off in the morning. The old railway tracks along the southern side of the city have been torn up to make a walking path. My goal was to follow the tracks. As I was walking it occurred to me that it had been many years since I had visited the cemetery where my parents are buried. Since I was in the southern end of the city I took a right at the end of the walking path and headed in that direction.

It's early in the season, which might explain my dismay when I got to the cemetery, found my parents' headstone and saw the condition of the grounds. Pretty sad. I know there are all kinds of prohibitions against chemicals for garden use, but a little "Weed & Feed" would have been a great idea in the cemetery.

I think my life needs a little "Weed & Feed" too. As I read the Scriptures this morning from …

Living Praise

Psalms 115-118

"How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people" —Psalm 116:12-14 NIV.

Spring has come. As I listen to the birds singing outside the window, I wonder what they are saying? Are they calling out to any available mates in the neighbourhood? It is, after all, spring when instinct kicks in and the birds and beasts think of propagating the species. The Scriptures tell us that all nature praises its Creator and I'm thinking that those joyful notes are a part of that chorus rising to heaven.

How can I express my thanks for all that God has done for me? I can praise him for the new life that he has given and then live out that praise in ministry to others. A simple truth of profound significance.

Light Comes at Night

Psalms 112-114

"Even in darkness light dawns for the upright…" (Psalm 112:4)

This phrase grabbed me this morning as I read. I'm not particularly in the "dark" at the moment or, better said, my dark spots are probably only a shade of pearl gray. But still, God's colour blind in some ways; he provides light whatever the shade of gray and in the blackest darkness, only concerned with the need for light, not worried about the intensity of the darkness. 

This week the darkness has intensified for others. A missionary friend lost her mother suddenly on Sunday. The news for another missionary/pastor is not good—if he survives he will never walk again. Suddenly, or slowly, the dusk falls and then fades to black.

That's why this psalm shouted out to me this morning. The psalmist goes on to proclaim: "Surely he will never be shaken…he will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in t…

In Triplicate

Today is Monday Manna, hosted by our wonderful Joanne at An Open Book. Be sure to check it out.

The passage Joanne chose for today is Numbers 6:24-26: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace" (NIV).

As I thought about the "triplicity" of the blessing, (it's all about the Lord) my eyes wandered to what precedes it in Numbers 6. The rest of the chapter is all about the procedure of becoming and of unbecoming a Nazarite, or a person who is fulfilling a vow before the Lord by separating or dedicating himself, or herself, to the Lord for a period of time. There were strict rules to follow for the person involved.

When a Nazarite had complete the vow he had made to God, he went to the Tabernacle and offered a male lamb, a ewe lamb, a ram, and other sacrifices, to the Lord. Then he was free from his vow.

Though Jesus was not a Nazarite, I mentally connected thi…

Certainty in Uncertain Times

Psalms 100-102

A house in Quebec slides into a sinkhole and a family of four, watching their favourite hockey team on television, pass into eternity. A brand-new plane crashes for no apparent reason, killing everyone on board except one small Dutch boy. An earthquake rattles through the islands of the eastern sea setting off tsunami warnings and shattering the nerves of even those accustomed to these events. Gallons of oil rise unchecked from the Caribbean seabed as the slick approaches land and threatens delicate wildlife preserves.

The world changes in the blink of an eye, or with painful slowness. Its uncertainties threaten to overwhelm us at worst, or to keep us forever off balance at best.

Then we read: "In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years…

One of those "God-things"

Psalms 88-90

Those who happened to see my post on FACEBOOK this afternoon know that I lost some very valuable material. While deleting some documents that I no longer needed I accidentally deleted my revised studies on angels that I have been teaching on Wednesday evenings. I searched everywhere for a way to get the folder back—to no avail. It turned out that my automatic backup program doesn't backup the documents stored on the desktop. So I set to work on retrieving last week's study from my email folder and began to put together this week's study from scratch. It wasn't exactly how I planned to spend my day and I'll have some other extra busy days to redo the three other sessions that I THOUGHT I had finished.

As I worked my way through rebuilding the study I realized that this one was going to be better than the one I lost. It's what we would call in Venezuela, a "Dioscidencia" a "God-thing."

Having to redo the lesson brought to mind a c…

Don't Be Baptized Unless …

This weekend our church is hosting a spring revival for youth. Already, before the main event has started, plans are afoot for a follow-up night next Friday. I was asked to "man" one of the booths that are to be set up for this second event. The primary purpose of the booths is to focus on next steps that young people are going to asked to consider during this weekend's conference.

My booth is the baptism booth. If that sounds weird to you, it does to me too. Who ever heard of a "Baptism Booth" and how does one go about setting up one of them?

Then I got an idea. It's not really original. In fact the thought came to me as I was reading a synopsis of The Radical Question: What is Jesus Worth to You? by David Platt.

In the book, Platt tells his readers about an incident between one of his professors and the members of the class, a sort of reverse psychology that, Platt confesses, didn't work when he tried it sometime later.

But I'm going to try it an…

Invisible Tracks

Psalm 76-78

The theme for last night's session at our study was angels, how they worship and how their worship impacts us. Angels worship day and night, and it's easy for us to say: "Sure, they're angels and don't have to deal with the mess that my life is in right now. How can I be expected to praise God under these circumstances?"

I quoted Psalm 34:1 where David says: "I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips." Considering that David was on the run from Saul, keeping company with the dregs of society, in the foreign land where the king also wanted to be rid of him, having to pretend he was insane to escape death, etc. etc., I'd say his attitude of continual praise was pretty significant.

Well, we might say, David was a special case. I'm not him either. This morning I read through Psalm 77. This is one of Asaph's psalms and I was impressed by his solution to the: "how-can-I-praise-God-when life's…

Great is the Lord — Word-Filled Wednesday

It's Word-Filled Wednesday, hosted by Penny over at pennyraine so be sure to pop over there for a visit. You'll find lots of great pictures and wonderful words from the Scriptures.

"But you, O God, are my king from of old; you bring salvation upon the earth…It was you who opened up springs and streams; you dried up the ever flowing rivers. The day is yours, and yours also the night; you established the sun and moon. It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth; you made both summer and winter" —Psalm 74:12, 15-17.

A Book Not Yet Reviewed

She just needed me to sit down so that she could share her latest literary discoveries. The book: Experiencing Leadershift by Don Cousins.

It took a while—an hour or more as she read to me all the passages she had underlined in the first half of the book. Something tells me she will read me all the underlined passages in the second half when she gets done.

I can't review the book because I haven't read it—yet. However if it means anything, what I heard makes me want to rush out and buy a copy.

Cousins' book is all about the heresies of leadership revealed.

But what excites me even more than a new book is her excitement. If she were a racehorse, she'd be out of the gate and well on her way to the finish line and well ahead of the rest of the pack.

Somewhere in the middle of the "reading" she asked me if she should buy copies for the pastor and all the elders. Then she asked what "gift" she possessed that would drive her to pass on all this information…

A Public Faith

Psalm 67-69

When we are sloughing through the mud and mire of difficult circumstances, when we feel as though the troubles of life are about to pull us under and drown us in despair and depression, what's the first thing that comes to mind?

Aside from calling for help from God, which should be our first step, what follows?

David's words in Psalm 69 intrigued me this morning. The sweet singer of Israel is up to his eyeballs in difficulties. It doesn't appear that his troubles are the result of his sin though he is quick to acknowledge that even in the best of circumstances, he's not perfect (vs. 5).

What is obvious is that David is being badly treated for all the right reasons. He is hated because he is doing what he knows the Lord wants of him. He's called for relief, but God is holding off sending the cavalry for the moment.

What caught my attention the most in this psalm was David's concern for those other God-followers who might be watching his struggles. He…