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Showing posts from September, 2011

Reality Check

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Reading Zechariah 12-14; Revelation 21
I just finished perusing some posts on Facebook. A young woman whom I used to do Bible study with commented that today was the 13th anniversary of her father’s death. She remarked that this was the day that God decided it was time for him to leave this earth. She also remarked on how much he loved his daughters. According to my friend, her father now looks after them and protects them lovingly from where he is.
It’s funny, and sad, how we remember things. We filter them through our “wanna be” and “wish it was” and end up with a story that comforts us even when it isn’t true. Her father was a philanderer who abandoned his daughters and wife to live with a second family that he had been maintaining on the side for some time. He left them penniless and with a mountain of debt that took his wife years to pay off. He committed suicide immediately after calling his oldest daughter to come and visit him, knowing that she would be the one to discover his b…

Hard Rock Mining

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Reading: Zechariah 9-11
“The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown. How attractive and beautiful they will be!” (Zechariah 9:16, 17a, NIV).
I come from mining country and though I have never worked underground (or on the surface for that matter), I have been on enough tours of the mining operations in our area to appreciate that you simply don’t walk in and grab a gold bar and walk out again. You have to move a ton of rock to get a bit of gold. The physical effort and danger involved in hard rock mining just to produce a few ounces of gold is incredible.
To the north of us diamond mines are being developed. Like gold, miners don’t just walk in and grab a few relatives of the Hope Diamond, sparkling and pure, from the ground. Gold, diamonds, and all other precious metals and jewels, are produced at tremendous expense and sacrifice.
God redeemed His “jewels” at tremendous cost to Himself. The diamonds that…

Tips on Church Growth from the Prophets

Reading: Zechariah 5-8
You probably don’t expect tips on church growth to be found in the writings of the minor prophets. After all, what do they know about modern outreach methods. The answer to that: They probably know a whole lot more than we do.
Take these chapters from Zechariah as an example. God is assuring His people through the prophet that their future is bright. Using the current high priest, Joshua, as His living illustration, the Almighty graphically portrays not only the future of Israel, but gives them a glimpse of the coming Messiah who will be both Priest and King forever. Through this coming Priest and King many from all nations will be gathered to grow His church in the world. That’s basically Zechariah 6.
In chapter 7, God speaks to Zechariah in response to a question from some of the people of Bethel. They wondered if it was worth it to continue their practice of mourning and fasting. It’s kind of a “duh” moment when the Lord comes back with his answer. He had told …

Have a Great Day, Dad

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Reading: Zephaniah
Today marks the 20th anniversary of my father’s passing into the presence of the Lord. Though there are applications of the following verses to our “hear-and-now,” I think of the eternal implications today, for my father and for all those who have died clinging to the cross and who will die with the assurance that their Saviour has opened the door to eternity with God for them.
Sing, both of you; shout aloud, O redeemed! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O children of God! The Lord has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The Lord, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will either of you fear any harm. Today they are saying in heaven, Do not be afraid, Lynda; do not let your hands hang limp. The Lord your God is with you as He was with your father, he is mighty to save. He is taking great delight in your father, he is quieting him with his love, he is rejoicing over him, and you, with singing.
(Lynda’s version on this day of Zephaniah 3:14-17)
It wa…

In Those Last Days...

Reading: Habakkuk
The prophet has a problem. In fact, he has several problems. As Habakkuk looks around Judah, all he sees is evil. He wonders why God doesn’t do something. Sound familiar?
In case someone should think that it isn’t right to complain to the Lord, check out the book of Habakkuk. God’s servant is full of complaints. When God answers the prophet by telling him that He is allowing the Babylonians to invade as His instruments of punishment on the sins of Judah, Habakkuk begins to complain again! This time he wonders about the fairness of sending a nation even more sinful than Judah to punish her. Once more God responds by telling His prophet that Babylon too will receive her punishment in due time.
Among the interesting verses in this short book are those that come right at its end. Habakkuk, having heard God’s answers, realizes that the time ahead is not going to be pleasant. As much as he wants justice and righteousness to prevail, the cost is going to be a heavy one.
There…

Living Behind His Back

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Reading: Nahum
If Jonah had still been around in Nahum's time (see http://lyndasgrainsofsand.blogspot.com/2011/09/better-class-of-help.html) he would have been gratified. When God sent him to Nineveh 150 years earlier to warn the Ninevites that God was about to destroy the city and its inhabitants, they’d all repented and Jonah had not been pleased! Now Nahum appears on the scene to deliver the message Jonah would have liked to have been commissioned to deliver. This time there was no opportunity for repentance and Nineveh’s destruction was assured.
The Ninevites were a nasty bunch. It took one hundred and fifty years for Nineveh to go from totally repentant to totally unrepentant and sufficiently evil for God to say “enough!” That’s pretty fast work—frighteningly fast.
But it is the picture of God on a mission that jumps out from the page.
The LORD is a jealous and avenging God…The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in…

If It Were The Only Thing to be Thankful, It Would Be Enough

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Reading: Micah
This little book is rich in snippets of teaching and encouragement wrapped in warnings directed at both Samaria and Jerusalem. I picked two verses of glorious truth that I am not even going to comment on. Just read them and turn your eyes toward heaven and be thankful.
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea” –Micah 7:18, 19, NIV.

‘Nuff said!

A Better Class of Help

Reading: Jonah
Among the most familiar of the stories of Scripture is the story of Jonah, God’s wayward, rebellious, stubborn prophet. You’d think God could come up with a better class of help, wouldn’t you?
God asks the man to go to Nineveh with a message: Repent or be destroyed. The Ninevites were not nice people! Jonah didn’t want to go so he decided to take a vacation and head in the opposite direction. Bad move.
I used to give Jonah the benefit of the doubt. The Ninevites were wicked people and perhaps the poor prophet was afraid of the reception he would get if he attempted to carry out the mission God had assigned to him.
The truth was, Jonah didn’t want the Ninevites to repent. They had treated God’s people brutally in the past and he was determined that they should get exactly what they deserved. He figured that if they didn’t get the message, they couldn’t repent, God wouldn’t forgive them, and they’d be destroyed. When he finally got to Nineveh, (despite his best efforts to be…

No Outs—Not Even a Little One

Reading: Obadiah
He blamed his brother for his own poor choices and they rarely spoke again. He refused to help his brother in a time of need. He stood by, not lifting a hand to rescue a brother from the neighbourhood bullies. Now it was his turn.
It only takes 21 verses for Obadiah to describe what God is about to do to Edom for her attitudes and actions against Israel. The history goes back a long way—all the way to Esau and Jacob , for it was from these brothers that the nations of Edom and Israel were formed. Edom now stands condemned. The classic words of these verses are these: “As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (Obadiah 15, NIV). This is the judgment. A similar statement in the New Testament is delivered as a command: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NIV).
If we put the two together the truth is pretty obvious: Do for others what you’d li…

The Year of the Locust

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In 1951, this article was published in the prestigious Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,814700,00.html. The bugs had come to the Middle East.

In September, 2000, Australians were watching their own horizons with dismay. The conditions were ideal for an invasions "of biblical proportions" of their own local variety of locusts.

But no invasion in recorded history has been as devastating as what occurred in 1875 in the north-central United States: http://www.hearthstonelegacy.com/when-the-skies-turned-to-black-the_locust-plague-of-1875.htm .

When I read the book of Joel, and coincidentally, Revelation 9, which happened to be the New Testament portion of my devotional reading for today, locusts were the featured protagonists.

Along with the picture you see to the right, in itself enough to give most of us the hebbie jebbies, came an interesting devotional thought about the benefits of locusts which gives an interesting sidebar to what Joel says in h…

Seeding

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Reading: Hosea 7-14
I vaguely remember a movie, probably of the “B” category, where the villain had discovered a way to control the weather. Of course, he tried to use his discovery for evil purposes and had to be predictably subdued by the gallant hero and his beautiful sidekick.
Controlling weather is not entirely fiction. Experiments with cloud seeding have been going on for many years. I read a detailed explanation online (most of which I didn’t understand) complete with diagrams detailing how various substances were dumped from planes into clouds in order to manufacture what nature seemed resistant to produce on on its own. The jury is still out as to whether or not any of these experiments ever really accomplished anything that wouldn’t have happen anyway.
But there is one kind of “cloud seeding” that we are really good at and that alw…

Let it Rain

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Rain on me,
Rain on me,
Rain on me,
Reign in me.

Vertical Thinking

Reading: Revelation 5
This week I begin the first of a series of studies on prayer, specifically The Lord’s Prayer. In the course of my research I’ve had the opportunity to read some really good books on the subject. Two of these books, Fresh Encounters and Transforming Prayer, were written by Daniel Henderson. There is a common theme that runs through Henderson’s books and appears quite often in some of the others as well. That theme is the importance of looking for God’s face before we look for His hand. In other words, our primary objective in prayer needs to be worship.
Bill Hybels, in his book, Too Busy Not To Pray, writes: “If you have adored him, confessed your sins and thanked him for all his good gifts, you’re ready to tell him what you need” (page 57). Among the many things Henderson writes, encouraging his readers to seek God’s face first in worship, is this gem: “…the Lord has taught me that the only enduring motive for prayer is that God is worthy to be sought…I may or may …

There IS Something About That Name

Reading: Daniel 7-9; Revelation 4
The bulk of the book of Daniel involves a series of visions and encounters with God that Daniel had during his time in Babylon. Here is one of the most beautiful ones.
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 and thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9, 10, NIV). This vision of Daniel is reminiscent of sections of Revelation that describe God and the final judgment (Revelation 1:13-16; 20:11-14).
Daniel’s vision continues: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds or heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given autho…

Water from the Sanctuary

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Reading: Ezekiel 46-48, Revelation 1
Tedious. That’s what the journey seemed like until I got to Ezekiel 47. I have a colour-coded Bible that I use for my quiet time. The colours were all brown until I got to Ezekiel 47:9-12. Blue appeared, as blue as the water described in its verses.
The description is of the restored city, shown to Ezekiel in a vision from God. In this particular chapter, the temple is the focus. As the chapter begins, Ezekiel sees a river of water flowing out from the temple.
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the river flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh; so where the river flows everything will live. Fishermen will stand along the shore; from En Gedi to En Eglaim there will be places for spreading nets. The fish will be of many kinds—like the fish of the Great Sea. But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt. Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both …

Buckets of Blessing

Reading: Jude
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forever more! Amen” (vss. 24, 25, NIV)
I think the first time I hear these verses was from the lips of one of our summer interns. He had preached what I suspect was his first sermon and was about to close the service. Looking back on the scene, I imagine that he was nervous; afraid that he would forget the words he’d so carefully memorized. Someone had told him that he needed to hold out one of his arms as though he were placing his hand on someone’s head in blessing. It looked awkward, though I’m sure the gesture became more familiar with time and practice. With a fierce look of concentration on his face, he pronounced this blessing from the book of Jude.
Since then I’ve heard the words quoted many times. I’ve quoted them mysel…

On Strangers and Angels

Reading: 3 John
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that I have strong feelings about missionaries. Most of my working life has been in missionary service overseas and our own country is as much of a mission field as any part of the world. What part of my life I didn’t spend overseas in missions, I have spent here in ministry. So I have a bit of a soft spot for those who leave behind what they can’t take with them to gain what will accompany them to glory.
That’s why the first few verses of John’s third letter brought a smile to my face as I read them. It’s a mini-manual on how to treat your missionaries.
Dear friend,” writes John to Gaius, “you are faithful in what you are going for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men …

Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones

Reading: Ezekiel 37-36
“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones, Oh, hear the word of the Lord…
Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk aroun’ Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun’ Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun’ Oh, hear the word of the Lord.”
These are some of the words to a Negro Spiritual written by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938). He used it to teach children basic anatomy (though some of the anatomical descriptions aren’t quite right). The song was based on the first 14 verses of Ezekiel 37.
God spirits Ezekiel away to a valley where the Almighty shows his prophet a pile of dead bones. He tells Ezekiel to announce to the bones that God is going to bring them back to life, to reattach the tendons, to join the bones, to put flesh on them, and to breath life into them once again. As Ezekiel speaks the words of the first prophecy, the bones in the valley come together with a great rattling sound. But it is not until th…