Showing posts from October, 2011

The Enigma of Trust

Reading: John 1, 2

Trust is as basic a necessity as food, clothing and shelter—but much harder to hang on to.
Jesus knew the reality of that. Early in His ministry the crowds followed Him, eager to hear from the “new kid on the block” and to see the miracles that He did. It was the best show in town—at least for that moment.
John 2:23 (NIV) says: “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.”
We put a lot of stock in those last four words: “believed in his name.” But Jesus didn’t. Verse 24 goes on to say: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.
The Lord was compassionate, loving, forgiving; but never naïve. That’s a balance we sometimes find hard to achieve. The disappointments we suffer at the hands of others often make us bitter, angry, and protective. “I’ll never let myself be hurt by so-and-so again!” comes the cry of a wounded heart.
I suspect that some people close to the L…

Holy Heartburn

Reading: Luke 23, 24
Does my heart burn when I read the Scriptures? Does it burn when the Word of God is taught? I have to confess that it doesn’t always. When did someone else’s heart burn when I taught from the Scriptures? I'm afraid to speculate on that one.
For the two men traveling the road to Emmaus an encounter with Jesus resulted in heartburn.
They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32, NIV).
In the physical realm, heartburn isn’t a pleasant thing. I suspect that there might have been some uncomfortable moments for these men as they listened to Jesus, whom they didn’t recognize, explain things from the Old Testament that they should already have understood.
But more likely the burning hearts were caused as these two men instinctively recognized the voice of God even when they didn’t see God in this “stranger” who was walking beside them. They knew Truth when they heard it an…

Letting the Word have the First Word

Reading: Luke 21, 22
There are times when sermons and studies resemble nothing more than a series of personal illustrations or human philosophy lightly brushed with a phrase from Scripture. The Word of God becomes the illustration for the story instead of the story illustrating the Word of God. While the illustrations and the philosophy might have a positive impact, it is only the Word of God that will have “the last word” as it were. That means it should also have the first word.
Luke 21:33 (NIV) tells us: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” This verses couples beautifully with this promise from Isaiah 55:10, 11 (NIV): “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which I sent it.”
I wonder why I of…

Prayer is a Constant

Reading: Luke 19, 20
’It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be a house of prayer’” –Luke 19:46, NIV
Words from the famous preacher of a bygone century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon that remind us that prayer needs to be constant, as much in the good times as the bad times.
“And, now, I said I would say a word as to why WE ought to pray especially, and that shall close the sermon. Beloved friends, this church ought to pray without ceasing…We have lacked nothing because we have not lacked prayer. I do not doubt we might have had much more if we had prayed more; still prayer has been mighty here. Now, brethren, suppose you had no pastor, suppose the preacher was gone from you…you would pray, would you not? Will you not pray for me then while I live? If you would pray for another to come, will you not pray for me while I am here? I desire to discharge my office before you in God’s sight with all earnestness, but I cannot without your prayers, and as being gone from you, you would lift …

Thankful is as Thankful Does

Reading: Luke 17, 18
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” –Luke 17:10, NIV.
A number of years ago this verse came up in a Bible study I was doing with a group of ladies. I got a surprising reaction from one of them. She took serious exception to the word “unworthy,” declaring that all that she was doing “for the Lord” made her very worthy–in God’s sight and in the sight of everyone who should be admiring her dedication. Not too much farther over in Luke Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the publican who came to pray in the temple. The Pharisee was full of himself, and went away without God’s forgiveness. The publican recognized his unworthiness and went away rejoicing and at peace with God. Jesus said: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14, NIV).
Unhappily, the gal in my Bible study never did learn that lesson.
It’s not…

Going Under For the Last Time

Reading: Luke 8, 9
You’re going down for the last time. The water is up to your chin and each wave fills your mouth and nose with water. You raise your hand, desperate for someone to see your plight and come to your rescue. From the distant shore comes the triumphant voice of the old revivalist preacher, “I see that hand!”
But you’re still going down, overwhelmed by wave after wave of life events. And it doesn’t seem like anyone is going to help. You are going to drown.
Enter Jesus. He’s been there all the time, but you’ve been so busy struggling to save yourself that you didn’t notice His hand reaching out to grab yours.

And you answer His question with tears generated by both shame and expectation: “Yes, Lord, where was my faith?”

Because I Told You To

Reading: Luke 5-7
I wonder if the Guinness Book of World Records has a category for the number of times someone has used the phrase, “because I told you to”?
Peter put a slightly different twist on the saying in Luke 5:1-11. It seems that this took place when the disciples were still pursuing their “regular” jobs even though they were followers of the Lord. Jesus had just finished one of His usual marathon teaching sessions. In fact, He had to borrow one of the fishing boats so that the crowd wouldn’t overwhelm Him. The fishermen had apparently been out all night fishing and were now closing up shop for the day, but when Jesus was finished teaching he told them to gather the nets they had just finished washing and head out to deep water.
If Peter had been a child he might have said, “Why?” If Jesus had been Peter’s parent he might have answered, “Because I told you to.” Peter skipped that step and relied: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you s…

The Family Tree

Reading: Luke 3, 4
I recently got the urge to track down as many members of my family tree as I could. Somewhere buried underneath piles of papers in my brother’s apartment is an envelope containing my mother’s family tree, painstakingly put together by my mother’s cousin, Charlie. As far as I know dad’s side of the family has never been done. And, as it happens, I’m having a harder time tracking down my father’s family members than I have finding my mother’s side.
One of the items left over when my brother and I sold the family home was a suitcase full of pictures. Some of these have helped me in my search, but others are a complete mystery. I have no idea who they are, how (or if) they are related, There is one that is particularly intriguing. His name is Ferdinand Bloedow and he was a minister. Apparently he moved out west, and died in the 30s in Winnipeg, Manitoba. But I don’t know how he’s connected to my mother’s family. “Bloedow” turns out to be a fairly common name. I suspect h…

Changing the Subject

Reading: Mark 8, 9
We’ve all been there. The conversation takes a turn that is uncomfortable for us and we try to change the subject. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Capernaum. If the Twelve had been modern day teenagers we would have seen them texting each other so that their Master wouldn’t know what they were saying. As it was, they kept their voices down, thinking He wouldn’t know what the conversation was all about. When they got to Capernaum, the Lord asked them what they had been discussing. Mark records: “But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest” (Mark 9:34, NIV).
If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, the Lord speaks the famous words that not too many modern believers like any better than the disciples did. “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 8:35, NIV). And to illustrate the kind of humble servanthood He is speaking about, Jesus picked u…

Interruptus Evangelicus

Reading: Mark 6, 7
I catch myself complaining when my plans get interrupted by other people’s agendas. To tell the truth, it isn’t a surprise that I complain. It doesn’t sneak up on me as though it were something alien to me. I choose to complain.
There was no one busier than Jesus was during those brief three and a half years that He had to complete His ministry. In the account we have for us in Mark, He had gifted His disciples with the ability to do miracles, divided them into teams, and sent them out to do ministry (6:7-13).
When they came back they reported everything that had happened. Now Jesus wasn’t the only “show” in town; His disciples must have also garnered a reputation for themselves. The crowds where so big and came so often that Jesus and His team didn’t have a chance to eat (6:31). It looks like He didn’t pay much attention to His mother’s concerns about His physical and emotional state as reported back in Mark 3:20, 21.
But the Lord wasn’t unaware of the need for food …

First Things First

Reading: Mark 4, 5
It caught my attention this morning how often Jesus told people not to talk about the miracles He had performed for them. The book of Mark is the shortest of the Gospels and the writer squeezes a lot of the highlights of Jesus’ earthly ministry into relatively few chapters, making the journey a particularly intense one.The shortness of the book makes the Lord’s instructions not to talk about His miracles that much more pronounced.
Of course, He didn’t want the demons He cast out of people (Mark 3:12) to talk about Him—who needs that kind of publicity? When the miracles were public there wasn’t much He could do about the crowds reaction. His fame became so great that He had difficulty getting into the towns without attracting a huge following (Mark 1:45; 3:7-8). Where He could, He asked those who benefitted from His miracles to limit who they spoke to about them (Mark 1:43-44; 5:19, 20, 43).
I asked myself why Jesus didn’t want His miracles to be broadcast far and wid…



Every Day Is Tax Season

Reading: Matthew 21, 22
Nuances are sometimes so subtle that we miss them entirely. Though I’ve read Matthew 22:17-22 many times over the years, it wasn’t until this morning that I had an “aha” moment and noticed something that I hadn’t realized before.
Here’s the story. The Lord was approached by His critics during the last few days of His earthly ministry. This wasn’t unusual—they were always hanging about looking for some way to trap Him in His words or actions. But this time they were desperate to find some way of getting rid of Him. It was no secret that the Jews did everything they could to thumb their noses at their Romans oppressors, and withholding taxes that went into Roman coffers was one of those ways of resistance. On this occasion the Lord’s enemies tried to catch Him by asking Him if He thought it was okay to pay taxes to Caesar. Whatever response He made would surely get Jesus into trouble with someone!
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are…

Leading From the Bottom Rung

Reading: Matthew 17-20
Many mothers are ambitious for their children—sometimes to a fault. My own personal hot button is Toddlers and Tiaras, a TV “reality” show that comes pretty close to child abuse in my book.
Wanting your kids to succeed in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is it uncommon. Take the case of James and John’s mother in Matthew 19, 20. Jesus opened the door to the discussion in Matthew 19. Peter commented that the disciples had given up everything to follow their Rabbi and he wondered what was “in it” for them as a reward for their sacrifice. Jesus answered: “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (19:28, NIV).
Mother heard this, or the boys reported Jesus’ comments to her and she followed up. If her boys were to sit on thrones, they should sit on the thrones closest to the Lord, shouldn’t they? So a little lat…

Bread Making 101

Reading Matthew 13, 14
Bread making is part science and part art. My mother used to make the best bread in the world. I have tried countless times, without success, to equal her. I have used her recipe, her pans, and her technique. But it never turns out like hers did. When messing with yeast, there is no room for cheating. Exact measuring is required. Too much, or too little, salt, sugar, or flour will give you a less than satisfactory product. If the liquid is too hot, or not hot enough, disaster could be the result. Too much kneading, or too little, can have an effect. Even altitude and atmospheric conditions can make a wreck of your bread. That yeast needs the right conditions to produce the expected results.
Jesus often used elements that were familiar to His audience to explain spiritual truths. As a boy he must have observed Mary in the kitchen making bread because He knew all about yeast.
Jesus said: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large a…

Lessons from the cat


Great Speaker—Now, What Was It He Said?

Reading: Matthew 5-7
The Sermon on the Mount would probably not score high marks in a Homiletics class. It has more than three points, no particular central theme, no clever “hook” to draw its audience in, and seems to end quite abruptly. Granted, we don’t have the whole sermon recorded for us and I’d bet the farm, if I had one, that it took Jesus a lot longer than 30 minutes to preach it!
One thing the longest recorded teaching of Jesus can’t be accused of is being comfortable. The Beatitudes (5:3-12) remind us that believers need to be totally counter-culture if they expect blessings from heaven. The Ten Commandments, which we thought were difficult enough, are made even more difficult (5:17-48), and prayer is more about God than it is about being admired for our eloquence or George’s lack of employment (6:1-18).
Heaven is to be our focus rather than earth (6:19-23). Worry is a no-no even when the wolf is at the door and the knees are out of your pants (6:24-34), which means trust is …

Honouring the Name

Reading: Malachi
I wasn’t going to post anything on this book, not because there wasn’t anything to be said but because there is so much to be said. Blogs are supposed to be short, or so the experts say. However, I am compelled, pricked all day to say something about this wonderful book.
The first thing that impresses me about Malachi is the emphasis on the reputation, the Name of God. This aspect of the book is fresh in my mind because this week’s study on The Lord’s Prayer, which I teach on Wednesday evenings at my church, was all about the phrase: “hallowed be your name.
Through the prophet the Lord charges His people, specifically the priests, with defaming His Name by presenting to Him unworthy sacrifices. Not only did the people bring their second best to God, they brought the worst! (Malachi 1:6-9). Their negligence was such a poor testimony to their pagan neighbours that God went so far as to pronounce this condemnation: “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that …