Showing posts from 2012

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #7

Cold water refreshes. Lukewarm water is great to gargle with when you have a sore throat. Hot water cooks the carrots—among other things! All three temperatures have their value—when we are talking about water. But when it comes to spiritual fervor, only “hot” will do the job.

The seventh congregation to receive a message from God through John was the church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). The warning to this group of people was a solemn and scary one.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other. So because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (3:15, 16).

As the message continues we see a church that thought it was doing well (3:17). It appears to have been a well-off church, perhaps the biggest and the most secure in the neighbourhood. But the Lord describes it as: “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (3:17).

It’s easy to be deceived into thinking that we, whether corporately or personall…

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #6

The sixth letter that John wrote down was addressed to the church in Philadelphia. The sense of the message, preserved for us in Revelation 3:7-13, is somewhat different from the other messages that God delivered to His servant.

The church in Philadelphia didn’t seem to have any problems that needed warning about. Rather, God wanted to encourage them to move forward with Him.

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (3:7, 8).

Here is a church that has persevered and continued to be faithful. They have used all their energies in God’s service. Yet now, God calls them to push forward because He has provided for them an opportunity for ministry that no one can deny them.

This opportunity seems to be connected with t…

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #5

Tom Harpur, in his article in the local paper this morning, was lamenting the inevitability of things going back to the normal murder and mayhem now that this Christmas season is already becoming a distant memory. He wondered why this “essentially spiritual message of a glorious and universal myth...” has been relegated to the trash can of the human mind.

Duh! If it’s a myth, Tom, why believe it? Why give it credence? Why live by its message?

Perhaps this strange contradiction is the heart of the message God delivered to John for the church in Sardis, found in Revelation 3:1-6. God says: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die” (3:1, 2).

The first gift of Christmas was a return to “first love” (Revelation 2:4), as though there had been something there that had gotten lost in the shuffle of life. Here it seems that hypocrisy is the issue—pretending to be what one never was. The message goes on to rem…

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #4

So far, the gifts to give to the Lord in honour of His birthday are: a return to my first love, faithfulness in spite of difficulties and purity. But there is one more gift from Revelation 2. This time it comes in God’s message to John for the church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29).

Heresy was a huge problem back in the early days of the church and Thyatira was not exempt. The message from the Lord to the church specifically mentioned a prophetess by the name of Jezebel who was leading people astray through her teachings.

The church in Thyatira remained strong and the Lord commended her for it: “I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that now you are doing more than you did at first” (Revelation 2:19).

But in the next breath, John drags out the accusation. The church remained strong for the most part, but was tolerating Jezebel’s presence and teaching (2:20). The Lord issues a warning about what is going to happen to both the so-called prophetess and…

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #3

The first of the seven gifts I can give to Jesus in honour of His birthday is a return to my first love—the priority of knowing Him more intimately this year (Revelation 2:1-7).

The second gift of Christmas that I can give Jesus is faithfulness to Him and to the task He has called me to even when things get tough and I want to walk away (Revelation 2:8-11).

These two gifts are described as John writes down the messages God is giving him for the churches of Asia, as we have them recorded in Revelation.

The third gift of Christmas is connected to the first two and comes to us in the message that John was to send to the church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17). This church appeared to love the Lord very much, even to the extent that they stood up for truth even in the face of persecution and death (2:13). It was tough to be a believer in Pergamum. We know that because it is described as the place where “Satan has his throne” (2:13). But these people continued to follow the Lord with steadfa…

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #2

The second gift of Christmas is sandwiched between two statements that seem, at first glance, to have little to do with anything good.

John copied down the message that God had given him for the church in Smyrna. This church was located in what is modern day Turkey in what was a strategic port city and trading centre.

The message begins with a reference to the death and resurrection of Christ, not particularly ominous until we read the last part of the message which says: “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Revelation 2:11b). The “bread” in this “sandwich” leaves us with the feeling that the “meat” might not be something that will tickle our taste buds. And we’d be right about that.

God’s message to Smyrna was “Be faithful, even to the point of death” (2:10). The believers in this city were going to have their faith severely tested. They were going to be persecuted; some were going to die. The assurance at the beginning of the message, that Christ triumphed …

The Seven Gifts of Christmas #1

I was standing in line at the Post Office this morning—a last minute gift that needed to be sent off in the hopes that it will arrive before New Year’s. The line-up was quite impressive for the 24th of December. Weren’t we all told that all this mailing had to be done early in the month if we expected anything to arrive before Christmas? A lady rushed up behind me, harried and hurried. She was quite perturbed to discover we were all waiting for the postal clerk to get back from her break. “Nobody gets a break at Christmas!” she exclaimed.

Now isn’t that the truth? And as usual, as custom demands, we end up giving the gifts to the wrong person.

It is Jesus' birthday, is it not?

We rush around going nuts for everyone except the One celebrating the birthday. Now THAT is strange—or should be.

So in order to attempt to regain some focus, instead of TheTwelve Days of Christmas, this blog is going to celebrate The Seven Gifts of Christmas over the next week. These are all gifts that I need…



That’s a good word. It means: categorize, pigeonhole, group, classify, characterize, stereotype, label, brand; sort, rank, rate.

At the top of the first landing in our church building we have a wall full of boxes. Anyone in the church who wants to, has a box assigned to them. Anything belonging to that person goes into the appropriate box. Everyone is effectively “pigeonholed.”

That’s great for mail, but not so great when it comes to our spiritual well-being. We tend to compartmentalize our lives. A portion belongs to...... Another part is given to.... A third part is dedicated to.... A certain amount of this “sorting” is necessary to keep our lives as organized as the vicissitudes of life will allow.

But however we compartmentalize life, there is an overriding truth that needs to be applied to every area. Here’s how John describes it: “But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in…

The Liebster Award

My writer friend, Violet Nesdoly, ( nominated this blog for the Liebster award. I am honoured, Violet. So in keeping with the spirit of the season (and the rules of the Liebster,) you will find my nominees down below.
To accept this Liebster I must do two things:  answer the following questions, and (of course) pass on the Liebster love to a few more blogs.

The questions are:

1.Which musical instrument do you wish you could expertly play?
My answer: I have some very skilled friends whose talents I much admire. I once asked my mother why I had never had the opportunity to learn to play this instrument, to which she replied "I didn't know you wanted to!" Oh well. I did try to learn a couple of times as an adult but alas, my right hand will not do something different from my left hand (that's togetherness!). I would like to learn to play the PIANO.

2. Who do you really admire?
My answer: Carol Stewart—This wonderful godly woman, pastor's…

It's Not Over Until...Oh, It's Not Over

The world is supposed to be coming to an end any day now. Some people thought it was to happen on December 12; others are waiting with not-so-bated breath for December 21.

One thing is for certain, the end will come. It’s highly doubtful that it will be December 21. The Scriptures are quite clear that no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 25:13).

But it will come.

As it happens, I was reading about this very event this morning in Second Peter. Here’s what the apostle had to say about the subject: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10).

Like a thief. Unexpected. Unprepared for.

And it’s this last issue of preparation that Peter addresses. How does one prepare for the unexpected?

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward t…

Imitate, Don't Enunciate

It goes against every instinct to allow ourselves to be maligned and misrepresented without some kind of protest.

That instinct to defend ourselves is what Peter addresses when he writes: “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God…To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:19, 21-23).

No one was more maligned and misrepresented than Jesus. Yet He said nothing and did nothing to defend Himself. Despite the fact that He had to go to the cross, we would think that He would have liked to have made it clear that He was an innocent man going to an unjust death.

But He let people believe whatever they chose to believe about Him.

He set…

"Covering" Sin

The book of James ends with this interesting reminder: “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins” (James 5:19, 20).

We generally do very poorly at this. Somewhere in the back of our minds is the thought that if we ignore things long enough they will either go away or sort themselves out. Or we pull the Calvinist rabbit out of the hat and fold our arms and say: “God will take care of it.” The truth is, dealing with sin and the sinner connected to it, is messy and we simply don’t want to get involved. Perhaps worse yet, we “snitch” on the "sinner" and expect someone else to take care of the problem for us.

But the instructions are clear. Matthew 18:15 says: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won t…

"I believe" Isn't Quite Enough

What you and I do, counts.

it’s not a question of gaining salvation or adding to salvation, it’s a question of giving evidence that the salvation that is being professed is real. by itself,” writes James, “if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17).

He goes on to give two examples. Abraham took his only son up a mountain and was prepared to sacrifice him at God’s command. It was action taken out of the faith that the patriarch had in his God. Rahab hid the Israelite spies, not out of compassion, but out of faith in the God who had sent them to Jericho. These people, and others like them (Hebrews 11) did the hard things because they believed.

Their actions proved the validity of their faith.

While the Scriptures tell us not to judge, it doesn’t take much judgment to know that where there is no action that bears witness to it, there is also no faith.

O That Pesky Tongue!

Perhaps nothing better illustrates James 1:26 and James 3:1-12 than recent events in England. A nurse committed suicide after having been deceived by two Australian DJs into giving information on the health of the Duchess of Cambridge to a person she thought was Queen Elizabeth.

Apparently the DJs are devastated. Certainly a whole lot less devastated than the husband, two children and family and friends of the nurse.

It was a ploy to get a news story and it took a woman’s life.

James 1:26 introduces a subject that the author will continue in detail in chapter 3. He writes: “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is in vain.”

The DJs never imagined that a woman would take her life because of what they did with their tongues. We often never think about the consequences of our words. Someone recently said that the Lord gave us two ears and one mouth, signifying that we ought to listen twice as much as we t…

The Priest Above All Priests

The human mind can’t take it in. Many still do not believe it even though they might be religious. Those who believe it struggle with how its reality applies to their daily lives.

...because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” —Hebrews 7:25-27.

There is only one High Priest. There is only one Mediator between God and man. There is only one necessary sacrifice for sin— and that sacrifice has been offered and accepted. Salvation is complete. Our needs are met in Him. The Saviour is alive. He, our High Priest, constantly speaks …

Someone Else's "Monkey-Wrench"

Today marks the anniversary of the Halifax Explosion in 1917 that killed thousands of people and leveled a good part of the city. ( After the disaster the good people of Boston Mass. sprang to the rescue and rushed supplies and personnel to Halifax to help. Since that time, and in gratitude for what the citizens of Boston did, Halifax sends them a giant tree every year for their Christmas celebrations.

Some unwise decisions taken by a sea captain in 1917 brought disaster down on the heads of Haligonians. There are times when the unwise, and sometime nasty, decisions of others cause us a lot of grief too.

I was reminded of this truth this morning as I created a new blog for my Spanish-speaking friends. I used a meditation from my book Diseño Divino Para la Vida Diaria, to launch the blog. Today’s reading was from Acts 27 and described Paul’s sea voyage to Rome. God wanted Paul in Rome but the apostle warned the captain that the …

Skin to Skin

The fact that we are within a few weeks of Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth makes these verses all the more meaningful:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-17).

Fully human. Fully engaged. Fully committed, so that we could be fully free.

God puts on skin to save our skin. That’s Christmas.

A Debt Paid Yet Owing

Several posts ago, I commented on our service to the Lord by saying that WHO we serve will make all the difference when it comes to our attitude toward that service and whether or not we quit when the going gets tough.

Here is the book of Titus, another “why?” pops out of Paul’s encouragement to yet another younger pastor.

Chapter 3 begins with the contrast between what we were and what we are and reminds us that the proof of any life-change brought about by the Spirit of God is found in how that life is lived out. Then Paul wraps up the reason for the life-change in these stirring statements:

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs, having the hope of eternal life” (Titus …

Staying for the Long Haul

They are familiar images to anyone who has spent time studying the Scriptures. Paul reminds Timothy, his son in the faith, that there are three examples he needs to follow, that of a:

    1.    soldier (2 Timothy 2:3)
    2.    athlete (2 Timothy 2:5)
    3.    farmer (2 Timothy 2:6)

A good soldier is focused on the task, obedient to his commanding officer. The battle is not easy—or safe.

An athlete obeys the rules of the competition. He can’t expect to win if he cheats and looks for an easier road to victory.

A farmer is rewarded according to how hard he works. And even then the harvest is not guaranteed, as any farmer knows.

All of the three examples, as diverse as they are in life, carry a common theme. They picture people who persevere in difficulty: through war, through pain, through uncertainty.

In the end Paul pushes Timothy to do the same, to endure: “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect...If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we w…

"Good" Prayers

We have a prayer list that appears weekly in our church bulletin. The church has a Facebook page dedicated to prayer requests and they pop up in other places as well. A prayer group has been formed to pray specifically for an upcoming event on the church calendar.

We pray for healing mostly. We pray that Satan would be bound and kept from “disturbing the peace.” Our prayer lives are filled with requests.

Here’s what Paul tells the Thessalonian believers that he is praying for. “...we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11, 12).

The Thessalonians were going through hard times. They were being persecuted for their faith, a faith that was recognized by others in the Christian communi…


Paul’s final instructions.

Well, Paul’s words are never really “final.” They are the last things he says before he says something else! In any case, there is quite an impressive list of “finals” beginning in 1 Thessalonians 5:12.

Acknowledge and hold in high regard those who labour for the Lord among you (vs. 12).

Live in peace with others (vs. 13).

Warn those who are idle and disruptive (vs. 14).

Encourage (vs. 14).

Help (vs. 14).

Be patient (vs. 14).

Don’t look for revenge (vs. 15).

Do what is good (vs. 15).

Rejoice always (vs. 16).

Pray continually (vs. 17).

Give thanks in all circumstances (vs. 18).

Don’t quench God’s Spirit (vs. 19).

Test and pay heed to God’s prophecies (vs. 20).

Hold onto the good (vs. 21).

Reject evil (vs. 22).

On a scale of one to ten, with one being the worst and ten being the best, where are you? (No, Paul didn’t say this last bit but as I typed out the list I realized that some of his “finals” still have a long way to go in my life before they actually become finally comp…

Leadership Worthy of Followership

We often picture Paul as a “grumpy old man.”  He’s no-nonsense, blunt, and sometimes downright offensive. So it surprises us to read these words in his letter to the church in Thessalonica: “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8, 11, 12)

Paul? A nursing mother?

Paul? A caring father?

This is the Paul who never married and who never had children of his own. Although he had never had personal experience with either of those roles, he had observed them, and had been gifted with the instinct if not the experience, to understand how a mother and a father would treat their children.

But beyond the name and experience of the person writi…

Who Do You Work For?

It’s important to know who you are working for.

No, it isn’t for your employer.

No, it isn’t for yourself.

No, it isn’t for your pastor.

No, it isn’t for your spouse or your family.

Paul writes: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23, 24).

That’s a perspective changer, isn’t it?

It changes the things you do.

It changes where those things come on your list of priorities.

It changes how you do things.

It changes the attitude with which you do things.

It changes how long you do things.

The workplace, the home, the church, can be challenging places to work. But the “game-changer,” the perspective-changer is Who we are actually working for. When we work for Christ, we can follow wholeheartedly Paul’s instruction given earlier in Colossians 3, “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of …

The Value of the Gift is not in the Box

It is mind-boggling to me that a man of Paul’s fiery character could so easily say what is recorded for us in Philippians 1:15-18.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ pout of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”

Paul was the first in line to call out hypocrisy—he even rebuked Peter! In Ephesians, as in other places, he urges believers to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).

It seems like a contradiction. However, while Paul is pointing out the obvious in Philippians, he isn’t he isn’t saying that these wolves…

Dealing With Wolfish Behaviour Requires a Good Sheepdog

The last two chapters of Galatians are rich with teaching. The issue throughout the book has been the problems that were being caused by the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who had infiltrated the church and were trying to teach, as Paul puts it, “a different gospel” (1:6).

As wolves are prone to do, they divided the flock of God. “Divide and conquer” is an effective strategy for getting what you want—every kid knows how to play off one parent against another.

In these final words, Paul urges the Galatians not to give in, to “stand firm” (5:1), to continue to run “a good race” (5:7). He reminds them that it is important not to tolerate the untruth because “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough” (5:9).

Instead Paul urges the believers to walk in the Spirit and not fall into the trap of wolfish behaviour. “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is ful…

A Community of One

The Galatians believers were being lured back into a salvation-by-works theology. The false teachers creeping into the church, described in Galatians 1:6-9, pushed Paul to explain again the principles of salvation by faith and to urge the believers to remain faithful to the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

At the end of Chapter 3, we find this beautiful summary statement (though Paul isn’t really finished summarizing yet!). He writes, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ” (3:26-28).

This is the essence of redemption. This is a return to Eden before the fall. Balance is restored. Everyone is equal. In Christ there are no barriers. There are no colours. There are no genders. There are no different strata of society.

When Christ was in His last few hours before going to th…

Baa, Baa, Snap!

It’s not hard to resist the wolves on the outside the church, but it sometimes is a challenge to recognize the wolves, disguised in sheep’s clothing, inside the Body of Christ.

It didn’t take the believers of the Galatian church long to be deceived. Paul begins his letter with this cryptic statement: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7).

It’s subtle—that’s the nature of a wolf disguised as a sheep. What he says sounds good, but if we examine what is said in the light of the Scriptures we will be able to discern the truth from the half-truth or the outright lie. The key for us is to be students of the Word of God, to chew for ourselves what the Bible says. Every believer has the Spirit of God as his Teacher (John 14:26), and if we pay attention …

You Really Can't Always Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

It seems silly to say that a particular passage of Scripture is “interesting” since they all are. But at the risk of “silly” this morning’s reading is interesting (and necessary).

And the end of 2 Corinthians 6, Paul warns his audience about the need to remove themselves from their old pattern of life as it has to do with idol worship. Traditionally the verse, “Come out from them and be separate” (6:17) is often applied to things like our relationships with people who are not believers. There are other passages that speak to that issue. Though this verse can be applied to relationships with unbelievers, Paul is actually warning the Corinthians that they can’t continue to worship idols and try to worship the true God at the same time.

Here the emphasis is not separation from the people who don't know the Lord but separation from the practices of the people who do not know the Lord.

As Chapter 7 begins, Paul says: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify o…

Watch Your Feet (Or Not)

Paul had his issues with the Corinthian church. His second letter, unlike his first, shows us that many positive things had resulted from his rather sharp first letter to them. In the second letter there were still some “course corrections” to deal with but the message exudes a much softer side of the apostle.

As he begins what we know as Chapter 4, Paul communicates that he is not discouraged in the ministry despite some of the deep valleys that his ministry may have taken him through. The mission has been given to him by God (4:1) and so he does not “lose heart.

The thread of this same idea is picked up at the end of the chapter when Paul says: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is etern…

The Devil Is In The Details

Since I haven’t posted for a week you might notice that I have jumped from Romans to 2 Corinthians. Even though I didn’t post I was still reading and this morning landed me at 2 Corinthians 2. The verses that stuck out this morning probably did so because of the series on Forgiveness that our small group is doing on Wednesday evenings.

We often say that forgiving helps the forgiver heal even if it doesn’t have any effect on the one being forgiven. The hope is that healing will happen for both and that reconciliation will take place. But sometimes what we hope for doesn’t become a reality. But it is true that to be able to move on the offended person needs to forgive.

But Paul gives us another reason to forgive in verses 10 and 11 of 2 Corinthians 2. He writes, “Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive — I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes…

Key Words for the Week

In my Bible Romans 12:9-21 is titled: Love in Action. But one particular verse stuck out this morning among the many characteristics given that describe a believer “in love with Jesus.”

Romans 12:12 says: “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

While all the other characteristics seem to have a here-and-now sense to them, these three also have a what-happens-tomorrow feeling.

We hope something will be true, but we aren’t sure. Perhaps the present circumstances make things feel like our hope might be in vain. We get gloomy and depressed as hope fades. Paul tells us to turn our gloom into glory and our depression into dancing and be joyful as we hope for the Lord’s grace in whatever is yet to be.

Affliction can be a present circumstance, but it can also be something to which we see no end. Because we understand that in this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33)—that’s a promise—we are to endure it with patience. There are lessons to be learned (Romans 5:3; 2 C…

Who's Controlling Your Mind?

There is probably no place in the Scriptures that we can identify more with than with Paul’s comments in Romans 7:14-24.

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do…I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing…When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being, I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

If I were to open a forum and ask for personal illustrations of this truth, I doubt I would have any trouble finding them. We know, with absolute certainty how easy it is to want to do what is good and then to…

Daisy Faith

It’s minus one degrees and snowing. But I have a Gerber Daisy coming up in my balcony garden despite all that. What is it about WINTER that this little daisy doesn’t understand?

But that’s the nature of faith—it believes even when everything around it screams not to believe!

Romans 4 contains Paul’s description of Abraham’s faith. The man believed that God would give him and his wife a son even though they were far beyond childbearing years.

…he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Romans 5:20, 21)

Like my little Gerber, Abraham’s faith persevered despite every evidence that what he believed would happen was impossible. That faith was rewarded by the God Who specializes in the impossible.

If I take a look at my faith today, what would it look like?

I hope it looks like a Gerber. What does yours look like?

The Snake God Sent

He’d told the story of his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road countless times. He had, perhaps reluctantly, described what he had been doing with his life before that encounter. But perhaps there was no time to tell that story that was any more significant than this moment on the Island of Malta.

Paul and his companions are shipwrecked on the island. They had set sail for Italy at the beginning of winter—not advisable, but the captain had been in a hurry. Cargo in a hold isn’t worth much unless it gets to market. In this case the cargo didn’t get to market at all. The ship and its contents floundered and the crew now found refuge on Malta.

The islanders were friendly, but superstitious. As Paul gathered wood and then put it on the fire, a snake slithered out and bit him.

When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live'” (Acts 18:4…

No Expiry Date

We don’t view Paul as a patient man, but considering that by the time we get to Acts 26, he’s been in front of the Sanhedrin, two Roman governors, Felix and Festus, and one king, Agrippa, to defend himself, we have to give him a gold star. What is it that you people don’t understand here? How many times do I have to tell you before you get the message?

Do you have times when you just want to give up, to stop fighting what seems like a futile battle?

Then Paul mentions what is to me a clincher of a statement. Acts 26: “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven.

The vision, of course, is the mandate given to Paul by God on the Damascus Road to go and preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (9:15, 16; 26:15-18).

Obedience to God’s call has left Paul lying for dead outside the city gates, being lowered in a basket to escape his persecutors, in jail and beaten, misunderstood by the Jewish believers and criticized by the Gentile Christians, and now arrested and on his w…

Hired Help or Faithful Shepherd?

Most of us loved to be stroked. We appreciate people who agree with our opinions, do what we ask of them, and don’t challenge us. When faced by some real or imaginary threat, we follow the old western model and “circle the wagons” with the “good guys” (the ones who stroke us) gathered around us ready to repel the “bad guys” (the ones who challenge us).

It’s not a good plan, certainly not a Biblical one. And in spiritual leaders it’s a heinous crime, an affront to all that Jesus taught.

Paul, preaching to the believers in Ephesus, remarked: “Keep watch over yourselves and all of the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (Acts 20:28, NIV).

He then goes on to say that it is the wolves who come in and destroy the sheep, and distort the truth (20:29).

But it is Paul’s statement in verse 28 that needs to be etched in the minds and on the hearts of all those who would call themselves overseers of the flock…