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Showing posts from September, 2012

The Unity in Community

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Community is important to the First Nation peoples of our country. The horrors that some experienced because of the abuses that took place within the residential school system were one thing. But the removal of the children from their families and their community was the first offense in a long line of offenses.

If the church is to attract the peoples of the First Nations (or anyone else) it must become community. That was always God's intention. Redemption is as much about saving community as it is about the saving of an individual soul.

I've often wondered why God, who is One, chose to present Himself in three distinct persons. I had an "aha" moment when I though of how wonderful it was that God would give us in the Trinity, the example of perfect community: Father, Son and Spirit in perfect unity. When God created man, He and they were a community—until sin entered and community was damaged. Now the grace of God reaches down through Jesus Christ to restore that com…

Walk Toward, Not Away

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"But go, tell his disciples and Peter..." (Mark 16:7).

How do you feel, Peter, when you hear those words?

Shame. Singled out because you know what you have done, the horror of it, and pain of it.

Anxiety. Why are you separated from the rest of the disciples? Does that mean that you have been cut from the roster?

Fear. What if the Lord is going to tear a strip off you in front of the men you have lived and worked with for the last three years, the men who looked on you as their lieutenant. 

Relief. You hope this means that there is a reprieve at the end of this. You pray that there is forgiveness for your betrayal.

A myriad of thoughts go through our minds when we know that we have failed the faithfulness test. To Peter was added the shame of having made a public promise to go to the cross with His Lord if had to. Instead he not only walked away physically but he walked away verbally as well. As public as his promise was, the betrayal was just as public.

We know how the story ende…

Who Am I? And What Difference Does It Make?

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"Who do you say I am?" (Mark 8:29)

This was the question that Jesus asked his disciples. It sounds simple enough.

"You are the Messiah," was Peter's reply (Mark 8:29).

You are the Son of God.

You are the Saviour.

You are the Creator of the universe.

You are the Almighty.

You are the Good Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep.

You are the Lord.

You are the Head of the church.

You are the Judge of the living and the dead.

You are the great High Priest.

You are the Master Teacher.

It's a simple question, with a seemingly simple answer. In fact, the answer begs a huge question: "if this is who I am, then what difference should that make to your life?"

The question was never meant to be simply academic, a question of more knowledge or clearer understanding. It was meant to provoke a response. If Jesus is, for example, the Master Teacher, then what do I need to learn, and how am I going to go about that? If He is the Saviour, then what do I need to do about that …

Spiritual Caesarians

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Busy people. The disciples had been running around the countryside teaching and healing. They were overwhelmed with responsibilities and people, and didn't even have time to eat, let alone digest their food. So when Jesus said, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31) the chances are at least one of the guys had to stifle a "yippee."

As it happens the devotional thought I read this morning in connection with this passage focused on the importance of taking time to rest, reflect and renew. Amen and amen.

But I had to laugh.

Jesus took His disciples away to a solitary place so that they could rest, reflect and renew. But people saw them, and followed them so that when they got to this solitary place, it wasn't solitary anymore. There were five thousand men there, and who knows how many women and children on top of that.

What would you and I say?

"Sorry, we're on vacation, on retreat, on furlough. Go home and we'l…

Tell Me A Story

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From somewhere in the dark reaches of my mind, I remember a book titled: “Storytelling Made Easy.” The ‘how to” of storytelling was part of our teacher training. Recently I have been more than impressed by the efforts of my friends in Pakistan to teach the Word through what they call, “storying.” Many cultures are built around people telling their stories as a means of passing down their heritage and knowledge from one generation to another. So it made perfectly good sense for our missionaries to tell God’s “story," one story at a time, in a way that was familiar to the Pakistanis. We tell our children bedtime stories. Storytelling is something we all do, whether we formalize it by giving it such an exalted title or not.

Mark 4:33, 34 comes just after Jesus has told a series of stories to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of God. Mark makes this statement: “With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to the…

Paying Heed to History

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Will peace come in our time? No.

Will we enjoy the right to practice our faith freely? No.

Will those who profess Christ follow Him faithfully? No.

Someone told us that the world was getting to be a better place. After all, we have better technology, better education, better social awareness and social consciousness. Odd how that makes no difference, easily proven by the headlines in our newspapers and the breaking news on our television screens, computers and tablets.

Jesus told us this was going to happen. "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains" (Matthew 24:6-8).

We insist that we should have the same freedom to speak openly about Christ as others have to speak openly about what they believe. After all, we are guaranteed…

No Chopping Zone!

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It's almost supper time and all you have is some leaf lettuce, a pomegranate, a hot chili pepper and an apple turnover. What are you going to do with those four items to turn them into an edible and attractive main course?

Sounds like an episode of the Food Network's cooking challenge show, Chopped, doesn't it?

On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He met for the last time with the twelve men who had become His inner circle of disciples. If there was ever a band of unlikely suspects upon which to create a movement, this was it. Fishermen, tax collectors, and anarchists, among others, gathered around the table to participate in an historic moment.

"Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Matt…

Heavenly Tax Tables

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It was meant to be a tricky situation.

The religious leaders of His day thought they could catch Jesus on the issue of tax fraud. They asked Him if He paid taxes to Rome (which was even more annoying to the citizens of the country then than it is to the citizens of our country today!).

Jesus wasn't fooled by the question so he turned the tables on them once again. He took a coin and held it up in front of their noses and asked whose picture was stamped on its face. Of course, it was Caesar's image.

"Then he said to them, 'So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's.'" (Matthew 22:21).

For the moment that silenced his critics. I wonder if they thought about the implications of what Jesus said in that pointed statement. It begs the question: "So if I give back to God whatever bears His image, just as I give back whatever bears Caesar's image, then what am I being asked to give back to God?"

A little while later, when th…

Inside the Donkey is a Mighty Stallion

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Some people might call that last week before His death, the beginning of the end for Jesus. In fact, it was more like the beginning of the beginning. Beyond the cross lay a whole new life, exemplified by the Lord Himself when He came back from among the dead.

Here, in Matthew 21, we have described for us the Lord's entrance into the City of Jerusalem at the beginning of that last week. Traditionally, we call it the "triumphal entry" though riding in on a donkey and having the path strewn with tree branches and cloaks somehow doesn't quite compare to say, Queen Elizabeth riding in state in her golden carriage on the way back from her coronation. And the Lord's fans turned out to be a whole lot more fickle than the Queen's have been.

But if I'd been that donkey... If I'd been able; dull, stubborn creature than I am as that donkey, to articulate what I knew, how I felt, even the Queen's majestic procession would have paled in comparison. The rough clo…

Don't Walk Away From the Possibilities

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"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26, NIV).

In the context, the Lord is addressing the issue of relationship with God, of salvation, of forgiveness, of eternity. None of these things can be paid for, earned, or deserved, by any one of us. They are the gift of God as we deposit our faith in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

But this famous quote covers everything else too.

What's your dilemma today?

What are your adverse circumstances?

What's the source of your pain?

What's your greatest concern?

What feelings are out of control?

What habits need to be broken?

What sins have to be acknowledged and dealt with?

What relationships aren't working?

What financial straits haunt your waking hours?

What unfulfilled dreams do you have?

What burning question remains unanswered?

Other: ___________________________

You fill it in, and then look back at the verse from Matthew. Whatever the question, Christ not only has the answer but He…

Beyond Price

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Jesus was a wonderful storyteller. He understood, as all good teachers do, the value of starting where your students are in order to take them where you want them to go. So the Lord used familiar launching points to bring His audience into spiritual truth.

Matthew 13 contains a number of the parables, or stories, He told.

"Once upon a time, there was…" is a familiar phrase that tells children everywhere that story time is about to begin. For Jesus, many of His stories began: "The Kingdom is Heaven is like…" Tucked away among the parables of Matthew 13 are two short ones found in 13:44 (The Hidden Treasure) and 13:45, 46 (The Pearl). Both describe men who discovered something precious and went out and sold everything they had so that they could buy what was beyond price.

To many people the parables were simply stories. The message of the illustration was not understood. One of the greatest frustrations to a storyteller is to have the audience miss the point of the sto…

The power of Sixteen Words

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We clamour for release, but refuse to let go of that which weighs us down.

Birdsong

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Jesus warned His disciples right up front that following Him would not be easy. Persecution, privation and even death awaited anyone who took being His follower seriously. Any advertising firm will tell you that accentuating the negative isn't a good selling point for any product.

But there was, as always, a plus side. The same Lord who didn't promise a bed or roses, did make this promise: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father…so don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:29).

At first glance that sounds positive, the stuff of the famous song from which come these words: "His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me."

Every day for the believer should be a day of thanking God for keeping an eye on us, even when we fall.

What? Fall?

The promise for the believer is not an absence of all the things that the Lord had just finished warning His follow…

And the devil laughed

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"They were so violent that no one could pass that way" (Matthew 8:28).

If it had been today, the authorities would have come along, packed them up and tucked them away where they wouldn't have been a menace to the public. But not so in Jesus' time. These two demon-possessed men made life difficult for the citizens of the region. I wonder if the disciples were nervous when the Lord had this potentially nasty encounter with two wild-eyed mad men. Imagine their shock when the "crazies" identified Jesus as the Son of God (8:29).

Even the devil knows Truth when he sees it. Too bad the locals weren't as attuned to spiritual things.

When Jesus restored these two poor souls to their right minds, it cost the townspeople a few pigs. Not only did they miss the miracle that restored two of their citizens to them, and that should have clued them into the presence of Someone special among them, but they overlooked the not-so-subtle suggestion that, as Jews, they shou…

Empty-handed

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Last week a friend of mine suffered a heart attack. Even without all the modern technology at the doctors' disposal, they would have known where to find her heart as they worked to repair the damage.

It's not always so easy to find a believer's spiritual heart.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV).

As the Fall approaches, the last flurry of garage sales appear. In the Spring the junk collected over the winter is displayed in the hopes that it might be someone's treasure. In the Fall, the stuff accumulated over the summer heads to the curb with the expectation that others will haul it away before its owners need to come up with a creative way to store it in an already crowd…