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Showing posts from November, 2012

"Good" Prayers

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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…

Finally....(Not)

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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

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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 well...you 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?

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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?