Showing posts from December, 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…