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Showing posts from December, 2014

The Devil Made Me Do It!

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The wait is over. Jesus appears at the Jordan where John the Baptizer is at work. He comes, not to observe the work of His cousin, but to ask John to baptize Him. John is reluctant until the Lord says: “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). There are several explanations as to why Jesus, the sinless One, would submit to this rite. Perhaps the simplest one is that John’s ministry was of God so that what he, as God's voice, asked people to do must be obeyed. Both as fully God and fully Man, obedience to God’s command was absolutely essential for Jesus.

But after the glory of the event at the Jordan, and with the seal of God’s approval through the descent of the Spirit and the voice of God, Jesus is led by that Spirit into the desert to be tempted by Satan.

It seems like an inglorious way to start a ministry. The experience at the river would have made a wonderful backdrop to, say, a great gathering on the hillside with Jesus as chief preacher…

On Fire or In the Fire

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Thirty years of almost complete silence about Jesus comes to an end with the appearance of John the Baptist. Other than His brief appearance in the temple at age 12, we learn little about Jesus during His youth. But the Gospel is the story of a Saviour and that story is about is take flight.

It is said that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Such was the situation when John made his first appearance in public. The Ceasars ruled from Rome—a reign both corrupt and malevolent. As the leader leads, so do the followers follow. Alfred Edersheim writes that this was the moment in history for either “ruin or regeneration” (Jesus the Messiah, p. 177). The rot of Rome threatened to swallow its territories, including that of Palestine. The Jews resisted, but like the Borg’s warning to the Federation in Star Trek: The Next Generation, the message from Rome was this: “You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

In the midst of decay and desperation, John appears with this …

Bringing Up Baby

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Once we get past the visit of the wise men to the home of the child Jesus (sometime around His second birthday) and the subsequent flight to Egypt to escape Herod, we know next to nothing about the childhood of Jesus.

Luke 2:40 says: “And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” This was said of Him BEFORE the famous scene of the boy in the temple asking questions that astounded the teachers of the law.

You are only supposed to be smart about spiritual things after you go to seminary, right?

But Jesus never went to Bible College, or Seminary. In fact, He never went to Sunday School.

We’d like to assume that because Jesus was God’s Son that He had an advantage over every other kid on the block when it came to knowing “stuff.” Sources of outside the Scriptures attribute to the child Jesus extraordinary miracles, an exercise of His divinity that overshadowed His humanity.

But Hebrews 4:15 tells us: “For we do not have a high priest w…

Hopeful Anticipation

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Mary and Joseph arrived at the temple in Jerusalem to complete the requirements demanded by the law. In Mary’s arms rested her baby, Jesus, so named following the instructions of the angel (Luke 1:31).

Because he was their firstborn the parents had to be prepared to “redeem” their son for the price of five shekels (Numbers 18:16). An offering was also to be made and because Joseph was not a rich man, his offering was that in keeping with his economic status—“a pair of doves or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24).

But the pomp and ceremony of these presentations were not the highlights of this special day. Here, in the most sacred of all Jewish places, the parents of Jesus were to meet two extraordinary people through whom the future of their son would be further revealed.

The first was Simeon, “who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25. Alfred Edersheim comments that Simeon had three characteristics of the piety of the Old Testament saints. He was…

The Bells Still Ring

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Many of us are familiar with the Christmas carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. However, many of us are not aware that some of the verses to the poem were excised from the song that we now sing. Longfellow wrote the poem on Christmas Day during the Civil War between the states. He had lost his wife and his son had been badly wounded in the war between brothers. The poem expresses his feelings about that time.

CHRISTMAS BELLS
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863)

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along
    The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime,
    A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each b…

God IN the Storm

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There it was—a tiny phrase loaded with meaning.

…though your footprints were not seen” (Psalm 77:19)

Most of us are familiar with the poem Footprints where God is described first of all as walking alongside of us on our journey through life. At that point there are two sets of footprints. Then, as life grows difficult, only one set of prints is seen and the author wonders where God was when things were going so badly. The answer comes back that those footprints were His as He carried His child through the storms of life. The poem, and the truth expressed in it, has blessed millions.

Asaph didn’t see any footprints. He begins this psalm crying out for help (77:1-9). He is hurting, in distress, can’t sleep. He is troubled. He wonders if God has rejected His people, if He no longer loves them, if He is angry with them.

As he struggles, He remembers all that God had done for His people in the past (77:10-15). He remembers how:

The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed…

Praise is More than Simple Words

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When God created the earth and men to live upon it and enjoy it, He gave them two commands: They were not to eat the fruit of one single tree (Genesis 2:16) and they were to care for the environment into which they had been placed (Genesis 2:15).

Psalm 65 begins with the invitation to praise God as the psalmist writes: “Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled” (65:1).

How does praise await God?

When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of that single tree, they brought down on themselves, and every generation since theirs, the judgment of God. God had options at this point. The one He chose would astound the world: He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the debt that mankind owed because of sin. Though David did not know it at the time, he spoke prophetically of the Messiah when he wrote: “O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come. When we were overwhelmed by sins, you atoned for our transgression. Blessed is the man you choose and bring near to live in yo…

Covered

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Sometimes there remains nothing to be said. David’s words from Psalm 63 said it all this morning.

O God, you are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
    my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I stay close to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

Might In A Manger

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In their theography, Jesus, Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola make a fascinating commentary on Bethlehem, the village where Jesus was born. God chose to announce the birth of His Son to shepherds watching their sheep on the Bethlehem hillside. The shepherds were an unusual choice considering the glory of the announcement. But the sheep they watched also deserve our attention.

Bethlehem lay only a short distance from Jerusalem and the Temple where hundreds and thousands of sheep were regularly sacrificed as the Old Testament prescribed. According to Sweet and Viola the sheep on that Bethlehem hillside, along with their lambs, were no ordinary sheep. They were special animals, destined for the Temple and for the ultimate sacrifice. They were carefully tended because the sacrificial animals had to be perfect without any blemishes and without any injuries.

So careful were the shepherds of these special animals that particularly fractious lambs were often swaddled at birth and placed in feed …

The Wounds of a Friend

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There is no wound so painful as that inflicted by one who has been a friend.

David writes in Psalm 55: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God” (54:12-15).

Earlier in the passage, the psalmist expresses his feelings about the situation. He is troubled and distraught (vs. 2). He is in anguish. It feels like a death has occurred—and it has (vs. 4). A close relationship has been affected, perhaps destroyed forever. He is fearful and horrified (vs. 5). He wants to run away and hide (vss. 6-8).

These verses are often quoted as descriptive of what would later occur in the New Testament in the relationship between Jesus and Judas. The man who had walked with the Lord for three years, seen His miracles, heard His words, and observed His character, would sell Him to H…

When the Storm Passes

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When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand
.”

Theses words, taken from the hymn The Solid Rock  came to mind this morning as I was reading Psalm 54. The psalm was written during a period of David’s life when he was being pursued by King Saul. His life was in danger. There were people willing to betray him. It seemed that there was no safe harbour, no peace, no rest.

David begins with a plea for help: “Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might” (54:1),

Our first port of call on a recent Caribbean vacation was Grand Cayman. I confess that I was surprised and a bit disappointed at my first look at the island as we made landfall. It is basically similar to a sand spit—not a hill in sight anywhere. As we toured the island our guide mentioned that much of Cayman had been flattened during Hurrican…

Against the Wind

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I just returned from a trip to the Caribbean. One of our stops was on the island of Haiti. We took a tour by launch of some of the northern coastline. As our guide explained some of the history of the island, we could see a number of fishing vessels out on the water. Some of the boats, or lateens, were being driven by the wind. Their sails were curious combinations of bedsheets and other materials sewn together. The guide explained that these boats had no motors. If the wind was blowing in the right direction the fishermen could let the sails do all the work. Otherwise they had to row—sometimes from several miles out against the wind and the waves!

As I read Psalm 53 this morning these fishing boats came to mind. The psalm begins with this declaration: "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (53:1). The psalmist then goes on to describe the difficulty of denying God and ends with a note of triumph on behalf of those who believe and will ultimately see God w…