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Showing posts from February, 2017

As Stupid As Ever

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“We have an immigration problem! There are too many of ‘them’ and if push comes to shove, they will take over. Even though they have been peaceable enough until now, they will side with our enemies when, and if, the opportunity arises!”

Sound vaguely familiar?

This is not part of a current news story or a tweet from some paranoid source. No, paranoia and the fear of those who are different is nothing new. This is the Pharaoh of Egypt several hundred years after Joseph died. The Israelites had prospered in Egypt since their migration from Canaan. But it didn’t matter how many centuries they had lived among the Egyptians, they were still “foreigners,” still suspect. Still sounds familiar.

The new Pharaoh, obviously not a student of history, knew nothing about Joseph, or the story of how the Israelites had happened to come to this land (Exodus 1:8).

The Pharaoh’s reaction was extreme. He made slaves of the Israelites in the hopes of killing them off through cruelty and privation (1:11). It …

Blooming

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…led by the Spirit…to be tempted by the devil.” (Matthew 4:1)

Before His public ministry began, and just after His baptism by John, Jesus was sent into the desert. Most of us are familiar with the events that took place while the Lord was alone with Satan. We know that each time He was approached and made an offer, He answered back with Scripture. We understand how important it is, as the psalmist writes, to have “…hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). We know that Hebrews tells us, describing Jesus as, “…one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin” (4:15). But we don’t often linger at that first verse, and wonder at its message and its implications.

We know temptation is inevitable. Paul was right when he penned: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). But to be deliberately led by the Spirit of God toward an encounter with Satan and temptation? Why would God do that?

The Lor…

More Than A Quick Visit to a Watering Hole

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He was a novelty, a curiosity. People were tempted to keep their distance, just as they would today if they saw a scruffy man carrying a sign announcing the end of the world. At the same time, the little “bump” that insists on knowing what is going on would drive them to linger near enough to hear what he had to say.

He was John the Baptist, the desert prophet and way-paver for Christ, the Messiah.

His message? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). And if, and when, any of his listeners were willing to repent, “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (3:6). Public confession of sins is something we seldom see today, but it was the prerequisite for baptism—and still should be.

But there was also a post-requisite that was to follow baptism. When the religious leaders came to John, he turned on them with this accusation: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (3:7, 8). …

Family Day

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I  got to thinking about refugees this morning. Many provinces in Canada are celebrating Family Day today and my mind turned to those who might spend today, not out snowshoeing or skiing, or playing games, or going for tranquil walks with the family dog.

I thought about those illegals crossing the border into Manitoba and Quebec. I thought about families in camps in the middle east waiting for sloth-speed bureaucracy to give them a chance at a new life. I thought of those huddled in dangerous spaces in fear for their lives. I thought of those in leaky boats risking everything to get somewhere even remotely safer than where they had been.

My thoughts were triggered by this story from Matthew 2. Joseph and Mary have received a visit from some important visitors. Wise men from the East had come to find the infant King of the Jews. The then-current king, Herod, was less than happy to discover he might have a rival. Hoping to use the magi to flush out this royal infant, Herod instructs th…

Most Likely To...

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Who would you have chosen out of your High School Graduation class to be the most likely to succeed? How about the least likely?

In my final year of High School, the guidance counselor arranged an interview with me—as he did with all the students. He asked what I was planning to do after graduation. When I told him, he bluntly informed me that I didn’t have the brains for higher education so I would be advised to forget my lofty ambitions.

I ignored his “advice,” and despite the dire predictions, did well enough to be the valedictorian of my class when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree.

It wouldn't be the last time someone has told me “you can’t” and I went on to show that I could!

I say all this, but not because this is a “look-at-me-and-see-how-wonderful-I-am!” I’m not, but God certainly is! It’s because I was reminded as I read Genesis 48 this morning that God really does surprise us with who He chooses for specific roles.

The scene in Genesis 48 is Joseph’s appearance befor…

Un-melt

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Canada isn’t really a melting-pot.

When I first arrived in Toronto in the 60s I discovered that the church I attended was right in the middle of an Italian neighbourhood. As the years passed the Italian immigrants who had first settled in the area became more prosperous. They began to move north—as a community. Then the neighbourhood became West Indian. All through the city communities within a community were the norm.

Not surprising! When my grandparents and great-grands immigrated to Canada they all settled in the Ottawa Valley around Pembroke, principally in a community then known as Germanicus (they, and all their neighbours, were from Germany). “Next door,” in another enclave, lived the Irish. And never the twain were to meet!

Immigrants tend to huddle together. They usually share a common language and common cultural norms. They often share common religious beliefs.

After a few generations, “melting” actually happens. But every new crop of immigrants begins the “un-melt” all over…

Embracing the Tests of Life

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There are so many questions that need to be answered. Well, perhaps “need” is not the right word. I “want” to know, but whether or not I ever find the answers to my questions will not change the course of history one iota.

For example, as I arrive at Genesis 43 and 44, I have to hook on to something that happened in Genesis 42—something I wish I knew more about.

The “boys,” Israel’s sons, return to Canaan after their first foray into Egypt to buy food. The Pharaoh’s right-hand man, Joseph (unrecognized by his brothers) has insisted that when they next return they are to bring their younger brother back with them. He has taken Simeon as hostage against their return.

When Israel is told about the deal he is adamant that Benjamin will not go to Egypt with his brothers. Reuben, the oldest, steps in to guarantee that he will bring back the boy (42:37). He says that Israel may kill his two sons if he doesn’t do as he has promised. Nice! He doesn’t offer his own life but those of his sons, a…

Success God's Way

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From favoured son to foreign slave. Not exactly a success story. But then God has never measured success the same way we do.

Genesis 39 only contains twenty-three verses and it takes Joseph from slave to prison—not exactly “upwardly mobile.” Just when it seems that things are improving Joseph is faced with a moral dilemma. His master’s wife demands services that don’t appear on his job description (39:7) and dishonour His God.

To maintain job security, most people would be tempted to do whatever it takes. But not Joseph.

Integrity is Joseph’s watchword. He will not betray Potiphar (39:8). And he will not betray God: “How then can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (39:9).

As payment for doing what was right, Joseph ended up in prison. Somehow that doesn’t seem fair.

What notable in this brief passage are these statements: “…the Lord was with him and…the Lord gave him success in everything he did” (39:3). That was Potiphar’s house. A little later this: “…the Lord was with Jos…

Out-Of-The Box Actions

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She forced him to do what was right.

Some might condemn her methods. But perhaps Tamar is one of those examples that prove the adage: desperate times require desperate means.

Tamar’s story is found in Genesis 38. Judah’s daughter-in-law appears only briefly on the pages of history but that appearance is significant.

Several years ago the Book Club that I hosted read Carolyn Custis James’ book, Lost Women of the Bible. It was a revelation, and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a different perspective on some of the people that history often overlooks.

Here’s the background to the story. The custom of the time (later to become part of Levirate Law as noted in Deuteronomy 25:5-10) was that if a man died without an heir his brother was required to marry the widow and produce a child who would inherit the dead man’s estate. It is recorded in Genesis 38 that Judah had three sons. The eldest married and died without issue. The widow, Tamar, was then married to the second son, who also died w…

That Of Which We Are Capable

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Sometimes it only takes the right people or circumstances to reveal the evil that lies deep within. Genesis 37 tells us that story.

Did Israel (a.k.a. Jacob) know how much his older sons hated their younger brother, Joseph? Had the older boys walked around camp with smiles pasted on their faces but harbouring a deep-seated resentment in their hearts? Joseph was not only preferred by their father, but had shared some pretentious ambitions with them—he would rule over them. Did Israel choose not to believe that his boys were capable of doing harm to the one he openly favoured? In any case, Israel sent Joseph out alone to find his older brothers. It became the right time and the right place to act upon their anger, jealousy and hatred.

When Joseph arrived at Dothan to find his brothers, the Scriptures say: “…they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him” (37:16).

Reuben convinced them to simply throw Joseph into a nearby cistern. His plan was to return…