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The Worker in Wood

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This morning our pastor was speaking about expectations, specifically the expectations that both Mary and Joseph would have had if they had turned out to be an ordinary Jewish couple, betrothed to be married. Their expectations were not to be the reality that they lived. As he was speaking I thought about this story I had written several years ago. It kind of dovetails with the sermon so I thought I'd share it. The Worker in Wood Lovingly, he caressed the smooth surface of the oak. He had carefully cut it, shaped it, and planed it until it lay finished before him—the most beautiful cradle. It was fit for a king. Joseph remembered the stories of old, the story of Abraham sitting under the great oaks at Hebron when the Lord appeared to him. Joshua had prepared a memorial stone and placed it under an oak near the holy place to mark the covenant between Israel and God. An angel had presented himself to Gideon seated beneath an oak. Absalom had met judgment under an oak. Israel’s histor

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep...

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  Do you remember this classic children's prayer? The most common version comes from The New England Primer. " Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my Soul to keep; If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." Various editions of this prayer have come into being over the years—I suspect because the thought of a child dying in his or her sleep was not a pleasant one to think about. Mind you, back in the 1700s when the original was written those kinds of tragic events would have been a distinct possibility. But the prayer, one I prayed as a child, came to mind this morning as I read Psalm 132. In this prayer the psalmist makes a vow to the Lord not to sleep until the place of worship has been built for Him. Here's how it goes: " I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob ".  Most of us have no

Unsung Heroes

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Ian Cruikshanks Recently I heard a report on the news in which COVID-19 was compared to the Spanish flu that infected 500 million people and killed somewhere between 17 to 50 million people. That outbreak lasted from January 1918 to December 1920. Another report, specifically concerning my home province of Ontario, also included some grim numbers as scientists and health experts looked forward to what could be the best and worst case scenarios when it comes to COVID-19. It was food for thought. But my thoughts did not turn to long-term isolation or protective gear or shortages or economic downturns. They went back to the history of my home church, First Baptist in Timmins, Ontario. It's connection to the 1918 pandemic is significant. In 1917 and 1918, a young man by the name of Ian Cruikshanks travelled back and forth from Toronto to Timmins on the train. His mission was to bring the Gospel to the miners and loggers of a community rising out of the woods, lakes, and r

22. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Don't Be Afraid!

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Pixabay A pilgrim's journey through an increasingly hostile world is not easy. All the encouragement and instruction given by Peter to the believers scattered throughout Asia and Palestine was valuable. But without a doubt there were moments of fear and worry that would have plagued the followers of Jesus even though they had their eyes fixed on home, on the incorruptible treasure waiting for them. The determination to stand for their faith would meet opposition again and again. It might result in more loss than that which they had already suffered. Concern would turn to worry, and worry turn to fear. So Peter writes these words in 1 Peter 5:7,  "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."  Anxiety is an overwhelming consumer of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual resources. I would like to say that it is like a vacuum cleaner sucking up everything around it, except that my vacuum cleaners are not nearly as efficient as all that! But you ge

21. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Pride, A Boulder in the Path

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Pixabay Submission would be whole lot easier if 1 Peter 5:5b was always true. " All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another… " As Peter ends his letter to the believers of his day, men and women had been forced to scatter throughout their world because of persecution, he addresses for a moment those with spiritual authority. He encourages them to be true shepherds, examples, imitators of the Great Shepherd, Jesus. As he finishes that brief word he tells those younger to submit to their spiritual leaders. Some exult at that instruction; others resent it. Few read, or dwell, on the phrase that follows. " In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. ALL OF YOU, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another… " I wonder if Peter was thinking of a certain discussion that took place just before Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem prior to His death? An ambitious mother came to Jesus to ask Him t

20. Pilgrimage to Paradise: Trouble At The Top

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Pixabay This is not a post I enjoyed writing, but then again pilgrimage is not always pleasant. Dealing with the experiences triggered as I looked at 1 Peter 5:1-4 has been a reminder to fix my eyes once again on watching my step in the "here-and-now," putting behind me the "then-and-there," and focussing on the "coming-soon-to-an-eternity-near-you."  Peter now addresses the possibility of abuse of spiritual authority among those to whom he is writing. Such abuse can take many forms. Here is one scenario. It begins with a promise, seemingly heart-felt, to ensure that you will be valued as you deserve to be valued. That sounds good until you realize that there is a price attached—unquestioning obedience and a blind eye to evil. That's manipulation. When you are told to do something or ignore something that you know is wrong, and begin to ask questions, you are met with threats. You are to do what you are told, or else. They are the lead

19. Pilgrimage to Paradise: The Discipline of Suffering

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Pixabay The media seldom reports on the persecution of Christians around the world. If we search the internet for information on the subject we come up with a number of organizations that speak for those who, for the most part, are not able to speak for themselves. The  Bible League Canada  estimates that there are as many as 100 million Christians suffering persecution.  Open Doors USA  says that 1 in 9 believers experience some form of persecution. One site posts that every day some 300 people are killed for their faith in Jesus. Perhaps the best known agency,  The Voice of the Martyrs , offers a variety of ways by which those of us who know little of being persecuted for our beliefs, can help those in places where being a Christian is a death sentence. The pilgrims of Peter's day understood persecution in a way that few of us can. In 1 Peter 4:12 to 19, Peter encourages them to rejoice in their suffering. What an odd thing to say! " Dear friends, do not be surp