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Showing posts from August, 2006

Prayer = Purpose

Luke 5:16 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
16But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.

In the fifth chapter of Luke's gospel, I am struck by the fact that Jesus' ministry was clearly responsive to people's physical needs as well as spiritual. Doctor Luke would have found it important to record this fact accurately.

I see too, Jesus withdrawing yet again. That was one of his "essentials," and the thing that gave him the ability to stride out into the hours ahead of him with such clarity of purpose. I want to really absorb that fact and make it my pattern.

God is teaching me to say "No," with confidence to anything that is not in line with his best purposes for my life. He is teaching me that I have limited energy and time (what a surprise), and that spreading myself thin and tiring myself out…

Focus

Luke 4:42-43 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
42 Early the next morning Jesus went out into the wilderness. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. 43 But he replied, "I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other places, too, because that is why I was sent."

"Because that is why I was sent." Ah, Lord, what a lesson you have given me this morning in focus.

In Proverbs 4:25-27 are some verses that I've written in the flyleaf of my Bible:
25 Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. 26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. 27 Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

"Evil" can be anything that distracts me from the path that the Lord has laid ou…

The Battle

1 Samuel 18:17 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
17 One day Saul said to David, "I am ready to give you my older daughter, Merab, as your wife. But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the LORD's battles." For Saul thought to himself, "I'll send him out against the Philistines and let them kill him rather than doing it myself."

What a plot of deception; what a trap, the enemy, through Saul, the insanely jealous king, laid for David: "But first you must prove yourself to be a real warrior by fighting the Lord's battles."

The truth is the Lord fights his own battles! David's strength was his trust in the Lord, his obedience, and humility, not his skill as a warrior. In chapter 17:47, David said to Goliath, "Everyone will know that the LORD does not need weapons t…

The Call

Ephesians 5:15-16 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

2 Peter 1:10 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,


In their mother’s womb he wove together every part of their beings with tender care, brooding over them with love, singing softly as he planned their days, thinking them into existence…

She wrote poems and stories in a cardboard covered note book with a brown wrapping paper cover. Her pictures illustrated the words on the pages; childish, crudely drawn pictures to be sure, but full of imagination and showing a compulsion to record thoughts and feelings in word a…

Hearing

Matthew 13:16 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

16-17"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see! And God-blessed ears—ears that hear! A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.


He sought a few precious moments alone; a respite from the endless questions and demands of the Pharisees and the intensity of teaching radical concepts to uncomprehending followers. Slipping from the house, he headed for the gently lapping waters on the shore of the lake and sat down gratefully on sand that felt like it had been saving the warmth of the sun’s rays all day, just to ease his weary bones. He craved solitude like a dry, baked riverbed waits for rain; it was a time to listen for his Father’s voice.

Voices, people, soon the crowds found him and to escape being crushed he got into a boat. As the humble …

Sight

Matthew 12:22-23 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

22Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"


Jesus saw the hideous spirit creature that crouched on the man’s shoulders. He smelled the putrid, decaying, rotten stench of the creatures’ breath. One of the demon's ice cold, clammy, gnarled hands was clasped over the man’s eyes, while its other hand reached from behind, covering his lips, sealing them firmly closed. Its eyes glittered mockingly and his lips curled with a satisfied sneer.

It’s said the eyes are the windows of the soul, and these windows opened into hell. The demon’s eyes turned on Jesus with hatred and spite, for a split second seeing just another son of Adam; that creation of God despised by Satan and his hordes; but te…

God of Power

Revelation 6:12-14 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
12I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from trees shaken by mighty winds. 14And the sky was rolled up like a scroll and taken away. And all of the mountains and all of the islands disappeared.

From verse 12 to the end of the sixth chapter of Revelation, a picture is painted of a "day of reckoning" when God shows his true might, restrained to this point. He shakes the stars from the sky "like green figs falling from trees shaken by mighty winds" - then he rolls up the sky and takes it away! Mountains and islands disappear. How we should reverence and hold in awe the One who creates …

Morning Fog

James 4:13-16 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Warning about Self-Confidence 13Look here, you people who say, "Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit." 14How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog--it's here a little while, then it's gone. 15What you ought to say is, "If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that." 16Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.

It was early morning as I tiptoed downstairs to find the world bathed in morning fog. It looked so beautiful that I quickly photographed the orchard and fields that stretch from the back of the house. I turned on the tap and filled the coffee pot with fresh water and measured out f…

The Bride of Christ

Genesis 24:62-67 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

62 Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. 63 He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. 64 Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel 65 and asked the servant, "Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?" "He is my master," the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself.
66 Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. 67 Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.

Genesis 24 tells a story of romance and adventure; Eliezer, a servant sent to find a bride; laden with gifts for the one he hoped he would find. In Rebekah, the young girl he knew was "the one," I see a foresh…

Not One Word Has Failed

Genesis 21:1-3 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Genesis 21
The Birth of Isaac

1Then the LORD did exactly what he had promised. 2Sarah became pregnant, and she gave a son to Abraham in his old age. It all happened at the time God had said it would...

"Then the Lord did exactly what he had promised. " I love it! All of the anxiety, doubt, "help" (by offering Abraham another way to father a son), were unnecessary - of course. When God says that he will do something, he does it. He was not hurried along one second by the stressful strivings and disastrous designing of Abraham and Sarah.

Prayer: Lord, please give me a heart that trusts you perfectly, that rests in the full knowledge of who you are. How sad that what should have been a joyous party to celebrate Isaac's birth, was overshadowed by a constant reminder of Ab…

The Thorn

2 Corinthians 12:7-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
7To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

(I start the passage below from my journal of February 16th 2002 with a quote. Unfortunately I didn't make note at the time, of the book title or author; my apologies for not being able to acknowledge them.)

"Sometimes though, we are left walking with a limp. We journey into a new season, yet God leaves behind a reminder of the work He's done in us. The apostle Paul was walking with a limp or, as he described it, a "thorn in the flesh," which he pleaded to have removed (2 Cor. 12:7). But God made it clear that it was a reminder of weakness, and soon Paul himself came to see it as something that kept him from …

The Presence of God

Psalm 63:6 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.

The silence of the night hung around me. I was on vacation, alone, and relishing the sheer indulgence of reading or writing as late into the night as I wanted to. Finally, my eyes were getting heavy and it was time to head for the air mattress. I thought I'd try something different and listen to the CD my brother had just given me, on my Walkman as I went to sleep. I loved the music, but something was missing as I went to sleep that night; the conscious awareness of God's Presence. I realized that when my mind is in "the twilight zone," I usually have thoughts of God in my head but that focusing on the music blocked them out. Until then I didn't realize how important it is to me that God is in my thoughts as I drift into sleep, wake during the night or as I slowl…

Free Flight

Psalm 124:7-8 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
7 We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!
8 Our help is from the LORD, who made the heavens and the earth.

A journalled reflection - January 2002

Psalm 124 - what a picture of a dramatic transition from absolute hopelessness to rescue - from prison to freedom. "We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap. The trap is broken and we are free." As I read that I could feel the blind panic of the poor bird, its heart beating rapidly, eyes darting in fright, and the frantic and useless attempts to spread its wings, the feathers meeting the hard, unrelenting sides of the trap. And then suddenly - "The trap is broken and we are free!"...suddenly wing and wind, feather and flight - FREEDOM!

Prayer: Thank you Father, for this wonderf…

Religion or Relationship

Matthew 8:10-12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
10When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

A centurion came to Jesus, asking his help for his servant, lying at home paralyzed and suffering terribly. Jesus was ready to go to and heal the servant, but the centurion's next words astonished him because they showed the centurion's insight into the power of authority of Jesus, an insight that most of the religious leaders lacked. The centurion called Jesus "Lord," and although he was h…

Listening to God

Matthew 7:21-25 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
21-23"Knowing the correct password—saying 'Master, Master,' for instance— isn't going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, 'Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.' And do you know what I am going to say? 'You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don't impress me one bit. You're out of here.'


This passage reminds me that there is no substitute for regular quietness before God. I don't mean having a "quiet time," which for me often means anything but being quiet! My typical "quiet time" can easily look like this if I'm not careful: Start by glancing at the clock t…

What Would Jesus Do?

Mark 4:3-7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

3"Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.


I continue to ponder the challenge of truly following Jesus. It's so easy to skim the surace of the gospels, learning "about" the teachings of Jesus, but another thing to read his words as a disciple; as one who leaves everything behind to follow him; who wants to understand, to learn and to apply his teachings.

I have spent many years reading God's word, but truthfully wonder if, when it comes …

Enough

Matthew 6:24 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society

24 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

These words of Jesus challenge me, prick me and make me uncomfortable if I allow them to reach my heart, giving them permission to change me. I have a feeling that I need to think deeply about them.

Our economy and society is based upon "consumerism". It's something I've thought about lately as I've driven by the packed parking lots of the malls and strip malls that abound in nearby communities. Our local mall, already large, is currently undergoing yet another expansion and adjoining fields are being transformed into vast plains of concrete to accommodate even more cars.

Only a couple of generations ago people worked in order to clothe a…

The Call

Romans 8:28-30 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

More Than Conquerors
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.


Reading these verses today, familiar though they are, my heart leapt with wonder as I read them once more. The Amplified version of the Bible reveals even more in verse 28, for it says that God is a partner in our labour, and that "all things work together and are fitting into a plan for good to those who love God and are called according to his design and purpose."

To meditate on the fact that each one of us is called, and for a specific pu…

The Journey - an Allegory

Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.


The group of friends set out on the journey with excitement, looking forward to arriving at their destination and wanting to reach it as soon as possible. The journey would take a while and they weren't quite sure when they would arrive, but a sense of anticipation gripped their hearts as they started on their way.They knew that dearly loved friends and family were waiting at the end of their journey; a place was being made ready for them and they'd heard there was a feast wa…

Power to Forgive

Matthew 5:21-22 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society

21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.


I read Matthew's record of Jesus' words on anger this morning, with renewed thankfulness. I'm so grateful that at a time when my heart was bound up with hurt, anger and seemingly righteous judgment, God through the power of the Holy Spirit, led me into truth and freedom through showing me my own sin and need of forgiveness.

The journey continues as new opportunities present themselves to practise, in big and sm…

Laying Down Our Stones

Deuteronomy 8:7 (Today's New International Version)Today's New International Version (TNIV)© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills;


In the "Culture of Heaven" reflection of August 6th I alluded to a past struggle with forgiveness. In case it’s an encouragement to anyone else, here is how that struggle was resolved.

It was October 2002 and I had gone to England to visit my mother, father and brother Robert. I had taken Philip Yancey’s book, “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” to read while there. I was planning to lead a study on the book at our cell group when I got back to Canada. God used that visit to give me an object lesson on grace and I found myself failing the test in the worst way.

Dad at 81 had a drinking problem that had defined our family relationships for all of my life and it wasn’t getting any better. Tha…
Letting Our Light Shine

Matthew 5:14-15 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society
14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

This morning I started the day by praying about "places of compromise." As I did, I realized how easy it is to get off course, even in prayer, if we aren't listening carefully to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. It's easy for it all to become about the means and not the end. By that I mean that the Enemy will infiltrate even our longing to know Christ if he can. Our human tendency is to focus on our self; our flaws and weakness, all of which distract from the the true goal.

So I adjusted my prayer and asked to be a vessel through which Jesus can be seen more clearly. I like to think of …
To Know Him

Philippians 3:10 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

What an ambition: "To know Christ and the power of his resurrection." Only something that has died can be resurrected.

The verse goes on to talk of participating in his sufferings, "Becoming like him in his death." In this verse is enough sobering food for thought today. No easy following here, but a choice that casts off normal concern for self preservation and comfort. Ah, but the prize..."To know Christ." To know him is all that really matters and with that knowing comes the power of his resurrection.

The apostle Paul lived the words he wrote to the church in Philippi. He promised nothing but hardship, the way of the cross, for those who would know Chris…
God With Us

Exodus 30:34-36 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
34 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Take fragrant spices—gum resin, onycha and galbanum—and pure frankincense, all in equal amounts, 35 and make a fragrant blend of incense, the work of a perfumer. It is to be salted and pure and sacred. 36 Grind some of it to powder and place it in front of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you. It shall be most holy to you.

This morning I read Exodus 30, letting it sink into me, reading and re-reading God's instructions for the altar of incense overlaid with gold, the sacred anointing oil made from olive oil with cinnamon, cane, cassia and myrrh and the fragrant incense, made from gum resin, onycha and galbanum - and pure frankincense. The Bible says that it was to be salted and pure and sacred and that both the anointing oil and incense were so set apart that there were dir…
Choosing Health for Life and Eternity

Matthew 4:4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

While away on vacation I did a lot of walking. It feels good to have regained a better level of physical fitness and I've determined to make some form of regular exercise a non negotiable part of my weekly schedule.

As well, I've recommitted to healthier eating, with a long range view in mind - to rid myself of five unwanted pounds and put into my body the material it needs to be strong and healthy for the long haul.

The fact is that if I don't do either of these things, the result won't be immediately evident, and that's why it's so easy to let them go, but the body I'm building today, bite by bite and step by step, is the body I'll have to live with t…
The Culture of Heaven

Ephesians 4:24 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Cultural differences are fascinating and enriching. I've had first hand experience of two very different cultures being of Dutch and English parentage, and I remember the culture shock of coming to Canada as a new immigrant, almost 37 years ago. I was engulfed in the generosity and friendliness of the Canadian people, but missed the British sense of humour sorely.

All cultures have riches to share, as well as having funny quirks. I've laughed at Bill Bryson's book, "Notes on a Small Island," based on his years in Britain, and more recently "The Undutchables," by Colin White and Laurie Boucke made me laugh out loud on the train from Rotterdam to Amsterdam.

On my return flight to Canada I had the pleasure of being se…
The Expression of Faith

Galatians 5:6b (New International Version)
...the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love.

I've been doing some thinking lately about how to express faith, so this verse was interesting to ponder. God seeks after us in love and fills us with his love for others.

God's love for me is evident in countless ways, big and little, every day. I notice them and know that they are signs of his love. Why he should love me, I don't know, but I know that he does, and that he loves everyone in exactly the same way.

Love must surely then be the starting point in our relationships with people. I think of the impact of Jesus' visit to the homes of the two tax collectors, Zacheus and Matthew. They were hated by their countrymen because their occupation meant that they were complicit with the Roman government, and corrupt themselves.

Jesus found Matthew at his tax collector's booth (see Matthew 9:9-13) and called him to follow him. According…