Thursday, August 31, 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 are not his will. He is teaching me that there is great treasure stored up in this precious hour before the day starts, and that if I make it my priority above all else, as Jesus did, to withdraw, and connect with the Father, then he will fill my open hands and heart with those things he wants me to share with a hungry world.

Secondly, only by staying this closely connected with him will I be able to see clearly what he is doing and what he would have me do.

Prayer: Father my heart overflows with love for you. I want to be a ready pupil. You are so ready to teach us if we only listen.

John 5:19 (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.
19Jesus replied, "I assure you, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

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 out for my feet. In these quiet moments he has spread a feast of his Word before me. I want him to send his light and truth to guide me:

Psalm 43: 3 Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me. Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live.

In Luke 4 I see Christ's ability to deflect the word traps of the devil by being so deeply rooted in God's Word that truth flowed from him and unmasked the devils' half truths.

I also see, as he stood in the synagogue in Nazareth, his clear awareness of being appointed and sent, and what it was that he was sent to do. From this flowed his authority.

He withdrew habitually to maintain clarity of focus and this alone must have given him the ability to see beyond the crowds that begged him not to leave. He knew what he must do and why he was sent.

Prayer: Dear Father, I am not Jesus, but just as surely, I am a "sent one" of yours. I confess that I have wandered, slipped and stumbled from the path that all along, you have laid out for me. I know that I must daily seek that focus and clarity. This is my prayer.

Hebrews 12:12-13 (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.
12So take a new grip with your tired hands and stand firm on your shaky legs. 13Mark out a straight path for your feet. Then those who follow you, though they are weak and lame, will not stumble and fall but will become strong.

Above all else that is what I pray - that I may lead others to spiritual strength.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

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 to rescue his people. It is his battle, not ours. The LORD will give you to us!"

Prayer: Dear Lord, it seems I need reminding so often that the battle is yours, not mine. Thank you for again showing me that you are God and we are not! There is such freedom in getting and keeping this fact straight.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (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.
3 We are human, but we don't wage war with human plans and methods. 4 We use God's mighty weapons, not mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil's strongholds. 5 With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ.

Monday, August 28, 2006

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 and pictures. How she longed for her father to say, “Well done.” He looked on each offering with a critical eye, and gave only suggestions for improvement. The longed for words of approval never came.

The young man picked up the guitar to lead them in singing songs of worship. As his gifted fingers plucked the strings of the guitar, they drew from them beautiful music that spoke peace to their hearts like the sigh of the wind in the treetops, or the bubbling waters of a mountain stream. When he’d finished, they learned that he felt his gift was too humble to share and he rarely played before others.

Her children are blessed. Their mommy sings to them of Jesus; songs to which he gave her the words. She pulls sweet music from her guitar and gently plays to them. Her husband listens with pleasure. He tells her, “You should play with the worship team.”

"Oh, I’m not that good,” she says.

God planned lovingly for our existence, planting in each one a seed, a part of himself that is a trust. But against every creation of his, an enemy lies in wait to distort, destroy, bind up and diminish. He whispers to us of our lack of worth, and arrays his forces to attack the intentions of God for our lives. The truth is in a place called the Sword of the Spirit, a name given to the Word of God because it is the weapon that can destroy the enemy and his works of darkness. If only we would read, then see, hear and believe its truth and celebrate who God made us to be!

Genesis 1:31 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

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 fishing vessel bobbed on waves that reflected the setting sun like a sheet of hammered gold, he spoke from it to the people on the shore, weaving a story of a sower of seeds and ending with strange words, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

Then this Rabbi looked out into the crowds and spoke of eyes and ears and of hearts that understand. He spoke of some who would quickly respond to God and of an evil one who would just as quickly snatch away the seed in their heart; of others who would have no staying power; only shallow roots. There would be some who would actually hear but the voice of this world would sound louder in their ears, eventually drowning out the good seed of the Word. But some would hear, understand, choose to follow and to keep listening for the voice of his Father. They too, would learn to seek out moments of solitude, even in the middle of a day as busy as a high holiday in Jerusalem, and turn their ears toward heaven.

Hearing; it’s an amazing capacity and we don’t just hear with our ears, but with our heart and our spirit.

Matthew 13:23 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

23"The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

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 terror filled its eyes as it realized that the eyes of this man were looking back at him; he could see him. Instantly the demon knew that this was no son of Adam, but the Son of God, the Holy One whose works it was his master’s aim to destroy. With a scream of rage, face contorted with fury, lips spewing venom at his enemy, the power of hell faced the power of the God the Holy Spirit in God the Son, and lost. The demon released its grip on the eyes and lips of his victim and fled.

The man, who had known only darkness, suddenly opened his eyes and saw! There before him stood a man who looked upon him with eyes that burned with love. He opened his mouth and speech flowed. His tongue had been loosed!

Meanwhile, the onlookers witnessing the miracle of sight and speech being given to the man were also seeing something they hardly dared believe. The Holy Spirit was revealing to them the truth about the Rabbi who did such marvelous things. They began to ask among themselves, “Could this be...could this be the Son of David?”

Not far away, always privy to information about the actions of this radical Rabbi, a group of Pharisees saw only their own power and control slipping away as the people turned from the weight of rules they wielded to consider the words of this man who spoke with life, power and authority. “He did this by Satan’s power!” they said, blind to the irony of their words! In that moment the Bible says that they committed a sin that can never be forgiven; blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They had turned away from the only one who can lead a person to repentance and in so doing, hardened their hearts irrevocably. They also ran the risk of snuffing out the work of faith in the hearts of those who listened to them; a responsibility for which the Bible says the punishment is akin to hanging a millstone around your neck and being drowned in the depths of the sea.

Sight; it’s an amazing capacity and we don’t just see with our eyes, but with our heart and our spirit.

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 and casts down the heavens and the earth.

Prayer: Dear Lord I worship and love you, the Holy and All Powerful One who made himself weak, vulnerable and helpless for us, because of love.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

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 four scoops of coffee, breathing in its rich aroma. While I waited for the coffee to do its bubbling, snorting, dripping thing, I unloaded the dishwasher, making the most of the minutes that seem to pass all too quickly every morning before work. By the time I poured a mug of rich, dark coffee, the mist was already vanishing.

All of our lives, solid and permanent as they seem to us, are just as ephemeral. We are here for a short while and then gone, and one day the places we inhabited, the things we treasured and enjoyed, will pass into other's hands. I guess then, that I really want my life, long or short, to have a point and for that point to be the one God has in mind!

James reminds me this morning to live in utter reliance on God's guidance, not making plans independently, as if he had no purpose for my life.

Prayer: Lord, most of the time I live like I was going to be here forever, but you remind me that true wisdom is to live with a sense of the brevity of life. Far from being morbid, this should have the effect of intensifying the deep joy of each moment lived and filling it with purpose.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

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 foreshadowing of the Bride of Christ, the Church. She was as we should be; gracious, submissive to God's will, obedient and of great faith, willing to leave everything behind and go to her bridegroom.

As she journeyed with the servant to the land of her bridegroom, she saw Isaac coming through the fields to meet them in the evening, as one day we will see our Lord, our Bridegroom, coming to meet us. Isaac's bride, Rebekah, knew only that her bridegroom was the son of one of great wealth, her great uncle, Abraham. In Abraham's servant, who Abraham had sent to find a wife for his son, I see a type of the Holy Spirit, who is the One who woos us to Christ. The servant also brought gifts of clothing and silver and gold jewelry, all of which, though breathtakingly beautiful and precious, were only a token of all that awaited Rebekah as Isaac's wife.

...I walked in two worlds
Finding both exciting, beckoning,
As I stood on the threshold
Of my life...
For me, the Spirit's gentle wooing,
How wise, how wonderful,
God's many ways,
Of reaching us, his wayward ones.
More and more, I became his,
Until I saw the world through strangely different eyes.
Things that once beckoned,
Now had lost their charm,
As he so gently guided me,
Away from harm.

Belinda

Philippians 3:20 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
20But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

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 Abraham and Sarah's failure to trust, in the form of Ishmael, who mocked Isaac.

1 Kings 8:56 (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.
56"Praise the LORD who has given rest to his people Israel, just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the wonderful promises he gave through his servant Moses.

Monday, August 21, 2006

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 becoming proud (see 2 Cor. 12: 8 & 9)."

As I read that I thought to myself that although I have never contemplated having a tattoo, if I did, it would be of a thorn, to remind myself that I am his, and a thorn can be a gift of love when it comes from his hand. I thought of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore, pressed cruelly into his head, sharply piercing his dear brow, the blood flowing down his precious face as he gave himself up in sacrifice for our sin, our weakness - bearing the thorns for us; all of the pain, all of the agony, all of the punishment we deserve laid on him, on his dear flesh that knew no sin. How precious to my soul those familiar words, spoken by Jesus on the cross, "It is finished."

Prayer: Father, the perfection of your ways astounds me. I am overwhelmed with love and sheer adoration for you. I don't think I will ever again be able to see my weakness in the same way. Now, if you have allowed it to remain in my life it is simply to remind me of my humanity, my dependency on you - it is my thorn. But I will remember that you bore it among those other thorns on your brow. I will remember the pain you suffered and never regard that act of love with anything but sorrow for the sin that made it necessary and gratitude for the love and grace that paid the price.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

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 slowly stir into wakefulness in the morning, but since then I have been so much more aware of the low level conversation with him that goes on in my head, almost without my realizing it.

Moses understood that the Presence of God was so precious that he wasn't willing to make one step forward without it. God says that he will be in us, with us, never far from any one of us; his Presence will be with us. He is Immanuel, "God with us."

Prayer: Dear Lord, sometimes we are oblivious to the most important things of all. I want to be more aware of your Presence. Be in my thoughts, my words, my touch, my reactions. Make me sensitive to things that block or hinder your Presence in my life. I don't want to go one step forward without it.


Exodus 33:14-15 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
15 Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

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 wonderful metaphor for our spiritual rescue and freedom; freedom from the shackles of the evil one, freedom from the hopelessness of the law, into your ways of grace and transformation! I want to take to abandoned flight, free of any restraint but the love that binds my heart to you.

Friday, August 18, 2006

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 himself a man of considerable personal authority, he demonstrated humility and a staggering faith, for he said, "Just say the word and my servant will be healed."

After acknowledging the centurion's faith, Jesus said that there was no "automatic entry" to the Kingdom of God, that many would come ( as this man had) from east or the west, but those to whom the way to the Kingdom was made known first, would find themselves outside, in great regret and sorrow at missing it.

Contrast the centurion, knowing who Jesus is, believing that he only has to say the word for a miracle to happen, calling him "Lord," with the people who should have received Jesus's words with joy and obedience and who should have recognized in him, their Messiah and their Saviour, but didn't. It's the difference between faith and dead religion.

Any one of us may have friends or family who have lost the reality of their faith. They may even go to church; go through the motions, but it's about religion, or routine, not relationship with Jesus. It's no small thing to think of those we know and love finding themselves outside the Kingdom. How we need to pray for those who have lost their way, that they would find their way back to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are people on my heart and mind as I think about this, people who even have a godly heritage, but who have yet to directly encounter you in a real way. O God, I'm praying that you reveal yourself to them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

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 to gauge the time available; grab journal, Bible and assorted devotional books; start reading; write in journal; glance at clock; talk to God; glance at clock. Yikes, it's that time already?!

I have an opportunity to listen to the One who shaped the universe; what's my rush? He just might have something of value to say to me! Simply being quiet in his presence, creating space for him to speak is important.

Reading Matthew 7:21 and further on through verse 25, I see that it is possible to be busy and even apparently effective for God, but to have nothing to do with him. At the time such people meet Jesus, they will be stunned to find out that what they did "in his name," was not truly in his name. That is, he didn't ask them to do it, he didn't ordain it; they were doing what they wanted to do, even though on the surface their activity mimicked the ministry of Jesus. Verse 24 speaks of hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into practice; listen first, then act. The apostle John in the 15th chapter of his gospel uses the analogy of branches into which the life and power of the vine flow:

John 15:5-8 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
5-8"I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

Prayer: Lord, I don't want to waste a moment in doing anything that you didn't ordain or intend. Forgive me for the arrogance of thinking for one moment that what I have to say to you is more important than what you have to say to me. I'm listening Lord and I can't wait to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

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 to Jesus's words, I have been a mere "surface skimmer," although I would not have said that was what I was doing. His words are so radical and challenging but if we read them without any attempt to put them into practice, what is our faith worth? It's our choice how deep we go, how close we follow; he never forces, he offers. God has been so good in spite of my distracted Christianity, but I'm hungry for more.

I'm reminded of the timeless classic by Charles M. Sheldon, "In His Steps," about a well to do church in the nineteenth century, in which a group within the congregation made a commitment to ask themselves in every situation, "What would Jesus do?". This inspiring story shows what a radical step this was. People broke out of the social circles they moved in, found themselves making financially costly ethical decisions and facing opposition from family members.

Any quest to know him, to learn his ways and apply them to a life and heart to a greater degree than ever before is going to be the adventure of a lifetime.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to focus on your word, to read it more slowly, allowing it to sink in and change my heart and transform my mind. Nothing on earth is as important. Help me be still long enough to hear your voice speaking through your word.

Mark 4:18-20 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

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 and feed their families. If they were careful they could save what was left over for a "rainy day". How we have changed!

These days most of us work to service debt. We might say that it's because things are so much more expensive these days, but that doesn't explain why the parking lots of the malls are full - every waking hour it seems.

I'm a woman, and I confess, I love shopping, but I wonder if it's time to consider the need for change. Enough is never enough; there's always something better and perfectly good items are replaced. Fun though yard sales are for those who love them, they are a relatively recent phenomenon, and think of what is put out at the side of the road in the garbage once a month on the "large pick up" days in some towns.

I realize that consumerism provides jobs and our whole economy is based upon people continuing to spend, but Jesus had something to say about money; he said it can be a master. Am I mastered by it or do I have freedom? Even a slightly honest answer would tell me that I have some major adjusting to do in order to approach the freedom Jesus speaks of.

Do I want freedom, or bondage? Ah, that question is easier to answer.

Prayer: Dear Lord, your word searches my heart; it stops me in my tracks. Step one is to acknowledge an obvious dissonance between my ways and yours. Step two is to cry, "Help!" and I'm doing that this morning.


1 John 2:15-17 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Don't love the world's ways. Don't love the world's goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.



Monday, August 14, 2006

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 purpose, is exciting. This may be why Pastor Rick Warren's book, "The Purpose Driven Life," inspired and encouraged so many. This purpose is one for which God actually designed us, placing in us the exact gifts and potential, sensitivities and enthusiasms we would need to fulfil it. He allowed our circumstances to strengthen and pull those giftings out of us, and then (and this is so amazing and wonderful), he became a co-labourer with us, partnering with us through our life purpose as we lay all that we are on the altar, for his use.

He calls us; through his death he justifies us and then begins the process of being transformed and conformed into the image of Jesus. As Jesus is more radiantly visible in us, we are "glorified." The Amplified Bible calls this, "being raised to a heavenly dignity and condition (state of being)."

Prayer: Dear Lord; being yours, living a life in partnership with you, listening for God's voice and obeying the promptings of your Spirit is more exciting than anything else. I praise and worship you and thank you for the perfection of your ways and purposes.

Colossians 1:25-27 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

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 waiting. Furthermore, an invitation had been extended to bring any others they met on their journey with them; there was room enough for all. Most of all they wanted to see the King, who had gone to extreme lengths to assure them that their presence was of such importance to him that he had made a great sacrifice to make this possible. He had also given them a guide book with traveling directions, complete with warnings of potential hazards along the way written by past travelers who'd made the trip and arrived safely.

As the journey wore on, a strange thing began to happen. Instead of their anticipation growing and their excitement building, they began to notice the great beauty of the country they were traveling through. "Why don't we settle here for a while and enjoy this place?" someone said and they sat down and began to unpack their bags.

"Yes," said another, "the journey is longer than we'd expected. We'll get there eventually, but let's stop and rest."

The destination faded more and more from their consciousness and they became absorbed and distracted by the sights and pleasures of their resting place. They met new friends there and thought fleetingly about inviting them to the great feast. They seemed hungry, but the feast seemed so far off now and they didn't bother.

Suddenly one of them realized what was happening - that time was passing by and the place in which they had become so comfortable was not their final destination. He remembered that one of the warnings he'd read in the guide book was to stay focused on the goal. He urged his companions to restart the journey; he even invited some new friends to join them and they gladly accepted. In order to make room for them the travelers left some of their own luggage behind. Suddenly their belongings seemed much less important than taking friends with them to the feast. Sadly, some of their number seemed to be so spellbound by the pleasures of the land that they decided to put off rushing to the feast at all, but others were thankful for the encouragement to keep going and to stay focused on their ultimate destination.

As they drew near to the end of their journey they came to a land that was beautiful beyond anything they could have imagined. They soon saw the lights of the city they were headed for, shining brightly. As they drew nearer, their hearts beat faster at the thought of the impending celebration and with renewed energy they focused on getting there. As they entered the gates of the city, all of them were overcome by waves of emotion. Tiredness was forgotten in the swell of joy that rose up in their chests. Their eyes scanned the faces of the crowds waiting to welcome them and as one and then another caught sight of those they were looking for, they pushed towards them with tears streaming down their cheeks. "We've been waiting so long for you to arrive," cried the familiar voices. It seemed like eternity would be too short to spend in catching up with all they had to tell of the time since they'd last seen them. They heard a loud rumbling clang! It was the great gates of the city closing. They wanted to cry out that the rest of their friends were still out there, on their way, but they knew in their hearts that they weren't on their way, and that it was too late now.

A hush fell and the crowd began to part. People began to fall to their knees and bow their heads to the ground in worship. Tears began to fall again, tears of inexpressible joy, cleansing tears, washing away the weariness of the journey; the King was coming. From their knees, the first things they saw were his feet. They noticed that his ankles bore the scars of terrible wounds. As they raised their eyes they saw that his hands too bore similar scars. His eyes blazed with a love that was almost unbearable to gaze upon and yet they couldn't pull their eyes from his face, it was so beautiful. His voice sounded like the rushing of many waters as he told them that everything was ready. The vast crowd shouted in worship to the King, blending with other voices, voices that sounded like thunder, these they realized were the voices of angels. Their journey had ended and yet they sensed that this was only the beginning of something more wonderful than they could ever have imagined. They realized that all that had happened to them to this point had merely been a preparation for what was starting now. They bowed before the King.


Philippians 3:16 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

15-16So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.


I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land,
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand:

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin's dread sway!
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

(From the hymn by Rhea F. Miller, 1922)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

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 small ways, God's way of living and being. I don't find myself automatically applying what I learned in one situation, to the next challenge. It's as if I need to learn through practise, flexing the "forgiveness muscle" until it grows strong and able to do its work. This is crucial to following Jesus all the way to the cross. Who am I to think that I, his follower and servant, should be treated better than he?

It's good to consider what he suffered: rejection; humiliation; loneliness; misunderstanding; ingratitude; hatred; betrayal and physical suffering, and also to consider what I do to him still.

When I experience a hurt and find myself engaged in the indulgence of nursing it, I need to ask myself, have I done that very thing to the Lord? I confess that I am guilty of not trusting him fully, have neglected him and misunderstood him. Through his grace and mercy I have forgiveness for these sins. How then can I not lay down my right to offence when I experience them? This also short circuits the harbouring of unnecessary toxicity that does more harm to me than anyone else; especially when at some later time I often find that I had not completely understood the situation.

Prayer: Dear Lord - a step further on the journey, a clearer understanding, an even greater freedom and glad surrender of another part of "self".

Matthew 5:43-48 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society

Love for Enemies
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect

Friday, August 11, 2006

Laying Down Our Stones

Deuteronomy 8:7 (Today's New International Version)Today's New International Version (TNIV)© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society 7 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. That visit was tough.

I wrote in my journal of October 2nd 2002:
“I went out with Robert in the morning and said out loud the terrible thing I had carried in my heart these past days. I asked him, did he ever feel like he was waiting for Dad to die, because I did. He didn’t really answer, I think I may have shocked him, and as we walked around the B & Q, the big DIY warehouse store, the words once out, were not, I realized, really true, and I repented of even thinking that about poor Dad. It is just so hard to see the existence he and Mum have, which seems so joyless at times, although I realize that value and joy in life is not for me to measure for someone else. I’m thankful that I was able to say to Robert how I felt at that moment though. Awful though it was to say something like that, I needed to say it out loud for the thought to be exposed to the light and die, and Robert at least understands.”

God did to help me completely forgive my father at last. All I had done was flirt with forgiveness before. Every time I thought I had laid down my anger, it always came back, seeping through like a stubborn old stain through a coat of paint.

October 5th, 2002:
"I feel that I have finally worked it all through, with the aid of Robert's good listening ear. How ironic and yet right it is that I should be reading Philip Yancey's book. On a long walk yesterday I internalized and applied the principle I had known in my head, that our forgiveness depends on our forgiveness of others. I accepted fully that we are all guilty of sin and in need of forgiveness.I thought about the account in the gospels, of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus wrote in the sand with a stick and one by one the condemning men surrounding her left.Some speculate that he wrote the names of common sins. If that is true, I am sure he didn't quantify them, "a little," or "a lot," but simply the named the sin; and his words were, "He that is without sin, let him throw the first stone." ”Without sin,” I am not, and yet my hands have been full of stones since I got here. Please forgive me Lord. I lay them down - in fact they dropped from my tightly clenched hands yesterday, from fingers loosened by your grace. Dearest, precious Lord, how could I ever have led that study on Philip Yancey's book without this time away? Well, I could have led it, but it would have been as a hypocrite, whether I knew it or not. I feel incredibly light and free."

Less than one month into 2003, my father died. I'm so grateful for the gift of the complete forgiveness and grace God gave me before that. Recognizing and acknowledging the level playing field we all stand on when it comes to sin, enabled me to talk to Dad about God from a place of humility, as a fellow sinner, but saved by grace. I had many signs, which I cherish, that he made his peace with God before he died.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for teaching me that we are all debtors to grace. How easy it is to forget that we are when we’re judging others. I thank you for the gentle tutelage of the Holy Spirit, for your mercy and love.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

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 being a glove into which God can place his hand and touch others. I don't want the glove to be grimy.

A friend said to me yesterday that she wants to let her light shine; an analogy that Jesus used, saying that our light should not be hidden under a bowl (see Matthew 5:14-15 above). The bowl could represent the things in our lives that obscure the light of Christ. There was nothing in Jesus that clouded the glory of God.

Jesus was against legalism, which is the danger when we focus on "getting it right" ourselves, but he said about the law:"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."Matthew 5:17

He was talking about writing the law on our hearts, the law of love that causes us to bow our knees in glad obedience to him because we love him and want others to know him too.

Prayer: Lord, may every impulse be guided by this motivation, "to know you, and make you known." Moment by moment be my guide, my help, in the choices I make, the things I expose myself too, all for the glory of God.


Ephesians 2:8 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

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 Christ. I wonder, have I yet set foot on that path, or gone more than a few steps? Whatever span of life remains to me, long or short, I want him to have all of me.

Prayer: Dear Lord, there are areas in me that need to die, places of compromise, places of weakness. Please show me how to let go of the things that diminish your life in me. I want to know you fully.

Philippians 3:8-9 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

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 dire consequences for anyone who treated them as anything other than holy to the Lord.

Gold, frankincense and myrrh; all key ingredients in the preparations of the Tabernacle, the place God instructed the Israelites to build for his holy Presence to dwell with his people.

Many hundreds of years later, a baby would be born in Bethlehem, a holy child; his name - Immanuel - God with us. Matthew writes of the mysterious visitors, known only as Magi, who by tradition have been called wise men or kings, and who came searching for the one, "Born King of the Jews," so that they could worship him. Matthew writes about their visit:

Matthew 2:11 (Today's New International Version)
Today's New International Version (TNIV)
© Copyright 2001, 2005 by International Bible Society

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

These gifts are said to represent Jesus' kingship, priesthood and sacrificial death. God's precious word today reminds me of his initiative in coming to us in all of his beauty and holiness and of the Magi's provision of the symbols of his Presence come to dwell with mankind.

Prayer: Dear Lord I want to offer anew a place for you to dwell in me, in my world and in my day. Sanctify me, be in me O Lord, and may the fragrance of your presence cling to me. With the Magi of old, I bow in worship to you.

Monday, August 07, 2006

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 tomorrow!

Matthew 4:4 reminded me this morning that there is another type of food that nourishes a part of me that will never die. If I neglect the spiritual food of the Word of God, the results won't be immediately evident, but Jesus said that as necessary as bread is to live on, so is the Word. If I make it a non negotiable habit to feed on it daily I will develop spiritual muscle and vibrancy. When the pressure is on, I'll have resources to draw on that won't fail me. Priorities are so hard to balance in the busy lifestyle we live with these days, but time with God has to be number one.

Prayer: Lord, I commit my time, my priorities to you. Listening for your voice through your Word and through prayer is more important than anything else. I commit my goals for physical health to you too and ask for your help and blessing.

Proverbs 3:7-8 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
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 seated in the midst of a family of nine, of East Indian origin, en route to a family wedding in Toronto. During the seven hour flight, as we chatted, it was easy to see the strong commitment to family and the affection between the three generations on the flight. I learned of the beautiful saris in gossamer delicate silk - turquoise, royal blue and black, for the various events leading up to, as well as for, the wedding.

As I continued to talk with the couple that shared my row of seats, it wasn't long before two of us realized that we shared a culture in common - that of a faith in Christ. Her name was Panna and her vacation reading included the book, "What's So Amazing About Grace," by Philip Yancey, a book I told her God had used four years ago to bring healing and forgiveness to my heart. Before the flight ended we were friends and had exchanged cards and email addresses and she had given me one of her books, "Hungry for More of Jesus," by David Wilkerson because she felt she was supposed to do so. Such is the family of God.

No matter our culture, in Christ we are made new, and from the moment of our adoption into his family, we have new ways of being to learn and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Just as other cultures do, the family of God has some gained some quirks along the way. I believe we need to recognize them, laugh at them and ask ourselves where they came from and why and then whether they belong in our lives after all. Most of all, may the holiness of Jesus cling to us in all we do, in ever increasing measure.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I thank you for the richness and variety of the cultures of this world - and in the family of God too. My prayer this morning is that your beauty, holiness and goodness would be upon me. Help me not to misrepresent the Kingdom of Heaven through my own weakness, but to be an ambassador that rightly represents you, drawing others to you.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

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 to his own written account, Matthew did so. Later, Jesus had dinner at Matthew's house and many "sinners" and other tax collectors ate with him. People who needed to find God did not seem to experience judgment in Jesus' presence, although the "religious" people questioned and complained about his choice of dinner companions. Jesus' response was that these were exactly the people he needed to be with. He didn't come for those who thought they "had it all together," but for those who knew they didn't.

Zaccheus, the other tax collector, large of wallet, but small of stature, got what he thought was a bird's eye view of Jesus from a sycamore-fig tree. He got more than he expected when Jesus called him down and invited himself to his home for dinner - causing further outrage amongs the religious folk for mingling with "sinners." Zacheus was quick to welcome Jesus though, and his life was immediately and radically changed by Jesus' holy presence.

What does this mean for me? I think it means to go where people are who need Jesus and to carry him with me. Then I think it means that I need to be ready for his agenda, ready to give an answer to those who are drawn to him in me (1Peter 3:15), and ready too, for the fact that for some there will be no response. Not everyone responded to Jesus when he was here in person.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please fill me with this love of yours more and more, both for the transforming of my life and for those of others. I pray for those with whom you've placed me in relationship, that your Kingdom will be furthered in their lives.

1 Peter 3:15 (New International Version)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.