Saturday, September 30, 2006

All for the Glory of God

John 5:19 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
19Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

This morning I'm reflecting on how wonderful it is to be able to rely on God's guidance for our lives. The text, John 5:19, is our pattern; Jesus relied on God's leading while he was on earth.

I've learned that when I follow the principle of doing whatever he says, his plan for my life evolves in a way that has the touch of the Holy, unfolding in a mysterious and wonderful way.

Isaiah 52:12b says, "For the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rearguard."

Part of my morning reading was Matthew 25 in which is the parable of the servants who were loaned money and challenged to invest it well, meaning that we have a responsibility to live fruitful lives for God. I heard his voice in the story of the sheep and the goats, representing those who belonged to God and those who didn't -- the dividing line being whether people were doing the work of the Lord or not -- feeding the hungry and thirsty, inviting in the stranger, clothing those in need and visiting the sick and the prisoner. It all seemed to emphasize that we are here for a purpose beyond ourselves. What is most important is finding God's purpose and doing it, moment by moment and for as long as God gives us breath!

Lord, my life on a large and small scale is a series of choices between self and others. You laid down your life for us, and we are to do that for each other. I want to stay so close to you that I hear even the whisper of your voice and follow it.

1 Corinthians 10:31 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
31So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Friday, September 29, 2006

High Horses and Other Modes of Transport

Proverbs 16:18 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.

My eyes fluttered open as the grey light of dawn filtered into my room. Stretching in the warm cocoon of my bed, I reached into the crispy cold air of my bedroom with my outstretched arms. Something important was tugging at my sleepy brain, and slowly I remembered; I had an adventure planned for this morning!

As quietly as I could, I slipped from between the covers. Shivering and teeth chattering, I quickly dressed and padded downstairs, careful not to wake my sleeping parents and brother. My parents certainly wouldn't have understood my mission -- and my brother, three years younger, would have wanted to tag along.

Leaving the still silent house with a couple of apples in my pocket, I stepped out into a world already alive with chirping, twittering bird-song and began to run through the frosty grass towards the meadow.

There she stood, my friend Merrylegs; and at my approach she walked towards the fence, the breath from her nostrils hanging in the cold air. Her warm velvety nose nuzzled into my outstretched hand, her lips feeling for the juicy apple to munch.

I climbed over the fence and jumped to the ground, landing with a thud. My aim was to ride Merrylegs, but I'd never ridden a horse, and all of a sudden, standing right beside her, I realized how high she stood. After a few valiant attempts to jump on, which she patiently tolerated, I realized that my fantasy of galloping around the field would be unfulfilled, that day at least!

This was my first encounter with a "high horse," but not my last. Every now and then it seems, a "high horse" gallops into view and unlike my experience with Merrylegs, it is all too easy to climb up on them. It's not a trait I like and I'm learning to dismount as soon as I realize I'm up there. It's a height I'd rather not fall from.

I think about Jesus, who chose a very different mode of transport. A king who rode a donkey-- a beast that speaks of humility. How different from my "high horse" that speaks of self and pride.

Dear Lord, please help me, when I feel the "high horse" trotting into my vicinity, to look around instead for the donkey. Please transform me, help me to choose the path of gentleness and humility.

Zechariah 9:9 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

The Coming of Zion's King

9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!
Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and having salvation,
gentle and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Apologetic Christian

Matthew 24:30 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
30"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.

"And all the nations of the world will mourn..."

The mind is an interesting thing. It has the ability to block out certain information and then live in denial of the true facts. Mine did this tonight when I ate a helping of apple crisp and ice-cream, while reading Weight Watchers magazine. If I really thought about it, those two activities don't really go together, but tonight, in my kitchen, strangely, they did!

We ignore reality and live our lives as if we will go on forever and I wonder if we really believe that Jesus will return. Oh, I know that on one level if we belong to Christ, we believe it, but do we live as if it's true?

"And all the nations of the world will mourn..."

It's possible that people who know me could be in that number of post Second Coming mourners, and at the moment they could be mourning because they never knew about Jesus until it was too late.

Someone was telling me today, how they would define a Christian. They said something that stuck with me, "A Christian is someone who doesn't keep what they know to themself."

When at 16 I first became really serious about my faith, I enthusiastically and earnestly drove my non-believing father to hide behind his newspaper in self defense. I'm not advocating that type of insensitivity to the Holy Spirit, but now I am too polite, too apologetic in a world that desperately needs to "know what I know."

I would give my life for the fact that Jesus came once, fulfilling in detail the prophecies about his birth, life and death and that he will come again, fulfilling the prophecies about his second coming. Why don't I live as if I believe it's true?

Dear Lord, please open my eyes, my ears and my spirit to those around me in whose lives you may be working. Give me more holy boldness and passion for the lost. I want to care more, be ready, when you open the door, to tell what I know, and be watching and praying for that to happen.

Matthew 24:37-38 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Light has Come

Isaiah 60:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
The Glory of Zion

1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

I looked out on the land at the dawn of a new day. Long pointed light fingers spread across the fields, vivid green and mustard yellow; each lighting up the portion of field they landed on.

The beautiful colours disappeared as clouds drifted across the sun, and the fields momentarily looked muted and gray. The light was what had brought the colours to life like a paintbrush dipped in water brings out the colours on the pages of a “Paint with Water” book.

The touch of God’s light clothes us with exquisite colour, creating beauty, reflecting his glory. But the glory and beauty are not about the stuff they land upon! As God wishes he may “hide us” for a period of time, or display his glory through us.

Dear Lord, there is so much “self” alive and kicking in me, but what I want to be is that blade of grass in the field, waiting only for the light to dance upon it and to turn it to intense green or gold. I want to live to reflect your glory.

Isaiah 9:2 (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.

2The people who walk in darkness will see a great light--a light that will shine on all who live in the land where death casts its shadow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Called By Name

By Ezra Connection

“What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line.” Amos 7:8
“What do you see, Amos?” “A basket of summer fruit.” Amos 8:2
Then I said, “Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth...What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see a rod of an almond tree.” Jeremiah 1:6, 11
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” I Kings 19:13.

As I pulled out a much-used Bible translation from past years, I read Amos 7. It’s odd sometimes how the simple rearrangement of words on a page can trigger a fresh response. When I read the question, “What do you see, Amos?” the name of the prophet started the next line down, and so jumped out at me.

Hearing someone called by name startled me. In the middle of a conversation, why was God addressing Amos by name? The Lord already had his attention.

My mind leaped back to our Grade 9 introduction to Latin, and the marvel of yet a sixth case ending that we had to learn for nouns—the Vocative Case. At first, we learned to use this case of address when approaching a king. O King, we bring you greetings! O King—with a comma in English, but the vocative in Latin. Either a comma before or after. A comma, to allow time for a bow of reverence.

Today, we use the vocative case when we call a friend to get her attention—Hi, Claire!—but in Amos, God was already in a conversation with Amos. Nor was the Lord using the name to offer obeisance. Instead, I began to imagine how God was putting his hand on Amos’s shoulder, helping him to focus. Quietly, the discussion changed from being audible to everyone, to being an intimate one-on-one whisper.

“Amos! Now I am talking to you alone. YOU are the one in my plans. I need you to see what I am showing YOU.”

I wonder if lately the Lord might have been asking me in a whisper, “What do you see, Claire?” I wonder if I have been listening. Do I notice what he is showing me, or see the unusual places where his Spirit is at work? Have I sensed a firm, but gentle, hand on my shoulder, trying to get my attention?

Oh Lord (comma), I bow in worship to acknowledge that YOU are my Lord. You chose to use Amos, who said that he merely worked on a farm, as a nipper of figs. Help me to really get your message when you choose to use me, too, your simple handmaiden, for your glory. Help me to listen for those special times when you call me by name. Amen.

“Tabitha, arise!” Acts 9:40

Monday, September 25, 2006

Joy Comes in the Morning

Matthew 28:1 (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.
Matthew 28
1 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to see the tomb.

What a sense of fresh newness there is in those words; "Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning..." The peace and hush of the early hour is almost tangible.

The anguish, agony and unanswered questions of the preceding days were momentarily forgotten as Mary Magdelene and "the other Mary" went out to see the tomb. Their feet must have run through grass still wet with morning dew and the morning breeze must have caught the fragrance of the precious ointment they carried to anoint Jesus' body and danced it around them.

Did they brace themselves against the flood of overwhelming emotion that must have filled their hearts? Did they blink back tears with determination and swallow back the sobs of sorrow that rose in their throats as I would have done? Or did their tears flow freely as they approached the place where Jesus had been laid?

Ah, but a "new day was dawning," and what a day it would be! Within the next few moments, events unfolded that forever lifted the weight of sorrow from their hearts. Nothing was as they expected. There was an earthquake, an angel, a stone rolled away; an empty tomb, and, as if that wasn't enough; as they ran to share all of this with the other disciples, there was Jesus himself.

I have a favourite scene in the movie "Steel Magnolias" where Sally Field plays a mother who has just buried her daughter. She holds it all together during the funeral, but it's obvious from her tight lips and anguished eyes that she's a mass of emotion ready to explode. In the cemetary afterwards, with her close friends, she lets go, unleashing a torrent of emotion, mostly anger, that this has happened. One of her friends grabs "Weezer," a crusty old soul, and holds her in front of Sally Field's character. "Go on," she says, holding her like a sacrificial lamb,"Hit Weezer." The actors carry the audience with them on a roller coaster of emotion, ending with tears of laughter at this crazy moment of humour in the midst of such wrenching grief. I imagine the Marys felt something like that roller coaster.

The God I have come to know, is like that. He turns everything upside down; the dead live, the poor are invited to a banquet, the sinner who returns is clothed in the finest robe. And joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
5 For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may remain for a night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Flocking Instinct

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (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.
9b
... "No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him."
10But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God's deep secrets.

A gentle evening rain is falling with a soft snapping and crackling like logs ablaze on a winter fire. From the highway I hear car tires smoosh as they pass by, and the late night chorus of field insects chirp their September song. A fresh breeze wafts through the window beside me; a welcome visitor, cooling the day warmed room.

Tonight there is one less friend in this world and one more in heaven. I imagine the breeze is perfect there.

Two weeks ago (it seems like so much longer), our worship team gathered before the service to practice. Someone said that Bob wouldn't be there; he wasn't feeling well. Those ordinary words gave no clue to the true gravity of Bob's condition, but before days end he was in an intense battle for his life, his body under assault by a massive infection.

Yesterday the great, kind heart that we all loved so dearly, stopped and was restarted, several times. As the urgency of the need for prayer was evident, the news traveled in concentric circles, like ripples on a pond, by phone and email. The Body prayed as one.

There was no concentrating on anything else as we kept our vigil, answering each ring of the phone with hesitance and apprehension. Finally at 11.10 p.m the call came; the unthinkable had really happened, "our Bob" was gone.

The need to "be together" was so strong that again via phone and email we processed the sad news, prayed and mourned. We felt the need to "flock", and it helped.

Our hearts go out to Bob's dear Evelyn and his children and grandchildren. We don't understand, but we trust in God's goodness. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

Psalm 49:15 (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.
15 But as for me, God will redeem my life.
He will snatch me from the power of death.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Miracle of Life

Genesis 1:20-21 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
20 And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

In 1997 the world watched in wonder as the Hubble telescope sent back the clearest pictures ever viewed of Mars. When the Mars Pathfinder landed in July, I happened to be reading the Genesis account of creation. I found myself contrasting the search of man for signs of life elsewhere in the universe, with the teeming variety of life on our planet earth. Breathtaking in their beauty as the images from space were, there was no sign of life.

Around this time I watched a natural history show on television that was attempting to explain how creatures first learned to fly. It amazed me that anyone would find it easier to believe that a landbound creature developed the ability to fly, than to believe in a creator God.

I pondered the difference between man and the other species of life on earth and the fact that man seeks other intelligent life in the universe. Life in any form is such an incredible miracle; life on earth that reflects and reasons, is life in God's image.

Romans 1:18-20 (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.
18But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. 19For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20 From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Missing Piece

Genesis 2:21-24 (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.
21So the LORD God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adam's ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam.
23"At last!" Adam exclaimed. "She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called `woman,' because she was taken out of a man." 24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

Eve was created from Adam's rib. When Adam and Eve came together, they completed one another; there was part of him missing until they became one.

God uses the relationship of husband and wife to describe Christ and the Church. If Adam was incomplete without Eve, could it be that God is incomplete without us? Did he take part of himself and place it in us when he created us in his image and does that mean that there is not only a God shaped vacuum in man, but also a man shaped vacuum in God? Is that the love story of all time; God's longing for us; making himself vulnerable and needy of us; not of our praise, but of our heartfelt love? A love that really doesn't need the beloved one, wouldn't make much sense after all.

Dear Lord, you pursue us and woo us to yourself, showering us with gifts of love. Your love is so extravagant and sacrificial. Help me to love like that.

John 17:21-22 (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.
21My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father--that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.
22"I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are--

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Holy Ground

Genesis 2:7 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

5-7 At the time God made Earth and Heaven, before any grasses or shrubs had sprouted from the ground—God hadn't yet sent rain on Earth, nor was there anyone around to work the ground (the whole Earth was watered by underground springs)—God formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!

"Holy Ground," that's what we are. God made man from the ground; formed him and breathed into him a soul; "Holy Ground."

When I consider that, I want to learn to tread more carefully than I do on people's hearts; with greater gentleness, awe and reverence at what God has made.

We humans have a proclivity for judging others. I think that may have been what was meant by the original temptation of the serpent in the garden; that we "would be just like God, knowing everything, both good and evil." That right; the right to judge, is God's prerogative alone, for he alone knows everything; all of a man's days, his heart, his hurts and anxieties. We are safe in his hands.

I want to have a childlike heart, a heart without judgment; to understand what real acceptance of people is; to stop trying to "explain" others and learn to listen better as they explain themselves - if they choose to do so.

Dear Lord, please forgive me for daring to form judgments. I want to love as you love, for that you have told us to do.

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13 (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.
12And may the Lord make your love grow and overflow to each other and to everyone else, just as our love overflows toward you. 13As a result, Christ will make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy when you stand before God our Father on that day when our Lord Jesus comes with all those who belong to him.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

God Cares for His Children

I was with my mother in the emergency room of the hospital, waiting her turn to be treated for a relatively minor injury she'd sustained in a fall, when a young woman walked in whose calm voice seemed out of sync with the urgent message she delivered. "Excuse me," she said, "My father is having a stroke right outside the hospital. He needs help, immediately."

I began to pray for him right away, that he would be treated quickly and the damage would be minimal. I added these prayers to the ones for the baby boy who I'd heard was born five weeks early and those for a young woman who looked pregnant but who was sitting in distress and crying in the waiting room.

A few moments later the daughter of the man who was having the stroke came back into the waiting room to use the phone next to our seats. To the person at the other end she said, again with calm urgency, "This is serious, listen carefully, I'm at the hospital with Dad and he is having a stroke." She then instructed the person to call several people, asking them in turn to call others, "But first," she said, "Tell them to pray."

I was overwhelmed with emotion, knowing that almost as soon as she entered the hospital, I had begun to pray. I was very aware of God's care for her and for her father, and moved at the knowledge that he would place me there at just the right time.

I would have loved to tell her that someone had been praying all along, but I didn't have an opportunity. She never knew that God had her dad covered.

All of this happened in September, while my mother was with me on vacation. Three weeks later she flew home to England and within a week of her return she had a stroke outside the village post office, just after mailing me a letter. Being three thousand miles away I felt so helpless and far away, but I was comforted as I remembered the incident in the hospital. God was close at hand to watch over my precious mother, just as he had over someone else's father.

Psalm 91:11 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Crowds and Cross Carriers

Luke 14:25 -27 (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.

The Cost of Being a Disciple
25 Great crowds were following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26"If you want to be my follower you must love me more than your own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, more than your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27And you cannot be my disciple if you do not carry your own cross and follow me.

“Great crowds were following Jesus…” No CNN available but large numbers tagged along to hear him.

Some were just curious, “Who was this man?”

Some were there because of the controversy caused by his conflict with the Pharisees.

Yes, Pharisees and people from the Roman government no doubt would have been there amongst the crowd.

There would have been opportunists; Fish Shops to feed the hungry, or sellers of “Furniture made by the Carpenter who heals!”

From a worldly perspective a crowd brings security, but Jesus wasn’t impressed by crowds, he saw people one at a time. And he made it clear that casual association wasn’t enough to enter the Kingdom. He called for "all out cross carriers.”

"Cross Carriers"…they would be “dead men walking” as far as this world was concerned; dead to the world and dead to self. Using the cross as an invitation to follow (verse 27) was not exactly good public relations; didn’t anyone tell this Rabbi that? Yet, amongst the crowds that massed around him, one at a time there were hearts and souls that said, “Yes.”

Lord, I want to be a Cross Carrier, not just a face in the crowd. I may stumble many times along the way, but I want you to recognize me when we meet one day.

Luke 13:22-27 (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.

The Narrow Door
22 Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few be saved?"
He replied, 24 "The door to heaven is narrow. Work hard to get in, because many will try to enter, 25 but when the head of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. Then you will stand outside knocking and pleading, `Lord, open the door for us!' But he will reply, `I do not know you.' 26 You will say, `But we ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' 27 And he will reply, `I tell you, I don't know you. Go away, all you who do evil.'

Monday, September 18, 2006

Standing and Staring

"What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?" WH Davies"

I stood and stared this morning. Coffee pot in hand, I glanced out of my kitchen window and I was lost, done for; entranced by beauty that held my gaze and wouldn’t let go.

In the foreground, smooth lawns sloped down, dew diamonds dancing on the tips of emerald bladed grass. Beyond lay the meadow, edged with a border of goldenrod, ten feet or so deep, rising up on bright green stems and crowned with plumes of yellow ochre.

The goldenrod seemed to hold in like a dam, a sea of grass that stood, feathery, silver green fingers to the sky.

Copper limbed trees, shrouded still by the morning mist and hinting at fall, rose up behind the field to the right, while to the left; the creek ran, edged by the gracefully bending and swaying, yellow-green leafy, alders. Behind all, a hill, maple forest crowned.

Dear Lord, you are the Artist of artists and I am stunned at the work of your fingers.

Psalm 8:3-9 (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 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers--
the moon and the stars you have set in place--
4 what are mortals that you should think of us,
mere humans that you should care for us?
5 For you made us only a little lower than God,
and you crowned us with glory and honor.
6 You put us in charge of everything you made,
giving us authority over all things--
7 the sheep and the cattle
and all the wild animals,
8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
9 O LORD, our Lord, the majesty of your name fills the earth!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Lord Weighs the Heart

Proverbs 21:2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

2 All a man's ways seem right to him,
but the LORD weighs the heart.

Funny how words can trigger an unrelated memory; “the Lord weighs the heart,” made me think of a friend who died three years ago. Having been institutionalized for much of her life she was victorious in a system life that crushed many a weaker spirit.

I loved her for her spirit, wit, intelligence, humour and the paradox of who she was. She had at once a childlike spirit and a vocabulary that might curl the hair of a biker. And in a world that attempted exert control; she had learned to control her environment with the skill of an orchestra conductor.

Although I could write much about my friend, what prompted me to think of her when I read the verse from Proverbs was something she would do when we’d go out for dinner together. She loved to have lemon pie for dessert and when the plates were placed on the table, she would eye the pieces of pie with their tangy lemon filling topped with the delicate, golden meringue. She would pick up both plates and test the weight of each, thereby ensuring that hers was the weightier piece. It never occurred to me to suggest that it was rude to pick the biggest piece of pie. I was always laughing too hard on the inside at her unabashed honesty and aware that my manners only hid my equal appetite for the largest piece of lemon pie.

The Lord weighs the heart; he judges it perfectly and knows it through and through. He knows my thoughts and intentions and that is both comforting and discomforting!

Lord, I can hide nothing from you and I don’t want to. I open my heart before you. Your searching and uncovering are good.

Psalm 139:23-24 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Rest

Genesis 2:2-3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

"Rest;" what a significant word for those of us who are so "rest-less." It is so hard for us to imagine a time empty of anything but "rest." We mess it up, twist it around in our heads, making what really is a gift, into a list of things we shouldn't do.

Imagine if we experienced Sabbath as a 24 hour retreat sometimes. It sounds almost unbelievably indulgent; but why not? The Hebrew word used in Strongs Concordance,(7673) implies, "to repose, i.e. desist from exertion, to cease, to celebrate; still."

I wonder if resting on the seventh day is what makes it holy. I am laughing to myself as I think of how, if there is any space at all in that day, we fill it up with leisure "activities!" I just realized how funny that is and how mutually exclusive those words might be.

Dear Father, please forgive us for "missing it," thank you for giving us 24 hours each week to be Sabbath; rest. Thinking about it makes me long for it as you intended it. I can't help but think that in this frenetic world, if your people truly demonstrated "rest," it would be a wonderful thing. Please teach us to rest as you intended. I'm afraid it seems an elusive gift on a weekend full of many things to "do." Please help me to capture it - sacred, holy, quiet, peaceful, still - Sabbath!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Cost of Grace

Leviticus 9:7-9 (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.
7Then Moses said to Aaron, "Approach the altar and present your sin offering and your whole burnt offering to make atonement for yourself. Then present the offerings to make atonement for the people, just as the LORD has commanded."
8So Aaron went to the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sin offering for himself. 9 His sons brought him the blood, and he dipped his finger into it and put it on the horns of the altar. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar.

Verse 5 of chapter 9 of Leviticus says that "the entire assembly came near and stood before the Lord," (N.I.V.) and then the chapter goes on to describe the slaughtering of the calf, lamb, goat, ox and ram, as sin and burnt offerings.

Slaughtering animals, blood being sprinkled and poured on various parts of the altar, and the various parts of the animals' bodies being used in the ceremony; pretty gruesome stuff, and yet nothing God does or asks of us is without purpose. The blood and death was in atonement for the sin of the people of Israel.

The law required constant sacrifices; great effort and work, to maintain relationship - fellowship - between man and God. While this was an imperfect system, it demonstrated that sin matters and it has a cost; a cost payable in death and blood.

All along, even before the creation of man, God knew that to dignify man with free will, was to make him vulnerable to sin. He demonstrated that the law and sacrifice would only bridge the resulting chasm between God and man imperfectly. So he planned a Perfect Sacrifice who would one day come and open up the way of grace; his own beloved Son. This is the Rock that many stumble over; the fact that there is no other way to God but by confessing our need of his grace and mercy and accepting the free gift of forgiveness of sin.


I am not skilled to understand
What God has willed, what God has planned;
I only know at his right hand
Stands one who is my Saviour.

I take God at his word and deed;
Christ died to save me, this I read;
And in my heart I find a need
Of him to be my Saviour.

And was there then no other way
For God to take? I cannot say;
I only bless him, day by day,
Who saved me through my Saviour.

Dora Greenwell (1821-82)

Hebrews 10:8-10 (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.
8Christ said, "You did not want animal sacrifices or grain offerings or animals burned on the altar or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them" (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9Then he added, "Look, I have come to do your will." He cancels the first covenant in order to establish the second. 10And what God wants is for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Celebrate!

Matthew 20:8-16 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

8"When the day's work was over, the owner of the vineyard instructed his foreman, 'Call the workers in and pay them their wages. Start with the last hired and go on to the first.'
9-12"Those hired at five o'clock came up and were each given a dollar. When those who were hired first saw that, they assumed they would get far more. But they got the same, each of them one dollar. Taking the dollar, they groused angrily to the manager, 'These last workers put in only one easy hour, and you just made them equal to us, who slaved all day under a scorching sun.'
13-15"He replied to the one speaking for the rest, 'Friend, I haven't been unfair. We agreed on the wage of a dollar, didn't we? So take it and go. I decided to give to the one who came last the same as you. Can't I do what I want with my own money? Are you going to get stingy because I am generous?'
16"Here it is again, the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first."

Who hasn't read this story in Matthew 20 and sympathized with the workers who slaved all day in the hot sun? On the surface this seems like a puzzling parable. Not only did the foreman scandalize those who'd worked all day by paying those hired at the end the same amount, but he added insult to injury by paying them first!

This parable is a teaching about grace; "unmerited favour;" God's generosity to us who are so undeserving. The workers who started first, and worked all day for an expected wage, could represent those who lived under the "law." The anger of the first group of workers, certainly mirrors the anger of the Pharisees towards Jesus. It would explain their scandal at his eating, drinking and generally "hanging out with," people thought of as "sinners". Perhaps they were jealous that grace could be so freely given, when they had been working so hard at keeping rules and regulations. If their identity and self esteem was so tied up in their hard work, what did this mean to them?

I'm reminded of the story in Luke 15 (11-32) of the Prodigal Son and the "dutiful" elder brother. The elder brother was outraged at the feast that was given to the son who returned from a life of waste and wild living.

God's love is scandalously extravagant; undeserved by us. These stories tell us that we are to celebrate that we were lost, but now we're found!

Luke 15:31-32 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "

The Chief Corner Stone; Part Two

By: Claire Alexander - Ezra Connection

As I read “Slow Down, Look Closely,” and Matthew 21:42, Psalm 118:22-23 and Acts 4:11 from today’s discussion—that Jesus Christ was rejected, but is the chief Cornerstone—I was reminded of an old story heard long ago of the way the temple builders threw out the main stone because they didn’t recognize its shape.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary (printed about 1710 or 1712) hints at a well-known story connected to the references above. Under his comments in Psalm 118, he says of the Stone, “They trampled upon this Stone, threw it among the rubbish out of the city; nay, they stumbled at it.” He goes on to explain to his readers how Christ is “the Head-stone of the corner . . . the chief Corner-stone in the foundation . . . the chief Top-stone in the corner, in whom the building is completed, and who must in all things have the preeminence, as the Author and Finisher of our Faith.”

I don’t know how the Inuit today build a winter igloo from blocks when they want to go out ice-fishing, but I surmise that the blocks of snow tend to have a slight inward slant. Some block at the top must act as a lock, to anchor the others, and prevent them from falling inward.

Nor do I know the source of the story I learned in childhood, and that Matthew Henry refers to, but we know from I Kings 6:7 that the enormous temple stones were cut in the quarry, and brought fully ready to the temple site so that no sounds of metal hammers and axes would be heard. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, with an internal date of 1765, says the size of these stones of 8 and 10 cubits (21 inches a cubit) are 14 and 17.5 feet long, almost unmanageably heavy, though much bigger blocks of stone were known at the time.

Probably no one there had ever built anything with the magnitude of the temple before. The masons would measure the next huge block that had been delivered and dropped on the site, and with great effort put it in place. Undoubtedly, the whole time they kept stumbling over the huge keystone that was in their way, an irregular stone shaped like a squashed pentagon (can’t remember what we called that in math)—with the two bottom sides slanted in more like a diamond. And, finally, history tells us that they heaved the whole thing out with the rubbish.

I Peter 2 links our experience of God’s gracious provision of the milk of the Word (when we suck like hungry babies), to His preciousness. He is the living stone. We are lively stones. He is chosen, and laid ready where the Architect plans for Him to be. As we are built up, we may be broken by that stone, or we may find Him precious—we may find that He is our anchor, our key, our pin, to hold us individually and together as an arch and a building.

Lord, I thank You that You are my Top-stone. Sometimes You reveal Yourself in ways I don’t recognize—like an odd shape—or You work through me in ways that don’t fit the pattern. Help me to be so close to the milk of Your Word that I recognize who You are, and the way You show Yourself to me, so that I dare to trust You wholly. And, thank YOU for the overwhelming privilege You grant ME of finding You precious!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Slow Down, Look Closely

Matthew 21:42 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
42-44Jesus said, "Right—and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles: The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone. This is God's work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!"This is the way it is with you. God's kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed."

Do you ever find God emphasizing something he wants you to notice? It happened to me this morning. I love the way God's Word is woven together in such a mystical way. We can read but miss that, or if we care to look closely, a world of wonderful echoes and patterns emerges. I've come to believe that not one word is there by accident.

This morning I read Matthew 21, which starts out with the account of Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem. He'd already tried to prepare his twelve close followers for what lay ahead, telling them that he was going to be crucified (Matthew 20:17-19), although it's hard to believe that the truth of that really sank in. The chapter goes on to describe Jesus throwing the money changers and sellers of doves out of the temple and ends with the parable of a vineyard, a story that was an allegorical account of how Jesus' own people, the Jews, would kill him, and ending with Jesus' reference back to a verse in the psalms, saying that he would be a stone that they would stumble over.

I turned to Acts 4, and reading about Peter's address to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish rulers, elders and teachers of the law, there it was again, in verse 11, Peter saying of Jesus, "He is 'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.'" I decided to look more closely, slow down a bit and listen for anything God might be trying to get through to me! I looked up the psalm that Jesus quoted from; 118. Suddenly I saw it; this psalm is a prophesy about his crucifixion, it is linked with all of the events recorded in Matthew 21, including the cleansing of the temple, and even verse 26 of the psalm, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," is exactly what the crowds shouted to Jesus as he entered Jerusalem riding on the donkey (Matthew 21:9). How perfectly it all fits together.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for revealing the perfection and unity of your Word and for showing me that you have more and more to show us if we look more closely. How I love you.

Psalm 118:17-25 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
17-20 I didn't die. I lived! And now I'm telling the world what God did. God tested me, he pushed me hard, but he didn't hand me over to Death. Swing wide the city gates—the righteous gates! I'll walk right through and thank God! This Temple Gate belongs to God, so the victors can enter and praise. 21-25 Thank you for responding to me; you've truly become my salvation! The stone the masons discarded as flawed is now the capstone! This is God's work. We rub our eyes—we can hardly believe it! This is the very day God acted— let's celebrate and be festive! Salvation now, God. Salvation now! Oh yes, God—a free and full life!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 911

Psalm 33:22 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
22 May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

September 15th 2001
I hardly know where to begin writing about the events of the past few days. On Tuesday, September 11th, a day that will be forever remembered with great sadness, we saw unspeakable, horrifying events unfolding before our eyes on television.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m., Brenda, my daughter, called upstairs to say that the World Trade Centre in New York had been hit by a plane. I turned to a news channel and was taking in the unbelievable sight before my eyes when a second plane hit the other tower. Shortly after that a plane hit the Pentagon and we heard that a fourth plane had crashed in Pittsburg.

The human tragedy that has unfolded since is on a scale that is almost incomprehensible. There are between 3 and 4 thousand dead or missing. Individual stories have been so heart rending; many families still cling to the hope that their missing loved one will be found alive in the rubble or in a hospital.

There have been tales of heroism and examples of great courage and dignity. In this situation where the grief and despair has been overwhelming, we have seen God, prayer and his Word, be a source of strength. People have been stunned, shocked and confronted with the fragility and uncertainty of life. God has brought this good, even out of such unspeakable horror.

Prayer: Dear Lord, today we are remembering the families of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks five years ago. This day will be so hard for them; please be their strength and their comfort.

Life is infinitely precious; thank you for the gift of one more day, it is a sacred trust.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Commission

Acts 22:14-15 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
14"Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you... to know his will... and to see the Righteous One... and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen... and heard.

It's Sunday morning and I am reveling in the solitude; the silence broken only by the cosy sound of two ticking clocks.

The rest of the household is sleeping and I have the luxury of undisturbed quietness to meditate, think, pray and listen to God. Even as a child I used to love getting up early on Sunday mornings and having the house to myself, luxuriating in the peace and stillness before the day began for others too.

Thank you Lord, for the quiet and your Presence, so close and so precious.

Psalm 99:5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
5 Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Tried, Tested and True

John 15:13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

I was watching a CBC documentary that I'd bought recently, on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands. One by one, veterans shared their memories of those years, their eyes filling with tears as they remembered comrades who fell on the battlefield. I found myself scrambling for a pen to write down some of the things these heroes said. I saw a spiritual relevance and challenge in their words.

One old soldier said, "We never left anyone behind." These men who fought together and knew that they might die together, had a bond of brotherhood that few of us in peace time can comprehend. They would risk their lives to bring their "mates" back, whether wounded or dead. The most heartbreaking thing was to leave someone on the battlefield. Shouldn't we care as deeply when someone going through a rough time drops out of sight? We can be so busy with our lives or hesitant to intrude that we do "leave people behind." We could learn from the soldiers.

Speaking of the deep bond between the men in the front lines, one of them said, "The love of the men for each other was really something." That love had a cost, as could be seen by the tears that fell. When we open ourselves and our hearts to loving people deeply, sooner or later we will experience hurt. We'll be tempted to retreat into our safety zone, behind the walls of self protection, but safety can't compare with really knowing and loving people.

One of the veterans spoke of, "The euphoria! The tanks coming closer and closer." There came a point when victory was assured; it was just a matter of time, and those tanks did finally roll into view, to an outpouring of gratitude by the Dutch people.

In the book of Acts, chapter 1, Luke writes:

Acts 1:11 (New Living Translation)
11They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven. And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!"

Prayer: Dear Lord, we are soldiers in a battle for the souls of men, women and children and yet I confess that for so long I was not engaged in the war but had wandered off the battlefield to pick flowers. Please keep my eyes open to what is at stake and please come soon Lord Jesus!

1 Peter 1:13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Be Holy 13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

All You Need is Love

2 John 1:6 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

Although the sixties are fading further into history, those of us for whom they were formative years, will remember the slogan, "Make Love Not War," and the song, "All You Need is Love," by the Beatles,one of many "Hippie Anthems." We were idealists, our heads in the clouds in many ways.

"Love" back then was a word that stood for something, but looking back I wonder what. The word was a rallying point; it sounded and felt good and right.

There were important differences that were made in the sixties; the Civil Rights movement was paid for with the blood of courageous men and women, but there were many of us who were simply in love with "love."

The apostle John in his letters, writes about a love that is tougher; not "tough love" in the accepted sense of the phrase, but love that demands something of us; that we move out of our comfort zones; that we take the blows, die to self, serve humbly and are willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. This love isn't ethereal, but strong as steel. That's the love I'd love to have. "What the World Needs Now is Love," is true, but there's only one place that real love can be found.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I will never get tired of the adventure of following you. There is no easy, boring, hum-drum pew to merely sit in, but a white water rafting challenge to engage in. I'm up for the ride Lord. Show me how to follow all the way; clear my blind spots and strengthen my weak places; build spiritual muscle in me.


1 John 3:16-18 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

16This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

The Hospitality of God

John 13:3-5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

A while ago I was thinking a lot about the subject of hospitality, particularly God's hospitality - his example - the God who welcomes us.

We read in John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."

He anoints our head with oil and spreads a table before us! God creates a place of welcome for us, treats us as an honoured guest; how much more should we do so for one another. I think it pleases him when we reflect this part of who he is to each other, showing honour, courtesy, kindness and graciousness in our dealings with one another.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to be like the woman who poured the expensive perfume over your feet in my interactions with those around me, for you tell us that what we do to others, we do to you. Help me be lavish in my love of others, as you are lavish in your love for us.


Psalm 23:5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Remember Him - Now!

Ecclesiastes 12:6-7 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
or the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
or the wheel broken at the well,

7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.


King Solomon in his book of Ecclesiastes, written almost three thousand years ago, has much of value to say to us today.

He was the king who had everything and was jaded with life. In chapter 12 there is a beautifully poetic description of old age and then death - and an urging, "Remember him...before the days of trouble come," and, "Remember him - before the silver cord is severed..."

What a message; not just for youth, but for all of us - "Remember him..;" now.

What we have to do, let's do it now, do it quickly - time is running out for all of us, even if silently, unseen and unnoticed most of the time. Oh, be aware of that! Cherish the moments now, when you can still direct your life and make a difference; when you can still grow and be changed by him.


Ecclesiastes 12:13 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society



13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Caring, Sharing, Forgiving

Mark 11:25 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

25And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

It was a few years ago when we went out into the sunny fall day, she and I, using a walk as an opportunity for her to tell me something she said she had on her mind.

The crisp air carried the pungent smell of earth and the smoke of a distant bonfire.On the bright green grass below our feet were scattered big yellow leaves and as we walked on, they disappeared and we found ourselves crunching through brown, brittle ones. We waded through places where the wind had piled them several inches deep and as we swished on, it felt and sounded like we were splashing through ocean waves.

If she had something to say, it wasn't coming out, for she talked about anything and everything under the sun for ten full minutes, without pausing. She walked head down, leaning forward, like an arrow shot from a bow, and I had to walk quicker than my normal pace, just to keep up with her.

I laughingly told her that we could slow down a little, and encouraged her to "spit it out." She took a deep breath and told me the details of how I had offended her. From the depths of my memory, the facts as she told them, resonated with familiarity. It had been several weeks ago, the details forgotten until she refreshed my memory, but now that they were coming back to me, I could see that I had indeed been insensitive and careless. I agreed with her recollection and asked her forgiveness, which she readily gave. She had carried hurt and dismay for several weeks and the enemy had used it to hinder her freedom. I was grateful that she had gathered her courage together and talked about it.

That night as I drove home, thinking of our walk in the leaves, I passed a large flag fluttering high against the blue sky, our beloved Canadian Maple Leaf, splashed red on a white background. It reminded me of Christ's blood, spilled to bring reconciliation between God and man. Being reconciled to each other is part of the deal he said more than once. It's not much fun engaging in the process, whether you're the offender or the offended one, but how the enemy hates it when we choose to stop ruminating over a hurt and actually practise what Jesus teaches us to do; search our hearts, talk, listen, confess to and forgive one another.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Peter and the Point of View

Perspective, or point of view, is interesting. Some of us are predisposed to tend towards the negative point of view and others are more naturally prone to see things positively. And this is simply looking at our default perspective, not at any outside factors that influence our thinking.

As if God wanted to give us a practical demonstration of three possibilities of point of view, Peter in the space of a very short period of time, over chapters 15 and 16 of Matthew, obliges us.

Matthew 15:15-16 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
15Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."
16"Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them.

Jesus had been teaching on the hopelessness of "religion" and on legalism. Peter however was slow to understand; his mind was clouded by the enemy.

A little while later, when Jesus and his followers had reached Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his followers who men said that he was, and then who they said that he was. Peter, with boldness and brilliant insight, declared Jesus to be the Messiah. Jesus told him that the Father had revealed this to him:

Matthew 16:15-17 (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.
15Then he asked them, "Who do you say I am?"
16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
17Jesus replied, "You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.

Finally, Peter shows the danger of looking at a situation from human logic; not a good thing in situations involving God. He spoke without waiting to hear God's voice and as a result he opened himself to a point of view influenced by Satan. Though the words he spoke seemed to be loyal and loving, they were actually opposing the will and plan of God.

Matthew 16:21-23 (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.
Jesus Predicts His Death 21From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that he had to go to Jerusalem, and he told them what would happen to him there. He would suffer at the hands of the leaders and the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, and he would be raised on the third day.
22 But Peter took him aside and corrected him. "Heaven forbid, Lord," he said. "This will never happen to you!"
23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God's."

Three possibilities for point of view:

Blindness and confusion caused by the god of this world, Satan.

Revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit, and...

Human logic, which looks good on the surface, but can be and often is, in opposition to God's ways and purposes.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for showing me how easy it is to be "dull" or in need of a rebuke for my point of view. Thank you that you never hide your plans and purposes from us but we do need to stay close to you, spend time in your Word, listen, pray and put on the spiritual armour that protects us from the wiles of the enemy.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (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.
10A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. 11Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

God's Great Love

Zephaniah 3:17 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
17 The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

Earlier this week I wrote about Eliezer bringing Rebekah as a bride to Isaac, just as the Holy Spirit brings us to Jesus. Since then, I've continued to ponder the depth of love that Jesus has for us on an individual basis. I don't think we come close to comprehending the depth of that love and I think it would be a very good thing for us to understand it more fully.

My mother's love is the closest human comparison I can think of to God's love. I remember how I once looked down at her face from the platform where I was practising with our worship team. She had come along to keep me company that evening and as she watched us, her eyes were ablaze with love. That image has stayed with me, and often as I'm singing I look down at the pew where she sat that night and picture her there. God's eyes blaze with love for us, and since any human similarity can only be a dim reflection of who God is, I can only imagine the intensity of the love in his gaze.

His relationship with us is personal, alive, dynamic and intimate, mysterious and filled with love gifts and signs of affection.

I wrote on August 7th, in a post titled, "The Culture of Heaven," about my flight back to Canada from England and the East Indian family I traveled with that was such good company. One of them, Panna, was a believer and as she was telling me of the books she was taking with her to read in Canada, she pulled one from her bag and said, "I feel I'm supposed to give you this." That small book, published by Rickfords Hill Publishing as one of their "One Pound Classics," was a gift straight from the hand of God. How grateful I am that Panna didn't hesitate to obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The book, "Hungry for More of Jesus," by David Wilkerson, has been speaking to me like a letter directly from God. So much of what he has been saying to me in prayer and through his Word, has been confirmed and reinforced by what David Wilkerson has to say. After I wrote about Eliezer and Rebekah, I found the same story in the book, in a chapter called, "Walking in the Spirit." David Wilkerson wrote that Eliezer's name means "mighty, divine, helper." I can't count the number of times that I've read a few pages, then gently closed the book, breathing a prayer that said, "Thank you so much for this book." This is just one small example of the reality of relationship with him and his delight in blessing us.

Often when I think of heaven, I think of the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy," and the imagery in the book of Revelation describing his awe inspiring Presence, but lately I've been thinking of what it will be like to be in the presence of such love. It will be a love that is returned with all my heart.

Revelation 21:3-4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Blindness

Matthew 15:1-3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
Matthew 15
1Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2"Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"
3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?

Crowds thronged to the rabbi Jesus. Word spread rapidly when he arrived on foot or by boat and people came, some to hear what he had to say and to try to understand his unconventional teachings, others brought their sick family members or friends, and no wonder, for everywhere he went, the lame walked and the blind saw; chains of every kind were broken.

Amongst the crowds, unseen by human eye, mingled other beings. They knew who this man was and hated him. Every heart that opened to his words was a blow against their kingdom as was every withered limb made whole and every leprous person healed.

Masters at the art of division, they mounted a counter attack. They went to work, focusing on the religious leaders, of all people the ones who should have recognized Jesus as the One who was the fulfillment of the law. They capitalized on their weakness, their focus on the letter of the law. Out of their infernal arsenal they pulled Outrage, Self Righteousness, Judgment and Pride. They loved the ease with which the bait was swallowed. The biggest triumph of all was getting them so tied up in knots of criticism over the rabbi's lack of respect for man made traditions, that they were oblivious to the fact that they were themselves breaking the very command of God. Watching this unfold was so superbly satisfying. Over the Pharisees heads they slipped another favourite weapon, hoods of blindness.

The rabbi spoke words that pierced hell like arrows, quoting the ancient prophet Isaiah:

"These people honour me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men."

The demons shuddered at the truth of these words, but their work was done well and their victims remained unseeing. They turned their focus to the rabbi's followers. A vile greenish fog of confusion began to swirl around their heads. "Excuse me, Master," they said, "Do you know that you just offended the Pharisees?"

But if a lesson in manners was what they had in mind, they must have cringed at Jesus' next words.

"Blind guides!" he said, "If a blind man leads a blind man, they will both fall into the ditch."

Their minds were still befuddled by the fog of confusion and Peter asked, "Could you explain the parable to us?"

Jesus looked at his followers; Peter was one of his closest circle. "Are you still so dull?" he asked, there was no gentler way to put it, and patiently he began again to teach, breaking down the truth into the simplest of terms. What matters is the heart. The washing of the hands; that doesn't come close to what is important - the washing of the heart.

Prayer: Lord, we can all be every bit as blind as those who are recorded in this account. I pray that you will give me seeing eyes and hearing ears and a mind that understands. Please wash my heart too, dear Lord; give me a pure heart.

Matthew 5:8 (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.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.