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Showing posts from November, 2006

God of Eternal Blessings

Psalm 52:8-9 (New International Version)

8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love
for ever and ever.
9 I will praise you forever for what you have done;

in your name I will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

In these lovely verses from psalm 52, I am reminded of God's eternal Presence.

I will praise you for what you have done (vs 9) Past

I trust in God's unfailing love (vs8) Present

In your name I will hope, for your name is good (vs 9) Future

Prayer: Lord, you surround us with your blessings, in front, behind, and all around. You are good to us and how we love you. With the trees of the fields we clap our hands with joy to you. Abba Father! We love you.

On Riches

1 Timothy 6:17 (New International Version)

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Paul writes to Timothy, "Command those who are rich in this present world..." These words are a reminder that our stay here is temporary.

I found some notes I'd made when I read these verses at some other time. I had written, "Our concern should be whether we are rich in the world to come." This sounds categorical in the cold light of day! How easy to write and how hard to do.

Instructions follow, in verses 18-19, for ways to be rich in the world to come: being rich in good deeds, being generous, willing to share.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (New International Version)

18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a fir…

Culture Shock

1 Timothy 6:16 (New Living Translation)
16 He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him. No human eye has ever seen him, nor ever will. All honor and power to him forever! Amen.

Psalm 104.2a "He wraps himself in light as with a garment;"

Living in North America we are spoiled. We take for granted amenities that the rest of the world considers the height of luxury.

My Mum recently moved into a cozy, warm flat, but not so long ago when I would go back to England for visits I experienced culture shock, especially in the winter. Mum and Dad lived in a humble house, with built in ventilation. No shortage of fresh air! There was a gas fire in the living room, around which we would all try to warm at least the side of our bodies that faced it while the other side tensed with cold. There was always careful discussion between my parents about whether we really needed two bars of the fire, or three. For me, keeping warm was a constant preoccup…

More Love, More Power, More of You in My LIfe

Mark 16:17-18 (Amplified Bible)

17And these attesting signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages;
18They will pick up serpents; and [even] if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will get well.


As I wrote last week, at our cell group study of Acts 2, someone said, "We serve a supernatural God and he acts in a supernatural way."

This afternoon as I sat in my cozy olive green walled, retreat and read a chapter each from the books of Numbers, Mark and Acts, the truth of those words was reaffirmed. But there is a difference between the adventures I read about in the Bible and my daily life with him.

If there is more of God to experience; more power--miracles--then I want to be counted in for that. That doesn't diminish the miracles that I do see daily--the beautiful earth he created for us to live in and enjoy and the miracle of lives changed by his p…

The Treasure of God's Word

Psalm 138:2 (Amplified Bible)

2I will worship toward Your holy temple and praise Your name for Your loving-kindness and for Your truth and faithfulness; for You have exalted above all else Your name and Your word and You have magnified Your word above all Your name!

How easy it is to read the Bible "routinely," by which I mean taking it for granted--reading it like a familiar novel. I try not to, but sometimes I do. When I think about what I'm reading and pay attention, its like the difference between someone who notices a sunset and one who doesn't.

At the moment I'm reading the book of Numbers. I discovered that it was written approximately 1,400 years before the birth of Christ. That would be about 3,400 years ago. How mind boggling is that? The people whose names are written there and the lives I'm reading about really existed, over three millenniums ago. I'm getting a view of their lives and individual spiritual journeys as well as the spiritual journey…

Affirming Gifts

Psalm 139:14 (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.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Sometimes it seems that our gifts don't exist for us until someone else acknowledges and affirms them. It is as if others need to discover them before we can do so.

We have a greater need for affirmation and encouragement than we realize. I remember giving a presentation and needing so badly to hear the words, "Well done." I had no way of knowing if the message God gave me to deliver had reached its mark until I heard someone mention it later in the day.

As a result of realizing my own neediness, I forced myself out of it to affirm three other people who had also made presentations. I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was, to find them equally insecure. They responded with …

The Good Cry

Luke 7:38 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Having family in England, I fly home frequently to visit. I always board the plane wondering who will share that cramped space with me for the next seven hours. There are no rules of etiquette to govern relationships with the people you elbow over meals or climb over to get to the washroom. It always seems that we are thrust into a sudden relationship that is somewhat like a blind date. It has the potential for a pleasant few hours spent together--or it could go badly wrong!

I've had some interesting conversations on plane journeys and made some friends who continue to stay in touch. I was reminded of one such connection this week.

It was several hours into the flight before we spoke. I think h…

She Came Bursting

Isaiah 44:3 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.

At the dawn of this day the sky was soft baby blue fading to shell pink on the horizon. The grass was frost silvered and the stand of trees on the hill was hazy, dark charcoal gray in silhouette.

The sun went down at the end of the day in plumes of deep raspberry, flung across deep turquoise and overlaid with the black lace trees. God's palette for each day is different and it is always stunningly beautiful!

I think again of last evening. Seven of us gathered after supper for a bible study on the book of Acts. Six attend a Pentecostal church, while one of us is of Baptist background.

Someone was thirsty for more of God and their yearning stirred something within us all. Some expressed their longing that th…

She Came Thirsty

John 4:13-14 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

13Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
It is 10.30 when the final goodbye is said. I close the door and lock it, then wander the rooms, picking up coffee cups, bibles, emptying one load from the dishwasher and putting in the next; the house suddenly quiet. I notice one bible left left behind on the hall table. The cover is blue, with a picture on the cover of a drop of water landing and sending out a ripple. The words on it say, "Living Water for those who Thirst."And, I think, she came thirsty tonight. It was supposed to be an ordinary bible study. Our cell group is studying the book of Acts and tonight was the second week, the second chapter of Acts…

Why We Need Jesus

Mark 14:12 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
The Lord's Supper
12On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"

Among Jesus' twelve disciples there were varying degrees of intimacy, but all had walked, eaten, slept and ministered with Jesus and in his Name. They were his closest friends.

The hour was approaching when Jesus would feel that he had lost connection with even his beloved Father. The process was already beginning--the trial by fire upon which the fate of the souls of all mankind depended.

As he broke the bread he said, "Take it, for this is my body," and giving the cup of wine, "This is my blood poured out for many. " Did he hold their gaze as he did this, willing them to understand?

Among his…

Religion

James 1:26-27 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I decided a while ago to continually read the gospels, along with other Bible readings in the old and new testaments. I wanted to try to stay connected with the radical simplicity of Jesus' teaching on a daily basis.

One thing I've noticed is how Jesus was always in so much trouble with the religious people. Now you would think those would be the people who would love him. After all, he was so good. He loved the Word of God and brought it to life when he spoke. He had such compassion for people. But it was those who were the opposite of rel…

Finding God

Matthew 13:44 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society
The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl
44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Finding God is easy and it is hard. He wants to be known, but there are obstacles set against us knowing him. We live in a fast paced culture. We want everything quickly--yesterday would be nice.

Finding out who he really is takes effort and quantities of time. We are not given to spending effort and much time on searching for God in this day and age. But we cannot trust or rely on anything other than a personal quest to know him. He will be found by those who seek him and the effort is worth everything.

Sometimes being shut away, seeking him, feels as though I'm being lazy, as if it's a lot of time just sitting and reading, studying,…

Fruit

Galatians 6:9 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Yesterday I went out into the misty November day for a walk. Once out, I realized that it was gently raining, but I was committed--my body is seizing up with lack of exercise so there was to be no turning back. I decided on a short walk, but was stunned at the unexpected beauty I encountered on every hand.

The air smelled fresh and of the rain soaked earth. I noticed a Scotch Pine, each needle bearing a single droplet of water on its point, not frozen as they will be soon, but held suspended by some law of physics.

The ends of the blades of grass on the banks of a small, fast flowing rivulet, streamed in the direction of the current as if they longed to follow the merry water's flow, but the blades remained firmly rooted in place.

Black-eyed Susan fl…

The Gathering and Waiting Time

Galatians 4:4 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
4But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

From my warm room, I look through the window and see the branches of the silver birch bend, golden leafed, a bright spray, like the tail of a comet against the damp, soft grayness of this morning. A fog curtain has dropped over the stage of my beloved fields, but in front of the misty veil, the row of black alders lining the creek, stands sentinel, bare limbed. Today they seem so still and I think of how I love to watch them dancing in summer, swaying so elegantly in the slightest breeze, like exotic elephants bearing Indian princesses aloft.

Every blade of grass is still sodden from the rain that rat-tatted on the sky lights all night like a thousand million tiny needles. Any day now the fields will be blanketed by snow, but for now they wait, in that strange time in natur…

Such Love

Ephesians 3:17-19 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation

17May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
18That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God's devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
19[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ, which far surpasses mere knowledge [without experience]; that you may be filled [through all your being] unto all the fullness of God [may have the richest measure of the divine Presence, and become a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself]!


I read these verses first this morning in the New International Version of the Bible. Immediately I knew that I had to read them in the Ampli…

The Path

Psalm 37:23-24 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,

he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall,

for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

The day is cloudy, but unseasonably mild for November and the grass and fields have the look of muddy March. The dark evergreens stand straight and tall, in contrast with the rakish weeping willows whose green-yellow leaves are still clinging, on branches that trail like the fringe on an elegant shawl and sway gently in the breeze like the plumes of a large feathered fan.

I'm driving north on Bayview Avenue. Passing through Richmond Hill, the signs left over from the election the day before still line the road and I am struck by the multicultural mixture of names: Spatafora, Gandhi, Duggal, Cohen, Chan, Di Paola, Halferty, Bagsavanadis and Kahn--post election day in York Region!

A man walks al…

A Note

I have been so enjoying the book, Blue Like Jazz and sharing some quotes in posts. I wanted to be sure that doing so wasn't infringing copyright, as I had an uncomfortable feeling I might be. I checked with the publisher, Thomas Nelson Publishers, and found that I was. They were very gracious, but did ask me to remove direct quotes, from previous posts, which I have done. I feel badly for doing something not allowed, but am glad I asked the question.

Anyway, go out and buy the book. It's wonderful!

Intentional Love

Ephesians 5:2 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
2and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrificeto God.

At work we have talked a lot about the "Fish Philosophy"--four principles that are so simple but that make a huge difference to the morale and effectiveness of a team. The difference happens because someone decides that they buy into the principles and decides to pay attention to them, looking for ways to bring them to life in their work. People who buy into the Fish Philosophy end up looking for ways to "make their day "(for other people), "be there" (focused on others), "play," and "choose" their "attitude." When a group of people buy into this idea, the energy and fun level goes up dramatically and even though the work doesn't change, our experience of it does.

A couple o…

A Prayer

Psalm 51:17 (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 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Dear Lord, I love you
I love the way you are
I love the way your Spirit loves people
pursuing them
winning their hearts
all of this so that you can pour out more of your love on them

Forgive me Lord
for being so weird
and so wrong, so often
it is a great wrong to blind people's eyes to Jesus
by making him seem different than he is
I've never intended to do that
but so much of me gets in the way

And now Lord you're boiling it all down
to something so simple
"to notice people who need to be loved" and love them
that's what you do
and because we are yours
that's what we must do

Doing this, it seems to me
will be hard sometimes
so I'm asking you to fill my heart
with your love
and t…

Repentance and Grace

Acts 20:21 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
21I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

In the chapter I read this morning, from Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, he and five Christian friends on the campus of Reed College, had a radical idea for Ren Fayre weekend, a festival characterized by the majority of the student body getting drunk or getting high. Donald had the idea of building a confessional booth for people to confess their sins. He meant it as a joke, but his friend, Tony the Beat Poet seized on the idea and soon a design was being drawn up and the booth built. The thing was though, that they didn't actually accept confessions, they made them; the booth was for the Christians to confess their sins to the other students.

They apologized for getting in the way of Jesus, for misrepresenting him personally, and as a mo…

Gifts that Complete

A reflection by Ezra Connection

Acts 13:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
Amplified Bible (AMP)
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Acts 13 1
NOW IN the church (assembly) at Antioch there were prophets (inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God) and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger [Black], Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Separate now for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.


Somehow, I could picture the five men mentioned, and see them earnestly praying in a group in the church in Syrian Antioch—a church a long walk north of today’s Lebanon and Israel.

The paired concept of “prophets and teachers” leaped out at me, and almost on its heels another pair, “Barnabas and Saul.” I looked back to Acts 11:19 to reread what had happened after Stephen was stoned. At that time, believers spread from Cyre…

Living for Something

James 1:22 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society
22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

This morning I read something that made me think. In "Blue Like Jazz." Donald Miller, the author, said that one of his friends, "Andrew the Protester," had challenged him to "be" what he believed. He said that Andrew taught him that what we do is what we really believe--not what we say we believe.

That would have given me enough to think about for a whole day, but there was more. The passage goes on to say that living for something is harder than dying for something and that we "live for what we believe."

Well, I'm not sure that that dying for something is easy; even dying to self is a battle! But living "for" something may indeed be harder. It's about getting our faith from our head to our heart and from our heart to our mout…

A Poem to Start the Day

Dear Lord, before I start my busy day
I come before you and I pray,
Please give me strength for every task
And keep me close by thee, that's all I ask.

The day ahead is full, the hours will fly,
and other thoughts and cares will fill my mind,
But Lord--break through the earthly noise and din,
And may my heart feel your sweet peace within.

Belinda
November 28th 1977

Basic Training

Hebrews 12:11 (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.
11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

It feels good to be coming out the end of a training tunnel. It wasn't fun being in there and I admit to feeling lower than an earthworm over the past week as I came face to face with things I didn't want to know were lurking in my heart. A friend said that one of my posts reminded her of a song by the band MercyMe, "So Long Self." I looked up the lyrics and how they fit!

Well if I come across a little bit distant
It's just because I am
Things just seem to feel a little bit different
You understand
Believe it or not but life is not apparently
About me anyways
But I have met the
One who really is worthy
So let me…

Out of the Fog

I feel as if I have been in a bit of a fog for the last few days.

Yesterday Keri, one of our blog/devo family of friends wrote to say about God:

"He never treats us with a pointed finger, a stern face or a disappointed look. Instead He has open arms and a hug saying don't you remember my little one you over came that already, now keep your eyes on me and continue on the path I made for you.

He is always compassionate and kind, full of mercy. We sometimes think of the worst and make ourselves feel stupid. But we must remember we are His children and He loves us more than we can fathom." She ended her email with, "So just say, Thanks Abba Daddy!"

Keri, thanks for your joy, and for your gentle reminder to stop wallowing!

This morning I read in Mark 10, the story of Jesus' encounter with The Rich Man. So much flows through and between the words they spoke to eachother. It's almost as if they are speaking on one level, with a much deeper meaning just below the…

Congruity

Galatians 6:15-16 (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.
15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

In a section I just read from the book, Blue Like Jazz, the author Donald Miller, was recounting a conversation he had with his pastor at a pivotal point in his spiritual journey. He said to his pastor, when explaining why he needed to opt out of teaching his College and Careers Sunday School class and go and really find God, that he had become an "infomorcial"God, but he didn't use the product.

Sometimes I feel that way too, as if I look good on the outside, but I wish there were more congruity between the things I believe and say and the thing…

Slaying the Giant

1 Thessalonians 2:8 (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 We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.

I wrote on Tuesday (Steering the Titanic), about a struggle with selfishness. The words in a song on Ali Matthews' new CD, Window of Light, poked at me this morning. The song is called, "Give it Away," and here are some of the words, written by Ali :

Look at these hands clutching so tightly
To something that might be the chance of a lifetime
The silver and gold we're holding and hiding
So clearly deciding what's yours and what's mine

Give it away
You could just let it go, you know
Love isn't love until it's what you let go of
The moment is fading and freedom is waiting
it might even come back some day
If you give it away

Look at this life, a life of abundance
You know…

When God Is Silent

Psalm 102:6-7 (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.
6 I am like an owl in the desert,
like a little owl in a far-off wilderness.
7 I lie awake,
lonely as a solitary bird on the roof.

The wind had a bite to it and early snowflakes hitched a ride on its wings and swirled around the parking lot. The local Christian bookstore was having a music sale, part of its gearing up for the Christmas season, and as I entered the store, there was the owner, a friend of mine, sitting on a walker, surrounded by Christmas decorations.

As we caught up with each other's news since we last met, I was shocked to hear that since mid May, she had been seriously ill with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which caused paralysis of her lower body, and from which she is still recovering, slowly, almost six months later.

My friend has always been a busy person, running stores in…

To This You Were Called

1 Peter 2:21-23 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
21To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, that you should follow in his steps. 22"He committed no sin, leaving you an example, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 23When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

I wrote in my post of November 1st, "One thing I know about the Bible is that it tells the truth. The heroes are all flawed; their mistakes are there for all to see."

This morning I read the text from 1 Peter, and the words, "To this you were called," resonated as I thought of my own flaws.

I think I have figured out why some people look up to me. I think it must be because I'm quiet. There's a verse in Proverbs that always makes me laugh, "Even fools are thought to be wise when …

Titanic or Treasure

By: Ezra Connection

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NRSV)

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

The recent blog with the metaphor of seeing God steer the Titanic, reminded me of another man who almost wished he could, and of someone else who showed me a glimpse of true treasure, instead.

“Tite,” though brilliant, thought of himself and his own glory. Years ago, we served briefly on the same English language committee after the Titanic had just been raised from its watery bed. Earlier, he had had the grand vision that he alone could raise it, and the glory would be …

In God We Trust

Mark 8:34-35 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
34Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

The vehicle in front of me on the road this morning caught my eye. It was a silver van with a ladder tied onto its roof and it was towing a trailer shaped like a box on wheels, filled with tools. Handles poked up at odd angles above the edge of the rusty, dark olive green trailer. What drew my attention though was a small, oblong, silver plate attached to the lower right hand corner. The gold lettering on the plate said, "In God We Trust."

I'd been thinking as I drove about the how a lot of what I'd read that morning at home, was pointing to the fact that God wants…