Renewal. (June 28, 2022) It's been a few weeks since I last posted. In the intervening time I've been to Saskatchewan to celebrate the life of my father, who passed away into the presence of Jesus, February 28. It was a time of sadness and reflection--but most of all, it was a celebration of a life well lived. Also, since my last post, I connected with a local woman who is dying of cancer. She has a very short time. Today she asked if I would come pray with her and her family.
As I think of these kinds of things, I reflect on how creation was never intended to be what it has become. Death. Wars. Covid-19. Hunger. This world has come a long way from what God called “very good” when He first made it (Genesis 1:31).
When Jesus arrived, part of His mission was to restore what God had made “very good” to its intended and original state. This is why He preached peace, healed disease, fed the hungry, and gave a place in His kingdom to the displaced of the world. In so doing, Jesus restores creation to health. Jesus’ healings are not supernatural miracles in a natural world. They are the only truly “natural” thing in a world that is broken and lost.
This begs a question: where has your life been de-created? Are you struggling with a particular sin? Is your body ravaged by illness? Are you mired in depression? Are you unable to provide for yourself or your family adequately?
In such moments, we tend to pray for miracles – acts of supernatural power worked by God Himself. That's not a bad thing. But I think that we also ought to pray for Genesis 1:31 to come to pass in our life. We should pray that the most natural thing imaginable would come to pass – that we, and the world around us, would be restored to its God-ordained and God-intended created state – that of “very good.”
Revival. (May 25, 2022) In 1904, a great spiritual revival spread throughout Wales. God’s power swept the land, and it's estimated that 150,000 people came to faith in Jesus Christ. If you look at the beginnings of that revival, it started with men & women who got serious about holiness and prayer, and seeking God with their whole hearts. They were not double-minded about it, but were exclusively committed to Jesus.
We hear or read about such stories and think: That was then, this is now. Surely Canada is too far gone. There is no hope. We’ll be lucky not to lose any more ground much less get our nation revived and awakened. Yet, the God who brought revival in Wales in 1904 is still the same God in heaven today and He is waiting for Christians to get serious about Him & Holiness & Holy Spirit Power
This same God can still renew and revive our nation—but how? What would it take for Canada to be renewed and revived? It would take people who developed hearts that seek Jesus, exclusively. Not seeking Christ AND entertainment. Not seeking Christ AND sports. Not seeking Christ AND anything else. Seek Christ with everything.
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7 ESV)
Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the LORD. (Zephaniah 2:3 ESV)
Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil. (Isaiah 1:16 ESV)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1 ESV)
Seek and You Will Find. (May 17, 2022) The Irish band U2 had a huge hit in the 1980's called, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Over the years there have been times I identified with the song title--often when I felt discontented and disconnected from God. Many people are still looking for that "something" or "someone" to fill their hearts because (for whatever reason) they are not finding the answer in God. Consider the following statements people make: “I never hear from God!” “I don’t understand the Bible!” “I don’t get anything out of church or the sermon!” “I'm so spiritually dry!”
These complaints (or ones similar) are common even within the church and may resonate with you as well. Did you ever stop to consider why? Most often people blame others or the situation around them. For example:
The preacher is boring. The church is not exciting. The Bible is difficult to understand. I am too busy.
Many times we're getting nothing because we've invested nothing. Do you passively sitting around and wait for God to come and "fill" you? What if I told you that the spiritual equivalent of being a couch potato is not the answer? We are to actively seek God and His promise of "living water" for all who ask for it (John 4:14). How do we get this water? By actively seeking the Lord.
But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV)
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:10 ESV)
Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near (Isaiah 55:6 ESV)
The Bible tells us many times to "seek the Lord." . If we want spiritual vitality we cannot just wait for it to happen. We cannot expect the church or the preacher or the small group leader to do it for us. We must actively seek the Lord--with everything we have--and when we do, we will be amazed at how our lives completely change.
An "Update" From God? (May 11, 2022) And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12) Have you ever had computer problems? I suspect all of us have, at one point or another. Of course, most of my problems were the result of 'user error' or mistakes I had made. Often problems stem from shutting the computer down while it is trying to complete an update running in the background without our knowledge. And when we restart the computer, it messes up the update. To make matters worse, it seems Windows wants to update its operating system 24/7.
Unfortunately, there are some who think the simple gospel message of Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection needs constant updating. They feel a need to add to what is already there. This might include the latest social issue. It may include pop-psychology. It may even include mysticism. Typically changes arise from people wanting to "twist Scripture" to their own liking.
The problem is the original gospel is the only message with the ability to save and changes lives (see verse above). It cannot be improved upon, and to change it in anyway is to distort and ruin its effectiveness. While updates from Microsoft tend to improve the function of your computer, the same cannot be said of changes to the gospel.
There is no Gospel 10 or Gospel 11 or even a Gospel 100. There is just the gospel--plain and simple. So, if anyone "calls" and tries to get you to "do an update" ... just hang up.
God is With Us! (May 03, 2022) We continue to live in challenging times. How wonderful it is to know that 'God is with us'.
Emmanuel, The dwelling place of God is with man.
The book of Revelation is not the easiest book in the bible to read, full of visions and strange imagery. However, if you take time to read it you'll find there is an underlying theme; the Sovereignty of God. Revelation is clear throughout that God is Sovereign; over the devil, in every situation, no matter how bad it seems at the time, and sovereign over all of history.
Revelation tells us that God is victorious. The end of the book (chapters 21 and 22) tells us of the new heaven and new earth that God will create--a place where He will dwell with His people, a place where 'He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore' (Rev 21:4).
These chapters paint a wonderful picture of the hope we have to look forward to, a time and place where all things are new and all pain and suffering is done away with. However, while we await the future we are also to enjoy the present. These chapters also look back to the promises God made thousands of years ago: 'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation’ (Ex 19:5-6) 'And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. (Ex 25:8) I will make my dwelling among you, ... and I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people' (Lev 26:11-12) 'And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age' (Matt. 28:20)
What amazing promises. They not only speak of the wonderful time that is coming but also of the reality we can experience now. What a comfort it is to know that we are His peoplenow and that His dwelling place is with us now.
The Sovereign God is living and walking with us in these challenging times, walking with us through the difficult circumstances. He wants to remind us that we are His people and He is our God. How will you respond?
Will you choose to believe the promises of God and take comfort in the reality of them now? Will you believe that He is Sovereign over this situation and trust Him? Or will you allow the situation to overwhelm you and miss out on the blessing He has for you here and now? There is a hope of a brighter future, a day with no pain or death, but God wants you to experience His presence with you today and each day. Will you trust Him?
Press On! (April 26, 2022) “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
In 1988, Ted Windmill moved from Vernon to Kelowna and joined the small fellowship I was attending. Instantly I was struck by his soft-spoken yet resolved manner. Small in stature Ted made up for it with a vast faith in God. In typical British manner and accent (which he never lost despite living longer in Canada than he did in England), Ted would face each challenge with his deep faith in God, often saying of the hardship before him, “I believe we’ll just press on.”
Of all the Israelites we read of in the Bible, no one worked harder to please God than Saul of Tarsus. Every area of his life conformed strictly to the Mosaic Law. No one could ever accuse this respected Pharisee of lacking zeal. He was a man with a mission—and that mission was to please and serve God. But one day, on the road to Damascus (to find and persecute Christians), Saul’s world was turned upside down when he met Jesus face-to-face. From that point on, he would no longer try to please God through his actions. Instead, he would press on with the goal of knowing Jesus Christ.
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Philippians 3:8
Saul (now called Paul) had a new mission—and that mission never wavered despite facing ever-changing circumstances. It didn’t matter whether he was preaching to a crowd or sitting in a damp prison. Paul now had one goal to which everything else took second place. Paul wanted nothing as much as he wanted to know Jesus, his Lord.
How about you?
Is knowing Jesus the priority in your life? If not, why not simply ask Him to help you press on to know Him more deeply today.
How is Your Hearing? (April 19, 2022) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7, ESV)
There are numerous warnings in God’s Word that tell those who have ears to hear, to hear what God has to say.
First, we must ask, who has ears?
It’s just an assumption that everyone has ears to hear (notwithstanding those with a physical defect). But, hearing is more of a state of the heart than a state of the ears. Even a deaf person can “hear” in this sense. They can “hear” the Word of God by reading the Bible. They can “hear” the Word of God when someone communicates gospel truths to them. Anyone has the capacity to hear. The problem is that most people don’t want to hear because of what is involved.
This leads to a second question. What does it mean to hear?
Biblical hearing is more than just receiving and processing the audio waves made by speaking the words found in the bible. True hearing is receiving what is said/written and then acting upon it. True hearing involves obedience.
So, in a sense, you can hear without hearing. Jesus quoted from Isaiah when He explained why people weren’t picking up on His parables. He said: For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:15, ESV)
It’s not that people couldn’t physically hear or physically see—their ears and eyes were working just fine. The problem was that they refused to accept what Jesus was teaching and refused to live according to its implications. The problem was not their ears or eyes, rather, it was that their heart had grown dull. The heart was bad, and it made them spiritually deaf and blind to God.
But we must be careful in pointing fingers. We might think that this deafness and blindness is a problem related only to those who are spiritually lost. But Revelation 2:7—which I quoted above—is a warning to the church. The church, itself, can become deaf to the Word of God.
Even saved, born-again, Bible-believing Christians can have a dull heart leading to living like a deaf and blind person. In fact, any church that lives for itself or lives like a country club or lives for the things of this world, can deafen itself to the call of Christ to repent and return to its first love.
Ask God to give you listening ears and obedient hearts, and then, obey Him when it comes right down to it. We can talk a good game, but our choices and actions will reveal what we truly believe.
My prayer for Lumby Christian Church is that we will choose to hear AND obey God’s Word—regardless of any challenges that we may face.
Resurrection and Restoration (April 13, 2022) “Christ is risen!" "He is risen indeed!”
What is the significance of Jesus rising from the dead (Matt 28:1–10)? Apparently this event was so climactic that other saints were also raised from the dead and appeared to witnesses (Matt 27:52–53).
To understand the significance of the resurrection, we have to understand the expectations of first-century Jews. Resurrection of the saints from the grave fulfills many prophecies such as Ezekiel 37:11–14. And resurrection would have been understood as a sign that God restores His people from exile to live by His Spirit. And the resurrection can give us that same hope today.
Resurrection shows us that God restores from exile (Ezekiel 37:11–12). This prophecy of Ezekiel 37 pictures a valley of dry bones that, surely, cannot come to life again. God’s people in exile declare, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11). They have lost all hope. Similarly we can find ourselves in a place where hope is lost. Yet in this place of utter and complete hopelessness, God says, “I will…raise you from your graves [and] bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:12).
So the resurrection of Jesus and the saints in Matthew 27–28 is a sign that restoration from exile is now here. God is on the move to restore the effects of sin that have decimated our hope. Because of the resurrection, we know that restoration is here…so hope is here. And resurrection not only shows a restoration from exile but also a restoration of relationship; God is restoring His people (Ezekiel 37:13). God wants to do more than fix the problems around us; He wants to restore intimate relationship with us. He wants us to know that, “I am the LORD,” and He intimately calls us, “O my people.” And the resurrection is an invitation to relationship; ... we can be “His people.”
Since exile and relationship are restored, we can live by His Spirit (Ezekiel 37:14). Previously God’s Spirit only rested on kings and priests, but God promises His Spirit to all of His people. Why? “You shall live.” This is His promise. This is more than physical life; this is the flourishing and abundant life that God has designed for His children. This is the gift that God desires to lavish upon His children. So what? “Christ is risen!" "He is risen indeed!”
This is not simply a curious historical fact. This is a earth-shattering reality, because the resurrection shows that the time for restoration is here! God restores us from exile and renews our relationship with Him so that we might live by His Spirit.
May we live by the power of His resurrection!!
Becoming Homesick for Heaven (April 05, 2022) Another week has gone by and another loved one has passed into eternity. It seems this is becoming more and more common. This world may not be our home! But we sure can act like it is. When we are at home, we treat things as if they are permanent. We settle into those things we know best. We cherish our favorite chair and love our big TV. Our refrigerator is filled with our favorite foods. We have and enjoy a whole lot of “stuff.” But think about the last time you took a vacation. Likely you just grabbed a bag, put in some essentials and off you went. You did not pack your recliner or a TV or your refrigerator. You did not tuck all your favorite books into that bag. You just took what you really needed. So if this isn’t our real home, why do we keep trying to make this “passing” life feel so permanent? Or another way of asking that question is this: “Why aren’t we homesick for heaven?” I can think of two reasons. One is that we are simply not informed enough about our eternal home. We haven’t taken the time to study what God’s Word has to say about our permanent home with the Lord. Secondly, we are quite simply just too attached here. We cling to what we can see, touch and hold. Our faith is lacking. I encourage you this week to do something that will address your misplaced focus and increase your homesickness for heaven. Let’s learn to hold our “stuff” lightly. And let’s dive into God's Word and increase our understanding of eternity. Above all, remember the words of Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until they find rest in you!”
God Is On His Throne (March 29, 2022) For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm! God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne. (Psalm 47:7-8)
With the various world events going on (conflict in Ukraine, pandemic, etc.), it would be easy to give in to a fatalistic view that things are spiraling out of control . Even Christians can get caught up in thinking the chaos around us will 'win.' And, in one sense, things are out of control because they are out of our control. There is not one thing you or I can do to change these situations. We can’t stop a virus. We can’t stop the conflict in the Ukraine. We can't make our neighbor like us more.
I don't know about you but I suspect we are alike in that we don’t enjoy feeling helpless. We wish our destiny was in our hands and that we could move and shape the world around us to our liking. And if anything threatens our goals or dreams, we try to change or manipulate it to get our own way. We want control. And the fact there are things happening on a global scale that are beyond us can be, quite frankly, frightening.
I want to encourage you today, by reminding you that despite not being in control, we do not need to fear. Because as Christ-followers we know the One who has all control.
God still reigns over the nations. God still sits on His throne. God still has control over viruses and presidents and armies…and everything.
And so we trust in the Lord with all of our heart, not leaning on our own understanding. We entrust all our ways and all global events into His hands. We pray and seek instead of fret and worry. While people have free will--to try fight against God--His will, ultimately will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.
So, as we watch events unfold around us...be confident that God still reigns.
Jesus the Overcomer (March 09, 2022) “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”Isaiah 53:5
Dr. Felix Ruh, a Jewish doctor in Paris, had a granddaughter who died of black diphtheria. Vowing to find out what had killed her, he locked himself in his laboratory for days and emerged with a fierce determination to prove, with his colleague, Louis Pasteur, the germ theory. The medical association had disapproved of Pasteur and had succeeded in getting him exiled, but he hid in the forest near Paris and erected a laboratory for his forbidden research.
Twenty beautiful horses were led out into the forest to the improvised laboratory. Scientists, doctors, and nurses came to watch the experiment. Ruh opened a steel vault and took out a large pail filled with black diphtheria germs, which he had cultured carefully for months. There were enough germs in that pail to kill everyone in France. The scientist went to each horse and swabbed its nostrils, tongue, throat, and eyes with the deadly germs. Every horse except one developed a terrific fever and died. Most of the doctors and scientists wearied of the experiment and did not remain for what they thought would be the death of the remaining horse.
For several more days this final horse lingered, lying pathetically on the ground. While Ruh, Pasteur, and several others were sleeping on cots in the stables, the orderly on duty had been instructed to awaken the scientists should there be any change in the animal’s temperature during the night. About two a.m., the temperature showed a half degree decrease, and the orderly wakened Dr. Ruh. By morning the thermometer had dropped two more degrees. By night the fever was entirely gone, and the horse was able to stand, eat, and drink.
Then Dr. Ruh took a sledgehammer and struck that beautiful horse a deathblow between the eyes. The scientists drew blood from the veins of this animal that had developed the black diphtheria but had overcome it. They drove as fast as they could to the Paris municipal hospital and forced their way past the superintendent and the guards. They went into the ward where three hundred babies lay, segregated to die from black diphtheria. With the blood of the horse, they inoculated every one of the babies.
All but three lived and recovered completely. The blood of an overcomer saved them.
The blood of another Overcomer (Jesus Christ) has spiritually saved many people. He too had to die to bring life to others.
RESPONSE: Today I will repeatedly praise Jesus for the blood He shed as an Overcomer for my sin. PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for sacrificing Yourself, an Overcomer, so that I might have abundant and eternal life.
When Death is Actually Precious (March 01, 2022) When I heard yesterday morning, that my father, my first spiritual mentor and hero, had died, it was a shock. Sure, he'd been sick for several weeks (some sort of stomach issue, with lots of pain involved), but he'd just gotten the results of bloodwork a few days before, saying everything looked good.
So, when my sister sent a message (to our siblings 'group chat') that EMT's were there "working on dad" after some sort of an "event" I did not know where to go with that information. In less than fifteen minutes it became clear when she sent another message saying, "They couldn't save dad--it was a heart attack."
Psalm 116:15says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of one of His saints.”
If I am being honest, I am not sure that I would have chosen the word "precious" as the psalmist does here.
It's not that I don't believe the Lord is moved when His loved ones die. It's just that He views their death as a positive thing.
How is that even possible?
It's because God sees death differently than we do. When a believer dies, we who are left behind mourn. We cry. We ache. We have an empty spot in our heart that can never be filled during our life on this earth.
But when a follower of Jesus breathes their last breath, God sees the death of that child, differently. That person, is finally home. There is no more pain, sickness, sorrow, or death. Instead, they have been perfected and are enjoying the glory of His presence in their “forever home”.
As Christians, we mourn the loss of a loved one, while, at the same time, finding comfort in the occasion. We desperately miss our loved one, but we know they are safe with the Lord.
Even though I lost my hero in the faith yesterday, I know lovers of God never truly say, “Good-bye.” Instead, as I said a week ago while I was with him, “I’ll see you soon, dad--whether it is here, there, or, in the air.”
Because of God's grace, I look forward to being reunited with my father, as we worship our Heavenly Father, together.
One last (but important) point.
The Lord finds no pleasure in the death of one who has not placed their trust in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation.
Because their last breath is the start of an eternity separated from Him.
Ezekiel 33:11 (NLT): “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die
As the world spirals toward chaos and turmoil, I urge you to fall into the arms of Jesus.
Use whatever time we have left, to share the good news of salvation with those around you. Do all you can to ensure that those you love do not step through death’s door without at least having had the opportunity to hear about what Jesus has done for them.
“They turned their backs to me and not their faces…Jeremiah 32:33
Think about this: if our faces aren’t turned towards God, our backs are. To be honest, many times I wish this weren’t true. I wish that I could hide from God like Adam and Eve hid in the garden. I often want to find a good-sized tree to duck behind so God can’t see the fresh juice from the forbidden fruit running down the side of my mouth. But, truth be told, the only thing that Adam and Eve were hiding were their faces. Their backs were fully exposed. So it is with us. The trees are too small; God too big.
Sometimes I think that we are like Moses, thinking we are hiding when really, we’re exposed the whole time. Moses, “looking this way and that and seeing no one…killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Exodus 2:12). But of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. The very next day someone said to Moses, “‘are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’” (v. 13). What a dreadful moment it must have been when he realized that he wasn’t nearly as hidden as he thought he was. It gets worse: “When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh…” (v. 15).
It’s one thing when one of your countrymen finds out what you did, but quite another when Pharaoh does. But if it’s bad when Pharaoh finds out, what about when God finds out? What do you do when you realize that what you did wasn’t hidden from God? Moses could run from Pharaoh, but can one run from God? How frightening it is to think that God, seeing our sin, is standing right behind us. Surely God will strike our exposed backs, right? But suddenly, we find that the news we thought was frightening – God is watching! – is quite the opposite. God didn’t strike our backs with God’s fists like we thought. Instead, God used God’s own hands to make clothes to cover the exposed areas we were trying so carefully to hide.
How often do we talk about people, maybe even ourselves, as being far from God? We can’t seem to get this idea out of our heads that we need to make rather lengthy pilgrimages to somehow find our way back to the Divine. But God is not far. The Hebrew word for repentance doesn’t mean pilgrimage, it means return (pilgrimage can be wonderful, but not as a necessity for repentance). You’re not as far away as you think–you’re simply facing the wrong direction. God wants to see your face, not your back.
It is so important that we get rid of this dangerous idea that God is waiting to strike us. Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote,
“Nothing can doom man but the belief in doom, for this prevents the movement of return.”
Maybe read that Buber quote again slowly. Is there any way in which you feel doomed? Here is some good news for you: doom is not what is waiting for you if you turn towards God; healing is. How do we know? We know because when we turn around we see that God’s hands are not closed fists ready to strike, but open, scarred, and ready to heal. When we turn we recall Isaiah’s words:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
So let acknowledge our sin. This is utterly important (and it’s also a revelation that the Spirit of God is already at work!). But, and this is equally important, let us drop the belief that we are doomed, that we are far away, and that God is ready to strike. Again, Isaiah puts it best:
“Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon”. (Isaiah 55:7)
Gracious God, forgive our sins. Forgive our wrong understandings of you that have kept us from you. We offer you not our backs, but our faces. Heal us. Amen.
Changing Our Thinking (February 01, 2022) Jesus once talked of a stunning truth in Matthew 12, when He spoke of an evil spirit who left a person, only to make its way back to the same person later...
Matthew 12:44-45Then the spirit says, 'I will return to the person I came from.' So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.
Jesus is talking about the principle of replacement.
If there's a part of my life that I'm trying to get rid of -- a sin, a bad habit, an unforgiving attitude-- I can't simply STOP doing it. That's not how stopping things works, at least not in the long run.
Have you ever had someone say to you: "No matter what you do, DON'T think of a pink elephant." Immediately in our heads, that's exactly what we think of: a pink elephant.
Often the very thing I'm trying to stop only gets worse because I'm fixated on it, and I end up "worse off than before", just like Jesus said. So in order to change I have to fill my head with something else.
Here is something important to remember. We have a choice! We are in control of what we focus on. Even when our focus wanders and we feel subject to whatever comes our way, it's still OUR choice! We are either choosing it or allowing it. Either way, it's our call.
It's like the TV remote control. Or worse, my cell phone. I can flip channels aimlessly, scroll through social media haphazardly, or browse the internet randomly. When I do, I'm allowing my focus to be affected by something or someone else -- mostly by people or things that don't have my walk with Jesus in mind.
When it comes to my spiritual life, I can choose to focus on how hard it is to stop a certain sin, or on how difficult it is to forgive, or how much I want to cave in to temptation, or ... (fill in the blank). And then that same spirit that I've been fighting against comes back even stronger than before.
Replace it. Focus your attention, fill your mind, shift your thinking to something else. Three things we can intentionally focus on to help with this:
First, think about Jesus. Hebrews 12:3 says, "Think about Jesus' example. He held on while wicked people were doing evil things to him. So do not get tired and stop trying." What gives you the power to keep on going? You think about Jesus. Keep your mind on who the Bible says He is and what He's done.
Second, think about others."Let us think about each other and help each other to show love and do good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Most of the people around the world think about themselves first. So anybody who thinks more about others than they do about themselves is going to shine.
Third, think about eternity. Colossians 3:2 says, "Let heaven fill your thoughts; don't spend your time worrying about things down here." Whatever you're worried about today is probably not going to matter in five years, much less in eternity. Everything is put into perspective when you think about your life in light of eternity. Whatever situation you're facing today, stop and think about what you're thinking about. Then choose to focus on Jesus, other people, and your home in eternity. It will take the focus off of yourself, which is how God intended for you to live. And it will transform your life!
Stop The Revolution, Join The Plodders (January 25, 2022) I was challenged by the above-titled article by Kevin DeYoung, so I will simply submit it as presented. It reads as follows: It’s sexy among young people—my generation—to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church. Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul. What we need are fewer revolutionaries and a few more plodding visionaries. That’s my dream for the church—a multitude of faithful, risk-taking plodders. The best churches are full of gospel-saturated people holding tenaciously to a vision of godly obedience and God’s glory, and pursuing that godliness and glory with relentless, often unnoticed, plodding consistency. My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without follow through. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono—Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church. As great as it is that Bono is using his fame for some noble purpose, I just don’t believe that the happy future of the church, or the world for that matter, rests on our ability to raise up a million more Bonos (as at least one author suggests). With all due respect, what’s harder: to be an idolized rock star who travels around the world touting good causes and chiding governments for their lack of foreign aid, or to be a line worker at GM with four kids and a mortgage, who tithes to his church, sings in the choir every week, serves on the school board, and supports a Christian relief agency and a few missionaries from his disposable income? Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too—same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works—like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). Life is usually pretty ordinary, just like following Jesus most days. Daily discipleship is not a new revolution each morning or an agent of global transformation every evening; it’s a long obedience in the same direction. It’s possible the church needs to change. Certainly in some areas it does. But it’s also possible we’ve changed—and not for the better. It’s possible we no longer find joy in so great a salvation. It’s possible that our boredom has less to do with the church, its doctrines, or its poor leadership and more to do with our unwillingness to tolerate imperfection in others and our own coldness to the same old message about Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s possible we talk a lot about authentic community but we aren’t willing to live in it. The church is not an incidental part of God’s plan. Jesus didn’t invite people to join an anti-religion, anti-doctrine, anti-institutional bandwagon of love, harmony, and re-integration. He showed people how to live, to be sure. But He also called them to repent, called them to faith, called them out of the world, and called them into the church. The Lord “didn’t add them to the church without saving them, and he didn’t save them without adding them to the church” (John Stott). “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7). If we truly love the church, we will bear with her in her failings, endure her struggles, believe her to be the beloved bride of Christ, and hope for her final glorification. The church is the hope of the world—not because she gets it all right, but because she is a body with Christ for her Head. Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders. Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did.
Is The Bible Filled With Errors? (January 18, 2022) Over the years, I have run into folks that do not want to discuss God’s Word because they are convinced that it is full of errors. When I hear that, I typically follow up by asking: “Could you show me one of those errors?” As you might expect, most cannot come up with an actual error, they just believe, or have been told, there are a bunch of them!
That said, over the centuries, there have been some publication that had typos, many of which are quite funny. For example, “The Camel’s Bible” of 1832 states that Rebekah left her tent to meet Isaac with a group of camels--not damsels. I suspect this was not quite what the author intended to say!
Then there was “The Wife-Hater Bible” published in 1810 which read, “If any man come to me and hate not his own wife (instead of life), he cannot be my disciple.” Marriage counselors do not recommend this version!
If you are inclined toward sin, you might like the “Sin On” Bible printed in Ireland in 1716. It encouraged readers to “sin on more” rather than “sin no more.” And then there is “The Wicked Bible” of 1631, which stated the 7th commandment as a positive statement: “Thou shalt commit adultery.”
My favorite goof came in the 16th century when an American printer substituted the “Parable of the Vinegar” for the “Parable of the Vineyard” (I am a big fan of vinegar).
In all these cases, a typesetter made a mistake that wasn’t caught before the printing presses rolled. While copies within translations do have mistakes, the original documents were divinely inspired from God (“Holy men of God spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”2Peter 1:21), and we can have confidence in our Bibles. And that confidence should translate into obedience as we seek to follow Christ. So this week, make it a point to grab your Bible, find a quiet corner and immerse yourself in His wisdom.
“Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee…” “I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees, I will not neglect your word.” (Psalm 119; 11, 14-16)
Tag-teaming With Jesus? (January 14, 2022) Does anyone remember the days of Stampede Wrestling, with guys like Mean Gene Kiniski, Junkyard Dog and the Harts? How about the WWF (before it became the World Wildlife Fund), with guys like Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Randy "Macho Man" Savage. I had friends who were who so into all that, they even had action figures and mini-wrestling ring to battle in. Ah, the 'good old days.'
While hockey has always been my sport, as a kid, I remember being intrigued by the concept of "tag-team" wrestling, where teams of two would fight their opponents. It had one member of each team member in the ring while the other two stood outside, and couldn't come in until their teammate tagged them in. Of course, rules were always bent, and the referee never seemed to notice. Can you say, 'Staged'?
Tag-teams can be a good model in a lot of areas. Like parenting: sometimes one parent needs to get "tagged out" after a long day, and let the other one in there with fresh energy and perspective. Or in business: leaving a heavy load on one person for too long can get taxing. Everyone could use some help at one time or another.
Here's the thing: sometimes I approach my faith with God like a tag-team. I handle pretty much everything everyday, and then when life gets a bit too tough for me to handle, I decide that this is the time for Jesus to step in and save the day. I tag Him in. And then when things are resolved or under control, I tag myself back in and take over.
Have you discovered yet that that doesn't work? When Jesus calls Himself "Lord" of our lives, He means it. He wants to be a part of every moment, every day, because that's the way He's made us to function. We only work properly when we're in tune with Him all day long.
What does that look like? I like how the Message puts it in Romans 12:1-2. Paul tells us:
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you."
No more "tag-teams" with God. He's my Lord and Savior, and I want every part of my day -- even the mundane parts, where no one seems to be affected -- to be given as an offering to Him.
Jesus loves the nitty-gritty parts of our lives, the part no one sees: the early mornings where I'm still waking up, the drive to work or school, the wait at the dentist, the couch time late at night. He's there too! And He loves being there with you.
Make it your goal (in 2022) to stay tethered to Him!
Standing Firm in Uncertain Times (January 04, 2022) In this time of “social distancing” it can be easy to forsake our walk with God. Let’s face it, we have “online church”, and while I’m grateful for it, it does not--by any means--compare to meeting together physically. Our daily devotion and prayer time should be more important to us now than it has ever been. If we do not stand firm in our walk with God and intentionally strive to grow in Him, our walk can easily become stagnant.
This past week I took the Larkin Cross Road exit (just north of Vernon, BC) and saw ice-climbers preparing to scale the side of the 'mountain.' It was fascinating to watch as they strategically took each step, and placed their icepicks with absolute precision. Our walk with God should be the same. We must be aware of every step and every grip we place our hold upon. We have a firm foundation in Christ and as we grow in Him we must build upon that foundation. We can scale insurmountable heights when we carefully build our lives on His principles.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.” Isaiah 28:16 NLT
During these days, it is easy for depression, loneliness, fear and anxiety to set in. We must be sure our complete trust and confidence is placed on the only solid foundation--Jesus Christ! Be sure your feet are planted in the right place before you take a step.
“When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.” Proverbs 10:25 NLT
We're constantly being told to fear this COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, times are uncertain but I am confident that God is in complete control. He is still on the throne! He still has this world in the palm of His hand. My trust is in Him and I will not fear.
“And neither will I walk off and leave you. That would be a sin against God! I’m staying right here at my post praying for you and teaching you the good and right way to live. But I beg of you, fear God and worship him honestly and heartily. You’ve seen how greatly he has worked among you! Be warned: If you live badly, both you and your king will be thrown out.” 1 Samuel 12:23-24 (The Message Bible)
I’m thankful that, in a world of uncertainty, I can stand firm on God’s promises. He is my anchor in times of trouble. . It’s easy to drown ourselves in the thoughts of what tomorrow may bring. “Will I run out of TP” It’s funny but its true! “Will I be able to buy the groceries I need?” “Will I continue to be able to work during this time?” “Will my loved ones contract the virus?” The questions could go on and on and before we know it, we can allow fear and panic to overtake us. During my devotion this morning, I read these passages of scripture and felt a peace about all that is going on around us today...
The Lord is my light and my salvation— so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble? When evil people come to devour me, when my enemies and foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident. The one thing I ask of the Lord--the thing I seek most— is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his Temple. For he will conceal me there when troubles come; he will hide me in his sanctuary. He will place me out of reach on a high rock. Psalm 27:1-5 NLT
Be encouraged! Stand firm! Never let go of the truths of God’s Word. If you are unable to meet in person, and your church has the ability to live-stream services, take advantage of it! Worship right there in your living room. Make your home a sanctuary.
“Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! Hear, O earth, the words that I say! Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!" Deuteronomy 32:1-4 NLT
Anxiety and Worry (December 28, 2021) Philippians 4:6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
As we learn to TRUST God in everything, then our trust will, in time, translate into a sense of peace, even in the midst of insanity. We are called to lay everything at Jesus’ feet, and let go of whatever it is that is causing us to be anxious. Worry and anxiety are a double-headed coin. No matter how much you flip it, the results are the same. You are robbed of your peace and joy.
Do not be anxious Let’s focus on Paul’s message to the Philippians and how we can use it to restore our peace. He tells them to not be anxious about anything, but in every situation to present our request to God. Essentially he is telling us to pray, laying everything at Jesus’ feet. Once we do that, once we let go and let God, we will know peace. A peace that escapes our ability to understand it. We will have an internal compass that points us to God, his mercy, grace, provision, protection, wisdom and guidance. We will learn how to TRUST God under all circumstances, even in the face of insurmountable odds when surrounded by craziness and insanity.
Trust So, how do we learn to TRUST? It is a one-step-at-a-time process. We don’t just drop all our defenses and blindly trust. It is not in our nature. Trust must be earned. God understands that. He built us that way. So, lay down one item that you cannot manage today. Lay it at Jesus’ feet. Surrender it to Him and let Him take care of it. Then, wait and see. DO NOT PICK IT UP AGAIN!
Let GO and Get GOING! Then, open your eyes, your heart, and your mind, asking God to show you the way. Ask Him to provide the solution. He may totally and miraculously take care of the problem, or more than likely, through the work of the Holy Spirit, as you yield to him, he will show you the way. He will guide you and teach you as you work with him. That is how you learn to trust God, one step at a time. It will become second nature to you. He will be your first stop in everything. Your double-sided coin will change from worry and anxiety to peace and joy.
Personal Reflection: What is one thing that you have struggled with in your own strength and are not succeeding? Lay it at Jesus’s feet with this simple prayer... "Lord, you know how I’ve struggled with _______________. I know I cannot do it anymore. Please help me with it. I give it over to you, laying it at your feet. I trust you to help me with it. Show me what to do. I pray in Jesus’s name. Amen."