A Good Name (Sept. 19, 2023) “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1
I just returned from the funeral of a nephew, and it was great to see the place packed. It seems he had a good reputation within the community. There is a lot to be said about living in such a way that people will miss us when we are gone. As the verse above suggests, having a good name is better than having great riches (Prov. 22:1), but a good reputation don’t always reflect what goes on inside us. We see this in the New Testament with the city of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6). Sardis was built high up in the cliffs (1,500-feet up) and was thought to be impenetrable. But twice in its history Sardis was destroyed by invaders, and both times it was because pride led them to think they were invincible.
The church in Sardis had, apparently, adopted the mindset of the city. It assumed everything was good between them and God, and while they went through the motions, they had become indifferent toward God. Their gatherings may have made visitors think the church was on fire, but behind the lovely voices were cold hearts. The same can be true for us; the profession of faith we made years (or even days) ago can hide the reality of apathy toward God.
Jesus warned Sardis to be watchful and to strengthen their faith. So, while we can still feel the encouragement of His Word and Holy Spirit, we must remember to fan the flame. What we know to be good, do. What we know to be evil, stop. God gladly restores all who turn to Him, but we must not assume our relationship with Him is good based on a commitment we made 30 years ago. Don’t allow how others define your relationship with God deceive you. Instead, let your confidence be built on a daily, personal, walk with the living God.
Does God Know When We Struggle? (Sept. 05, 2023) Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. - Matthew 14:22-24
Everyone—even Christians—has problems. We can all share stories of how our happiest moments were spoiled by trouble. We often struggle to find joy because of things we go through. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Christ-followers know Jesus loves them. He demonstrated that love by going to the cross and removing our sin.
It’s when we struggle that Jesus steps into our turmoil and says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Even though He was not with the disciples, Jesus knew where they were and what their needs were. In a storm—unable to make headway in the strong wind against the waves, they struggled all night and were still three miles from shore. But even in the darkness and from that distance, Jesus knew exactly where His friends were. Impossible for the ordinary man—but not for the Son of God.
Be encouraged. Jesus knows where we are at all times. He knows the difficulties we’re going through. From the top of a mountain, He saw the disciples in need of help. And now, from heaven, He sees our every struggle.
When you cry out for help, don’t fear that He won't find you. He sees you, knows your need, and can reach you … wherever you are.
A Date With Death (August 29, 2023) Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. – Hebrews 9:27-28
You may recall the old saying that there are two things in life that are certain: death & taxes. Are you ready for the day your moment will come? It could be today; we simply do not know. Barring the return of Jesus, we will all, one day, breathe our last.
Hebrews 9:27 begins, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once...” The word “appointed” means “to be laid up” or “to be laid aside.” We can also translate it as “reserved.”
When you make a reservation at a hotel, it means that, for that night, a specific room has been laid aside for you and for no one else. The Bible says that every one of us has a reservation with death. We didn’t make it; God did.
Are you ready? Do you know where you will spend eternity?
How wonderful it is to know that we need not fear anything—not even death, so long as our hope is in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Peace in the Face of Suffering (August 16, 2023) “Yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” Acts 7:57-58
In Acts 7, we read about the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who just retold the story of God’s promise to Abraham—how God would “bless the nations” through Abraham’s lineage . Stephen explained how that promise to Israel found its fulfillment through the death of Jesus (Acts 7:2-50). Stephen then charged the high priest and ruling class of Israel with the murder of God’s “Righteous One,” Jesus Christ. The rulers became so enraged that they dragged Stephen outside the city walls and stoned him to death.
Let me suggest something amazing about the tragic death of Stephen. Even as he was dying, Stephen understood that the power of God’s presence with him, as he saw heaven open, and Jesus welcoming him “home.”
Tough times (even those that seem to serve no good purpose) can provide an opportunity to truly know the "peace that passes all understanding." Suffering can be difficult. Sometimes unbearably so. It can also provide the opportunity to draw us closer to Jesus.
Someone once said that, perhaps the best question to ask in hard times is not so much “Why?” as “What are You trying to show me, God?”
May you look for what God is wanting you to learn--in good and hard times alike.
Free To Love (August 08, 2023) “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…We love because He first loved us.” - 1 John 4:10, 19
Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison in Communist Romania, all for the crime of professing his faith in Christ. He was tortured and placed in solitary confinement for several years. Yet his love for Jesus did not waver, as not even the horrors of prison could prevent him from spreading the Gospel.
In his book, Tortured for Christ, he wrote: “Without fear we sang in prisons 30 feet beneath the earth. We were terribly hungry, beaten, and tortured. The Communists were good at torturing us. We would say to each other, ‘the Communists beat us very well – let us do our work well. Let us sing well.’”
How do you define freedom? Are you free today? Or do "unseen bars" hold you back from worshipping God?
Even in prison, Wurmbrand was free, in spirit. He was free to believe. Free to hope. Free to pray. Free to sing. He was even free to die for Christ. All because he trusted God’s amazing love. A love that sets us free from sin.
There is simply no greater freedom than that.
A Friend of the Highest Order (August 01, 2023) “Melchizedek king of Salem . . . was priest of God Most High, and he blessed Abram. . . . Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.” Genesis 14:18-20
As is often the case, it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. The same can be said about our spiritual life: what matters most (for our salvation) is not what we know but who we know. For Christians, Jesus is Lord of all that we have and all that we are. As King and Priest, He is rightly seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven as well as being seated on the throne of our hearts.
In Genesis 14 (which is referred to in Hebrews 7) we read of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek—a man who held a high position of authority in the ancient world. A mysterious figure in Scripture, Melchizedek was both a king and a priest of the highest order. And yet, being of superior status, he came with the intent to bless Abraham. And in response, Abraham responded by giving a tenth of his possessions to this great king.
On multiple levels, Melchizedek represents Jesus Christ, who is our great High Priest and eternal King. Mighty in power, Jesus came in grace to bless and forgive. In response, we acknowledge His rightful rule over us. It is only fitting that we express our gratitude by returning a portion of all that we have and all that we are to Him.
Praise God! Having this Friend, who is in the highest place, means that we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time[s] of need.” (Hebrews 4:16).
We CAN Trust God (July 11,2023) The Lord said to Abram . . . “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.” Genesis 13:14-15
Do you remember the story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot, when they came into the land they would possess? I read that story many times before I saw something I'd missed. As the elder family member, Abraham had the right to choose which section of land he would take for himself. Yet, he surrendered that right, allowing Lot to choose first.
By setting his sights on greater things, Abraham was able to trust God to take care of him. By faith, Abraham handed his circumstances to the Lord rather than allowing his possessions to possess him. And doing so freed him to enjoy God’s blessings, rather than struggling to hold onto what will pass away anyway.
Have you ever struggled to hold onto something, rather than trusting God to provide for your needs?
By faith, Abraham held the things of this world loosely. And so, he received more than he gave up. God promised that one day all of the land Abraham around him would belong to him and to his descendants. All the land promises to Israel was fulfilled in the time of Joshua, "Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass." Joshua 21:45.
God will honor anyone who yields their personal rights and surrenders their resources for His greater purposes.
In Abraham's choice we are pointed to Jesus, who gave up His rights for a more glorious purpose. Philippians 2:6-9 explains that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,” but instead “emptied Himself” for our sake. And in doing that, He received “the name that is above every name.”
You can trust that God will bless all those who offer Him -- not only their today, but -- their future.
“Trusting God in Bad Times” (June 20, 2023) “… do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matt. 6:13
There are many questions people have for God, such as:
“Why am I here?”
“Is Jesus really Divine?”
“Who created God?”
But the number one question I hear people ask is, “Why is there so much pain and suffering?”
When you consider the countless wars, the injustice and natural disasters that have caused so much pain and heartache, it’s easy to find ourselves questioning God’s character by asking, “WHY?
“If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, yet doesn’t stop evil, why should I believe in Him?” Or, “If He can’t do anything about it, then He can’t be much of a God, can He.”
God tends to get blamed for a lot of man’s evil because we forget He has given humanity free will. Ironically, the more victimized people are by man’s evil, the more they tend to blame God. Yet, we’re not mere computers that are programmed to do good or evil. Like God, we have the ability to make choices.
So, why does an all-loving and all-powerful God allow suffering and evil? The truth is there is no satisfactory answer. While we will one day have an answer, it seems for now that God wants us to trust Him amid our heartbreak and confusion.
To believe He really can bring good out of the bad.
There is no problem that He is not aware of, and that He will not make right. The question is, “Do we trust Him?”
The Valley of the Shadow of Death (June 13, 2023) “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” — Psalm 23:4
Years ago, I took my motorcycle into the hills above Kelowna, where I rode, hiked, and swam for the entire day. As I prepared to leave home that day my neighbor asked, “Is it safe to go into the hills all alone?” I was young enough to think it was a crazy question then, but, as an older man I understand the wisdom of that inquiry. Looking back on some of the things I did I suspect the only explanation for my existence today is divine intervention. That said I know I am never alone.
In Psalm 23, God promises to protect His people in the challenging, difficult circumstances of life. Among those promises is the assurance of His presence. God promises to walk with us through green pastures and along babbling brooks when life’s pathways are clear and smooth. He also promises to be with us through thorny stretches, and even through “the darkest valley,” where we may face “the shadow of death,” as some translations put it. Those are paths that we tremble even to think about.
Consider the assurance God gives concerning His protection. “I am with you.” This means that wherever we walk, and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we are never alone. Who is our Redeemer? He is Immanuel, which means “God with us.”
Psalm 23 doesn’t promise that our lives will always be easy—or even safe. But God’s promise of continued presence in our lives, means we can walk boldly with Him wherever we are.
“He Cares For You” (May 17, 2023) “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
It’s Wednesday at 11:00 am, and mom is resting. So, I decided this would be a good time to catch up on Weekly Musings. I travelled to Saskatchewan this past Sunday to take a turn caring for mom. My siblings and I decided after dad died (February 2022) that mom would not go into a care home, even though she is not able to be on her own any longer. That decision has led to juggling—a lot for some, less for others. I’m only here for three weeks, but already I see just how complex this journey will be.
I know God said He'd be with us "no matter what," but sometimes "no matter what" can be really big, dark, and consuming. As mom and I sat reading devotionals from a Max Lucado book last night, we were reminded that our circumstances don't dictate a change in His promise. Whether we feel like we are walking in circles in the wilderness, sitting life out in a prison cell, or waiting for God to crown us with His promises - our purpose is to find out Who He really is.
God showed Israel His power first and His character second. We can learn both no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.
Today, I purpose to know God's character - what He likes, and what He doesn't. I want to know who He is, not just what He can do. I'll be content in this passage as I know it will lead me to His promise. And I'll be thankful that He doesn't abandon me in the process; He just continues to reveal His purpose and promise in me and for me. I believe I can trust Him for one more day. I encourage you to join me.
Look Above the Sun to the Son! (May 02, 2023) “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 all mankind.”--Ecclesiastes 12:13
By the time he wrote these words, Solomon was an old man. The book of Ecclesiastes is his final word to the nation of Israel. His conclusion is ... pursuing anything this side of the sun will only lead to emptiness: “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 all mankind.”
Leading up to this Solomon tells his readers to remember their Creator “before the silver cord is severed and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7). These are images about decomposition; Solomon is talking about dying. Anything that is material will perish except for our spirits, which will return to God.
The writer of Hebrews says, “For it is appointed unto man to die once, and after that to face judgment...” (Hebrews 9:27). On that day, we will not have any good works to appeal to—only the righteousness of Jesus, accounted to us by the Holy Spirit. Solomon, the wisest man in the world, looked long and hard at his life—both with God and apart from God. In the end, he came this single conclusion: “Remember your Creator … for this is the whole duty of man.”
God has revealed Himself in creation, in Scripture, in conscience and in Jesus Christ. Abraham Lincoln wrote, “I never gaze at the stars without feeling that I am looking into the face of God. I can see how it might be possible for man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist because of all the mess of humanity, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the sky and say, ‘There is no God.’”
Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has placed (awareness of) eternity in our hearts. There is more to life than our experience on earth. There is ‘something’ outside of ourselves we all need to connect with. For Solomon that something is “… your Creator.”
Only by looking above the sun--to the Son, do we find meaning and purpose.
“The Purpose of Signs” (April 26, 2023) John 11:1-45.
Signs call our attention to any number of places or things. We see them on highways; exit signs, directional signs, wildlife warnings, all pointing beyond the sign itself. Travel from one side of Canada to the other and you'll know you've passed from one Province to the next--not by the landscape but--by a sign.
Upon hearing that His friend was sick, Jesus intentionally waited before heading to Lazarus’ home, arriving four days after he died. When Lazarus' sister, Martha, met Jesus on the road, she said, “If only you had been here, he would not have died!” After a brief conversation about life and death, Jesus said, “I Am the resurrection and the life.”
By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus pointed beyond the “shadow” to the “reality” showing Him as the “resurrection and the life.”
It is interesting then, that the raising of Lazarus happens as Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to face His own death and resurrection. And while Lazarus faced death a second time, Jesus was the first to rise, never to die again. It's into this life that all placing their hope and faith in Jesus are invited.
“Living Hope” (April 18, 2023) "He has given us new birth into a living hope." 1 Peter 1:3
Well, it’s happened—the Vancouver Canucks once again failed to make the playoffs. I hoped my team would make a deep run for the Stanley Cup, but it was not to be.
The word hope can be a noun or a verb. When I “hope” for my team to win, with hope being a “verb” I want something to happen. But when I have “noun-hope,” I have the assured expectation that something will happen. For Christians, the hope Jesus gives us through His resurrection is not a wanting or wishful hope, but an assured expectation of what we know is to come.
Peter explains that Christians are given a “new birth into a living hope” (v. 3). It’s similar to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that when a person places their trust in Jesus, they become a “new creature.” We are given a new life and a new identity. In verse three, Peter is using hope as a noun. It is so much more than a want or a desire. It is a joyful and confident expectation.
In verse four Peter says that the new birth also gives us an eternal inheritance. Unlike an earthly inheritance, the one God promies can “never perish, spoil or fade” (vv. 4–7).
Our hope in Christ is not wishful thinking, but an assured expectation of what awaits all who place their hope in Him.
Unexpected Responses At The Cross “The centurion … praised God … The people … beat their breasts … Those who knew him … stood at a distance, watching these things.” Luke 23:47-49
What a scene it must have been at the foot of the cross. The religious leaders were confident that they were in control. After all, there was Jesus—nailed to a cross. They’d mocked and beaten Him and now He was dead, having done nothing. Besides, what could He have done?
I sit here this morning, trying to imagine how the soldiers must have felt when they first noticed that the sun had stopped shining. I’d love to have seen the reaction of the Pharisees as they realized that the temple curtain was torn—from the top, to the bottom. How humbling it would have been to watch panic set in as they began to understand that they'd never really been in control at all.
In contrast, I think of the control Jesus showed, as in a loud voice and with His last breath, the Son of God offered His spirit to God the Father—thus fulfilling His purpose and mission with the simple words, "It is finished."
Imagine what it would be like as a witness, to suddenly realize what--exactly--had just happened. The Roman centurion, of all people, praised God and commented on Jesus’ righteousness. Did he even believe in God? The crowds beat their chests, as a sign of deep sorrow. Why so sad, now? Weren’t you mocking Jesus just moments before? And Jesus’ followers, standing off at a distance, with no idea what to do, now that their Messiah was gone.
All these unexpected reactions make me think of how I feel ... when I realize/remember that God is in control, always. How comforting it is to know that His purposes can never be thwarted.
May reflecting on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus fill you with gratitude, and a deeper understanding of what exactly happened at the cross.
“It Is Finished—Jesus Paid It All!” “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:30
We're approaching that time of year when the world pauses (if ever so briefly) to acknowledge Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. It is worth noting that just before He died on the cross, Jesus uttered a single Greek word--a cry of triumph--which translates into three English words: “It is finished.”
The Greek word tetélestai also has three meanings, all pointing to Jesus’ completed work in saving all who place their faith in Him.
First, it was used when a task had been completed. For example, when a son finished work on a project, he would say to his father, “Tetélestai,” meaning, “The work you entrusted to me is done.”
Second, it was used to speak of paying off a debt. When a person paid off a debt the legal authorities would stamp the document “Tetélestai,” meaning, “The debt has been paid.”
Third, it was used to identify a person’s possession of a deed. When someone bought a piece of property and had paid for it in full, they received the deed with the inscription “Tetélestai,” meaning, “You have the right of possession.”
In offering His life on the cross, Jesus completed the work the Father had entrusted to Him so that we could be saved from sin and death. On the cross He paid our debt in full, opening the way to eternal life for us. This is what we celebrate: the forgiveness and salvation we are freely offered—all because of Christ’s finished work.
How amazing it is, that all who place faith in Him receive the right to take possession of eternal life.
Jesus—Our Perfect Savior (March 21, 2023) “You know that He appeared that He might take away our sin. And in Him is no sin.” 1 John 3:5
I suspect that at least once in your life someone has said to you, “I have good news, and I have bad news. Which do you want first?” If you are like me you said, “The bad news.”
Well, here’s the bad news. We all stand condemned before God because of our rebellion against Him. To make matters worse, there is nothing we can do to make ourselves right with God. We are all worthy of eternal separation from God.
Now for the good news. While it’s obvious that we desperately need help, the Bible makes it clear that Christ alone is qualified to save us.
Why Jesus only? It’s because God’s moral law requires perfect obedience. From His birth to His death, only Jesus was perfectly obedient to God’s law. So, only in Him can new life be found.
Here is more good news. While we were still ‘spiritually dead in sin’ the Father loved us enough to send His Son to restore us to God.
Even if you have known this good news for some time now, I encourage you to savor it anew this week. Let it wash over you each day, prompting you to love God and your neighbor, even more.
If you’ve only known the bad news, may the Spirit of God move your heart to see and confess the name of our perfect Savior, Christ Jesus, today!
Our Greatest Treasure (March 15, 2023) “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.” Matthew 13:44
I remember reading Treasure Island when I was 9 or 10. I don't recall how many nights I spent reading, under the covers by flashlight, well past the time mom said, "lights out." For a boy who grew up without TV, books were the medium that brought life to life. I was fascinated by Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale of pirate gold, stolen from Spanish sailors, who had stolen it from the Incas, who in turn had invaded the lands of others, who then built an empire in the Andes. Stevenson's story of pirates burying gold on a Caribbean Island, along with the map showing its whereabouts, that was lost , then found, and of the crowds from England setting off in search of the treasure, was simply mesmerizing.
In Jesus’ parable about hidden treasure, He doesn’t focus on where the treasure came from, who might have known about it in the past, and so on. That isn’t the purpose of the parable. The important points are that (1) the Kingdom of Heaven is a treasure worth more than anything we could ever discover, and (2) sometimes people stumble upon it unexpectedly.
It's relatively easy to get caught up in the struggles of life: getting an education, finding the perfect job, the right spouse, raising kids, keeping healthy, growing old, and, eventually, facing death. With all these demands it's tempting to dismiss the idea of eternal life as mere fantasy. Like those who stayed in England and never joined the search on Treasure Island, it can be appealing to write off the idea of eternal treasure awaiting those who place their hope in Jesus. What a joy, then, to discover that He came to show God’s love--not for just a few--but for all who disire it! Eternal life and the Kingdom of Heaven are so much greater than any treasure we could find, in any field, or on any island.
I encourage you to seek Jesus, ... the treasure, who longs to be found.
“He Touched Me” (February 21, 2023) “And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. …” Revelation 1:17-18
I watched a video last week that showed two police officers on the side of the road talk a soldier out of committing suicide. After convincing the man to put his gun down and step out of the car, one of the officers asked if the man needed anything. In a shaky voice, the distraught man replied, “I could use a hug.”
There are times when we just need a hug. A touch. Anything to assure us that we’re not alone.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus touched the untouchable (at least in the eyes of society). People with leprosy cried out for healing, Jesus touched them. He touched the eyes of the blind. And that amazes me since Jesus did not need to touch them to heal them. He could have simply said, “Be healed.” Yet He touched them to assure them they were important, and they were not alone.
In Revelation 1:17-18) John the Apostle fell at Jesus’ feet in fear. Jesus responded by reaching out, placing His right hand on him, saying, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus is the ascended and exalted Son of God: He is the Lord of love and all compassion. And He comforts John with a touch.
God invites us to see ourselves in this picture. Jesus reaching out, placing His right hand on us, as we hear Him say: “Do not be afraid.”
I pray you are comforted by the assurance that Jesus (and His healing touch) is with all who call upon His name.
“Do Not Worry…” (February 14, 2023) “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” Matthew 6:25-34
This past Sunday we talked about worry. One of the things we mentioned was how useless worry is since it changes nothing. At least not for the better. It’s one thing to say don’t worry—it’s a whole other thing to follow through. Especially given the state of our world today where we are bombarded from every side.
So how do we not worry? Simply put, by trusting God's promises.
It’s helpful to remember that Jesus’ first disciples lived with war, violence, disease, and famine in a way that is foreign to most of us today. On any given day, they could lose a child or lose their harvest or be robbed by a Roman tax collector. And, unlike today, there were no safety nets. There were no social services, no food stamps, and no hospitals. Yet Jesus tells them, not to worry.
It’s helpful to understand that even in the harsh environment of that ancient world, Jesus had the audacity to tell His followers not to worry about their lives, because God had called them into a relationship with Himself. And if God watches over small details such as providing for plants and animals, then we can trust that He will provide for us.
Jesus tells us that trusting the promises of God can help put our worries and anxieties into perspective, no matter what those worries may be. If there’s something we need, we can ask God to provide it. If there’s a struggle we face, we can ask Him for help. If we feel lost or confused about what we should do, we can ask Him for clarity. And as we pray these things, we can trust not only that God can provide what He promises, but also that He actually will. Maybe not how we imagined. In fact, likely not how we thought or even asked. But according to His purposes, which we often do not see until after the fact.
Jesus calls us to trust God. Do we? Even nature itself tells us that we can.
Father, no matter what challenges I face, help me to remember Your love and Your faithfulness to me. Amen.
“Under His Wings” (February 07, 2023) I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”Psalm 91:2
The Midrash (an ancient commentary on the Old Testament) states that Psalm 91 was composed by Moses on the day he completed the Tabernacle in the desert. He is said to be describing the experience of entering the Tabernacle: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty".
If you’ve lived long enough, you know just how big and scary and difficult the world can be. So, thankfully, we read in this psalm that God is our shelter; He will cover us with His feathers spread wide, and under God’s wings we will find refuge.
By instinct, when a bird sees a threat, they spread their wings, forming a canopy of protection for their young to hide under until the danger passes. Moses offers this as an analogy of the relationship we have with God, in whom we can always find refuge.
But what about those times when threats don’t pass us by, and we don’t feel at all protected? The promise is not that pain and tragedy will always avoid us, but that ultimately nothing can separate us from the reach of God’s arms or love. We live “in the shelter of the most High”; we rest and find comfort “in the shadow of the Almighty.” We need not fear because He is with us, walking alongside and in front of us and behind us, like a mother hen that will never abandon her young.
How comforting it is to know that He is always with us.
Father, protect and shelter us. Gather us under Your wings and shield us. Be our refuge in every storm of life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Promises, Promises!” (January 31, 2023) “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with whitewash—say to those who plaster it with whitewash, that it will fall.”– Ezekiel 13:10-11 NKJV
In the time of Ezekiel (the prophet of God), words were being spoken by false prophets offering the people of Israel peace. Everyone was excited. The problem? The words were not true. Those speaking the lies may have been well-intentioned and themselves simply deceived. Or, they may have intended to mislead by offering pleasant sounding wishful thinking. Regardless of motivation, the words were not true, and the listeners were being misled.
This past Sunday we talked about speaking truth. Which is not always popular since many today find it possible and acceptable to “have your own truth.” Wishful thinking may help us feel good temporarily, but it will also distort our perspective. For this reason, God calls us to always speak truth that is always motivated by love (Ephesians 4:15).
A strong commitment to speaking truth, in love, demonstrates that our hearts are right and that we want to serve God more than anything else. Unless we focus our minds and hearts on truth, we can be vulnerable to deception. We can be deceived by well-intentioned statements, by well-meaning people, that are simply wrong.
This week, ask God to give you discernment to know what is true and help you not be deceived. Ask Him to help you stay sensitive to His Spirit, and be committed to speaking His truth.
“Living and Active” (January 26, 2023) For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to . . . the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. – Hebrews 4:12-13
When a person undergoes surgery, the physician takes a scalpel and begins the process by “opening” the patient up. This is done to see and correct whatever is going on inside. The book of Hebrews describes God’s Word as “sharper than any double-edged sword.” In our 21st Century, Western worldview, the imagery of a sword may be difficult to grasp. A scalpel is easier to understand—because a scalpel opens us up and reveals what’s going on inside.
The writer of Hebrews urges us to “make every effort to enter [God’s] rest,” then follows up with why it’s important—“for the Word of God is alive and active.” The all-powerful, all-knowing God knows us through and through, and there is nothing that “is hidden from His sight.”
Sometimes we try to cover our sin. But nothing is hidden from God, who reveals things in us—and to us—that we think we can hide. He shows us the truth for the purpose of drawing us closer to Him, and thereby, to His blessings.
Having been called to make every effortto enter God’s rest, let's be careful not to harden our hearts toward Him. Rather, as He reveals His goodness to you, rest in Him, and share that goodness with others.
Living 2023 Under Our New King (January 03, 2023) “Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king….” -- 2 Samuel 2:7
When the new king, David, spoke these words, Israel found itself in a precarious situation. They were surrounded by enemies. Their first king, Saul, had just died and they faced an internal struggle. Would they descend into chaos or become the nation God called them to be: a light to the nations?
With a prayerful and submissive heart, David welcomed the anointing of the people as king. Through him, God would unite a troubled nation, by giving them strong leadership. God would bring order out of chaos, and new life out of degeneration and death. However, for that to happen, the people of Israel must increasingly become ‘dead to Saul’ and ‘alive to David’ as king.
It is the same way, when we place our trust in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we transfer our allegiance from our old life of selfishness and sin to a new life in Christ.
What does it mean to be a Christian? One way to describe it is to say that we live under a new King. Whereas we once lived under ‘king satan’ (Ephesians 2:2), we are now loyal to King Jesus.
My sincere hope for you, in 2023, is that it will be a “new year” with the “new (or renewed) King” – ChristJesus.
[I posted the following to Facebook a year ago. It came up as a “reminder” & I thought it fitting to end the year with] God’s Crowning Glory (December 27, 2022) Genesis 1:26 (ESV): “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Perhaps the most insidious teaching coming out of our Marxist-leaning universities has been that we humans are mere “stardust.” Believing we are the product of “random chance & time” has led generations to lose their identity—resulting in the degradation of morality and in a loss of hope & purpose.
My wish for 2023 is that we might know, instead, that we are the crowning glory of God’s creation -- “created in His image” -- and so much more than mere molecules in motion.
Just imagine how different our relationships would be if we lived like we believed we are God’s greatest act of creation—&—if we understood that we are commissioned by Him to reflect His love to one another.
How amazing, then, that God demonstrated His love for us by sending Jesus to redeem us from the lie that we mean nothing & are nothing.
Be blessed—and be a blessing!
With Arms and Hearts Full… (December 20, 2022) Luke 2: 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”
When Jesus was not yet two months old Simeon held him in his arms. After all, that's what we do. We love to hold those precious bundles of new life, and wonder what their lives will hold for them.
Simeon had high hopes for the Messiah. His expectation was that Jesus would shine as a light in the midst of the darkness his people, Israel, found themselves in. Not only would he provide the way out of darkness for Israel, but Jesus came as God's gift of salvation for all people.
These hopes and expectations, however, did not just come to Simeon out of nowhere. The Spirit of God had been speaking in his heart, giving him hope that he would live long enough to see the Messiah, the King of Israel. And when the Spirit prompted him, Simeon went to the temple, and there he held the promise of salvation in his arms.
The bible tells us Simeon rejoiced--which is the appropriate response, looking in the face of God’s rescue plan. This powerless infant, who could not yet talk or walk , was the answer to the world’s greatest need. And he still is the answer today.
Remember what they say about Christmas — “Wise men still seek Him.”
The Word Became Flesh (December 08, 2022) John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh.” To be precise, the Word became human, just like us. That sounds simple—until we know who the Word is. Then it becomes … simply amazing.
John the Apostle starts his gospel with the timeless existence of the Word: “In the beginning was the Word.” Then he connects the Word with God: “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Next, John connects the divine Word to creation: “Through him all things were made.”
The Word is also the source of human flourishing: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” And the Word is invincible: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” It is no small thing that this amazing, extraordinary Word became flesh, in the person of Jesus. The timeless, life-giving Creator becomes as ordinary as any of us. Talk about amazing.
Here is something especially amazing. When the Word became flesh, the glory of God became visible in a new way: “The Word became flesh…We have seen his glory...” Thousands upon thousands saw the Word of God—in the flesh! In all his glory! And that glory is what we celebrate—not just at this time of year—but each day.
God-become-human. Coming to save us from ourselves. Now that truly is something worth celebrating.
Not by Might, But by Grace (November 29, 2022) “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – Philippians 2:12-13
In my first year of seminary in Texas I had a friend named Mark who, I came to find out, grew up with some rather peculiar habits. For example, he spent an entire year living in the space under the stairs in a friend’s house. There, Mark ate his meals with cardboard cut-outs of “people” so he did not feel alone.
Mark was a bright and dedicated student, but fear of failing caused him serious performance paralysis. It was so bad that he would refuse to hand in any work unless he thought it was perfect. How difficult that must have been for him.
It can be easy for us to fall into a similar sense of perfectionism when following Jesus. We can become convinced that if we are not following Him perfectly, we are failing. We need to understand that we will continue to struggle, even though we are saved through Jesus’ sacrifice for us. When we realize this truth, we will learn to trust that God continues His perfecting work in us, even when (in fact, especially when) we don’t get it 'right.'
How comforting to know that, even when we are imperfect, God is working perfectly in us. We are not saved by our efforts, but by the grace of God. All we need (as the verse above suggests) is to keep seeking God's will, and to ask that He act in our lives.
"Be blessed, and be a blessing!"
Hope That Lasts (November 22, 2022) Psalm 119:81: “My soul faints with longing for Your salvation, but I have put my hope in Your word.”
Last Sunday I asked if anyone had asked God to intervene in a situation, only to be met with seeming silence? In Psalm 119, the author pleads with God to rescue him from his enemies. They have persecuted him without cause, and the writer is feeling completely alone. So, he cries out: “Where are you, God?” “When will you comfort me?” “How long must your servant wait?” “When will you punish my persecutors?” “Rescue me from these troubles, now!”
But it seems his appeals are met with complete silence.
Here is what I was encouraged by as I read this Psalm this morning. The psalmist doesn’t reject God or turn away from him. Instead, the trials renew his passion for God by meditating on His Word. The writer finds assurance of God’s unfailing love, which makes him want to please God, by living a holy life.
Our troubles may or may not be as difficult as the author of Psalm 119, but we all experience waiting for God at times. And while we wait, we have an opportunity to grow in our faith. I want to assure you, that in His time, God will answer. I want to encourage you, to seek Him through His Word and continue to obey as you wait.
We wait for you, Lord—and as we wait, help us to grow in trust and obedience. Amen.
Hope: Verb or Noun? (November 15, 2022) I love hockey, even though my playing days are well behind me. So, it’s no surprise that I try to get my “fix” by watching the experts play.
I have been a fan of the Vancouver Canucks ever since their inception into the National Hockey League, way back in 1970. I even had great expectations for them at the start of this year—because a true fan will support “their team” through good times and bad. You watch, in hope—but you also realize that only one team can bring home the trophy. The word hope can be a noun or a verb. So, when fans “hope” (verb) for their team to win, they wantsomething to happen. However, when we “hope” (noun), we have an assured expectation that something will happen.
For Christians, the hope Christ gives us through His resurrection is not a wanting or wishful hope, but an assured expectation of what we know is yet to come.
He has given us new birth into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3).
Peter’s comment is similar to Paul’s idea in 2 Corinthians 5:17, which assures us that when a person places their trust in Jesus, they become a “new creature.” We're given a new life and a new identity.
Peter uses hope as a noun. This hope is more than just a want or a desire. Peter assures us that this living hope is a joyful and confident expectation. Peter continues (v. 4) to say that the new birth also gives us an eternal inheritance. It assures us that we will be united with Christ forever.
Unlike any earthly inheritance, we may receive, this eternal inheritance can “never perish, spoil or fade” because of God’s power and promise (vv. 4–7). The idea of living hope and a heavenly inheritance was a new message for early believers (vv. 8–9).
And now, we too have that same hope.
Never the Same Again (November 08, 2022) When I lived in Dallas, Texas (in the ‘90’s) I "bumped into" Howard Hendricks, who was nicknamed “Prof.” Hendricks taught at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) for over 50 years. I met him one day, because the school I attended (in Irving) used DTS's library for research.
He was a preacher/teacher who was sold-out for Jesus. A ball of energy, small in stature, but a giant in the faith.
One of the courses I had just finished required us to read his books, The Seven Laws of the Teacher and The Seven Laws of the Learner. So, meeting him right after that seemed more than just a coincidence. I learned a lot from his books, but it was something in one of his sermons that has helped shape my life over the years. He said:
“I pray everyday for people like you, that God will give you such a passion for Jesus Christ, that anybody that gets even close to you, will never be the same again.”
That is my prayer for you, too. That you will be so full of the Spirit and goodness of God, that whoever meets you will see Jesus shining through.
Be blessed—and be a blessing!
“You Are What You Eat” (October 18, 2022) Each week I prepare a message that, hopefully, honors God and encourages those who hear. My goal is to challenge us to draw closer to God and live lives that bless others.
This is not always an easy task.
Reflecting on that responsibility helped me to gain a greater appreciation for those who (three times EVERY day!!!) work hard to feed their families—especially knowing how particular ‘we’ can be when it comes to food.
With this in mind consider the following letter written by a reader of The British Weekly to the editor:
“Dear Sir: It seems ministers feel their sermons are very important and spend a great deal of time preparing them. I have been attending a church service quite regularly for the past 30 years, and I have probably heard 3,000 of them. To my consternation, I discovered that I cannot remember a single sermon. I wonder if a minister’s time might be more profitably spent on something else?”
For weeks a storm of responses followed. The uproar finally was ended by this letter:
“Dear Sir: I have been married for 30 years. During that time, I have eaten 32,850 meals – mostly of my wife’s cooking. Suddenly, I have discovered that I cannot remember the menu of a single meal. And yet, I received nourishment from every single one of them. I have the distinct impression that without them, I would have starved to death long ago.”
The point I take away is simply this: We are what we eat!
What do you feed your soul with each day?
Being Thankful (October 11, 2022) Take a quick tour through the New Testament and you will get a clear understanding of just how much Jesus loved the church (His Bride). He died for it, intercedes for it, lives in it, and soon, He will return for it.
If we’re being honest, it’s not always easy to love the church. It’s easy to love Jesus. Loving His Bride is a whole other story. That’s because churches are filled with frail and faulty people.
In my case, I feel so very blessed to attend, pastor, and love, Lumby Christian Church. We are not perfect, but here are just a few characteristics I love about LCC:
We trust the Word of God—it directs our lives rather than the shifting opinions or imposed traditions of our culture
We are a giving church—looking out for the needs of one another and for the needs of our community
We are people who truly love each other
We have freedom to worship in Spirit and in truth
We have a variety of giftedness in people with hearts that are willing to serve others
I thank God that I am able to invest my life in the only thing that will last forever. May you be blessed this week, and may you be a blessing! “Unprecedented!" (October 04, 2022) For years the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary have selected a single word to describe the previous year, but in 2020 they had trouble narrowing it down to just one. Topping the list were expressions like, lockdown, shelter in place, Covid-19, amongst others. Finally, they felt that the best choice was … “unprecedented.”
Jesus’ disciples also had an unprecedented experience. It happened while they, too, were in lockdown. They were “sheltering in place” in fear, having just witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross (which in itself was not unprecedented; there were lots of crucifixions). What happened next, however, was unprecedented. Here is how John describes it in chapter 20: “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” (20:19) “After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”... (20:21-22).
Assuring his disciples that he had defeated death, Jesus' presence offered them hope and joy and purpose. So much so, they went from hiding in fear, to impacting the entire world with the message of the gospel.
At Lumby Christian Church we celebrate Communion each Sunday. Not as mere formality, but in remembrance and celebration of the fact that Jesus is present with us, today. And because he is, we too can experience peace, joy, purpose and power.
Experiencing God—NOW! (Sept. 27, 2022) In the midst of troubling times, how comforting it is to know and experience God’s presence (Emmanuel, 'God with us').
The book of Revelation is not the easiest book to read, full of visions and strange imagery. However, if you take the time to read it you will find that there is an underlying theme: the Sovereignty of God. Revelation tells us one main truth: because God is sovereign over everything, in Jesus—we win!
The end of the book (chapters 21 and 22) speaks of the new heaven and new earth where God will dwell with His people. This will be 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).
Amid a message of chaos and suffering the Revelation weaves an amazing picture of the hope we look forward to, where all things are new, and all pain and suffering is done away with. However, as we await that future, we can enjoy the present, now. Consider just a few of the promises God has given us:
'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)
We have both future and present blessings as promised by God. Heaven awaits us, but we also have joy in Jesus, now. I hope you know His love and promises, today!
"But I Tell You..." (August 23, 2022) Every genuine follower of Jesus longs for (and creates space for) personal time with Him. It is one of the most precious gifts (this side of heaven) that He offers. Genuine believers long to know what He--Himself--has to say. I can think of no better way to do that than to read His words for ourselves.
One of our small groups spent time in the Gospel of Matthew this past year, where we noticed a four-word phrase that Jesus used--often (six times in Matthew 5 alone): “But I tell you…”
"You have heard that it was said... but I tell you..."
There are times where I have asked people that I respect for insight about the Bible, Jesus, or His ways. And I gained some great understandings by doing so. But there have also been times where people say things that are simply not in sync with Jesus’ will. At all.
The truth is there is no end to the information people will offer that is not found in the Word of God. It's only by digging into the Word, for ourselves, that we discover God's will concerning a matter.
You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” I think this is meant to serve as a warning that we are to dig into the Word for ourselves. Learn what Jesus--Himself--is saying. Don’t just take somebody else’s word. Be intentional and go to the Source Himself.
You may just discover that Jesus is wanting to teach you something the world simply won’t.
"Then I Will Hear From Heaven" (August 16, 2022) 2 Chronicles 7:14 In my daily reading this morning, I read Solomon’s magnificent prayer in 2 Chronicles 6. In my mind, this prayer ranks among the most majestic found anywhere in the Bible. Here’s the background: King David has died without fulfilling his passionate desire to build a temple for the Lord. His son Solomon builds the temple and gathers Israel to an enormous celebration to dedicate the temple and inaugurate the temple sacrifices.
2 Chronicles devotes three chapters to this celebration. They had a huge feast, they sacrificed thousands of animals, the Levites sang and played instruments, and it was all wonderful. Best of all, the Levites carried the Ark of the Covenant and placed it in the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the temple. Suddenly the temple was filled with a cloud so thick that the priests couldn’t stand and do their work. At the very end, Solomon spoke to the people from a bronze platform that he had built for himself for the occasion. Then he knelt on it and stretched out his hands toward heaven as he prayed.
We could study this prayer exhaustively and still learn something from it. Solomon earnestly asks the Lord--seven times in this prayer--to “hear from heaven” when his people pray. But first, he acknowledges that “heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You.” 2 Chronicles 6:18.
Stop and think for a moment about a heaven that cannot contain God. What kind of a heaven is this? Does God really live in a place too small for Him? For that matter, how big is God?
Whatever its features, this is the heaven that Solomon asks God to hear from. We know from four of the quotes below that heaven is God’s dwelling place. Here are the seven times in 2 Chronicles 6 that Solomon asks God to hear from heaven:
Hear from Your dwelling place, from heaven; hear and forgive (v. 21). Then hear from heaven and act and judge Your servants (v. 23). Then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel (v. 25). Then hear from heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive (vv. 29-30). Then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to You (v. 33). Then hear from heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause (verse 35). Then hear from heaven, from Your dwelling place, their prayer, and supplications, and maintain their cause and forgive Your people who have sinned against You (v. 39).
All of these verses bless us because we know that God really does hear from heaven when we pray. How? We know because that very night God appeared to Solomon and said: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
In this verse, God promises to hear from heaven when we pray to Him.
Does God hear from heaven today? Absolutely!
So pray confidently, knowing He will hear from heaven and forgive our sins and grant our need--according to His perfect will.
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 Bono's (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."