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Showing posts from September, 2006

All for the Glory of God

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

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

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

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

Part of my morning reading was Matthew 25 in which is the parable of the servants who were loaned money and challenged to invest it well, meaning that we have a responsibility to l…

High Horses and Other Modes of Transport

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

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

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

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

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

The Apologetic Christian

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

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

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

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

"A…

The Light has Come

Isaiah 60:1 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society The Glory of Zion
1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.

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

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

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

Dear Lord, there is so much “self” alive and kicking in me,…

Called By Name

By Ezra Connection

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

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

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

My mind leaped back to our Grade 9 introduction to Latin, and the marvel of yet a sixth case ending that we had to learn for nouns—the Vocative Case. At first, we learned to use this case of address when a…

Joy Comes in the Morning

Matthew 28:1 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
Matthew 28
1 Early on Sunday morning, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to see the tomb.

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

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

Did they brace themselves against the flood of overwhelming emotion that must have filled their hearts? Did they blink…

The Flocking Instinct

1 Corinthians 2:9-10 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
9b
... "No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
for those who love him."
10But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God's deep secrets.

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

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

Two weeks ago (it seems like so much longer), our worship team gathered bef…

The Miracle of Life

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

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

Around this time I watched a natural history show on television that was att…

The Missing Piece

Genesis 2:21-24 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
21So the LORD God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adam's ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. 22Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib and brought her to Adam.
23"At last!" Adam exclaimed. "She is part of my own flesh and bone! She will be called `woman,' because she was taken out of a man." 24This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.

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

God uses the relationship of husband and wife to describe Christ and the Church. If Adam was incomplete without Eve, could it be that God is incomplete without u…

Holy Ground

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

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

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

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

We humans have a proclivity for judging others. I think that may have been what was meant by the original temptation of the serpent in the garden; that we "would be just like God, knowing everything, both good a…

God Cares for His Children

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

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

A few moments later the daughter of the man who was having the stroke came back into the waiting room to use the phone next to our seats. To the person at the other end she said, again with calm urgency, "This is serious, listen carefully, I'm at the hospital with Dad and he is having a stroke.&q…

Crowds and Cross Carriers

Luke 14:25 -27 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

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

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

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

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

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

There would have been opportunists; Fish Shops to feed the hungry, or sellers of “Furni…

Standing and Staring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 8:3-9…

The Lord Weighs the Heart

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

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

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

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

Although I could write much about my friend, what prompted me to think of her when I read the verse from Proverbs was something she would do when we’d go out for dinner together. She loved to have lemon pie for dessert and when the pl…

Rest

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

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

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

I wonder if resting on the seventh day is what makes it holy. I am laughing to m…

The Cost of Grace

Leviticus 9:7-9 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
7Then Moses said to Aaron, "Approach the altar and present your sin offering and your whole burnt offering to make atonement for yourself. Then present the offerings to make atonement for the people, just as the LORD has commanded."
8So Aaron went to the altar and slaughtered the calf as a sin offering for himself. 9 His sons brought him the blood, and he dipped his finger into it and put it on the horns of the altar. He poured out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar.

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

Slaughtering animals, blood being sprinkled and poured on var…

Celebrate!

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

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

The Chief Corner Stone; Part Two

By: Claire Alexander - Ezra Connection

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

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

I don’t know how the Inuit today build a winter igloo from blocks when they …

Slow Down, Look Closely

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

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

This morning I read Matthew 21, which starts out with the account of Jesus' triumphal entry to…

Remembering 911

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

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

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

The human tragedy that has unfolded since is on a scale that is almost incomprehensible. There are between 3 and 4 thousand dead or missing. Individual stories have been s…

The Commission

Acts 22:14-15 (New International Version)

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

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

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

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

Psalm 99:5 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
5 Exalt the L…

Tried, Tested and True

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

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

One old soldier said, "We never left anyone behind." These men who fought together and knew that they might die together, had a bond of brotherhood that few of us in peace time can comprehend. They would risk their lives to bring their "mates" back, whether wounded or dead. The most heartbreaking thing was to leave someone on the battlefield. Shouldn…

All You Need is Love

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

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

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

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

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

The apostle John in his letters, …

The Hospitality of God

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

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

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

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

He anoints our head with oil and spreads a table before us! God creates a place of welcome for us, treats us as an honoured guest; how much more should we do so for one another. I think it pleases him when we…

Remember Him - Now!

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


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

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


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

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

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

What we have to do, let's do it now, do it quickly - time is running out for al…

Caring, Sharing, Forgiving

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

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

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

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

If she had something to say, it wasn't coming out, for she talked about anything and everything under the sun for ten full minutes, without p…

Peter and the Point of View

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

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

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

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

A little while later, when Jesus and his followers had reached Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his followers who men said…

God's Great Love

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

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

My mother's love is the closest human comparison I can think of to God's love. I remember how I once looked down at her face from the platform where I was practising with our worship team. She had come along to keep me company that evening and as she watched us, her eyes were ablaze with love. That image has stayed wi…

Blindness

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

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

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