Thursday, November 22, 2018

Surprise Release


Peter followed [the angel] out of prison. Acts 12:9 NIV

Peter had been thrown into prison for preaching about Jesus. He was securely guarded and no doubt expected to be there until he was released or died.  Suddenly, miraculously, an angel appeared and lead him past the guards to freedom. Peter thought he was probably dreaming or hallucinating – lack of food and water could make that happen. But it was really happening and soon he was knocking at the door of the house where the other disciples were praying for him. They too were incredulous and didn’t initially believe that his escape was possible. Peter, who had denied Jesus before the crucifixion, was given a special miracle to attest to God’s care for him.

I have also seen circumstances align in unimaginable ways to meet some special need of mine. Those times remind me that God knows me intimately and gives me blessings that reflect his deep understanding of me. It can be difficult to feel trapped but what a wonderful experience when God opens the door and leads us past our obstacles.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Clarity



Jesus replied,” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’…” Matthew 22:37 NIV

Just before this passage, the Sadducees had been trying to trip Jesus up with a hypothetical question about marriage. They take the example of a woman who was widowed several times and asked who would be her husband in heaven. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection and so were trying to show that it would be impossible to work out the logistics of people’s relationships after death. Jesus explains to them that our heavenly bodies are not like our earthly ones, and that people do not marry in heaven. Then the Pharisees ask their trick question: Which is the greatest commandment? Jesus brings  them all back to the basics: Love God, Love your neighbor.  God’s word is simple.

I pray that God will keep reminding me of the simplicity of the Gospels. I hope that I don’t lose sight of the centrality of love. It’s easy to get caught up in theological debates but they often just lead to irritation, pride and division. I need to focus on God’s love for me so that I can love Him; I need to remember how He forgave me so that I can forgive others and learn to love them. Love, love, love.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Honour your Father and Mother


“You say it is perfectly all right for a man to disregard his needy parents, telling them, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you! For I have given to God what I could have given to you.” Mark 7:11 TLB

Jesus is rebuking the Pharisees about their valuing traditions over the true meaning and intent of the Scriptures. The commandment is “Honour your father and mother.” But people were making excuses for not taking care of their parents by saying that their money had been given to God, presumably as temple offerings. They prided themselves on their tithing while neglecting their familial duties. Jesus made it clear that their monetary giving did not somehow relieve them of their other responsibilities. At the cross, Jesus entrusted the care of Mary to John ensuring that she would be taken care of.  He was the Son of God but he still obeyed the commandment to honour his mother.

I need to be careful that I don’t use up my resources of time, money, emotional energy, and physical energy doing “godly” work while I neglect to care for my parents. Sometimes looking after older people is boring or uncomfortable. Spending money on them may seem like a waste if they are near the end of their life.  Enriching their lives can be a burden that I’d rather not carry when I could be doing more interesting things or investing money in more dramatic ministries. It is important for me to remember that God values every minute that I spend honouring my parents.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Wide Blessings


“…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”  Genesis 12:3 NIV

God called Abram to leave his town and to travel to a place that God had prepared for him. God promised to bless Abram for his obedience and said that the blessings would extend beyond Abram to all the people on the earth. How true that promise has proved to be. Because of Abram’s obedience, the nation of Israel grew, and out of that nation came our Saviour. As Christians, we also bless people in ways that we don’t foresee. Our influence goes beyond our intimate circle of family and friends as we support missionaries, gather as churches praying for the needs of the world, vote for governments and shine our lights into dark corners of the human condition.  God always has the big picture in mind as well as the personal relationships with his people.

I am not Abraham, nor am I a person of wide influence but my life does have an effect on the world. As I encourage young people in their faith, who knows where God will lead them? Even in small ways, by being patient and kind I reflect the light of Christ and those who come in contact with it feel blessed. My name will quickly be forgotten after I die, but my spiritual life as a Christian will have changed the world for the better.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Right Order


Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Haggai 1:9 NIV

The book of Haggai describes the Israelites as a people who are interested in their own worldly prosperity and who are neglecting the Kingdom of God in their pursuit of material gain. The prophet points out to them that in spite of their hard work, their harvests are slight, their appetites are not satisfied, their clothes don’t keep them warm and their money keeps disappearing.  He is challenging the people to put God first and see how He will bless them. Today, many people, Christians and non-Christians are struggling to get their personal house in order and postponing any engagement with God until they feel secure in their careers, houses, or relationships. Sadly, they have it all backwards as the first stone of security is to be in relationship with God. Seek first the Kingdom of God.

Life really can seem like a book. I have watched friends and family chase after fame and fortune, careers and adventures and, while they have obtained some of what they were hoping for, the amount of effort is not in line with the meager return. On the other hand, I have seen people who put God first in their lives and I have observed how God has blessed them above and beyond their efforts. God has chosen to bless me financially in unexpected ways and I thank him for honouring my desire to put his kingdom first even if  it cost me money.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Kings


He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. Daniel 2:21 NIV

The Old Testament can be a difficult book to read. In it are many stories of violence and wars. Some Israelite kings are concerned for their people but others aren’t.  How can it be that God is sovereign over the rulers of the world if some of them are so bad?  I think sometimes God uses our rulers to discipline us even as he uses good rulers to bless us. It is in our nature to be rebellious and selfish, and those characteristics can lead us down many paths away from God. We don’t always realize the ways in which Satan is ensnaring us or preparing us for destruction. Sometimes God has to figuratively slap us to get us to pay attention and see things as they really are. God is always going to bless us, Satan will always try to destroy us. Satan  masquerades as an angel of light and very often deceives us.  He is after all the father of all lies and his biggest, most persistent lie is that God does not want what is best for us.

Hard as it can be to understand, I need to remember that God does put our leaders in their positions. They are not perfect and may do things that I disagree with, or that are harmful to our country. God is not primarily concerned with national governments; he is concerned with his personal relationship with us. I need to keep my relationship with him as my primary focus. However,  I am admonished to pray for the political leaders of my town, province, and country, and I believe I should exercise the right to vote as this is also something that God has given me. Politics can be frustrating but if I keep my eyes on Jesus I will maintain a view of the big picture of God’s work in the world.



Monday, October 1, 2018

Help My Unbelief


The boy’s father exclaimed, ”I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief.” Mark 9:24

The father of a boy who is having dangerous fits asks Jesus for help. He pleads with Jesus that if Jesus can do something for the boy, that He does it. Jesus points out the man’s doubts of Jesus power and says that everything is possible for the one who believes. The reply of the man is such a good reflection of how so many of us feel.  We do believe and yet there can be niggling doubts. We come to Jesus, praying and wanting to feel sure of his care and love for us, but we are not totally convinced of the veracity of his words. I appreciate the honesty of this man who knew that his faith also needed to be bolstered by the power of Jesus.  In spite of our doubts, Jesus does answer our prayers in the way that is best for us just as He did with this man.

As I get older, it is easier to look back and see God working in my life.  Some situations that were painful at the time I now see in a different light  and realize they drove my life in a better direction and helped me to grow in my faith.  I have more peace and love to share with others because of those prayers answered in God’s perfect way. Going forward I trust God to keep his hand on me and to bless me as He has promised He will. My prayer also needs to be : “help me overcome any unbelief.”