Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sin Slows Us Down

Psalm 1.1: Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

Richard D. Phillips writes: Did you notice the definite progression contained in these words? First the person is walking, then standing, before finally taking his seat as he settles into the sinful life he has chosen for himself. This is the slippery slope of sin, a progression that leads to a settled godliness. (Walking With God, 4)

He will go on to say: Furthermore, there is a progression in the nature of sin's influence. First, there is the counsel. This is advice and persuasion, the way sin begins with our minds coming under the influence of the world. Next it is a way. The ideas have taken root in the mind and now bear fruit in behaviour and habits. Then, lastly, we have the seat of scoffers. Now the man is seated in depravity, his character has been warped and he is at rest and at home in this way of sin. (5)

It is no wonder we read elsewhere in Scripture Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage (1 Corinthians 16.13). It takes courage to live for Jesus and avoid the path of sinners - courage when lived by faith - brings blessing: But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on hi law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1.2-3)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Learning to Pray Big

In 2 Thessalonians 3.1-3 we have a request from Paul for the church to pray for him.

Finally brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. (1) Paul's first request: may God be glorified. Pray that the grace you have experienced may be experienced by others as the Lord's message spreads. Paul did not pray for safety or a good time - he prayed for God's glory to shine in darkness.

And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. (2) The reason for his prayer is the rebellion against God - there are wicked and evil men without faith. Pray that they may be delivered - kept safe to proclaim the Lord's message.

(This is great!) But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. (3) The problem with prayer today (and even my prayers) is that we focus so much time on the problem and forget the promise. Paul makes one statement: pray for us because ... and then - But - this is who God is (faithful) and this is what he will do (strengthen and protect you). Prayer is incomplete if all we do is ask - we must see who God is as well.

We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance (4-5) Amazing how quickly Paul says - pray for me - and then his prayer ends by praying for others. That is the way prayer works - the more we see God and the greater and more amazing and powerful he is - the bigger our prayers will be. It is like Paul saying - You pray for me and here is God and if this is God he will not only take care of me but he will take care of you.

Do you find it difficult to pray for others? Are your prayers always about your needs and your ministry? It is because your God is too small and you are not looking to His promises. When God is BIG and we are praying for His glory to explode, our prayers will turn outward and filled with confidence.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Love the Truth

2 Thessalonians 2.10: They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.

What is interesting as Paul talks about those who are perishing is that he writes: they perish because they refused to love the truth He did not write: they perish because they refused to know the truth.

A chasm separates those who know the truth and those who love the truth. To know is not to love the truth. What sustains believers as they are presented by every sort of evil (2.10)? They will love the truth.

This must be the prayer of our hearts: Lord, do not just fill my brain with Bible knowledge but give me a great love for the truth so I will stand alone for you.

When you go to church this Sunday, may I humbly suggest that you pray before your pastor preaches - God, give me a love for the truth so that I may stand firm and bring you glory.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A True "Coming Out"

Revelation 18:4-5: Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.

The apostle John is warning believers to come out of the world so they will not fall under God's wrath. The question is how? What practical steps can we take to come out of the world - while still living in the world? 2 Peter 3:11 asks the same question: Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? Peter teaches us four practical steps so that we may come out and not share in the world's sins.

1. You ought to live holy and godly lives (3.11): the general direction of your life is to be set apart and patterned after Jesus Christ.

2. Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him (3.14): our life direction and passion, our efforts will be towards godliness and peace - not with the world - but with God. We will seek to be God pleasers not man pleasers.

3. Be on your guard (3.17): fundamentally, we need to know we are in a battle. John Owens writes: If sin be subtle, watchful, strong, and always at work in the business of killing our souls, and we be slothful, negligent, foolish, in proceeding to the ruin thereof, can we expect a comfortable event? There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so whilst we live in this world. (Vol 6, p. 11) A good lesson - most battles of coming out are lost because we do not even know we are in a battle. Peter's words are wise: be on your guard - be able to recognize the enemy and then know the power of the Lord - He is gracious.

4. Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: pick up God's Word and grow in holiness, godliness, peace, and grace. Knowledge apart from grace is harsh; grace apart from knowledge is foolishness; but knowledge and grace together is growth so we may be strong enough by God's Spirit to come out and stand for God in a world against Him.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Be Quiet and the Fire Will Go Down

Proverbs 26:20: Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.

If I do not add wood to my fire then I will have no fire and on the other hand, if I want fire, I add wood. Simple lesson.

Simple, however, when applied to wood. The Word of God teaches us the damage of gossip - of slandering or killing another person's character with your words. If you want a quarrel to continue, continue to talk ill about the person - more wood - more fire. If you want a quarrel to end, be quiet. Stop talking. Or say something positive and upbuilding about the person.

How many quarrels would die in a marriage or between parents and children, in church or in workplaces if someone stood up and shut up. And the quarrel would die - it would shrivel up.

C.H. Spurgeon writes in John Ploughman's Talks: An open mouth shows an empty head. If the chest had gold or silver in it, it would not always stand wide open. Talking comes by nature, but it needs a good deal of training to learn to be quiet; yet regard for truth should put a bit into every honest man's mouth and a bridle upon every good woman's tongue. (48-49)

Wise words. Stop placing wood on the fire and the quarrel dies out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me - Mark 10.47

Jesus was coming out of Jericho, surrounded by a massive crowd, and he was on his way to Jerusalem. Along the way, in the dust and the busyness of the moment, a lone voice rises: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me. SSSHHHH - quiet - he doesn't have time - he won't hear you - there is no reason for him to hear you or stop - don't you know who this is - Jesus - be quiet for the last time.

But the lone voice cries out: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.

I love the next series of actions by Jesus: Jesus stops - he calls the man to him - he asks the man what he can do - he listens - and he heals the man of his blindness.

Simple words the world does not understand - they need mercy - I need mercy. And here is the amazing good news of the Bible - Jesus stops and listens to the cry.

Sometimes all we can cry for is mercy in the mess of life. What does Jesus do? He stops - listens - and acts.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Finding Life In the Ministry

1 Thessalonians 3.8: For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.

A sufferer is writing to those who are suffering - Paul to the people in Thessalonica. People who are suffering (Paul in this instance for his love for the Lord Jesus) can find it hard to find hope and life. That is why Paul's statement is so interesting as to where he finds "life" as a "pastor"- the people of God - despite the suffering, opposition and persecution they continue to stand firm in the Lord. They have not wavered, they have not denied the faith, they have not gone the easy route - they are standing firm, looking to the Lord for their strength.

Pastor's today are told to find their "life" in all sorts of areas - successful churches, powerful sermons, influential character and many other things. But that can easily become discouraging because churches are not always "successful", sermons at times barely squeak out, and our character is ignored or has so many flaws left, we seriously doubt any influence at all.

That is why I love Paul's words and they become my prayer: God - may I find life in the people you have given me - may I find life when they are standing firm. May that be my purpose, my joy, my passion and my life.

The beauty is it takes our eyes off our ministry and success or lack of success and places them on true life - God's glory as it shines in the light of the people. What is Paul saying when he says they are standing firm? He is saying they love God more than the world; they love the glory of God more than the goodness of the world.

And that is life - life for a pastor - purpose for a pastor - and the prayer of the pastor - May my people love you more and more so they stand firm in the the Lord against all the opposition and suffering. May you grant them a love for God that is above all else in this world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A "Vanishing Moment"

1 Peter 1.24-25: All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.

I am not old enough to have "senior" moments - although I seem to get them way too often. This past week, I believe I had what I will term a "vanishing moment" - which can happen at any age. We attended two funerals, one of a 7 year old girl who died in a car accident and the other of an 80 year old man whose body just gave out. Within the past two weeks, we celebrated the birthdays of two of my children - both a year older (I know that was an obvious statement - but I said it for m y benefit!!). And added in the mix, we remembered God's goodness to our church as we celebrated 15 years.

The moment hit - not like being hit by a train - but like a slow moving train passing by you as you wait for it to pass. The moment just dawns on you - vanishing. Years going by, lives taken, children growing. Vanishing - I am slowly vanishing.

And that is where 1 Peter is so important - God's word does not vanish and it would be utter foolishness to live apart from or let go of God's Word.

So this "vanishing" moment was a good reminder - my life is passing - the train is in many ways going way too fast. How am I living? Are my priorities straight? Am I carrying grudges or are there unnecessary divisions? Am I making the most of what God has given me for His kingdom?

Sadly, vanishing moments often turn into senior moments - I forget to live my life in the face of eternity. That is why, despite the joy and tears, this vanishing moment was a good time - a time to remember who I am, where I am going and how I am to get there.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Thankful for a Menu

Yesterday I heard someone speak about God's work in China. During the break I talked with him and he told me that we would not believe the poverty in certain places. One story he relayed was of a family that owned one pair of pants - whoever needed to go out that day would wear them.

This morning for breakfast I had oatmeal, eggs and orange juice. After I showered, I chose a pair of pants, leaving the few others in the drawer - I also put on a sweater for the damp cold. I see my wife looking at cookbooks, planning a variety of tasty meals. When I go to a restaurant, I look at a menu - a variety of choices.

I am thankful for cookbooks and menus - a variety of choices to enjoy God's blessings. It also causes me to stop grumbling and remember - remember God's abundant goodness for all his blessings.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

When God Is Silent

We also respect God's silences as well as his sayings. We can trust him. The Bible does not say all we would like it to say. But it does say all that God wants to say and all that we need to know. (Letters To A Student, Drew, 60)

Psalm 46.10: Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46 is a tumultuous time in the life of the Psalmist - mountains falling, waves roaring and nations in an uproar. But in the midst of tumult and chaos, God calls for quiet, stillness. Quietness is achieved not by looking for answers but by looking to God. Know this one thing: God is God. Period. Double period.

We are called to simply know who God is - that He will exalt His name and we must simply trust. Quietly trust God's moving among the nations, in the midst of turmoil and emptiness.

Be still and know - not the intimate details of God's hidden will - but the revealed character of God. He alone brings peace and stillness as God's people are surrounded by troubles and disappointments.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Forgive and Forget?

There are times when we forgive and forget - I do not mean forget that someone offended you but you forget to love them after you have forgiven them.

Biblical forgiveness is never just "not holding that sin against the person" and then not having anything to do with them any more or holding a grudge against them - just to show them that while you have forgiven them, you have not forgotten and you will bring a little retribution of your own.

We look at two passages - the first one describes God's forgiveness and the second of the forgiveness that is demanded of by the believer.

Psalm 103.1-5: Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Colossians 3.12-14: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Psalm 103 describes God's forgiveness as not only "not holding our sins against us" but granting us benefits: healing diseases, redeeming, crowning you with love and compassion and satisfying your life with good things. Colossians 3 tells us that God's people are to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient, putting on love - even to those who they must forgive.

What does Scripture teach us? Forgive and DO NOT FORGET - that is do not forget to satisfy the one who has offended you with good things, being kind and gentle and patient - above all loving them. This may take time but that is how radical Christian forgiveness is as we experience it from Jesus and read of it in His Word.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Essential Part of the Gospel

Revelation 14.6: Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth - to every nation, tribe, language and people.

Revelation 12-14 make up one vision which begins with the war of the dragon on the child Jesus and then the church and ends with the "new song" of victory that the people of God will sing in glory. After a description of the war which Satan will wage on the earth, especially against the church (Revelation 13) and a word of encouragement for the people of God (Revelation 14.1-5), John now sees an angel who would proclaim the eternal gospel.

We may ask - how did the proclamation of the gospel sound? What was said? Verse 7 the first angel said: Fear God and give him glory ... worship him. In verse 8 the second angel tells of the fallen Babylon - the kingdom described in Revelation 12-13, Satan's kingdom, will fall.

Most striking is verses 9-11 which speak of a warning of the coming judgment for those who have the mark of the beast. We read the angel talking about unbelievers: He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.

3 points:
1. Part of the proclamation of the gospel is understanding the wrath that sinners are under and will experience if they do not fear God, give him glory and worship him through Jesus Christ alone. The gospel is incomplete without the mention of sin and wrath. While God is love, He is also angry and will punish willful sin and rebellion.

2. God's anger and wrath must be seen in the context of the wrath and anger of Satan and sinners alike against God. Revelation 12-13 make this clear. God does not judge a neutral people - they have the mark of the beast and seek to willingly follow Satan - and not worship the rightful Creator and King. God is angry and will punish a people who seek to rebel and hate God. God is righteous and just.

3. In saying all this, verses 6-11 are a warning to those who are still alive. In other words, Jesus gives opportunity to repent. We must, with compassion, humility, and love call sinners to repentance. How awful eternal hell is for the unbeliever. Our hearts need to be softened once again to the plight of the unbeliever and his/her rebellion towards God and when softened, we will seek to proclaim and warn and plead the whole gospel - Christ is the only answer.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Is Remarriage Biblical?

Remarriage can be a controversial subject in the church with views ranging from no remarriage while the former spouse lives to remarriage not being an issue at all. This past Sunday, we looked at Mark 10 and 1 Corinthians 7 and talked about remarriage. Here is where I stand.

1 Corinthians 7.8-40 is divided up into 4 groups: unmarried and widows, Christian marriages, missed marriages (a Christian to a non Christian) and virgins. This becomes very important to understanding the text.

Unmarried and widows: Paul teaches us that it is better not to marry (this will be explained in more detail in verses 25-40) but if they are unable to control themselves, they ought to marry. The question is who are the unmarried Paul is referring to in these verses? I hold while they may include virgins (never married), it must also include those who have once before been married. Paul deals specifically with virgins later in verses 25-40. So, the other category of unmarried would have to include those who were previously married. Those virgins, previously married and widows have allowance of remarriage. As well, unmarried is a broad term that would include those previously married.

Christian marriages (verses 10-11): Paul says if two Christians are married, they must remain married. If trouble enters the marriage and one wants a divorce, there are two options: reconciliation or separation with no possibility of remarriage. In other words, if two Christians are married - you have all the tools you need in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit to work out your marriage and reconcile. If you cannot reconcile, you cannot remarry. Therefore, the Christian is not able to say This marriage is not working out - I will go and marry that person. Marriage is for life with no possibility of remarriage if separated as long as the other former spouse lives.

Mixed marriages (a believer who is married to an unbeliever (presumably saved after marriage took place and the spouse remains unsaved) (verses 12-16): Paul tells the believer that if the unbeliever wants to remain married, do not divorce - stay in the marriage. That, I believe, is the essential meaning of the difficult verse 14 - do not leave your spouse because your relationship and your children are holy - they are set apart by God.

However, if your spouse leaves, do not stop him. Notice in these verses, Paul says that they are no longer bound and Paul nowhere gives the command that they are not allowed to remarry. The command not to remarry is made to two believers, not a believer who is married to an unbeliever who will leave. The Christian in this relationship, no longer bound to the unbeliever, is then free to remarry (verses 8-9).

Virgins (verses 25-40): what does Paul say to virgins? He says many things but two that I want to point out: 1. Paul says that a Christian virgin must marry another Christian (verse 39) and 2. when they get married, they are bound as long as he lives. In other words, we fall under the same category as 2 Christians getting married - there is no room for remarriage - they are bound for as long as they live. And if they do marry another, they commit adultery (see Jesus' words in Mark 10). So, the command not to remarry in the context of 1 Corinthians 7 falls under the specific headings of Christian marriages and two Christians virgins who will marry. It is here Paul speaks of the two commanded not to remarry.

(Incidentally, Paul's words not I but the Lord (verse 10) and I, not the Lord (verse 12) become important. Paul is not saying that his words are less important. He is saying that the Lord dealt with 2 Christians being married when he walked on the earth (the commit adultery if they remarry another) but he did not deal specifically with a Christian who is married to a non Christian.)

So, as a pastor, would I remarry a couple? I would not remarry a man(or woman) who is a Christian and has divorced his Christian wife. He must reconcile with his wife or remain unmarried. I would remarry a Christian who was married to a non Christian and the non Christian left her. If she found another Christian man, she is free to remarry as she is no longer bound to her non Christian husband. And when I do premarital counseling, I would emphasize to the two being married - they must both be Christian and when they do get married, they are bound for life.

Understanding that these are broad categories, we will need Biblical wisdom and love to deal with the specifics of relationships.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Caring For Others

Philippians 4.19 And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

This is a well known verse and is usually used when we run into personal difficulties. We take this promise and say - Thank you God that you will take care of my car bill, or my tuition or my health - thank you. And we should thank God that he will meet (or fill up) all our needs. We should thank God that it is according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus - in other words, we will be well supplied when in need because our God is a rich and gracious God.

But I think there is something more to this verse. The context tells of God supplying our needs especially when we are seeking to help others in their troubles. It is a verse which encourages us to look beyond ourselves and see that our God is so rich, he will give us what we need to minister to God's people in trouble.

In the context, we read Philippians 4.14-15: Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; ...

In other words, when does God promise to supply our needs? In our selfish nature, we turn that promise into God looking after us as we seek to look after ourselves. And while God will do this, God's Word is even deeper and more penetrating - God will supply our needs when we are looking at other's needs so we can help them when they are in trouble.

Am I able to say: it is good to share in the troubles of others - the cost - financial, emotional, spiritual, physical? Where will I get the strength, the wisdom, the words, the resources - where will I get what I need to help those in trouble? God's promise: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

God will supply your needs - as you seek to help those in trouble.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Philippians 3.18-19: For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

In the last posting, we saw Paul was going to send Timothy to the Philippians church because Timothy did not look to his own interest. While Paul loved and cared for the church, that did not stop him from "weeping" for the church's enemies.

As Paul surveys the world - their destiny, their gods, and their shame - he falls before God and weeps at their ruin, their short sightedness, and their hardness of heart.

And so Paul weeps.

He also weeps publicly before the church calling her to not envy or hate but weep. Weep because one day they will stand before the Almighty and see that their gods are silent and their shame is screaming out before a holy and just God.

How do we evangelize? How about putting down books on methods and techniques and how to say the right things exactly and getting down on our knees, asking God to break our hearts so we begin to weep for the lost. How about praying that God would fill us with such joy about his second coming (Philippians 3.20-21) that the gods of this age will slowly fade from our hearts.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Looking Another Way

Philippians 2.20-21: I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

Paul is writing about Timothy's love for the people of God. Two aspects of this verse are interesting. First, Timothy gave up his own interests and genuinely loved the people of God. The temptation is to look after ourselves - make sure we are provided for, cared for and loved. Look at me - my life and my issues. Timothy took a genuine interest in the Philippian's well-being.

Second, the interests of Jesus Christ is the welfare of His people. What a thought that Jesus cares for His people intimately. Today, if you are His child, Jesus is caring for you and he may be providing a Timothy in your life. If He is, thank Him and then thank your "Timothy".

This all leads to praise to God for His loving care and to a challenge - how will we spend our lives? Will it be as a Timothy - or will we look after our own needs?

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Strange Encouragement

Philippians 1.14: Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

God is amazing in how He works. We might expect to hear how believers go into hiding or they keep their mouths shut. Instead we read that when Paul had been put in prison because of the gospel the brothers responded with more courage and less fear. The world's threat is nothing compared to God's power. Chains and prison cannot stop the advancement of the gospel and the proclamation of the Word.

A good lesson in our day. Despite opposition, God is able to plant in the believer's heart courage and boldness so that the world may hear the good news of Jesus. And, despite suffering in a believer's life, they still have opportunity to share God's Word.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Read a Good Book Lately?

Proverbs 13:20: He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.

Do you want to grow in wisdom? Do you want to grow in your ability to apply God's Word to everyday life? Pick up a good, Godly book and take a walk with the wise. As mentioned in the previous post, I am reading Getting the Gospel Right by a former professor of mine - Dr. Venema. I am really enjoying the book and it is bringing me further understanding on certain issues.

However, Proverbs 13.20 gave me another perspective about how I am spending my time - I am not just reading a book - I am walking with the wise. I am spending my time in the company of the Godly and learning the application of God's Word for my life. The result is growth in wisdom - growth in the understanding and application of God's Word.

We spend enough time being a companion of fools as we easily turn on the TV or sidle up to the computer. Take time to walk with the wise as you pick up a good book - and you will grow in wisdom.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Getting The Gospel Right by Dr. Venema

Dr. Cornelis Venema, a professor from Mid America Reformed Seminary, has written an excellent little book entiltled: Getting the Gospel Right: Assessing the Reformation and New Perspectives on Paul. Before Dr. Venema assesses the New Perspective, he solidly lays the foundation of justification as understood by the Reformers. Of course one of the arguments for those who hold to the New Perspective is that the Reformers never really understood the problem Paul was dealing with in the New Testament. As a result, the view of justification handed down by the Reformers is misleading and distorted.

Following chapter 2 in which Dr. Venema lays out clearly and succinctly the Reformation Perspective on Paul, he writes a chapter briefly outlining the 'New Perspective' on Paul by Sanders, Dunn and Wright. The final chapter offers a critical assessment of the New Perspective.
If you have struggled with understanding this issue or know others who would like to understand further, this book is compact (92 pages), profound, simple, concise, readable and above all Biblical. For Dr. Venema, this book is a condensed version on a much longer book on the subject which will be printed later by Banner of Truth Trust.

Any attack on justification must be taken seriously and understood Biblically. Dr. Venema has put together an excellent book which deals with these matters for everyone to read.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Self Destructive Heart

Revelation 9.5-6: 5They were not given power to kill them, but only to torture them for five months. And the agony they suffered was like that of the sting of a scorpion when it strikes a man. 6During those days men will seek death, but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will elude them.

In our evening services we are going through the book of Revelation. Revelation 9.1-12 tells us that demonic forces led by Apollyon (Destruction) come up unbelievers and torture them for 5 months. (I hold that the time this happens is between the first and second coming of Jesus and they are not a literal army of locusts). The torture will be so horrible on unbelievers that they will long for death but it will elude them.

What is John saying? Satan will attack his own people, torture them and then bring them to hell with him. Awful. We speak of the natural human heart in many ways - dead, deceived, hard, wicked, sinful - and it is all true. But when we read Revelation 9, we need to add another to the list: self-destructive. The human heart, in its rebellion, destroys itself as it follows its master - Apollyon.

The master unbelievers serve is Satan but this very master they serve seeks to destroy those who serve him - he is the Destroyer after all. And so those who live apart from Christ live thinking they have found life but in reality are destroying themselves. Satan is not kind to his people and all we need to do is look around and see the trouble and turmoil in people's lives.

This leads to two thoughts: First thank God for salvation, His gracious calling and His kindness. Is our God not good to send His Son Jesus to die for sins? We read in comparison to the destructive ways of Satan, Jesus has come so that your joy may be complete. (John 15.11) He is good.

Second the desperate need to be about the business of speaking to others about the goodness of Jesus. Without Jesus people will destroy themselves as they are deceived by empty words (Ephesians 5.6) and enter hell for all eternity. When have you been able to share God's goodness to a "ticking time bomb world" ready to blow itself up?

Friday, September 22, 2006

John 14.1-4: 1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In 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. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

This morning I sat at Tim's with a coffee in hand as I read this passage and thought: isn't it amazing that Jesus is preparing a place for His people? I wonder what it will be like? This world is filled with unbelief, rebellion, hurt, pain, trouble. I visited a Christian couple just a little while before and they were telling me of their pain - real pain. I think of my own physical house and how much work needs to be done - and yet Jesus says he is going to prepare a place for us and he will come back and it will be ready - completely perfect in all its splendour and glory. Isn't it amazing to think that he says I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. Jesus wants me to be were he is - he is the bridegroom coming for His people.

As you can tell, meditative thoughts can be rather scrambled but what a blessing to my heart. My Jesus is preparing a place and I am invited. He will bring me to glory and I will be with Him because He desires my presence - a undeserving sinner saved alone by Him. One day this world will pass away and there will be no more tears or pain or sin or sorrow. What a place!

Do you know what was so encouraging? Taking a few moments out of a busy day, forgetting some of the troubles and the surrounding rebellion and simply to focus on my coming life with Jesus in His presence. And I found my heart at rest, ready to serve Him because one day this will all be gone and I will be where Jesus is.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Bring The Cloak Please

In 1 Timothy 4:13 we read Paul giving instruction to Timothy When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. I have often heard this passage used as a reminder that Paul, even though he was an apostle and late in his life, wanted to learn and grow spiritually. Good point.

But when I read this passage again, my mind turned to the coat. It would appear that Paul not only desired to learn but at the end of his life he did not have a cloak. He needed his one cloak brought to him. OK, he may already have had a cloak but he needed another one to keep him warm. The point is that at the end of his life, ministry had cost him everything - he was in prison, no possessions, not even enough clothing to keep him warm.

So - we need a life that is balanced - bring me the parchments - and please, bring me my cloak. What a great example as we read that Paul lived out Jesus' words in Matthew 6: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

A good reminder to live our lives so that at the end of our lives we ask for our parchments and a cloak.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Learning To Listen

In Mark 9.38 we read the disciples had a problem - a man was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. How horrible! Well, that was really not the problem. The problem was that this man who was actively serving Jesus, trusting that the power of Jesus could confront the powers of darkness and win - this man was not one of us. That was the problem.

So they take their problem to Jesus and Jesus uses it as an opportunity to explain that they do not need to be one of us, rather they need to be one with HIM.

Jesus explains that concept in verses 39-49 - to be one with Jesus in ministry is to be for Jesus (39-41); it is to not lead others into sin (42); it is to put to death sin in our lives (43-48); and it is to be salty - that is to be actively serving the Lord even though it will come at a cost (49-50). That is Christian ministry.

But there is a temptation and that is to think that we are the only ones doing true, real, vital ministry in the name of Jesus. There is a danger in how we speak about other Christians in becoming to narrow, to critical and to judgmental. We think we stand alone and if we die, truth dies. Jesus' response is do not stop him - there is no middle road. He is either for me or against me.

A good lesson in times when Christianity may seem to be sliding and doctrinal precision is a thing of the past. We are not the only ones serving the Lord. There will be diversity in the way people serve God and there will be true disciples of Jesus who are for Him who are honoring His Name.

How do we protect ourselves against the battle that wages in the disciples heart? There may be lots of ways but I think a beginning point is listen. We speak far too much and too freely. We love to hear our own voices as we articulate truth. But have we listened - understood - searched Scripture - been gracious and kind? Sure, this man may not have been one of the 12 but he was confronting the forces of Jesus in His Name.

Mark 9. 50 concludes with this instruction from Jesus: Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another. Amen. We aim for salt but isolate ourselves because they are not one of us. Have you listened? Have you thought - they may be doing a work uniquely given them by God that we have not been gifted to do? After all, this man was casting out demons and the disciples a few verses before could not cast the demon out of the boy.

If we are to be at peace, humbly listen and graciously pray for your brothers and sisters. And if everyone in the church practiced "peace", much infighting would cease and active Christian service would begin. Amen?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Words Worth Reading from Pressing On

Janice VanEck has posted a poem by Anne Steele on the great comfort of the Word and Grace in difficult times. One stanza reads as follows:

Though all the powers of nature fail,
And life’s pale, trembling lamp decline;
Thy grace can bid my faith prevail,
Can give me fortitude divine.

A great encouragement to seek the Lord in times of trouble!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Reaching Out - Reaching Up

This past week we had our Vacation Bible School. One of the great things about VBS is the singing and the children SANG!! They learned that God knows us, God is a friend, God helps us and God forgives us. Everytime one of these phrases was mentioned they would have to shout AWESOME GOD (because he is!). It was great to be in the building and hearing children sporadically shouting AWESOME GOD.

And that is our prayer. That they would see and know that God is an AWESOME GOD - from his life, death and life again. Tonight we have our wrap-up BQ and are expecting around 150 people. We pray that God will do AWESOME things in the hearts of the people.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dr. Geoff Adams In Glory

Today I attended the funeral of Dr. Geoff Adams at Toronto Baptist Seminary. As I reflect on the events, a number of thoughts come to mind.

First, his son Doug gave an account of the faithful testimony of a father who lived Christ in front of his children. He was a man of God publicly and privately. Doug went on to tell how he observed his father's communion with Jesus through prayer and Scripture reading. As I reflect on my life, I call to God for mercy. How I need to show my children that walking with Christ is not only serving Him in the church but it is also those private moments of communing with God - an enjoyment of God's presence. I pray that God will grant me a greater desire and discipline in the coming days to grow deeper in my communion with Him.

Second, how in his long service as pastor, principal of the seminary, counselor, friend, husband, father and many other roles, he served faithfully. One passage which was read was 2 Timothy 4:7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. This may sound strange but the funeral was a tremendous encouragement for me to live alone for Christ. It is so easy to fall into temptation or to become sidetracked with secondary issues. Am I living faithfully, striving to fight, finish and keep the faith? I pray that at the end of my life, I will have lived faithfully. Dr. Adams' life and death have encouraged me to finish well - may God be gracious!

Thirdly, the joy of the gospel of Jesus. Our brother is in Glory! The light of Christ shone as time and time again God's grace and glory were magnified in the life of a forgiven sinner and his faithful service. Dr. Adams is now in glory, experiencing unimaginable fellowship and joy in the presence of His Saviour and Friend. What a joy to hear of God's grace - a lost sinner, rebellious and wicked in his heart now, because of the love and faithfulness of Christ, in glory. Praise God for the saints who have gone before us. How we need to hear and see of more men and women who are living faithfully and passionately for God in our watered down, lethargic Christian culture.

My prayer is that the events of this day will not soon leave my heart and mind and when moments of temptation or distraction come, I will seek to live alone for God's glory and be conformed to His image. I pray that for my family, His church at Grace Bible and God's people. May God be gracious.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Psalm 19:1-4: The heavens declare the glory of God,and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech,and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words,whose voice is not heard. 4 Their measuring line goes out through all the earth,and their words to the end of the world.In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

We have been on vacation for the last two weeks and this year we did something different. We sold our small 8 foot pop-up trailer and bought a few canoes, paddles, tents, and other camping gear and went "wilderness" or "interior" camping. While we had to work out a few bugs (and keep a few more bugs away), we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

One of the things that struck my wife Eva and I was the amazing creation. We had campsites on rocks, beside the beautiful waters, surrounded by trees and birds and quiet. We said a number of times to one another: Isn't it great being a Christian and knowing who created this magnificent creation? Non Christians are out in all this beauty and giving praise to "chance" or the impersonal "mother nature." We found that part of the enjoyment of our vacation was giving praise to God for the beauty of His creation.

There are many things I will remember: canoeing and fishing early in the misty morning waters; a rain storm that lasted a whole day and part way through Eva and I watch as a river of rain water flows directly underneath our tent; watching the children jump off the jumping rocks; campfires and stories and marshmallows and hotdogs; and many more. But one picture that was really imprinted on my mind was when we were paddling to our sight in Algonquin. Eva was in one canoe with my daughter and our dog and I was in another with the boys. It was a fairly big lake and we were going against the wind so we were both paddling like we were being chased and barely moving. I looked over one time and we were a fair distance apart. When I looked over, I saw my wife paddling against the choppy waves, the magnificent trees standing proud and a big grayish cloud approaching. It was not only beautiful, it was humbling. Eva and the canoe looked so small and God's creation so glorious.

Later on in the week, we experienced the storm that passed through the area, knocking out power for many cottagers. We were huddled under a tarp by a fire reading Harriet the Spy to the children when the clouds rolled in and the rain started to come. We continued to read as the thunder and lightening rolled in and the rain poured down (yes, another river flowed under our tent!) We stood amazed (and fearful) as we witnessed God's power. And again we were humbled by His awesome presence in creation.

Two thoughts: first, our God is an awesome God. We lose a sense of the awesomeness of God as we take refuge in our homes during storms. However, when placed against the backdrop of God's creation, we are insignificant. Second, our God is to be feared. We are going through the book of Revelation in our evening services and I kept thinking about the thunder and lightening and rumblings that surround the throneroom of God. It is a fearful thing to be in a great storm with only a tarp. One day all will stand before the presence of God with no tarp. Fear God and obey Him!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Developing Spiritual Character in our Children - I

When Jesus talked with his disciples about prayer, he could not help but talk about the generosity and goodness of God: 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11.11-13) Of course God could give us anything He wants because He owns all things - He is the Creator! However, the gift of choice is the Holy Spirit. Among other things, this tells us God is intimately concerned with the development of our spiritual character. God did not promise to give us nice houses and healthy bodies - His great gift was the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.

This past Sunday was Father's Day and a good time to reflect on whether or not we as fathers are striving to develope spiritual maturity in our children. Are we focused and intentional in the devlopment of our children's spiritual character? Often the answer is - I would like to be but how? How do I as a father spiritually lead my children?

2 Timothy 1.2 reads: To Timothy, my dear son. 2 Timothy is not only a book for young pastors; it is a book where a spiritual father passes on spiritual lessons to his spiritual son. How do I as a father spiritually lead my children? Look to 2 Timothy as a father gently instructs his son to faithfully serve the Lord. What lessons can we learn from 2 Timothy on how to nurture our children in the Lord?

1. Pray for your children 1.3 I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.

Paul begins quietly on his knees. Ephesians 5 bears witness to the fact that men can be extremely selfish. How can we argue when God says in Ephesians 5.28: In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. If we carried out this command, our wives would be the most loved women in the world! And so also our prayer lives can be so focused on our needs and our careers and our issues that we forget to pray for our children. Or, even worse, our hearts can be so filled with this world that we pray this world for our children and forget to pray for their spiritual needs.

Ask yourself how often do you pray for their salvation? When is the last time you prayed that your children would not only be saved but live lives that would be radically pleasing to God - alone. Even if your children are grown, do you pray for them as the world desires to take them into her arms?

How do I begin? Paul says - Timothy, I pray constantly for you. We begin on our knees, bowing before a gracious and sovereign God, pleading for the sake of our children.

2. Spend time with your children 1.4: As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. It is amazing to read the relationship between Paul and Timothy and how they delighted in one another's presence. It almost appears to be the David and Jonathan of the New Testament. Paul is longing to see his son so that he might be an encouragement to him and that he might know that Timothy is doing well.

Fathers - invest time into your children. Do not leave it to someone else to make sure they know their Bible and develope Godly character. In Deut 6.4-6 we are told we are to speak to our children about the ways of God and we are also told to tie them (God's commands or ways) as symbols to your hands and bind them on your foreheads. What does that mean? I think it means that when we invest time in our children, we not only talk to them about God but we "live God" in front of them. We mentor them with our actions. So as we spend time with them they watch a Godly man living for the Lord - how he loves his wife, fixes his house and relates to his neighbours.

Spend time with your children to reflect the glory of Christ and to show them the great joy of knowing the Lord.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Counsel Aimed At the Heart

David Powlison in an article entitled Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair" (Journal of Biblical Counseling, Vol 13, Nu 2, Winter 1995). It is interesting to read how much of secular counseling replaces one "heart idol" with another "heart idol" - they simply switch idols on the "heart" shelf. At the heart of counseling is this question: Who will our hearts worship - idols or desires of the heart or God? Hence the importance and relevance of Powlison's words.

It is obvious that if idolatry is the problem of the “co-dependent,”then repentant faith in Christ is the solution. This stands in marked contrast to the solutions proffered in the co-dependency literature, whether secular or glossed with Christian phrases. That literature often perceptively describes the patterns of dysfunctional idols—addictions and dependencies— which curse and enslave people. The idols which enslave the rescuer or the compulsive drinker do not work very well for them.

The literature may even use “idolatry” as a metaphor, without meaning “idolatry against God, therefore repentance.” The solution, without exception, is to offer different and presumably more workable idols, rather than repentance unto the Bible’s Christ! Secularistic therapies teach people eufunctional idols, idols which do “work” for people and “bless” them with temporarily happy lives (Psalm 73).

So, for example, self-esteem is nurtured as the replacement for trying to please unpleasable others, rather than esteem for the Lamb who was slain for me, a sinner. Acceptance and love
from new significant others, starting with the therapist, create successful versions of the fear of man and trust in man rather than teaching essential trust in God. Self-trust and self-confidence
are boosted as I am taught to set expectations for myself to which I can attain. The fruit looks good but is fundamentally counterfeit. Believers in false gospels are sometimes allowed to flourish temporarily.

Therapy systems without repentance at their core leave the idol system intact. They simply rehabilitate and rebuild fundamental godlessness to function more successfully. The Bible’s idolatry motif diagnoses the ultimately selfdestructive basis on which happy, healthy, and confident people build their lives (eufunctional idols), just as perceptively as it diagnoses unhappy people, who are more obviously and immediately self-destructive (dysfunctional idols). (p. 37)

Friday, June 02, 2006

True Friendship

In 1 Samuel 23 we read while David is on the run from Saul he inquired of the Lord whether or not he should attack the Philistines at Keilah. The Lord told them to attack. Obviously David's men were not impressed because this would give away their location to Saul.

After the victory, the very people whom David delivered ratted him out and David and his men were forced to leave and live on the run once again. It is during this time we read of another incident of David and Jonathan meeting. In verse 18 we read: And Saul's son Jonathan went to David at Horeb and helped him find strength in the Lord.

Jonathan shows us how a true friend acts. David is tired, on the run, and discouraged - after all Saul wants to kill him. So what does his friend do? He helps him find strength. Where? In the Lord. Jonathan points to the Lord's faithful promises: My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel .... God made a promise and he will deliver.

We ought to thank God for friends who build us up in the Lord during difficult times. We also ought to seek to be a friend, not with vain words or false encouragements, but rather by pointing to the Lord's faithful promises, especially as found in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Take a Break

The disciples had just returned from a missions trip with a crowd following them, keeping them so busy they are not even able to sit down and eat. Jesus, showing compassion, says Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. (Mark 6.31)

Jesus not only said to them take a break, he also instructed them (and us) about Biblical rest. While we can feel guilty about rest, Jesus encourages us to take a break. What do we learn about rest in this passage?

First rest comes after busyness. Leisure is not leisure if you are in leisure mode all the time - that is laziness. Rest or leisure comes after work - hard work. The disciples had worked hard and now it was time to enjoy some rest.

Second rest is quietness. I don't think this means keeping the children quiet or going into the deep forest were there is no noise. Quietness, if we can put it this way, is to be quiet from the noise that makes you busy. It is separation from busyness. So, for example, if you are working, quietness would be separating yourself from work where you do not hear the noise of work.

Third rest restores us for further service for Christ. I believe this is where there is much confusion about rest. You may think, well, does that mean all I do is read my Bible and pray? Is that rest? Well - no. There is rest in God's creation as you garden, play with your children, date your wife, read, exercise, knit, play the piano, listen to music, watch TV, and enjoy a hockey game. The question to be asked is do you enter your work and your service for God with a greater desire to serve Him for His glory and His kingdom after you rest? That means we must chose our rest wisely. For instance, if you chose some rest that leaves you physically exhausted, that will not restore your body. ANother example is if you rest while watching TV that dishonours God, your body may be rested but your soul is not ready to serve. It is good to be intentional about our rest and ask God to bless it so we may serve Him with greater passion!

Why is rest so important? I believe rest is essential because the spiritual battle demands physical strength. Remember when your body is weak that the attacks seem to be the greatest. And so those who never rest or exercise - they become spiritually tired and sluggish.

This also emphasizes the importance of Sundays when two great blessings meet - spiritual rest as we worship together and physical rest as we spend time apart from our work. While not being a Sabbatarian, I believe a major reason we are so spiritually lethargic is because we scrimp on spiritual rest. We think 1 hour of public worship a week will cut it but in fact we become tired with the cares of this world and the burdens of this life.

Jesus says - come with me, to a quiet place and get some rest so that you may be better able to serve the master. Come, rest and be restored for the glory of God.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This Is Rich!

Paul writes to a troubled church in Corinth: And this is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul had just listed what some of the people were - sexually immoral, homosexuals, male prostitutes, thieves, drunks, slanders and swindlers. What is incredible about this passage is how Paul pastors his people. If you have just been reminded of your past sins- which all too often affect your present struggles and failures- what is it that you need to hear?

First, you need to hear what has changed. Paul did not mess up on the order of salvation when he put washed first, sanctified second and justified last - he was ministering to hurting people, not writing a systematic theology. What would bring maximum joy, amazement and peace to their hearts as they struggle? He had just listed who they once were and now he says to them first - you, who were stained with sin, have been washed. Exactly what we need to hear first: that the dirt of the past has been thoroughly washed away. Further, you have been sanctified: to be made holy in the sight of God. We read in the Old Testament God's people were call to be holy while in the New Testament, God's people are holy. They are made a member of God's people. Finally, they are justified: declared righteous in the sight of God. They have a right standing with God through Jesus - alone.

Second, you need to hear it again and again, in different ways. This is also the value of Paul's pastoral verse. He did not just say - you were justified - period. Rather, Paul lingers as he expresses God's blessing to the people - he stays a while. You are washed - think about it - amazing - but that is not all - you are sanctified - yes, we linger there but we are not done - you are justified in the only name that is worthy, the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that not rich?

Struggle with sin? Guilt? You have been washed, sanctified and justified. What is more amazing? Can money buy this rich treasure? How many people live with supressed guilt and dissatisfaction with earth's so called treasures? Here lies the answer.

Finally, this verse shows us how to minister to others. Paul is writing to a struggling people and what does he do? Reminding them of their sin, he lingers on the grace and mercy of God. Imagine the Corinthians' reaction - if this is what has happened and who I am, I want to live more for Jesus! Not out of guilt but love and thankfulness. And by the Spirit, I have the power.

Paul, the pastor, comforts the hurting and teaches the church how to minister to those who once were - but are no longer.

Friday, May 19, 2006

A 2 Corinthians Ministry

This past week at the Sovereign Grace Fellowship Pastors' Conference, Brad Powers spoke on The Pattern of Pastoral Ministry in 2 Corinthians. The paper was unique because it took Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth and surveyed how Paul pastored.

People today talk about counter-culture ministry and then seek to be empowered with new techniques or end up being burdened with guilt because of their own lack of success because they have not followed the program and the leaders. 2 Corinthian Pastoral Ministry is counter-culture in our church age.

Brad pointed out under the heading Perspectives of Pastoral Circumstance that Paul ministered in weakness. He identified with a crucified Christ (10.1; 13.4); he refused to push himself forward (chapter 11-12); he was under the constant pressure of "parenting" a church (12.14-15); he refuses to use weapons of the flesh in the battle (2.17; 10.1-4); and he recognizes the power of the enemy who has blinded the minds of those who do not believe (4.3-6). In other words, he recognizes his own lack of power, Satan's limited power and God's unlimited power.

But does this mean that Paul's ministry is weak? Absolutely not as all this leads to a ministry of great strength. It forces Paul to rely on God who raises the dead rather than his own strength (1.9-11); it results in Christ being pushed forward rather than a mere man (4.5); it results in the edification of the church through the hardships and overwhelming task of parenting a people (12.19); it allows the use of weapons that are actually effective rather than the impotent weapons of flesh (10.3-4); and it focuses attention on God who makes the light shine rather than on the deep darkness of the enemy (4.4-7).

So many weapons given to pastors today actually make them weak and ineffective. There can be so much self and sin in ministry. On the other hand, ministry can be ineffective because we do not rely on God's power. Maybe that is the reason why the church seems to impotent today - we have not carried out a 2 Corinthians ministry which relies alone on God's great power but have substituted it with programs, egos, and pathetic human effort. Search 2 Corinthians and seek to carry out a powerful ministry because we serve a powerful God.

Friday, May 12, 2006

God's Goodness

A famine had hit the land and we read in Genesis 47, the people of Egypt had spent all their money for food and now were forced to give up their land and finally themselves. There was nothing more they could give. The amazing contrast are God's people, namely Israel (Jacob) and his family as they are satisfied with the abundance of God. God in his good providence had sent Joseph many years earlier so God's people and promises could be preserved. When Joseph sends for his family, he provides them with a variety and abundance of food to eat and carts for them to ride into Egypt. You can imagine the procession as they travel in their limousines and ask to one another to pass the shrimp.

Even further, upon arrival Pharaoh says to Joseph's family: settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. It is as if Pharaoh is scratching his head, running through the various parts of the land - Where is the best land? Where? They have livestock, they need lots of room, they need water - where? Goshen - give them Goshen.

Isn't this a great picture of how God cares for His people? Even in struggles and pain and suffering, God's goodness is always abounding. In Revelation 2 we read of the suffering church in Smyrna that they were poor - the Greek word meaning they had nothing - zero in the bank. But immediately Jesus says - yet you are rich. In contrast, the church in Laodicea was rich in material possessions but were poor and in danger of being spit out.

We have a hard time with this but it is God's truth. In the midst of suffering, God's goodness outmatches and outlasts the world's best. Our God, who simply astounds us day after day with His abundance, is worthy of praise because in a land of famine, he has provided a feast for us.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

To Cast or Not To Cast (Out Demons)

Tonight in our Bible Study, we are going to begin a study on Demon Possession Today: To Cast or Not To Cast. David Powlison has an excellent book entitled Power Encounters which is extremely helpful and my study on this subject has been helped greatly from his insights.

When the Bible speaks about evil or the powers of evil, it speaks about it two ways: situational and moral, seen succinctly in Ecclesiastes 9.3: This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun [situational]: the same destiny overtakes all. The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil [moral] and there is madness in their hearts while they live and afterward join the dead.

Moral evil is what people believe and do. It is sin, wickedness, unrighteousness which we are responsible for before God. Situational evil is what happens to us as we live in this fallen world or to put it another way, it is the result of living in a broken creation.

This is necessary to understand because when we read the Gospels and Acts, we read Jesus confronts demon possessed people who are, among other things, blind, deaf, convulsing, cutting, screaming, and foaming. Jesus is confronting those who are experiencing situational evil, the sad fruit of life under Satan's kingdom, the one who seeks to destroy and bring pain, tears, and torment. A classic case is Job as his possessions, children and finally health are all taken from him so he curses the day of his birth because of his suffering.

When Jesus casts out demons, he is meeting the kingdom of darkness head on and in a spectacular way he is reversing the curse of Genesis as he gives relief of suffering (thus showing His love); he is revealing that HE is LORD GOD ALMIGHTY and we should pay attention and believe; and he is giving an object lesson for the coming blessings of the kingdom for all who repent and believe.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Flipping through Mark's Photo Album

Reading Mark is like flipping through an old photo album - the pictures describe the events. In Mark 4 Jesus is sailing across the Sea of Galilee when the winds pick up and the waves begin to flow over the sides. Jesus' disciples are panicking while Jesus is sleeping on a cushion. It is a picture you stare at for a while, trying to grasp the moment. Waves are submerging the boat, disciples are panicking as they run with buckets trying to undo the damage of the storm, the winds are gusting wildly, and Jesus is sleeping, not on a hard bench but comfortably on a cushion.

As we close the photo album, we are struck with this precious truth: God's care is so great that we may be in the middle of the storms of life and fall asleep on a cushion, resting in God's sovereign gracious care. In the middle of the storm, Jesus trusted God's care and could find rest.

We have seen this picture before many times. David writes in Psalm 23 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Elisha is surrounded by an army of Midianites but they do not compare to the army of heavenly angels sent by God; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have an angel in the fiery furnace; and so on.

You may say, Well, Jesus is God so he should be able to sleep. But Mark gives another picture and that is, if you were to watch them go into the boat, Jesus would look like all the rest. In fact Mark writes: Leaving the crowd behind, they took [Jesus] along, just as he was, in the boat. Mark makes sure we understand that Jesus slept, not because he was God, but slept just as he was - in other words, fully as a human.

The question the disciples asked was: Jesus, do you care? Jesus not only stood up and said, Be still to the wind and the waves, he also slept on a cushion in the midst of the storm. Jesus' care comes not only in power and strength as one who controls the wind and the waves, but in a deep faith that His Father cares. Does Jesus care for you as His child? Enough to allow us to flip through his photo album and see him sleeping on a cushion when the waves and winds blew.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Pulling a "Da Vinci"

I hope Leonardo will forgive me but I would like to start using his last name with somewhat of a different twist: the act of a Da Vinci occurs when someone believes the word of someone or anyone but God. Let me give you an example of someone pulling a Da Vinci.

In the recent article in Maclean's (Apr.3'06), Michael Baigent (author of Holy Blood, Holy Grail) is said to have begun The Jesus Papers with the following story (as told by Maclean's): Years ago a respected Anglican cleric told Baigent that a long-dead, famous churchman named Canon Alfred Liley (1860-1948) had told him that he, Liley, has seen indisputable evidence about 1892 that Christ was still alive in 45 CE, long after the Crucifixion. Baigent is sure he will never see the proof, but he firmly believes it. The story is, in effect, a version of Catholicism's apostolic succession - a true knowledge, passed from one pair of trusted hands to another and to another, over the course of more than a century. (p. 36)

That is a classic Da Vinci under my new definition. He pulled a serious, blatant Da Vinci without looking back. Baigent puts his belief in a Canon and on evidence he will never see with his own eyes - and he firmly believes it.

We may ask why? And why this craze over The Da Vinci Code? Here is what I think. If the Bible is true and if Jesus is who he says he is and if he lived a perfect life, died and rose again, ascended to heaven - if all of this is true, then all who know this truth and this Jesus must bend their knee and confess Jesus as Saviour and King. They must come in repentance and faith and find life alone in Jesus. The ultimate heart of the battle is not the truth and untruth of the Gospels (although that is a serious battle) but a battle of the heart. Men and women refuse to believe they are sinful and Jesus is the only answer to their problem.

So, when someone pulls a Da Vinci go ahead and tell them about the trustworthiness and the authority of God's Word but don't stop. Tell them the good news story of the historical Jesus who answered this question the following way: Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. (John 6.28-29) Believe in Jesus, repent of your sins and follow Him - He alone is our hope.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thank You for the Cross

Revelation 1.4-8: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (ESV)

Jesus, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of kings on earth - it is he who died for His people. Jesus, the one who loved us and has freed us from our sins by his blood - it is he who died for His people. Jesus, the one who has made us a kingdom, priests of his God and Father so that God may receive glory and power forever and ever - it is he who died for His people. Jesus, the one who will return on the clouds to bring His people home with him and to bring judgment on those who do not love him - it is he who died for His people.

Jesus, I thank you for who you are, for who you are making us, and for the joy of living in Your kingdom. Jesus, I thank you for the cross.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Love Your Children

A court has ruled in Alberta Canada that it is fine for a 35 year old male to have an explicit sexual conversation on the computer and later phone a 12 year old girl at her house. The reason he was found not guilty: he did not try to lure her to have sex with him.

Understand this - it is not a crime to have a very explicit conversation with a minor and it is not wrong to phone her at her home, all without her parent's knowledge. We do not punish this sick behavior simply because at that time he made no attempt to meet her.

And so in an attempt to explain what has gone wrong we point the finger at our soft judges, our lenient justice system, our out of touch politicians or the smut on the computer. All these fingers pointing away from ourselves. We shift the blame elsewhere.

I believe one of the main reasons we read stories such as this is not courts or judges or politicians but a heart condition, that is a sin, called selfishness. Yes, pointing the finger at self we see our love of self. We are a selfish generation as we care for self first. Now, in polite circles we don't talk in such frank ways. Rather we say things like "we can't survive on one salary" or "I am just not fulfilled at home" and so on. But beneath all of this is self, pure and simple.

The result? We have a generation of children that have been ignored by their parents in the name of self. Our society no longer values children within the family and they are easily shipped out to others or left alone while parents go out and pursue their dreams. One prime example is the divorce rate. Enough said.

And sadly our children grow up alone figuring a lot of this world out on their own - or with their friends. I am not saying this mom did not love her 12 year old girl. I am saying that instead of blaming others, begin in your home and ask what place do your children have in your home? Do you value your children and spend time nurturing, guiding and loving them?

We have somehow believed a lie that says our children will be happy with the latest shoes and not the presence of their mom and dad. We have convinced ourselves that it is fine to give the most impressionable years of our children to others as we pay down a mortgage on an oversized house.

And then we wonder when a 12 year old girl finds herself on line with a 35 year old pervert wondering if this is love. Parents - they are your children, a gift given. Cherish them and love them for His sake.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Good News In Ethiopia

Last night at our evening church service, Melissa talked about her 6 month mission trip to Ethiopia. She showed many pictures and shared her experiences, followed by a time of questions. There were two striking moments for me Sunday night. The first was a story told of the children who came to their children's ministry and being very lethargic. They tried to do excercises to liven the children up but that did not work. They finally figured out that the reason the children were so weak was because they were not eating. They simply had nothing to eat. So at the beginning of their time together, they gave them something to eat and drink.

The second moment was the pictures of children/teens in boys and girls homes, without parents. Beautiful children and teens but with no family. Melissa mentioned the times she would be with both groups and seek to love them, in the name of Jesus.

And that is the value of doing more than social work in Ethiopia on a mission's trip. Melissa not only fed the children and developed relationships with those in the groups homes but she also was able to speak of the living water, the living bread and a heavenly Father. The gospel as it goes forward meets the ultimate need - pointing others to the death and love of Jesus Christ.

I thank the Lord Melissa was able to go to Ethiopia to feed the children and encourage the teens. But I also thank the Lord that she was able to take the great message of Jesus half way across the world and tell them of a gracious Father, a loving Christ and a Christian family.

What Every Believer Needs to Know To Serve God: A Lesson from Gideon

As believers, what is the first lesson we need to learn when we are serving God? Gideon was surrounded by a massive army who was ruthless and oppressive when the angel of the Lord came to him and said, The Lord is with you, mighty warrior (Judges 6.12). Gideon follows this statement with two questions. One deals with the presence of the Lord and the other questioning the title "mighty warrior", both of which the Lord answers by assuring Gideon of His almighty presence. The point: the Lord is with you. If Gideon was going to serve the Lord, He needed to know first and foremost, the Lord is present. And if the Lord was with Gideon, Gideon would be mighty for the Lord.

And that is why the first battle God calls Gideon to fight is so important. Remember the Lord calls Gideon to tear down his father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole, both of which Gideon does at night. The people of the town search for the one who would dare attack their gods and they finally come up with Gideon. Approaching his father, they demand Gideon's life, to which his father answers: ... If Baal really is a god, he can defend himself when someone breaks down his altar.

What is so significant about this battle? In the ironic words of Gideon's father, Baal and Asherah are impotent. Gideon's God is not only present but all-powerful. The following scene when Gideon asks God to make the fleece damp and the ground dry, and then vise-versa, assures Gideon once again, in a very personal manner, the Lord would be with him: Yes, Gideon, God says, I am with you.

What an encouragement to Gideon as he was assured of God's power and presence. It's no wonder that when the Lord whittles his army down to 300, he does not protest. He has learned the lesson every believer needs to learn - God is powerful and the false gods cannot stand up to Him. And yes, God is ever-present with His people.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

When He Saw The Crowds

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9.35-36

Jesus had come from heaven, became a man and as a man, never sinned, being perfectly righteous in every way. In a word, Jesus was holy. In his complete holiness, he knew the sinfulness of sin. As sinful humans, we can be offended by sin but not in the way Jesus could be offended. He was and is God and He saw sin for what it was and is in the human heart.

And yet, when he looked out over the crowds, he had compassion. The Holy One had compassion as he healed the sick and preached the gospel. It is a good lesson when we grow cynical and hard towards sinners - do we walk in this world with a compassionate heart, weeping for the lost harassed and helpless sheep.

Jesus knew the heights of holiness and the depths of sin and yet he reached out with compassion. We who stand alongside sinners need to show compassion - mercy in action - to sinners. We need to learn to once again view them as Jesus viewed the crowds and then seek to reach out in practical mercy and gospel proclamation. May God take your heart and give you compassion for the lost and boldness to live as Christ in this world.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Jesus - Pastor and Deacon

We hear a lot about Jesus being the Great Shepherd - and He is and we are so thankful. What a blessing to be in his flock as he protects and keeps us in green pastures. We even have the assurance that if we are to wander, He will leave the 99 and come and rescue us, bringing us back.

But we also read that Jesus is the Great Deacon - a minister of compassion and mercy. One example out of many in the life of Jesus is found in Matthew 20.29-34 when Jesus gives sight to two blind men. In verse 32 we read that Jesus stopped - the first step in showing mercy. Jesus cared for people by first of making time for them. He stopped in his busy schedule and he called them, What do you want me to do for you? The second step is looking for opportunities to show mercy. Stop but then ask and look for what needs to be done.

Well, the blind men asked to receive their sight. When we want to learn how to show mercy, we go to the latest book written or guru on caring out ministry in our modern culture. We ought to first look at the simple acts of Jesus - he stopped, he inquired and then he did three simple acts of kindness: Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes (Verse 34) He had compassion, he reached out and he touched them. That is the example of the Great Deacon.

Stop. Ask. Be compassionate. Reach out. Touch. The Great Deacon has preached a simple sermon on how to be a minister of mercy in our hurting world. We may not be able to heal the blind, but we are able to visit the sick, visit those in prison, give bread tot he hungry and water to the thirsty - and it all begins when we STOP our busy schedules and show mercy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Matter of Time

God is so gracious! He really is even when we look at a passage like 1 Timothy 5.24-25: The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not cannot be hidden (5.24).

You see, sin is so deceitful that we can believe we have begun to beat God at His game - we can continue to live in sin and serve God. But God in His grace loves us so much that He essentially says, I know what is going on and just because the sin that you are hiding has not been found out yet, it will if you continue in it. And so God in His grace warns us - stop your hidden sins or they will find you out. Any hidden sins?

But there is more. Covering up sins is tiring. We need to constantly look over our shoulder to see if anyone is looking or worse, we need to remember the lies we have told. Satan is so deceitful in that he is able to convince us that the supposed pleasure, which is wiping us out, is satisfying! And God intervenes in grace and says Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

If you are hiding sins, ask God to give you grace to deal with them. You will find forgiveness and the power of the Holy Spirit to give you power to confess and repent. Come to Jesus and you will find rest. However, if you choose to continue to hide your sins, know God's Word: and even those that are not cannot be hidden. In God's grace, He has warned you!

Friday, March 10, 2006

How Big Is Your Church?

Pastoral success is in numbers and so we hear the question often and are judged accordingly. In fact, we judge ourselves as to how successful we are as numbers increase or decrease. I don't think it is just a "pastor problem" but also a "pew problem" - we are in a good church if it has good programs or a church that is moving forward if numbers are increasing- everyone wants to be part of this church!

I do not disagree that numbers should be noted - after Peter preached his first sermon we are told how many are saved. But when they become the focus and measure of success, the church begins to judge her efforts by worldly standards (must have a good report to our "shareholders"). What really is the "measure of success" for preacher and congregation? Is it not found in the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians2.19: For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not You? Indeed, you are our glory and joy. Paul will then speak of how much he wants to see the believers so they sent Timothy ... to strengthen and encourage you in the faith (verse 3) because Paul was ...afraid that in some way the tempter might have tempted you and our efforts would have been useless (verse 5).

But Timothy reported to Paul good news about their faith and love so Paul writes: For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. Trials and persecution had not dimmed the Thessaloniuan believer's faith and love as they stand firm for the Lord.

What was Paul's joy? What was his meaure of success? Was it not found when his people were standing firm in face of temptation? When they were strengthened in holiness and love? When they were abounding in love and good works? When sinners were being saved?

So yes, how big is your church? but more importantly, are your people standing firm and bearing fruit in spite of opposition and temptation? Are you part of church that is not only growing but a church that is looking you square in the heart and challenging and encouraging you to stand firm for Christ in all circumstances?

Unlike the world, there is not safety in numbers in the church; our safety is found in Jesus - alone.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Church Is Full of Hypocrites - Really?

We have all heard it - I don't go to church because they are all hypocrites. Really? First of all, at some level, we are all hypocrites, church-goer or non-church-goer. Who has not said I'm all right, when inside they are not alright. I will still go to work or a hockey game even though the workplace and the arena are filled with hypocrites.

But I think there is a deeper misunderstanding. What is often the response of the Christian when they hear someone make that astute observation about pew-sitting hypocrites? We agree and apologize! Why? Instead we ought to use it as a time of evangelism. If we are going to evangelize, we need to first understand the distinction between justification and progressive sanctification. Justification tells us of our right standing before God, not others in the church; progressive sanctification tells us of our standing before those in the church.

When we go to church, our standing before God is right through the work of Jesus' death and resurrection - we stand as if we are righteous in the presence of God. At the same time, when we sit in our chairs and worship with one another, we are those who are still growing in Christ-likeness. No, we are not all hypocrites - no one that I have met recently has claimed sinlessness in everyday living. While forgiven in Christ, the church is filled with saved sinners seeking to love God and be Christ-like, but fail and sin against God and one another.

Martin Luther writes about the Christian life: The life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness, not health but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it; the process is not yet finished but it is going on; this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory but all is being purified.

Instead of apologizing for those in the church, tell the astute observers the gospel message. Talk about justification in ways they will understand and their need for a Saviour. Explain that to be saved doesn't mean perfection in this life. In others words, proclaim the gospel and the results of a changed heart, gently and honestly: God is at work to transform His people to look more like Him. We are not perfectly righteous but we are growing in righteousness; we do not yet perfectly love but we are learning to love; and we do not yet live like Jesus calls us to live, but we are growing in Christ-likeness.

So, this is good news for those who won't come to church because it is full of hypocrites. If the church is not full of hypocrites but sinners who are saved and are learning to love Jesus more each day, they should feel welcome.

So won't you come to church and know of the love of Jesus for sinners? Come on - you are more than welcome!!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Xerxes Throws a Party - Jesus Outdoes Him

I love the book of Esther as God leads, guides and protects His people in captivity. As I was reading Esther 1, I was struck by the wealth of King Xerxes - ruling 127 provinces from India to the upper Nile region, throwing an open house (palace) for 180 days so people could be amazed at the lavish lifestyle, and then throwing a 7 day party, serving wine to each as they wished at no cost to them.

But then I thought - where is the wealth now? Really! Can anyone find it? What about the vast and great kingdom? Where is Xerxes now? Did he come to Esther's God? Life is fleeting, riches come and go, wine goblets empty, and kingdoms fade.

A good reminder as we can become consumed with riches, the here and now. Jesus says: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.

Look around you at your car, your house, your job, your wrinkle free face and muscle-toned body - they will all disappear. Does the time and energy into physical health and wealth surpass your investment of spiritual health and wealth? If so, your treasure is on earth and you will reap your reward. But how great are the words of Jesus and the warning of Xerxes: there is a better life with greater rewards and blessings all through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Come and enjoy him who is the great giver of life.

One final thought: as I read Esther 1, I was impressed with Xerxes riches. I certainly would have attended the party and looked around. But then we think of the riches of Jesus and the banquet to which he invites us. Jesus, His Kingdom reaching from east to west, the earth His footstool, invites us into His presence and experience His blessings. Jesus again says: 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.

So here are the two questions that remain: whose kingdom is greater and whose party would you rather attend? In the words of Joshua, As for me and my household, I will serve the Lord.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Psalm 13: Hope In the Battle With Sin

What to do with guilt? Where to bring it? Where to go when we are persistently bombarded with temptation? How to find hope when we consistently fall into the same sin and feel defeated? You may struggle with these questions as sin seems to gain ground and darkness spreads, causing you to doubt your salvation. Psalm 13 helps us as we watch the Psalmist struggle with an enemy that seems to be gaining ground.

Psalm 13.1-2 tells us of the struggle. The first utterance from the psalmist's mouth is like many a prayer found in our most painful moment - short and honest: How long, O Lord? David then elaborates: How long will you forget me - forever? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, have sorrow in my heart and have the enemy triumph over me? Sin, the enemy is winning and gaining ground.

What is David's concern? Why the struggle? Psalm 13.3-4 tell us that if God does not answer, the enemy will laugh at him and claim victory. Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death; my enemy will say, "I have overcome him," and my foes will rejoice when I fall. This is a real fear in the believer's life - does the advance of the enemy mean God's love has left me and the enemy is becoming to powerful.

What does David do? Give up? Renounce God as powerless and join the "dark side"? Does he even doubt his faith (sometimes what may seem to be a very spiritual act in itself)? No, no and no. He states three truths he may not see by sight but holds to by faith.

1. But I trust in your unfailing love: when I do not love you like I should, I trust in your love that does not let me go.
2. My heart rejoices in your salvation: when I struggle and am losing ground, I rejoice in your salvation that you have given me. You have saved me, knowing my sin and who I am - I have not saved me from my sins.
3. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me: I will simply begin to sing of God's goodness and if God is good, then He will protect me, empower me, keep me safe and ultimately give me victory over my sin.

This prayer is valuable as it teaches us how to pray in desperate times when struggling with sin. Cry out to God and be honest - brutally honest; tell him your heartfelt fears; and finally, think "God" thoughts by asking what do you know to be true? Does God love me with an unfailing, everlasting love? Then he will not reject me. Has God saved me? Then he will not condemn me or give me over to my enemy. Has God been good? Then I will sing even while the enemy surrounds me and seems to be winning.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Personal Moment With Abraham - Genesis 20

Abraham had been sent into a land that was filled with those who did not fear God - and he was afraid. Genesis 20.11 Abraham tells Abimelech that the reason he told him Sarah was his wife was because I said to myself, 'There is not fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. This is a very personal moment with Abraham - friends sitting down to coffee, talking honestly. Abraham, the man of faith, after a sip says "I was afraid." And why not? Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 shows us the wickedness of the day. Abraham wandered primarily among people who he ought to fear, humanly speaking. Do we not fear what wickedness can do to our wives and children?

But Genesis 20 tells us of His protective grace over the life of His people. Behind the scenes God worked for the good of His people. His promise to guide and protect Abraham never failed - despite Abraham's lack of faith in God's sovereign protection.

What Christian hasn't looked to God and said I am afraid - God protect and keep me (and my family). But thank God we can be afraid and He still protects and keeps us. When Peter walked on the water to meet Jesus and his eyes began to look at the waves and he began to sink, the hand of Jesus pulled Peter to him. Abraham - a man of great faith was afraid. God - a great God guarded and guided His son. We are reminded that we have a gracious Father who guides, protects and keeps His people in a land filled with those who have no fear of God - and so we need not be afraid.

Thanks for the coffee Abraham.