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Showing posts from January, 2008

The Cost of Following

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 NIV

Everything? You can’t be serious, God. Surely you don’t mean every single thing. How can I do that?

“In the same way.” In the same way as what? I checked out the passage that leads up to this verse. Back in verse 27, Jesus says, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” That sounds very much like the verse above but sandwiched in between are two examples that at first seem to have no relevance. One is about constructing a tower and the other about a king going to war. What’s the connection?

If you want to build a tower, first you will estimate what is needed and then see if you can afford to do it. If a king sees an army marching towards his city, he will evaluate to see if he has the man and machine power to rout the enemy or not. Both are evaluating the cost of doing what needs to be done. If they can afford it, they will go ahead but if they can’t…

Habitually Hearing

“She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.” Luke 10;39

“Therefore, everyone who is of such a character as to be habitually hearing these words of mine and habitually doing them, is like the intelligent man who is of such a nature that he built his house upon the rocky cliff.” Matthew 7:24 Wuest

“But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.” Mark 4:34bd NIV

Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to listen to him. How often do you spend time listening to God? Every day? Every Sunday? Every once in a while? Jesus tells us to not just listen once but to be constantly listening. Why? Because there is so very much he has to tell us. A lifetime of constant listening is not enough time to hear it all. Eternity is not long enough for God to run out of new things to tell us. And we need to hear all he has to say to us because this is how we know what to do each day, how to live, the direction he’s taking us. Can he even take us anywh…

How do I Follow?

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 NIV

“Follow me!” What does this mean? How do we follow someone who is not flesh and bones in front of us? Oswald Chambers writes, “This literal following of Jesus is no longer necessary; what men are called on to forsake today is sin and worldiness.” Is following Jesus today simply a matter of what we forsake or is there something we need to grab on to? What does it mean to follow? Could it mean to go where he goes/went and do what he does/did?

Where did Jesus go? He went into the cities, He travelled the countryside. He went to lonely places, to gardens, to the homes of religious leaders and the homes of the despised. He went to places where he could heal, where he could teach and preach, where he could spend time alone with his Father.

So how do I follow? Could it mean that I go wherever opportunities arise for me to go, regardless of my comfort level? What about the teaching, preaching and healing Jesus …

Dragonflies and Freedom

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burnded again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 NIV

Freedom. It’s my favourite word because that is what God has done for me—given me freedom. For three decades I was in bondage to sexual fantasies about being with women. I tried everything I could to stop, knowing that this did not honour God or my marriage but I was unable.

And then one day my fantasy life burst into my real life and I was forced to do something about it. That “something” is the story of my book that is in the process of being published. God is so good and he rewards those who seek him.

Not quite two years had passed and I was seeing a counsellor who was trying to facilitate my freedom. God had done much towards that already but it wasn’t yet complete. I told my counsellor about a victory I had had the night before when I had been on the phone with one of my friends. The love that flowed between us was strong and my tenden…

We are God’s Righteousness

“God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us so that through him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV with footnote

What is a sin offering? “If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect.” He could also bring a female lamb. If it was a leader, he was to bring a male goat and if it was the entire community, they were to bring a bull. (See Leviticus 4) There were offerings to God where part of the animal was burned on the altar and the rest was eaten either by the priest who assisted, the person who brought the offering or both, depending on what the offering was for. Not so with the sin offering. None of it could be used for food nor the hide for clothing. What wasn’t burned on the altar was taken out of camp (or out of the city once …

Judgement and Persuasion

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-12 NIV

The first word that really jumped out at me in this passage is the word “persuade.” I have questioned the need to enter into debates and arguments with non-Christians, influenced in part by a statement attributed to St.Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all t imes. Where necessary, use words.” Isn’t living a holy life before others what draws them to God? “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your…

Judgement and Suffering

“For it is time for judgement to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17 NIV

This verse is set in the midst of a passage about suffering and specifically about suffering because we are Christ-followers. Peter tells us that we shouldn’t “be surprised at the painful trial” but rather to rejoice that we “participate in the sufferings of Christ.” He even says that we are blessed if we are insulted because of the name of Christ and that we should “praise God that [we] bear that name.” At this point he speaks of the judgement beginning with Christians and then goes on to tell us that those “who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” So where does judgement come in? How does that fit?

Is suffering part of the judgement? It certainly seems from this passage that there is a definite corolation between suffering and judgement. I g…

Dead but Alive!

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20 NIV

Do you ever have trouble wrapping your mind around a verse or passage in the Bible? I do and this is one of them. If I read it quickly, I recognize the theology that comes from it and agree; but when I start looking more closely I begin to wonder, What does Paul mean, "I have been crucified with Christ"? I haven't been nailed to a large pillar of wood and left to die.

And yet I do comprehend the idea that "I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." I think I'm going to post in this blog a short version of part of God's story in me but for now I will share only a teeny portion.

A woman came into my life a number of years ago and made my heart sing. I loved and adored her (and I still do) but the time came when I had to choose between her and God. I…

If I will Boast

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14 NIV

Some of the Christians in the Early Church thought they would be holier and more righteous if they followed the Jewish laws. Circumcision was an visible, outward mark of following those laws. In fact, if the Christian was a Jew, he could avoid the sort of persecution Saul of Tarsus had dished out before he came to Christ. These Jewish Christians were boasting about what they were doing spiritually--obeying the law and being circumcised.

Paul, on the other hand, would only boast about what God could do--his work on the cross. What Jesus did on the cross has nothing to do with my righteousness but everything to do with God's love and mercy.

Through the cross, through Jesus, I am dead to the world and the world is dead to me. The world and it's opinion is meaningless, so trying to make a good impression on the world is m…

Weakness and Wisdom

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 NIV

It is not my skill as a writer nor my knowledge of the Scriptures that I should rely on for teaching, preaching or reaching others. Rather, in the midst of my weaknesses and fear, God’s power is demonstrated. The most important thing for me to know is Jesus Christ and him crucified.

That is, Jesus’ greatest strength was demonstrated in his willingness to be weak, to be put on that cross. He wasn’t about proving his strength, his power, his wisdom. He was about being weak so that I can be strong.

“Jes…

The Cross and Love

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NIV

The cross, Christ crucified, is God’s love made manifest to us. As such, this is the gospel: God loves us. He is besotted with this whole wretched race of humans. God’s love for us is beyond explanation, expectation and imagination. Because of this he sent his Son, part of his very self, to show us his love. The universe was ripped apart as part of God hung on the cross and died. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10 NIV) The cross is love. This is the most important truth. All other is secondary.

Shine and Acknowledge

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 NIV

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32 NIV

I once did a word study to get a better grasp on what Jesus meant by “light” and discovered a strong corrolation between light and righteousness. Compare the passage above to Isaiah 62:1. “For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” Jesus is saying, let your righteousness shine before men. Don’t hide it.

“In the same way….” In what same way? “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.” In that way.

I turn this passage into a prayer each time I’m in my pra…

Don't Be Afraid

"I did not come to bring peace but a sword." Jesus in Matthew 10:31
"Don't be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." Jesus in Matthew 10:34

Yeah, I know I changed the order of the verses but I find it interesting that these two statements are so close to each other. They are part of a larger passage where Jesus warns his disciples of all the horrid, painful and scary things they were going to encounter.
You will be arrested and beaten.You will face antagonistic politicians.Your parents, siblings, children will turn against you and try to kill you.You will be hated by everyone.You will have to keep running from these enemies.You will be called Satan.It's a formidable list but "...don't be afraid of these things. I see the sparrows fall and you are worth more than many sparrows." I find that comforting because if I don't need to be afraid of these things, I surely don't need to be afraid of the lesser consequences of doing what God…

Cross and Pain

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Matthew 16:24 NIV

Most mornings I go to my prayer room in the basement for about half an hour before going to work. One of the things I do while I'm there is read a short passage from The complete Works of Oswald Chambers and then meditate for about ten minutes on the accompanying Scripture.

I've always tried to wrap my mind around Christ's words about taking up our cross. Crosses before Jesus died were instruments of cruel and painful deaths. Oswald Chambers says (in "Approved unto God") that "the cross is the pain involved in doing the will of God." Now THAT makes sense to me.

If our cross is pain, then what Jesus is telling us is to take up our pain and follow him. There is pain in following Christ. We are not to run from it because that is running from God. Instead, we pick it up. We embrace it. We carry it with us and follow, just as Paul endu…

A Beginning

I'm not sure yet what I'll post in this blog--probably an assortment of things. God has been good to me and continues to be, so he will be the topic of a lot of posts here for sure. As for the title of the blog, I'll explain that in another post, later.