Archive for the ‘Musings’ Category

The Greatest Of These Is Love

Reading Psalm 50, a Psalm that both encourages and challenges.  It begins with a beautiful image of God speaking through creation in sunrise and sunset, we land of the living skies people can resonate with that image!  The Psalm continues though with a rebuke for a tendency to place the practice of religion over the path of holiness.  Tradition and ritual serve us well when they point us toward the Master, they were never meant to be our master.  Our practices of faith and religion are meant to draw us closer to God, to encounter the love of the Creator and be in relationship with Him.  Holiness is something we cannot earn or merit, but in submitting to Christ it is bestowed and we then learn to walk in it with Jesus.  It is important to have that priority straight in our lives -relationship first, practices of religion to enhance relationship.  I write this article on Valentine’s day, we often use  1Corinthians 13 in weddings and this day as a reminder of the value of love.  It’s a good use of the passage, but in context it is not really about the love of a couple, it is about God’s love at work in and through us.  Chapters 12 and 14 discuss spiritual gifts and the unity of the church.  God is reminding us that gifts, like our rituals, have value to the body of Christ and growing in holiness, but they are not the goal or priority.  The priority we are told is this: “faith, hope & love, but the greatest of these is love.”  The Psalmist finishes with God’s call: “the one who sacrifices thank-offers honours me, and prepares the way so that I may show that one the salvation of God.”  A key to our religious practices, rituals and structure is thankfulness -learning to listen to God speaking to us in creation and in our lives.  A thankful heart is one that begins to grow in love.  A thankful heart is open to the salvation God has provided in Jesus Christ.  Give thanks with a grateful heart, God will lead you forward in faith, hope and love.


A Drink For St. Patrick’s Day

Reading: John 4:13-14

On St. Patrick’s Day I ponder my heritage, the Dermody family has been in Canada since 1832 (perhaps a few years earlier -gggrandfather Patrick Dermody took his military discharge here at the end of his service).  The Irish is watered down with some Icelandic, English and who knows what else.  At one point in my life St. Patrick was a rally to my ethnicity and origins.  Since coming to faith in Jesus Christ he has taken on a more significant roll.  Certainly there are many traditions and myths, as well as aspects of how we celebrate St. Paddy’s Day that are veiled in time and historically inaccurate.  Nevertheless, we do have some good, verifiable, history about Patrick.  Captured by raiders and sold as slave to a pig farmer in Ireland, Patrick was not Irish by birth.  He escaped, ended up coming to faith himself and training for the ministry.  Then God  gave him a calling to return to the country he had escaped, to love them and present to them the message of Christ.  Through that ministry many discovered faith and freedom in Christ, which was pivotal in forming the nation/people we know as Irish today.  

One of the things we have from Patrick is called his ‘breastplate prayer’, part of which reads thus:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Here is a great legacy of St. Patrick, a whole-hearted life of dedication, service and relationship with Jesus. Here is where my morning reading on this 17th of March ties in and stirs my heart.  Jesus said to the woman at the well; ‘Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst. Indeed the water I give will become within that one a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’  

On this St. Patrick’s Day drink deeply the quaff of St.Patrick -the presence of Christ in our lives through confession & faith. This is the story of St. Patrick, his live changed, he a spring of life and hope to a nation as he walked with Jesus.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  May Christ within you, the hope of glory, make you a blessing today!



A 2016 Benediction

Reading Numbers 6:22-27

I have been using the Daily Bible Reading Guide from the Canadian Bible Society for 2016. It is a good discipline to direct my morning readings.  

It has been my practice to lay a benediction on the folks at the end of our worship services.  Along the way I acquired and adapted a lead in for my favourite benediction given to Moses by the LORD.  I’ll say something like this:  “We have come to this, the most holy moment of our worship service. That time when God’s people, strengthened in worship, Word, prayer, fellowship and communion, go out the doors into the world. Brothers and sisters, we don’t go to church, we are the church, the hands and feet of Christ in this world…

The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

So on this last day of 2016 two of my practices merge, providing a benediction on one year, and a call for the new year. 2016 was a great year that held many challenges.  A short ponder of the year fills my heart with gratitude at the God who has kept me, shone his face upon me and given me peace. I sense in my spirit that 2017 is going to be a year of transformation.  One that will require a good deal of faithful living -which means more than living rightly, which is essential- it means leaning into the wind of God’s gracious love, it means keeping my mind on Christ, my heart in Christ, my soul with Christ.  Basking in the peace of God involves turning my gaze toward the face of God.  God who lovingly turns his gaze toward us, looking to bring grace, peace and security.

Your face will I seek oh LORD.

A Happy New Year to you!

No Escape From Halloween

Reading John 8:31-47

Halloween, a festival of the macabre, horrible, and evil in our society -by some.  For others a time of dressing up and enjoying creativity, sharing too much candy -is it safe to say most households buy the first batch of treats for consumption rather than distribution? Part of the whole halloween schtick is a resignation to the reality of evil, death and uncertainty about life after death.  Many seem to think that there is no escape, so you might as well embrace it.

Historically this evening has taken quite the turn and common lore about the origins of Halloween and the Christians merging with it may not be accurate.  For example, the ancient Celts followed a lunar calendar, so to say the Oct 31st was a particular festival or holy-day for them is difficult to grasp.  That’s not my focus today – I want to ponder a moment the idea of no escape.  I think our society has that quite accurately!  There is no escape from death, no way to avoid the end of our lives.  Do not despair!  There is the possibility of rescue.

Halloween is a modernisation of All Hallows E’en -the evening before All Saints Day in the church calendar.  A celebration of the godly -not for their own righteousness and merit -but of what God has done in making people Holy.  John records Jesus saying:

“If you hold to my teaching you are really my disciples, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” 

Set free…  free from what?  Free from the slavery to sin and death. While there is no escape from death, there is rescue, we can be set free in Christ Jesus.  A saint is not some porcelain pure human sitting on a shelf, a saint is one of God’s ‘holy ones’, someone set free by Christ, made holy by Christ.  As Jesus says further, ‘the one who belongs to God, hears what God says.’

Hard to hear from God in the noise of a culture that says there is no escape.  Possible to hear from God as we turn to God and begin to listen, begin to yield, begin to come to the light and step away from the darkness.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!

Hear For You

The other day I made a type in a Facebook comment, using ‘hear’ for ‘here’. A friend commented; “did you hear that Greg?” It is a common typo spell checkers don’t always flag for our attention.

We often say to friends and neighbours in crisis ‘if you need anything, I am here for you.’ We say it because we don’t know what else to say, and we suspect words may not be helpful in a time of grief or crisis. I am here for you. People will say later on that the significance was not due to your actions as much as your presence. The practice of just being with someone in their time of need, sitting, listening –hear for you. Someone may not even need to talk, but to know that you are there is a great comfort and security to them –here for you.

Jesus said; “those who come to me I will not cast out.” (John 6:37)

Jesus is here for us.

John wrote: This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1John 5:14)

Jesus is hear for us.

Know that God is listening for you and to you. God created us to be in relationship with Him, and will not force us into relationship, but waits. Granted there is a limit to that waiting, for at some point we will die and face judgement, or the end of time will come and all will stand before the throne of God.

God calls us too, to listen. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). We can extend our presence to God –here for you. This includes our actions, our ministry on behalf of God’s Kingdom, and to a deeper relationship –hear for you. To wait on God means to be here for God, to be present with God and allow God to be present with us. “Draw near to me and I will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). This is an invitation to enter into ‘here for you’. It is an invitation for our commitment to be ‘hear for you.” To quiet our hearts before God is not an abandonment of who we are, it is not an emptying of our self. It is a focus and release of ourselves to God. God created us for relationship and desire relationship with us. The best image of a child that is weaned resting on it’s mother’s breast. (Psalm 131:2). Gone is the search and striving for nourishment and comfort, there is a peace on contentment in presence. A peaceful and secure ‘here for you’, ‘here with you’.

Commit your way to the LORD the Bible prompts us in Psalm 37:5. Enter into the presence of God through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the person of Jesus. Present yourself to God “I am here for you.”, and commit your life to God “I am hear for you.” As we listen, God will speak. Sometimes it is a long road to get to the place where we can hear and absorb. Mother Teresa had long stretches of time in her life where God seemed silent and far away, but she retained her commitment and pressed in close, waiting for the time when she would again know the intimate presence of God. As she waited she served. Here for you. Sometimes that hearing from God seems spontaneous, God breaks into our lives when we are motoring along and perhaps not in a listening mode –although committed to being ‘hear for you’. Moses seeking a lost sheep stumbles across the burning bush. Just living his life out and God comes –here with you, this is Holy ground. I have heard the cries of my people –hear for you.

Our faith is a response to God. Jesus came to earth as a human to ‘here for you’, Jesus hung on the cross ‘here for you.’ This one is not merely God in our presence, but God being our presence, our substitute on the cross. Here for you. Even while hanging on the cross Jesus responded to the request of the thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Hear for you.

May you today, discover God ‘here for you’ as you present yourself to God ‘here for you’. May you know the voice of God as you listen ‘hear for you’. May you enter into the presence of God with your hope and pain, successes and failures, convictions and uncertainties –to present these to God and wait, ‘hear for you’.

To Lift A Cup…

Reading Isaiah 55:1-3

“Come all who are thirsty, come to the waters and you who have no money, come buy and eat.” The invitation found in Isaiah 55 declares that, without money, we can buy and eat. What then, is the cost? Our cost is coming (to God), and acknowledging our thirst. For some, this is pretty steep. We value independence and self-sufficiency. We want to live our lives our way. Here is the biggest struggle of faith for most of us, that we must come to God and we must acknowledge our thirst. Implicit in this is that we cannot quench that thirst without God. We often seek fill the reservoir of our lives with things, accomplishments and community/family. Isaiah understands this and asks “why spend money on what is not bread and your labour on what does not satisfy?” The things of this earthy ultimately do not bring us meaning, purpose or satisfaction. With God is the richest of fare, satisfaction and security that meets the need of our souls, our eternal craving. Isaiah beckons us to give ear and to come see, to investigate, to find out for ourselves. The objective of that investigation? That your soul may live. That your soul may live… oh the waste of a great life wrapped around a desiccated, dead soul. The deal God offers, His covenant, is everlasting. In this new year of 2015, may you look to God, acknowledge your thirst and drink deeply from the well of His love for you. May your soul be invigorated and blossom into a rich faith. Happy New Year!

Stormy Weather

Reading Matthew 8:21-27

It’s been a busy day under the hot sun, Jesus teaching and healing. The disciples and the master are off in the boat to cross the sea to the other side. A good chunk of the disciples are fishermen, so they know boats and the sea.  However, the other side is the Decapolis (the ten city region), which is not a Jewish area, it is full of the ‘other’, the gentiles.  Jesus has worked hard and is tired, he falls asleep in the boat.  One of those sudden Galilee storms comes out of the blue, the boat is rocking and rolling in the waves, visibility down to nothing, even the fishermen are fearing for their lives –this is the evil that is from the deep!  Jewish people of that day and era were primarily a dry land people, for them, evil lived in the depths of the waters.  In their panic they see Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat and wake him up, “Lord save us, we are going to drown!” 

Jesus wakes up, assesses the situation and first addresses the disciples. “Oh you of little faith. Why are so afraid?”  Then He rebuked the wind and waves and is was completely calm.  Consider the stunned silence of the disciples –the echoes of the roaring wind in their ears, the adrenaline pumped to the max in their expectation of tragedy and death – now calm.  That is how it often is when we cease struggling and give ourselves over to God, the rush of divine calm. It too is stunning, and we may  wonder if it was really that bad…  

What was the littleness of their faith in this instance?  Was it the fear of death? This is early in their following of Jesus, in fact the whole group of disciples has not yet been assembled. Their faith was young, tender and growing.  Having been with Jesus, they had not really grasped who Jesus was for them, something that would happen time and time again until Pentecost.  We often cling to a fear of death, in the immediacy of an impending life tragedy, in the slow and persistent march of years.  But in Christ Jesus, death is defeated.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians “where oh death is your victory?  …but thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Death is no match for faith, we need not fear it.  Perhaps our faith can grow to the place Paul found himself –torn- wanting to be with the LORD, which would be far better, or to stay around and be productive for the Kingdom (Philippians 1:23).

Was the littleness of their faith an inability to acknowledge the sovereignty of God in all things?  God is in control.  If we live, we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the LORD.  The Psalmist said that our days are written in Gods’ book (139:16).  God is sovereign, and Jesus, a member of the Trinity is all powerful.  God’s will, will be done on earth as it is heaven.  Surely a storm cannot stop what is God’s plan?

Or perhaps, their littleness of faith had to do with the intervention of evil, the attack of the enemy!  Keeping in mind their view of the evil residing in the deep, it may fit that this was an attack by the evil one to try and delay or derail the ministry of Jesus. Anyone who decides to follow Jesus is at odds with the prince of this world and can expect some sort of resistance.  Peter mentions that our enemy roams about roaring like a lion, looking for whom he may devour, fear is a weapon of the devil.  This same Peter, who was on the boat, tells believers to stand firm in their faith and let nothing move them, he is a defeated lion, nearly toothless (and ultimately he cannot snatch our hope away).  Jesus knew what he was about and more than once said that it was ‘not yet his time’.  In the recollection of this event we are reminded that evil cannot stand against Jesus, He is completely victorious; then on the sea of Galilee, at the cross, now seated at the right hand preparing a place, and upon His second coming to institute the fullness of His kingdom!

May you find the calmness of God in release to Him. In the storm of your life, external or internal, give yourself over to God; “Lord save me, I am about to drown!”
May you know the strength to stand and trust the sovereign LORD with your life, His will be done in earth as it is in Heaven!