Archive for the ‘Pass The Salt’ Category

Seeking The Creator

Reading John 10

 “But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are travelling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.”
P121 “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction” Eugene Peterson

 

If you will agree that there is a Creator, you might further agree that the Creator has a plan and purpose for this world, and for you.  Our world is a difficult place, we often wonder if it is broken and perhaps at times we despair if it is possible to see it restored/repaired.  Our efforts often seem to produce amazing results, other times it looks/feels like two steps forward and three steps backwards.  The Christian world view sees this world as created by God and that it was good.  However, it didn’t stay that way, humans messed it up.  The Creator gave us the ability to choose, and while we often choose well and wisely, we seem to just as often choose poorly. On our own, as humanity, it appears to be a loosing battle.  One of the hardest things to figure out are the excesses and problems caused by ‘religion’.  In and of itself religion is the quest for the Creator, however, we try to make that our own and a way to justify our actions that are not for the larger good.  Two steps forward and three steps back.  Eugene Peterson, in his book A Long Obedience In The Same Direction says this: : But religion is an inconvenience only to those who are traveling against the grain of creation, at cross-purposes with the way that leads to redemption.”  Here is our conundrum, seeking God is impacted by our issues, the very ones that require we need God.  But, it is not a lost cause.  The key is in Eugene’s line about the way that leads to redemption.  If we are not that concerned about being in a close relationship with God through the redemption of Jesus, religion becomes a tool, a crutch or even a weapon.  Religion is a problem when are not truly seeking the Creator.  God is merciful and gracious and understands our capacity to seek is warped, that’s why Jesus came.  Take heart dear seeker, Jesus said “I have come that you might have life and that you might have life more abundantly” (John’s Gospel, chapter 10). To allow your religion to line up with the Creator’s plan for you, seek the redemption found in Jesus Christ!

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The Finger Of God

Reading Luke 11

Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey.  The last line of a comment by Jesus found in Luke’s gospel (Chapter 11).  Jesus drove out a mute demon, and some in the crowd wondered if it was by his own demonic power (Beelzebub) that Jesus did this.  Others thought he must be from God and pestered him for another miracle -a sign from heaven (more for entertainment value it seems). We are told that Jesus knew their thoughts and told them that a house divided could not stand.  He also said that, if he drove out evil spirits by the finger of God, then they should already recognize the Kingdom of God has come to them.  This is our struggle often, to correctly identify and respond to the presence and working of God’s Kingdom around us.  He illustrates and challenges our responses with two stories.  First, he talks the strong man who guards his house, at least until someone stronger comes along and clears him out. He also tells about a man who gets rid of an evil spirit in his life and cleans himself up. But the evil spirit comes back, finds the man’s ‘house’ clean and brings back seven more spirits even more wicked -the man’s condition is worse than it was before.  As I ponder these illustrations there is indeed a message for us as we consider the work of God’s Kingdom in our lives.  We can’t become holy and righteous on our own, it is not our own strength or effort that makes us clean and acceptable before God, in fact trying to make ourselves acceptable to God on our own may make our lives worse! After those two illustrations Jesus says: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey.”  It’s not about our making ourselves acceptable before God, it is about yielding to Jesus that he might make us acceptable. What do we need to obey in the word of God?  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.  To obey God’s word is to love God, and allow God to love you.  Blessed are you to hear and to obey!

An Advent Quest

Reading John 18:28-38

 

A story more associated with the Easter season than Advent, the encounter of Jesus with Pilate is very fitting for today.  Found in John’s Gospel (18:28-38) the setting is at the government administrative center where Pilate lived and held court.  Religious leaders hauled Jesus before Pilate because they wanted to apply the death sentence but did not have the authority to do so.  So they accused Jesus of sedition and treason –claiming to be a king when Caesar is emperor over the Jews.   Pilate senses this is a railroading job, but is forced by protocol to see this through, and ultimately, sentence Jesus to execution.  Pilate asks Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Jesus asks Pilate his motive in this question.  Ultimately, this is the question we must each arrive at, and consider our motive for asking.  Why do you want to know about Jesus? Our reason for enquiring may determine the answer we perceive. What do you want of Jesus? Do you, like Pilate, want wash your hands of the whole thing and get on living your life your way?  Do you want learn from and encounter a good teacher and maybe pick up something positive for your life?   Are you looking for something deeper, some connection with your creator, some answers to your life?  Are you looking for something else?

Consider the answer Jesus gives Pilate; “you are right in saying I am a King, in fact for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone on the side of the truth listens to me.”  An Advent/Christmas theme indeed!  For unto us a child is born… peace on earth and good will towards mankind.  This, Jesus says, is truth.  Pilate asks –I wonder with sneer or with a world weary sigh?-  “what is truth?”   The truth is that God became human to provide a sacrifice on our behalf.  To provide a way for us to enter into relationship with our creator, a relationship on this earth and into eternity.  The King of Kings born in human in humble circumstances, laid in a manger.  The King of Kings hanging on a cross, His life for ours. A King of Kings who is coming back to inaugurate His Kingdom in its fullness -a 2nd Advent.

What are you looking to discover about God this Advent season?  What answer do you seek from Jesus? May you encounter the living God who is calling you into relationship with Him!

 

Marriage Postives

We have been lead to understand that 50% of marriages end in divorce, and that the divorce rate among Christians is no different than the rest of society. Thankfully recent study and analysis reveals the inaccuracy of those statistics. The reality is that, in Canada, 67% of marriages last a lifetime! In the USA the divorce rate for first time marriages is around 28%. In Canada 41% of men in a common law relationship consider themselves committed.

So the reality is that marriage is in way better shape than we have been told. Those who are married live longer, are generally wealthier, can climb out of poverty easier and have happier children. If you are married there is a greater likelihood you can make it than not! If you are considering marriage the stats show that it is a positive step. That doesn’t mean that marriages don’t take work. Marriage is hard, sacrificial work. It does, however, mean that the effort is more often worth your while.

Scriptures tell us that marriage is God’s plan for men and women. For this reason, the writer of Genesis tells us a man will leave his mother and father and be united with his wife. The idea that the divorce rate amongst Christians was the same as the rest of society came from people checking a box that they would identify themselves as Christians. But if further questions were asked –do you read your Bible? Do you pray regularly? Do you attend worship services?- those who answered in the affirmative had a divorce rate 30-50% lower than the general population -15%!

To have a strong marriage, maintain a strong spiritual life. The more you love God and realize you are loved by God, the easier it is to love others –especially your spouse. May you be encouraged in your marriage relationship with God’s help.

Disappointed

Reading:  Isaiah 63:7-9

How do we respond when we are disappointed by someone? The high road is to forgive, or shrug it off, and/or give them another chance. The high road is often a tough climb! We lose trust in those who disappoint us. We expect them to disappoint us again, so we take steps to isolate ourselves from them and their inevitable failure.

What about when we disappoint someone ourselves? The high road is to apologize and change our ways. However, we may rationalize: “Their standards are impossible,” “I did the best I could… well, maybe if I hadn’t forgotten I could have done better.” Perhaps we discover that we are broken hearted that we’ve let someone down again.”

Disappointment often generates hurt; pain that colours our response and ability to take the high road. Isaiah the Old Testament prophet writes (63:7-9); I will tell of the kindness of the LORD. The good things He has done according to his kindness and compassion and belief in his people. Isaiah sees God’s disappointment with us, and how God responds in kindness, with compassion and belief in His people. God, in fact, is distressed at our distress in disappointing Him. Not so much that He caves in or gives up, but provides a way of redemption and restoration –God himself comes to secure that redemption on the cross. Jesus endures pain to restore us and give us the opportunity to become what He has created us be. The proper response is to give ourselves to God, asking forgiveness and committing to live our lives for Him, and then walking in that relationship.

O LORD, you are so good –you act on the assumption we will obey and follow you, and when we realize our failure, you hurt with us. Not just because your plan failed, not just because we let you down, but because we hurt. O great God, your ways are amazing, Even when we have disappointed you, your pain is because we are in pain. Then you provide a way, a healing way. I’m sorry, I choose you. Draw me closer to you, to walk in faith, hope and love.

Confident Of Better Things

Reading in Hebrews 12.

At verse 7 there is an agricultural image that is appropriate for today’s thoughts for two reasons. First we understand the importance of timely rains for a good crop. Second, it’s February and we’ve had a few cold snaps, so it is pleasant to ponder garden and field, spring, summer and harvest to come, the joy of planting, growing and harvesting. The image is of the land that drinks in the rain and produces a crop that is useful for those who farm it, a blessing from God. It reminds us that some land drinks in the rain but only produces thorns and thistles –land worthless and in danger of being cursed. A strong image, and the focus here is about those who claim to be of faith, followers of Christ, do we produce a good crop, or worse than no crop, weeds and thistles? This could be looked at as one of those Biblical statements that rejects and causes some to move away from God. Thankfully there is more, the next verse says “we are confident of better things in your case –things that accompany salvation.” This is meant to be a motivation and encouragement to grow: in faith, in relationship with God and in relationship those who follow Christ. Confident of better things in your case. That is encouraging, like the thoughts and promise of spring, for the salvation that is spoken of is centered around God, who is described as being not unjust. We are told that He will not forget our efforts, our love and our work within the body of Christ. God wants us to finish well, even if we have not started well or struggled in the middle here somewhere. We are reminded to be diligent in our commitment, love and service. In this salvation we are already loved and accepted by God, we don’t have to earn or re-earn that acceptance, just live into it today. Let God bring the rain of the Holy Spirit, reign of the Holy Spirit, into our lives and be land that produces a useful crop. May we be diligent to pursue God, rely on God and finish well.

Looking For A Better Monarch

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ. We sing “Hark, the herald angels sing ‘Glory to the new born King’”. This Advent Season I’d like us to consider the advent of King Jesus. “The Divine Right Of Kings” is the thought of the middle ages where Kings were considered appointed by God and answerable only to God. Other times and societies have taken it a step further, a king is not only ordained by God, but becomes a god upon their ascension to the throne. Herein lies something often confused in our understanding of the significance of the Christmas celebration. Jesus wasn’t born to become our king, nor was He born that he might take his place in the Trinity. Jesus, we are told, is the King of Kings, the same yesterday, today and forever, who was born in order to redeem His people. “For unto you a Saviour has been born…” The Apostle Paul explains it to the Philippian church in this way: “Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God… took on the form of a servant, being made in human likeness…” This is the great miracle of Christmas, that God Himself, Jesus, the King of Kings, came to bring redemption for His people.

The earthly understanding of kings and leaders is an imperfect one. We can recall great leaders and horrible, despotic leaders. Jesus came to lead his people by becoming one of us that he might die on a cross in our stead. A good monarch cares for his/her people and makes personal sacrifices to see to their well-being. Jesus Christ is a better monarch because he rules with compassion and mercy on the poor, oppressed and all who would follow Him. He protects from our enemies physical and spiritual. He has paid the price for our entry into the Kingdom of God. This Christmas season, as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, may you recognize, in heart, mind and commitment, the King of Kings is come, and indeed will come again. May His Kingdom be yours as you make your pledge to Him.