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Faithlessness vs. Faithfulness.

ping pong

March 23, 2014 was when Peter and Daniel Ives set the world record for the longest table tennis (ping pong) rally. 8 hours, 40 minutes and 5 seconds. Consider for a moment the number of paddle hits this would be. Based on my calculations (one paddle hit per second) that would be 31,205 hits. Normally the object of the game is to score points against each other but the game changes when you work together.

Reading through the book of Jeremiah (especially chapters 2-20) you will read about the judgement of Judah and Jerusalem, judgement (justice) served by God for their unfaithfulness to Him. Through these oracles or stories of judgement we get a glimpse not only into the mighty power of God as he delivers his justice, but we see the faithfulness of God (his grace and mercy) through the covenant He made with Moses and His people. God chose Jeremiah to bring a message of both destruction and hope. Over and over God calls the people back to him in spite of their faithlessness, “Return, faithless people” (3:12,3:14, 3:22, 4:1). Jeremiah, through the power of God relentlessly tries to teach the people that their actions, their disobedience (their faithlessness – turning away from God) is not going to end well for them.

Jeremiah did not have it easy, in light of the hopelessness of where the people were heading and the resistance from the people to listen, he continued to share the word of God. He did this with the knowledge and understanding that God would always remain faithful to his promise of deliverance into the promise land. God’s justice and mercy continue for us today through the cross, through the forgiveness of sins that was made possible through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. God is faithful and just, and despite our faithlessness from time to time He always welcomes us back. We need to be “Jeremiahs” today; we are called by God to continue sharing his word with confidence in a fallen world so that when he (Christ) comes again he would find many who have put their hope and trust in Him.

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Echoes in the Word

EchoThere is something fascinating about an echo. I remember a time when we would drive through the “cow tunnel”, a car sized round culvert under the highway. I remember how when passing through, the blast of the horn would bounce around the interior walls of the tunnel sounding louder and longer than normal. There were times we would stop and shout into the tunnel only to hear our voices call back at us.

As I read through the book of 1 Samuel it “echoed” some very familiar ideas, feelings and events that I would say “sound” like much of what is happening in our culture today. 1 Samuel draws us into the story of Saul, David and Johnathan, a story of family, jealousy, hatred, love, betrayal and most importantly the greatness of God’s promises that were never to be broken. Living in biblical community is defined by the love and kindness that we should have for one another, the same love that God has for us. Much the same, our culture today and the stories we read in 1 Samuel echo each other. The people wanted an earthly king, someone who would lead them forward, giving them what they wanted. The people wanted someone who in the end made them promises that could not be kept. Today in many ways we still do the same thing in our own way, we just don’t call them kings anymore. Here and now, like then, God is often removed from the picture, and this is the one place we truly need to put our faith and trust.

The nature and function of biblical community has been overshadowed by the wants and expectations of people’s hearts, which have been influenced by worldly things. The true nature of biblical community is love, a sacrificial other-serving love, it is love in action. The primary function of biblical community is worship; it is recognizing that God is our Father. It is knowing and living according to His will so that He is honoured and glorified. David was flawed and often failed in the eyes of the Lord because of sin, but he was described as a man after God’s own heart. He was a man living in a loving relationship with his Heavenly Father and experienced the true meaning of community.

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The Right Ingredient

GroceryHave you ever been in the grocery store and watched people shop? It is very interesting to see how people make decisions about the products they buy. Manufactures and food makers by law have to list the ingredients on their products. The labels have to clearly state each ingredient along with the products nutritional information. Having these things clearly labeled gives us the opportunity to buy their product with the full knowledge of what has been put into it, there are no surprises…most of the time.

The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians a letter that gives us a key “ingredient” to becoming a member of God’s family, a child of Christ. He writes, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:26). Did you see it? Through faith, faith in Christ Jesus, that is how we are adopted into the family of God. Paul, writing to the people of Galatia uses what may have been a controversial three letter word in that time, the word “all”. He expands on this in verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” What a beautiful picture of a family, of the relationship between the children and their Heavenly Father. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives we all have the opportunity to be a part of this family.

It is important to understand that the “ingredient” of faith does not stand alone when we become a part of God’s family. Paul continues to teach the people to have a hope in the righteousness that is promised, a heart filled with love for others and a humble attitude of service for one another. As a parent and as a leader, it is exciting to see these ingredients increase in the lives of our children and our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our world today offers a “mega-store” of different faiths and religions to shop from. Do not be distracted by the “products” that are put front and centre on the shelf just because they are popular, look closely at the ingredients, be sure they include the key ingredient of faith in Christ Jesus.

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Seek & Save

1280px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_ProjectLuke 19:10… “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Picture yourself for a moment in New York city at the Museum of Modern Art. You are sitting in front of one of the most recognized paintings in the history of western culture, “The Starry Night” by Vincent van Gogh. Something draws you into the skillfully crafted painting. Is it the texture in the colors of oil paint brushed on the canvas or the sensation of wave like motion from the swirling patterns formed in the sky or is it the circles of white and yellow light that surround the moon and stars?

Reading through the book of Luke I was stopped for more than just the momentary pause the punctuation calls for the end of verse 10 in chapter 19. There was something there that captured my attention; my mind was trying to wrap around the implications of the words “seek” and “save”. As I considered these words within the context of this verse my eye was drawn to the cross reference marker that directed me to a couple of helpful verses.

(Seek) “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.” (Ezekiel 34:12)

(Save) “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)

The Gospel of Luke is used to communicate the great love that the Lord has for us. Each carefully chosen word, phrase and story leads us to the shepherd who is always seeking us out. The shepherd, The Son of Man, Jesus Christ is our salvation. Knowing that we are actively being pursued still today and looked after by our God is an incredible comfort (at least for me). Through Him, that is Christ, we can be saved. This is the message that Luke so carefully investigated for us as he looked at the events of Jesus’ life and at the lives of those who came before him. It is recorded here so that we could gain confidence in our faith, deepen our relationship with God and learn to share the good news with others.

The Investigator…

magnifying-glassI quite enjoy watching investigative television shows or movies. There are some very well researched and incredibly well written scripts that have captured my imagination. The writers spend hours of time researching the intended subject and pour over the details with a fine tooth comb as they write the final script. The more research and investigating they do the more authentic and real the story becomes.

I was intrigued by the opening verses of the Gospel of Luke, specifically how he tells us that he himself has “carefully investigated everything from the beginning”. I imagine that this would have taken a great amount of time considering the investigative tools he would have had access to. Luke really does his homework; he sets the stage by reminding us of prophecies that have been fulfilled from the accounts of those who came before him, he also includes details of an extensive genealogy of the line of Jesus. Luke knew that there was an important message that needed to be communicated through his research and writing, he didn’t want to miss anything.

I like to know as much as I can before I jump into doing something. Today we have an incredible amount of information available to us through the internet and other online resources. When it comes to sharing the Gospel message we have the incredible resource of the written words in the Bible. Men like Luke have done the homework for us. What we need to do is resist the urge to google “sharing the gospel” and sit down and read the Bible, it’s all there, the whole story in one book. I don’t want to discount the work of the many who have devoted their lives to the study of scripture and the message of the Gospel, I believe that the place we need to start is in scripture experiencing first hand the words for ourselves. God has used these words to change lives.

Preview: The Gospel of Mark

previewI like watching movie trailers. Depending on the genre of the movie they usually highlight some of the main action scenes like a clip from a fast paced car chase, a skillfully choreographed fight or a particularly funny part of the movie. Carefully chosen, these short clips are pieced together to draw us into wanting more, without spoiling the main plot of the story.

Ninety-nine percent of the time when I study the Bible I read from the New International Version. Recently as I worked my way through the book of Mark I was thinking about all the different sections or headings found between the chapters. These sections read like a movie trailer, they highlight the action and essence of the story within the text. Consider these titles: “Jesus Calms to Storm”, “Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man”, “John the Baptist Beheaded”, “Jesus Walks on Water” or “Jesus Predicts His Death”. Each of these titles have the potential to draw us into the larger narrative.

The Gospel of Mark is “divided” into 73 sections, 43 of those section titles include the name of Jesus, each pointing us to the the main focus of Mark’s writing. The focus is all about Jesus. Even though Mark doesn’t focus on the birth of Jesus he walks us through His life, he concentrates his message around the power and majesty of a sovereign God who came to walk with us and be like us. The life and actions of Jesus in that time and for today were to establish His presence and power so that people would believe in Him.  There is an incredible amount of detail and instruction found throughout the book of Mark; in the day it was written people witnessed first hand the power and majesty of Jesus. Today we have the “movie” or narrative that communicates the very same message, a message of hope, a message of power and a message of good news.

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