Tag Archives: God

A Close Shave

straight-razors

When I was younger, I would go to Frank’s Barber shop to have my hair cut, there was an older gentleman there who was all about doing things “old school”. After you sat down he would pull out a long leather strap along with his unusually lengthy straight blade; with great care and a seemingly sinister look on his face, he would hone the edge so it was razor sharp. You never told him what kind of cut you wanted, and he never asked, you just sat as quiet and still as deer staring into the headlights of a car while he meticulously worked his blade around your head cutting and shaving until each and every last hair was touched.

The book of Ezekiel describes God’s judgement on Israel like that of a razor (chapter 5). Take a second to this about these words: annihilate, eradicate, obliterate, demolish and destroy. In the first thirty-three chapters the main theme or message is all about doom, the plight of the chosen people of God because of their disobedience to his law. Statements like “I will inflict punishment on you… I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again… I myself will shave you… I will not look on you with pity or spare you.” (5:8-12) The word shave used in the NIV is used to explain the idea of being cut off, removed or withdrawn. God, who is righteous and just in his actions, tells the people through Ezekiel that they will be cut off from His presence, he will withdraw from their lives just as they have withdrawn from life in him. God’s swift razor of judgment came through the finishing actions of the sharp sword, famine and plague.

In between the words of doom and destruction we are reminded of God’s promise to carry a remnant of people through the impending judgement on them. Thinking in terms of a close shave or well-defined hair in respect to the straight razor, I am reminded that the remnant of hair left on top of my head was also affected by the sharp cut of the blade; it had been cut off, damaged and left to grow again. God did not promise that the remnant, those who were scattered among the nations would not be affected by his judgement, I can only imagine what happened to them left visible and defining scars both in a physical and mental sense; a reminder that God’s promise of justice over the whole nation of His people were not just empty threats. “They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the Lord” (6:9-10a)

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The Alarm is Sounding.

Alarm ClockI’m not sure I have met anyone who enjoys waking up to the sound of an alarm clock. If you are old enough to have had one of the “old school” bell ringing alarm clocks, you will recall that they have only one volume, and that is LOUD. Today most of us have digital alarm clocks on our bedside tables and alarms set on our digital devices to wake us up or remind us of an important task. No matter what you use the alarm for, it is a wakeup call, a reminder of something important.

The book of Revelation is much like an alarm clock, it is a “loud and dramatic” wakeup call, a reminder of the reality of how great and powerful our God is. It is a wakeup call to the church to hear, understand and respond to the truth and message of the gospel. God’s message through John to the seven churches is quite clear as you read through the first three chapters of Revelation. “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die… But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” John is revealing the words of Christ to us, the church, proclaiming a future judgement over all the earth. There is a profound sense of hopelessness and despair when we read John’s revelation the churches.

Where can we find hope in such a fallen world? Through Christ. In Christ. He who stands before us calling each and every one of us to him. There is a promise of victory in the future for those who open their hearts and lives to him. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (3:20) “Consider how far you have fallen, repent and do the things you did at first.” (2:5) The church, the believers then and now exist in a world filled with sin, hurt, pain and suffering. Christ is calling us back to a restored relationship with him. He made the ultimate sacrifice and provided a way for all of us to overcome sin and judgement when he returns. The book of Revelation brings us a picture of future blessings, given by a God who is just in all his ways, who is true to his word and a God who is the final judge in life and death. The alarm is ringing, wake-up, open the door and let God be by your side.

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Talking to a Brick Wall.

michal-grosicki-221225You have probably heard the statement “in one ear and out the other”, this implies the person or people you are talking to are in the room and for whatever reason your words or message didn’t sink in. This might seem like an odd question but have you ever tried talking to a brick wall? Brick walls don’t listen. In fact, your voice, the words you speak will bounce back from the hard surface and come back at you like a “slap in the face”. Brick walls are not only hard to break down, it is even difficult to put a hole in one so you can reach the other side.

At times, I think Jeremiah felt like he was talking to a brick wall. The people God had called him to speak to had built up walls with their own “brick and mortar”, materials that were not up to God’s standards. The people chose to ignore the words that God spoke through Jeremiah, “they did not listen or pay attention” (17:23) “These wicked people, who refuse to listen to my words” (13:10). Jeremiah knew for the most part what he was up against from the time God called him into this role, 7:27 says, “When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” When we continue to read through Jeremiah we see the other half of the picture. Jeremiah was beaten (20:2), left for dead (38:6), called a liar (43:2) and again, threatened with death by the priests and prophets (26:11). Not only was the “brick wall” Jeremiah facing not listening it was “fighting” back, growing in strength and height as he pursued his calling to prophesy God’s impending judgment on the people if they did not repent and begin to follow Him.

Jeremiah had every reason to run the other way, to throw in the towel and let the people deal with God’s wrath on their own, but he had one very good reason to stay, and that was God. When we see God as our all-powerful (sovereign) Lord and King through Jeremiah’s story we get a glimpse of how God provided for all of Jeremiah’s needs. Knowing exactly what he needed and when he needed it and ultimately how much his mortal mind and body could handle, God walked alongside Jeremiah through all the trials that he faced. Jeremiah put his hope and trust in God to carry him through as he promised (1:8) Just as God worked through the life of Jeremiah to reach a lost and wandering nation of people He calls us to do the same. God created this world and all that is in it. As his people we are commanded to “go out into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. (Mk 16:15) Breaking down brick walls and reaching into the  lives of the lost so that they may come to know God in all his power and glory should be our goal. It is our responsiblitiy to live in obedience to his will, it is what He desires.

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20/20 Vision

IMGP8898Do you wear glasses? Did you have to take your glasses off to read this text? It’s possible your spectacles are sitting precariously on the tip of your nose. Maybe your one of the lucky people who don’t need glasses, if that’s the case there is a good chance you under the age of forty. (Just wait, you could be joining the “four-eyed” club sooner than you think.) I am a year or two over the age of forty and never dreamed that the day would come when I would need glasses, yet as I write these words I am wearing my optical aids. Our vision changes, it’s a fact of life.

Good leaders have vision, I’m not talking about the 20/20 vision that your ophthalmologist tests for, but a vision that defines a direction that leads and guides a group or an organization into the future. I have never really considered the person of Saul in 1 Samuel to be a visionary leader. When we are introduced to him in chapter 9 he is described more for his “looks” than his leadership ability, “as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.” (9:2) It doesn’t stop there. In fact, when Samuel called out to have Saul come before the people to be named king, he runs and hides. “And the Lord said, yes, he has hidden himself among the supplies.” (10:22) So, we have what we can assume through the word is a good-looking guy who likes to hide behind stuff, this is not something we usually equate to a visionary leader or king.

1 Samuel introduces us to an ordinary guy that was chosen by God for a special reason and specific time. “God changed Saul’s heart”, I believe at this point God gave Saul the gift of leadership and discernment to live out the vision that Samuel lays out for Saul and the people of Israel. He tells the people to fear God, obey his commands and you will be “good”, if you do not obey, if you rebel “his hands will be against you… if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” Saul, after 42 years of leadership begins to mislay the vision of following the Lord with his whole heart. The lines between true obedience of God’s commands and doing what he thinks is right become blurred, leading to what scripture describes as “the Spirit of the Lord” departing from Saul. Our lesson from this portion of scripture is clear: trust, listen and obey what God asks of us. Our vision, our direction as leaders in the church can only move forward when God is in the lead. God inspires vision, he calls ordinary people, gives them incredible gifts and changes lives so that we can be a part in advancing His kingdom here on earth.

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“The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side”

Cattle_eating_grass_through_barbed_wire_fenceHave you ever been driving through the countryside or nearby a local farm and come across the following scene? You must wonder, is the grass really that much better on the other side? This familiar idiom tries to capture the thought that people (or animals) are never satisfied with their own situation; they always think others have it better. When we consider our circumstances, when we compare our experiences with that of others we tend to think that we would be better off or happier on the other side.

Mankind has been struggling with this thought pattern for centuries. In Psalm 73, we are introduced to the thoughts of Asaph and his struggle to “jump the fence” and run free on what looked like the “greener” side of life. He says, “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked”. Asaph continues to describes the appearance of a better life, “They have no struggles, their bodies are healthy and strong. They are freed from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. He sees them (those who have turned away from God) and sees a life “free of care” and prosperity.

It is through the experience and power of God’s love that Asaph is able to stay on the right side of the fence. He describes a moment when he “enters the sanctuary of the Lord”,  a place where he is able to ground himself in knowing that without God, those he looks over will one day be destroyed. Asaph makes the choice to enter into a place of worship with the assurance that God is with Him and that God will protect him. “My flesh and heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart… But as for me, it is good to be near God.” The experience of God’s love through the story of Asaph is the same love that God has for us today. Our lives, our “sanctuary” or place of worship needs to be found in all areas of life. Through personal prayer, song, scripture reading, working diligently, serving humbly or building Christ like relationships, we are called to worship God. As we stay connected with God he will keep us on the right side of the fence. God gives us the ability to see clearly that what He has given us is good and what He has prepared for us in heaven is even greater.

 

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Roller Coasters and Life

roller coasterWith names like Millennium Force, Top Dog Thriller, Formula Rossa, Intimidator 305 and Steel Dragon 2000, these world-famous roller coasters will provide the thrill that extreme adrenaline junkies seek. There are intense drops, twists and turns, incredible speeds and gut wrenching G-forces that push your mind and body to its limits. You might be one of those people who gets excited about being strapped into the seat on one of these giant steel mechanical marvels or you might be like me, the anxious spectator (who likes to keep two feet on the ground) left holding all the bags, hats and loose change until the ride is over.

When I read through the Psalms I get the sense of being on a different sort of roller coaster, a ride that journeys through a wide range of emotions. Through ups and downs, twists and turns and the pressures of life, we get a glimpse into the complex emotions that our creator built into us. Woven into the fabric of the text we can experience the writer’s feelings of joy, fear, anger, disappointment, outrage, gratitude, contentment and more. When we listen, hear, and take to heart the stories shared by the different author’s we are invited into their lives and deep into their hearts. One of the most powerful and emotional moments in the psalms for me is found in chapter 18:6, “In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Distress, suffering, pain, sorrow, grief, each one of these “places” can bring us crashing to our knees, desperate and needy, searching for God just a David did in this passage.

It has been said that every human emotion is portrayed in some way through the writing of the Psalms. The Psalms are a “go to” for many who need encouragement and direction in their lives; often when we find an emotional connection we can also experience the writer’s response or reflection. One of the strongest themes that help facilitate that connection is that of love. Out of His love for David, God hears his cry for help, He delivers him from the hands of his enemies. Today our God is no different than He was in David’s day, He waits patiently as we persistently try to work things out on our own, he continues to hear our cries, He loves us in all our brokenness, he rejoices when we put our faith and trust in Him. It is His love that will keep us standing with two feet on the ground.

 

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Terms of Endearment 


A term of endearment is a word or phrase used to address or describe a person for which the speaker feels love or affection. There are some fairly creative terms that couples have crafted for each other over the years but there are a few classics that we might all know. “Baby”, “Honey, Hon or Hun”, “Sweetheart”, “Sugar”, “Beautiful”, “Angel”, the list could go on. Maybe you’re a little more adventurous and you describe your significant other with phrases like “a tall drink of water”, “my heart and soul”, my better half” or “my soul mate”. If your looking for something fresh here are some ideas from the book of Love, Song of Solomon”.

“I liken you, my darling, to a mare among pharaoh’s chariot horses”. “Your eyes are doves”. “Like a Lilly among thorns”. “My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag”. “Your hair is like a flock of goats”. “Your temples like the halves of pomegranate”.“You are a garden fountain”. “Your navel is a rounded goblet”. “Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon”.  

The words found in the book of Songs of Solomon are the exchange of terms of endearment between that of a man and a women, a young couple, a husband and wife who are clearly in love with each other. There is passion, excitement, romance, emotion, and joy found in these words as the characters playfully banter back and forth. Although these terms may not cross cultures and time we can still learn from them today, we can be inspired by the level of passion and commitment that is being expressed in their relationship. Why are these songs or poems included in the Bible? What purpose do they play? To me they are words of inspiration. They are examples and reminders of the passion and excitement that should be a part of our intimate marriage relationships. These words reflect God’s passion and design for a vibrant marriage relationship and in many ways mirrors the love that he has for us. We were created in His image, an image of beauty and excellence that should shine through each and every one of our lives. I’m not an expert in relationships but I have enough experience that I would suggest you stay away from references to mare’s, goats and pomegranates in your next romantic interlude with your spouse.  

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Lights, Camera, Action…

picture1Do you know what a clapperboard is? It’s a tool used in the process of filmmaking, it’s that black and white board that contains some sort of scribbled handwriting that means something to someone and makes the “clap” sound when the clapstick is struck down. This device assists in the synchronizing of the motion picture and sound. During post filming production, the audio and video tracks can be precisely matched to create a seamless film experience. The director calls “action”, the person holding the clapperboard “claps” or cue’s the scene and the filming begins.

The apostle Paul calls us to action repeatedly in his writing. In many ways Paul gives us cue’s to living a life holy and pleasing to the Lord, a kind of “syncing” to His will. Paul often opens his letters to the church with statements like, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father” and “Grace and peace to you” and he often finishes in the same fashion. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians closes his letter with what I would call a serious call to action. “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” (6:24). An undying love can also be translated as everlasting, indestructible, inextinguishable, constant, deathless or perpetual love. Notice that the text reads “all those who love our Lord”, often we describe God’s love for us in these terms but here we as believers are called to reciprocate that love in the same way.

An unmerited, undeserved gift that is freely given to us as believers by God, that is what grace is. Paul, speaking to God’s holy people reminds them (and us) of the kind of love we must have for our Heavenly Father. Out of our passion for God flows compassion for others. This is a compassion that draws others into seeing the incredible power of grace, forgiveness, love and mercy. Paul’s instructions for Christian living include a picture of how we as God’s people need to show grace to others; be kind and compassionate to one another (grace), forgiving each other (grace), just as in Christ God forgave you (grace).(Eph. 4:32). God’s word is our clapperboard in life, it is a call to action. It holds the important information that helps us live our lives in accordance to His will (synchronizing). Because of His forgiveness and grace, we have been given many more “takes” on life than we deserve.

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___ ___ ___ ___ ___ . What is it?

question-mark

There are many things around us that we often take for granted, and in many ways don’t even recognize as an incredible blessing. For example, the clean air we breathe, a home, freedom, an abundance of food, family, advanced technology, running water, education… the list could go on. Living where I do, I have easy and unlimited access to all these things.  This is not the case for everyone around this great planet. There is one thing that each and every one of us have access to, it makes all the above things pale in comparison. It is GRACE, God’s grace to be exact.

What is it?  GRACE that is. The book of Romans gives us a great look into GRACE. Paul, a man who personally experienced the GRACE of God in his life helps us understand what GRACE is through his letter to the Romans. Let me break it down for you; “G”, GRACE is a gift that we receive through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1:5). “R”, GRACE releases us from the law and binds us to Christ. (Romans 7). “A”, We have been given access to God’s GRACE through Christ, both now and forever as faithful and obedient believers (5:2). “C”, we have been chosen (11:5) and called (1:7) to live in the GRACE that is freely given through Christ, chosen not because of what we have done but because of the love that He has for us. “E”, everyone, Jew and Gentiles (you and I) as Paul describes are included in God’s plan of salvation, we as believers are called to obedience that comes through faith in Him.

Mercy, love, compassion, kindness, favour, goodwill. These words all in some way stand under the “umbrella” of GRACE. Do we take these things for granted? We may not realize it at times but we can become complacent in our faith, we can lose sight of the incredible gift of GRACE from God that He continually pours out into us. Our daily lives and interactions with others are filled with good days and hard days. One day we may feel loved by those around us, other days we may feel invisible or hurt. The great thing about God’s love and GRACE is that it never fails, it is the same day in and day out. There is so much goodness flowing through the GRACE of our Heavenly Father, for this we are greatly blessed.

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Restoring a Classic.

vette

I am not much of a car guy when it comes to mechanics but I do appreciate seeing a classic car restored to its original condition. I know a few guys who have poured countless hours into the restoration of a car. Often they will have a picture of the original car hanging nearby for inspiration as they painstakingly remove and repair the rust and dents of the “old beater”. Restoring a car is not for everyone, you must have a ton of patience, an eye for detail, and a passion for cars if you want the job done right. Each dent, scratch, and driven mile has a story to tell, a story that has a beginning from factory floor to its newly restored beauty.

From beginning to end, the world we live in has a rich history and makes for an incredible story. It tells a tale that has yet to be completed and according to scripture has a hope and promise of a beautiful restoration. The book of Revelation gives us a glimpse into what John calls a new heaven and a new earth, he describes the Holy City, the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven. Before the fall of man, prior to sin entering this world, God was pleased with his creation, it was “very good”. I don’t have to describe what has happened since that time, but if you haven’t noticed things are a far cry from very good anymore. This new heaven and earth is described like this: “There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain… It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal…The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone… The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.” WOW, can you imagine it?

John continues to write about the beauty of this anticipated restoration for those who believe and live in obedience to God’s will. Until then, we are called to be good stewards and care takers of this earth. God’s charge to Adam in the beginning was to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” That charge follows through to us today; we have been given a great responsibility until the time comes when Jesus comes back to begin his great restoration project.

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