Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Talk Tuesday-When Faith Pierces Through the Darkness of Sight

Sight can often bring a blinding spiritual darkness that causes us to stumble, lose hope and fall into despair. We may spend days, months, and years fervently praying about something or for someone, only to see the situation remain the same or become worse. When we begin, we expect God's answer to come speedily, with the swiftness of a defender's arrow or the protective cloak of a hero's cape. Yet sometimes, we are made to wait, and wait, and...wait. We are gently reminded, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day,” 2 Peter 3:8. 

So what is this thing called faith that is so powerful that it can be a small as a mustard seed and still bring down a mountain; so edifying that it sustains our very lives?

I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” Matthew 4:4. 

Faith is trusting in the benevolence of a loving God whose love knows no sacrificial bounds: “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. 

Faith is going beyond the blindness of sight into the stubborn acceptance of God's reality; it is trusting in His Word beyond the frailty of today. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see,” Hebrews 11:1.

Faith is allowing His Word to guide our earthly steps into the eternal reality of heaven's narrow gate. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path,” Psalm 119:105. 

Faith is knowing that God does not lie, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. 
Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19.

Faith gives us the courage to obey-to go out to the brokenhearted, the disenfranchised, the poor, the forgotten, the wounded, and the outcast, knowing that we walk with the power of Jesus Christ to be His hands and feet upon this earth. It enables us to look beyond our selfish borders into the unfamiliar territory of other people's pain. Just as God sent His Son, His Son now sends us:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
 because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. 
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, 
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness,
 a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendour. Isaiah 61:1-3

So, in the light of the darkness we have just witnessed here in North America-the shooting at a bbq at Danzig St. in Scarborough, Ontario and the mass murder at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado-let us remember to hold on to the faith that pierces through the darkness of sight. It is a faith that motivates us to love.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Talk Tuesday-Discipline...Ouch!

This week before service began, the worship team did a devotional on Colossians 3:1-17. As each member shared what the Word of God revealed to them, someone spoke on verses 8-14, noting that the responsibility is ours to actively 'put on' and 'put off' certain godly and ungodly characteristics:

8 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. Colossians 3:8-14

It was at this point that the following complaint escaped from my lips, “Oh man, the LORD never lets me get away with anything!” Of course, this is not entirely true, but you know what they say- perception is reality. Well, since the words had already 'slipped out' of my mouth, I continued headlong into my childish tirade, “I always get disciplined and I am very well acquainted with the following verses, 'My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
 and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, 
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son' (I usually add the words 'and daughter' to that),” Hebrews 12:5-6. I personally call them 'spiritual 2 x 4's' or 'licks'...you know, like 'spankings'. God uses His Word to correct my attitude many times...obviously it's because I need the correction.

Psalm 119:105 states, "Your word is a lamp to my feet
 and a light for my path." Without the Word of God, we would not know when we are wrong or when we are right. Our keen sense of 'humanistic morality', predicated upon what we deem as just or unjust, is often directed by the tide of social opinion-and that 'tide' is often influenced by the culture we live in. In order to remain rooted in Christ, we must abide in Him-abide in His Word (John 15). When I feel the urge to whine about the fact that I am always getting 'spanked', I think about Matthew 7:13-14, and my complaint becomes a blessing: “13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” God's Word keeps us from destruction, and leads us through the narrow gate to eternal life. The last thing I meditated on yesterday was John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds,” but that is a topic for another week...

p.s. Please don't forget to pray for our brother in chains, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who is in an an Iranian jail awaiting execution for the 'crime' of converting to Christianity.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Talk Tuesday-The Anchor That Holds

Yesterday I was once again reminded about the importance of God's Word as I settled down to read and meditate on it. I opened my Bible to the book of Nehemiah, and saw how the LORD used Nehemiah to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem-a city destroyed by its enemies. Many of the Israelites were taken away as exiles to foreign lands while a small remnant remained amidst the ruins. Nehemiah had subsequently become a cupbearer to the king of Persia in Susa. As he considered the plight of his people, he prayed, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and obey His commands, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before you day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel,” Nehemiah 1:5-6. Nehemiah proceeded to confess his own sins, and that of his people, repenting for disobeying the laws of the Lord and asking for restoration of their broken city and their broken lives. God heard his prayer, granting him favour with King Artaxerxes to go back and rebuild that which the enemy had destroyed.

Along Nehemiah's journey, many unexpected adversaries rose up against him. Yet, he continuously made such bold, faith-affirming statements to himself and to the people:

“The God of heaven will give us success.” Nehemiah 2:20
“Don't be afraid of them. Remember the LORD, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:14.
“Our God will fight for us!” Nehemiah 4:20 

When their enemies plotted against them, Nehemiah responded in prayer: “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, 'Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.' But I prayed, 'Now strengthen my hands,'” Nehemiah 6:9. By the end of chapter six, the wall of Jerusalem was completed. “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been down with the help of our God” Nehemiah 6:16.

As I pondered Nehemiah's experience, I was reawakened to the Power of Prayer. The Word is the anchor that grounds our faith in the knowledge of who GOD IS, enabling us to trust in His love, mercy, compassion and goodness. Obedience comes through Faith. Suddenly I was refreshed, strengthened and renewed. I understood that there is no brokenness that God cannot fix, no enemy that He cannot subdue and no prayer that is impossible for Him to answer. His Word empowers us TRUST Him, PRAY to Him, have FAITH in Him and OBEY Him. Whatever it is that you are facing in life, I encourage you to take heed of Nehemiah's counsel:

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10