Wednesday, April 30, 2008

All Of It; Get Rid Of All Of It

Good morning friends,

There is nothing worse than a tormented soul. Did you ever experience that as a child? You did something that you were forbidden to do. You lay in bed all night wondering, hoping, praying that your parents would never find out. Then you start imagining what will happen if they do. You toss and turn and find it impossible to sleep. Well it doesn't get any better as an adult when you worry about the possibility of things happening. It is not necessarily that you did something wrong but just things are not going right. It can cause people to do irrational things. King Saul was suffering from this.

He had done wrong and God's favour had departed from him. What made it worse was that he saw the blessing of the Lord on David. It is what he once possessed and he missed it. He was still a faithful king to his people but he had failed in his relationship with the Lord and he missed it. He saw how everything David did resulted in success and he became jealous. I can only imagine the sleepless nights he had, the irrational thinking, his sense of lose. He was tormented inside and there was no relief.

In such a condition irrational thinking takes over. We can see this in his rash and angry reaction to nothing in particular. It could have simply been the way David smiled at a serving girl or the way he laughed at Jonathan's jokes. It would not take much to set Saul off. It is a terrible condition and there is no need for it, especially in this age of grace in which we live.

Consider these teachings from Jesus:

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

If you are feeling anxious about anything, if you feel tormented in yourself, there is no need for it. Take it to Jesus and he will give you relief from it. It could be a simple thing like changing your perspective or providing you with the forgiveness you cannot find anywhere else. You need to trust him in a way that Saul was never able to. Go to him and present your need for healing. He will listen and I guarantee you that he will respond.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Starting With The familiar

Good morning my friends,

As Christians we have this terrible mindset of believing that our effort is good enough in the things we do for God. It is like a busy mom who thinks that putting food on the table for her family is good enough. It may be enough to take the hunger pains away but is it nutritional? Does the food taste good? Is it presented in a way that is pleasing to the eye as well as the taste buds? Food is food, right? However, to do it well means that thought and effort has gone into the meal planning; nutritional values have been taken into consideration; the meal has been nursed through the preparation to insure that nothing is burnt and everything is cooked to perfection; the table is set properly; clean dishes are used. You get my point. To prepare a meal well takes time and effort. So does the work that the Lord has given to us to do.

An effort is not good enough when the Lord has told us to give our best. It takes time. It takes work. We may even sweat a bit. Yet, at the same time, the Lord has us do things that are familiar as he moves us into things that may not be so familiar. It is not like God is suddenly going to tell you to pack your bags and go to China to preach. He puts us through training so that we start with things we are familiar with. David is an example of this.

David became a mighty warrior and brilliant strategist. Most Israelites considered his years as king the golden age of Israel. Yet, he started as a simple shepherd boy. God started moving David into his greatness when he confronted David with Goliath. Now there was a test for you. As David heard this large man taunt God's people something stirred up in him, and even though he had never fought a man before, David knew he had to take this man on.

The king tried to dress David in the traditional garb of a warrior, wanting to give David as much help as possible. But these were unfamiliar tools to David. It was not yet time for these tools. So David used what he was familiar with. If it was good enough to defeat lions and bears than it would be could enough against this man. And it was. David used what he had been trained with to defeat God's enemy because the greatest training was what happened in his heart. David's greatest strength was his love and dedication to the LORD God.

David did not stay in the familiar but went on to become a great warrior. We are told that in everything he did he met with success. He did not just make an effort, he attacked everything with a determination to honour God; he gave his very best in everything he did. It is what we have all been called to do, to give our best and step into our greatness. God does want all his children to succeed in what they do but the motivation is what matters. David did things so God would receive the glory and that must be our motivation as well. We want to do our best because we want God to be glorified. Now, only God can truly glorify himself so he must add to everything we do to bring up to the place where he can be glorified, but our effort, our best effort plays a part in that.

Look at yourself. Would you say that your present attitude brings glory to God? Would you say that you have given it much thought? Step into your greatness. Become what you were born to be, what God created you to be, what his purpose is in you. Give your best and see what God does with it. And may God be glorified.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Powr of The Enemy and Counting The Cost

Good morning my friends,

It is unfortunate that we do not always consider what Jesus said when he told us to "count the cost". We do not count the cost of most things these days but especially the cost of the decisions we make. Most of us do not take the time to reflect and consider what will happen when we do something. We often comment on the rashness of youth but do not consider how often we make rash decisions.

Recently I have been helping some of our students work on their checker skills. Believe it or not checkers can be more difficult than chess. In chess there are only so many possibilities. With checkers the possibilities are so much greater and it is more difficult to force your opponent into making bad moves. It is a game you need to be able to see the possible outcomes of each move and be willing to sacrifice in order to gain. It is not a bad example of our spiritual walk.

Every decision we make has spiritual consequences to it, good and bad. Consider Samuel and the Israelites at Mizpah. They had finally gotten to a point where they were desperate enough to submit themselves to God, again. Samuel told them that they would need a complete renewal. Get rid of your idols he told them, fast and seek God's face. Renewal was gripping the nation, but what was the cost? It is great to seek God. It is great to surrender everything and be renewed in relationship and devotion to Jesus, but what is the cost? There is always a cost.

I figure this is where we often get it wrong. We have this expectation that surrendering everything to God will cause all our problems to be resolved immediately. The example of the Israelites demonstrate the more frequent example. The Israelites were being suppressed by the enemy, the Philistines. Samuel called the people to renew themselves with the LORD God. They were still suppressed. They came to God, threw away their idols, sought his face and fasted. The enemy heard what was happening and came against them. Then the people were full of fear. That's where most of us lose it.

Fear is the greatest weapon the enemy has against us. If fear grips our hearts so does doubt and doubt destroys faith. What do we expect? If we are being suppressed by the enemy do we truly believe he is just going to let us go? If we are being renewed and God is re-establishing himself in the hearts of his people do we think the enemy is just going to sit back and take it all in? No way! He is going to come against us with everything he has, to fill us with fear, to send or new faith back under a rock and keep us in suppression. So, what do we do?

We do what the people did, we keep calling out to God. We stay on our knees and fight with all we have, seeking the face of our God. We offer up sacrifices of praise and worship, pay our tithes and offerings, seek, seek , seek. The cost of spiritual renewal was a greater attack from the enemy. I think most of us give up there but if we were to follow the example of the Israelites we would discover that victory comes in the midst of the battle. God saw the determination of his people to seek him, the sincerity of their desire for this relationship and he responded as he always did; he drove the enemy from his people.

I really appreciate how God sent the enemy running. He did not raise up an army against them. He did not send hail or have the earth open up to swallow them. He used noise to send them running. Simple thunder. Noise. Noise because that is all the enemy is against those dedicated to God. The enemy has no power over us except the fear that he tries to produce. But when we truly know or God we know that nothing can defeat our faith. But still, the cost is that we will be attacked. We discover the worth of our faith in moments like these.

Count the cost of serving Jesus. Count the cost of ministry. Count the cost of living a dedicated life totally for the Lord. Count the cost, not so you can quit but so that you know what to expect. If you expect it then you will never be surprised and fear will never enter in. Remember the words spoken to Joshua:

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Do not give up! Victory is at hand.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

It Is Better To Forget Your Lucky Charms

Today's Reading: Samuel 4, 5, 6; Luke 18:1-23

Good morning my friends,

Have you noticed some of the weird uses of crosses these days? I still find it odd that some people choose to use it as jewelry, wearing it as a necklace or as ear rings. I have also seen it in piercings and tattoos. People even use it as a means of decoration. Often it is used in the form of a lucky charm, something that will bring good fortune and success. It is not unlike how the Israelites treated the Arc of the Covenant as they went to war.

The Israelites were losing in a big way and they new they needed something extra. They should have inquired of the Lord. They should have prayed. The should have sought direction. Instead they looked for a short cut. They looked for something that would not require a relationship. They wanted success without a personal cost to themselves. A relationship with God requires a personal cost of commitment and time in relationship building. What they wanted was a lucky charm that they could pull out whenever they wanted.

They looked to their past and remembered the success the nation had in the past. Instead of examining the "why" and discovering the relationship with God they instead focused on a symbol of that relationship. They brought in their "lucky charm" expecting it wold bring them victory they needed. It did not. They were completely defeated and even lost their "lucky charm".

Most of you can see whee I am gong with this. Most of us do not have a genuine relationship with God. Oh, we believe and we know he is present and he is watching, we just do not spend time with him. WE will sing worship songs to him. We will consider his instructions. We may even take the time to read a bit from the Word and say a hasty prayer, but we do not enter his presence and dance with him. WE do not allow him to embrace us and speak encouraging words to us and to renew us. We do not enter in because we are afraid of such intimacy because we will also have to confess our offenses. It is easier to carry a cross with us, or keep a Bible in line of sight. It is easier to rely on our "lucky charms" then to know our awesome God.

However, in John 15 Jesus made it perfectly clear that relationship with him requires an intimacy that goes deeper than anything we have ever experienced. He says "Remain in me and I will remain in you". We often speak about how Jesus resides in us through the Holy Spirit in us but Paul also teaches us that we reside in Jesus. Paul explains that when we accept Jesus we die; it is the only way to be separated from our sin nature. However, we cannot remain dead so we are then raised again but the only way that can happen is if we are raised in Jesus. It is like wearing clothes. We are clothed in Jesus Christ. So he is in us and we are in him. It is in this intimacy that we walk and talk with him every moment of the day, never being separated from him.

Our strength in Jesus Christ is not found in "lucky charms" but in relationship. Try it today. Take the time to enter into his presence; talk with him; dance with him; sing with him and feel your energy and hope renewed. Do not be afraid of intimacy with Jesus Christ; it is the only way we can truly know him and the true power he offers us.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

They Will Be Done

Good morning friends,

Have you had things happen in your life where you have questioned God why? Perhaps they were things that did not make any sense to you, that caused you to question the wisdom of God. The death of a parent can cause such questions or the lose of a friend. The failure of normal things that are suppose to work a certain way often can cause us to feel frustrated or angry. But hold on. If you are a Christian and truly believe that God is in control of all things, should we not trust him? Easier said than done.

Our problem is that we often say with our mouth that God is in charge of all things but in our thinking and actions we often show that we think God is not overly active in our lives. Perhaps we think we are insignificant in his scheme of things. Perhaps we are only here for decoration and other people, more beautiful, intelligent, talented people are the real stars in God's Kingdom. Such thinking can destroy the greatness God has knit into us as we were formed in our mothers' wombs.

The fact is that God is very much occupied with us and is using us to accomplish his purpose. Note I said his purpose and not our purpose. Consider Hannah for just a moment. Here was a woman who went through the embarrassment, pain and torment of not being able to conceive. In fact the Bible tells us that God had actually closed her womb, would not allow her to conceive. She was a dedicated worshiper; she loved God; she prayed, but still nothing. From an observers perspective God would not appear to be very just. However, Hannah was part of a bigger plan without knowing it. God had to close her womb until the proper time because he was going to give her a son that would become the leader of Israel during a very dark time. But, the timing had to be right.

Do you stop to consider that very much? Do you stop to consider God's timing, his need for proper timing in order to have the right people in the right place at the right time? Jesus taught a lot about obedience because how is God suppose to conduct his plans if his servants are constantly arguing with him. When we argue it is because we do not truly possess servant hearts but are wanting to impose our will on God's plans. We want what we want without considering how this may impact people around us. Even worse is when we do consider the impact but we just do not care and decide what we want is more important than other people's needs or God's purposes.

Some people become bitter because they do not get what they want or they deny God's love for them because it does not appear that he cares. They have asked for healing yet they remain sick. They have asked for financial help and yet they remain poor. They ask for a child yet they remain barren. They ask for a spouse and yet remain single. They ask that the teacher will be sick and yet he shows up. :-) We do not stop and consider that God has a purpose in these things. Honestly, as servant's of the Lord Jesus Christ, how much do we love him? Enough to submit ourselves to the will of the Father, in joy, even if it means lose and pain for us?

The whole universe is hinged on the Father's will, yet we see no reason to submit ourselves to it. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? Does this sound familiar:

"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven ..."

Thy will be done? Really?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Noble Theme

Good morning my friends,

This morning we have read the book of Ruth and in it we find two ordinary people doing the right thing. That is what it boils down to in essence. Ruth could have left her mother-in-law Naomi to fend for herself. She could have returned to her people and found a new husband. She could have married rich. But she did not. She stayed with Naomi and pledged to remain with her, becoming like her in order to support her. Naomi's other daughter-in-law left because Naomi released her, but not Ruth. Ruth refused to go. As a result she was highly thought of by the people of Naomi's community.

Then there was Boaz. Boaz too could have been like many others and simply shrugged off his responsibility. In fact, when Ruth approached him he could have just shrugged the whole thing off stating she was the responsibility of the kinsman-redeemer. But Ruth had approached Boaz and Boaz felt that she was now his responsibility. He took the steps necessary and approached the kinsmen-redeemer and won the day for her.

This story is about two people of noble character both doing the right thing. This is what they always did, it was not a one time thing. This was their character to always do the right thing, the honourable thing. If they considered themselves first they would not have had the same character. They almost had the stature of nobility because of the selflessness they displayed in choosing to do the right thing. In the end, God chose their line to birth David and eventually the King of all kings, Jesus Christ.

I am not even sure we can conceive of this notion any more of living a selfless life. Oh, we can be brilliant at times but can we shine in every moment like Ruth? Would people say of us "What a noble character they have". Could we earn such a reputation for making the right choices in the toughest times? We can not make the right choice if we are more concerned with ourselves than with others. It may be great to read such stories but are we willing to live them?

Reflect on these words of Paul the Apostle today and see if they stir up any noble theme hidden deep inside:

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (PHilippians 2:3)

We do not have to stay like this; we can change because the Father's will is for us to change.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Where Fools Rush In ...

Good morning my friends,

Have you ever made a foolish promise? In the heat of the moment have you stated a promise that you later regretted? Maybe it was to a friend. Maybe it was to God. Do you think people really want to hold us to foolish promises? Do you think God wants to hold us to foolish promises? It is important that we are always careful about what we say, especially when it comes to oaths and promises because our words will be judged. But our God is also a God of understanding and forgiveness, so if we promise to run down the street with all our clothes off if he grants our prayers I do not believe he would hold us to such a thing. Let us say he has had a lot of practice in overlooking foolish things people promise him. Let us consider Jephthah from Judges 11 for just a moment.

Some people have been very hard on Jephthah over the centuries, considering him to be a foolish man, and he was. However, are there not things in our lives that are routine that we can count on happening all the time? Yet, one time out of a hundred it happens differently. Could this not have been the case with Jephthah? Perhaps it was a dog that always greeted him or a pet cow that came running out the door to welcome him home. Perhaps his daughter never came out to greet him as he arrived home. Regardless, it was a foolish vow he made.

Here is another thing to consider. Our God never accepted human sacrifice. You notice that he remained silent during this whole thing. Also notice the emphasis placed on the fact that the daughter was a virgin and that she would never marry. These facts have led some to believe that the sacrifice was not her actually life but the fact she would never be permitted to marry, that her life would be lived as a virgin servant of God. Although there is nothing that puts this in black and while it does make a lot of sense, considering how much human sacrifice disgusts our God. But none of this takes away the fact that Jephthah's vow was a thing that did not honour God but instead reveals the danger of rashness.

Jesus made it clear that we do not need to try to manipulate our Father in this manner. He taught us that simple obedience is enough to provoke the heart of the Father:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7)

We do not have to make vows to our God in order to receive victory from him. He offers it gladly every day for those who remain faithful to him. Those of my students writing tests today remember this. Remind our Father of all his faithfulness and goodness and simply accept the victory he offers you today in the subject of your test. Let us leave the foolish things for the fools and as children of the Father let us march on in his glory and strength.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Was It Worth It?

Good morning my friends,

Ambition is an interesting beast; that urge to become more, to become better, to become the best. Ambition is something that a number of people I know could use a good dose to help them to achieve their goals. On the other hand, unbridled ambition is a very dangerous thing that can extort a very high price from many people connected to that ambition. Ambition is good as long as it does not become all consuming.

When it does become all consuming compromise is fast at its heels. Compromise is found when ambition decides the the end justifies the means. In other words, it does not matter how you reach your goal as long as you reach it. This attitude from one individual can cause a great deal of trouble and heartache for a lot of people.

Some people who have the goal to become wealthy will do crooked things to get money. Investors who will steal people's investments or set aside aspects of their morality to bend the rules, hurting many people along the way. Athletes who decide that winning is everything and take drugs to enhance their performance. When they get caught they bring great shame to their family, friends and country. Ambition can bring with it small and large comprises but they always result in the same thing.

In this morning's Bible reading (Judges 9, 10) we read about a man with a very large ambition; he wanted to be king. We also read of a city that wanted a king. Both man and city ended up making big compromises to reach their goal. They saw no value in working toward their goal in a proper manner. The city of Shechem did not want the hassle of going through a process of choosing a king. They chose to put to death seventy men to shorten the process. Maybe that has no affect on you because you are use to reading such things in the Bible, but imagine the city of Montreal putting to death seventy men to make an election easier. Abimelech became a dangerous and vicious man because of the ambition he held in his heart. We can see his character in the way he attacked and destroyed a city whose crime was that it held some rebellious brothers. Thousands of innocent people lost their lives because of this blind ambition.

It is not good to work toward a goal without keeping God's moral code in its proper place in our life. Jesus told us that the end never justifies the means, that we should never lose our life to gain the world. He warned us that we would end up losing our life (eternal) if we compromised in this manner. Ambition is good to a point but it must be an ambition that is governed by our love of God. Even in our desire to see certain things achieved we must constantly be aware of the small compromises that knock on the door of God's morality. Small compromises lead to much larger compromises. We must be very careful to maintain who we are in Jesus Christ or we will lose everything.

I wonder if Abimelech thought it was all worth it as his servant plunged the sword into him?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From The Grave - You Are Great

Good morning my friends,

So the whole thing with Gideon got really messy with him accidentally creating a thing of worship and then the people forgetting who he was after he died. Then again, they forgot God after Gideon died. Yet, there are lessons in Gideon's life that still speak to us today. I guess you could say that he is preaching to us from the grave.

Obviously the greatest lesson is what God did to assure that he received the glory for the victory and not anyone else. The fact that he made Israel less than what it was capable of being should tell us a lot about how God operates. It is not our ability that matters but instead our availability. Gideon was not actually a mighty warrior except for the fact that God declared he was. The army was not great and they used torches and horns to scare away the enemy, but it was God who threw the enemy into confusion. Yet, there is another lesson here I would like you to consider.

Gideon had a self image problem, and who would not if they were Gideon. He was a farmer not a warrior. He had 300 fellow farmers against thousands of seasoned warriors. Confidence may have been a problem here, I know it would have been for me. Yet, that is not how God saw Gideon and, more importantly, it is not how others saw Gideon. God had Gideon sneak into the enemy camp to hear what they were saying about him. God had instilled fear in their hearts. They were afraid of Gideon and his army of 300 farmers.

We are terrible at self image. Even if it is true that we are "farmers", the fact remains that is not how God sees us and that is not what he has declared over us. Our self image does not matter because we are being formed into the image of Jesus, and I think we would all agree that there is no one as mighty as he. We are mighty warriors because Jesus declared we are.

It may also surprise us to know what people are really thinking about us. People tend to have a better image of us than we have of ourselves because Jesus is at work in us. So throw off any negative thoughts you have about yourself. You are beautiful. You are intelligent. You are capable. You are rich. You are important. You have great purpose. You have been called into greatness, because God has declared it. He has spoken it into your life which means it s now a reality. You are who he says you are.

So, if Gideon could hear me I would thank him. And because does hear me I most assuredly praise him with a thankful heart. I am who he has declared me to be.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Go In The Strength That You Have

Good morning my friends,

We start on the tale of Gideon today. It is not a very long tale so we will complete it tomorrow. Many of us already know a great deal about Gideon; that he was afraid like everyone else, that God called him a mighty warrior when he did not act like it, that he was put in a place where he had to decide if he trusted God. This morning however I would like us to consider what all of this tells us about God and us.

In Judges 6 we read when the angel first addressed Gideon. Gideon's reaction appeared to be a thing that arrived from bitterness. "We know what God did for our forefathers but what has he done for us lately?" He seems to long for a demonstration of God's power, "Where are the signs and wonders from long ago?" And then the heart of it, "Has God abandoned us?"

It is the angel's reaction to this that is the the foundation of the lesson this morning. In the face of this bitterness, in the face of this doubt the angel responds: "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?" Sounds close to what God said to Joshua at the beginning. The problem is that Gideon did not have the same relationship with God that Joshua had. In fact, Israel was in the position it was because they did not have this same relationship.

The thing is that God's command to possess the land still stood. His strength was still available. Success was a guarantee, it only required the faithful obedience of Israel. However the people had abandoned the relationship, perhaps because they were expecting God to rescue them as he did in Egypt, with signs and wonders. Instead, God tells Gideon to use the strength he had to go a defeat the enemy. Gideon did not understand the blessings of the Lord. He did not understand the blessings that come with faithful obedience. He did not understand the miracles God performs every day for his faithful children. Tomorrow we will look at some of these miracles that most people pass over without understanding.

The lesson I want you to understand is the lesson Gideon was going to have to learn. Miracles or no miracles God expects his people to move forward in obedience. He expects us to live our lives to the fullest in obedience to him. He expects us to go in the strength we have whether we are weak or strong. Jesus told us it is not about the size of our faith, it is whether we have any faith at all. Even the smallest amount allows God to do his work. He will not abandon his people even if they abandon him; it will only look as if he is gone because we lack the spiritual eyes to see. Even then, if we go in the strength we have we will begin to see his hand at work. He works through us as we move and live. He will not work through us if we simply sit and wait to see his hand. His hand is seen on the journey, not before.

This is a difficult spiritual principle. It means that we must move out into the unknown before we have any guarantees. It means that every work of the Lord is based on faith and trust. That is why God enjoys using the weakest vessels, because then people know for sure it is God who is doing the real work. Take this to heart, and go in the strength that you have.

Friday, April 11, 2008

You Can Do It

Good morning my friends,

So, Israel has not completed their task of driving out God's enemy from the territory but they have started dividing up the land. Joshua is taking the time to allot each tribe the territory assigned to them. Can you imagine the enormity of this task? Can you imagine the dissatisfaction of some of them. It would be like dividing up a decorated birthday cake for twenty children. Some would want the green frosting and others the red, and some would want large pieces and others small.

I noted what was said to the tribe of Joseph when they expressed dissatisfaction with their allotment. It is not dissimilar to how I have had to speak to a number of my Secondary students:

But Joshua said to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh-"You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18 but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out." (Joshua 17:17-18)

The house of David was looking for a place to retire to, that would not require a lot of work. Here they would have to clear the land and fight for it. Other tribes were given lands already prepared and with no enemy in sight. It is not unlike the many apparent injustices that my Secondary students have to face. Imagine the thought that we would actually expect them to work to achieve anything. It may seem like a task is hard before we begin it but once we have started and we have decided we are going to do that thing we discover abilities that we never knew we had. Our God is an incredible God. He ask only that we put or hand to the plow and he will provide everything for our labour.

It is not unlike math. Math is not always the easiest. It requires that we have an open mind to learn. We can look at math as if it were like those iron chariots, ready to be the instrument of our demise. If that is how we see it then we will not put our hand to the plow with all our heart. We will give it a half-hearted try and then quit. Yet, if we entered in with the mindset of defeating those iron chariots then we would discover that God actually gives us the ability to win; to understand and do the math.

Joshua acted like a supervisor, he was taking no excuses: "though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out." Even this looks like it is impossible to do, even though it looks like it is impossible to understand, even though it is hard, you can do this. No excuses.

We often forget who we are. The house of Joseph has just spent five years watching teh Lord put the enemy to flight through his people, yet they still did not believe. We often forget that we ar the children of God in a manner far different than Israel. We are possessed by God which means his power flows through us. We can do all things through Jesus. The Word of God states it and millions of believers have proved it. The fact is, you can drive them out. So stop whining and get on with it; there is work to be done. :-)

Have a great day. God bless.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

God's Retirement Plan

Good morning everyone,

Would you believe I am rushing out the door again. These days I feel I am very Russian. :-)

I doubt many of you have given much thought to retirement. Then again, maybe you have thought so far ahead you already have your retirement plans in place. Most people do not. Many people think of retirement all through their working years, thinking how great it will be to reach that age when they can decide for themselves every day what they will do. The only problem is that they fail to live during their working years and thus fail to build a life for themselves because they think living will start at 65 years of age. However, when they get there it is empty, lonely and boring

Personally, I have never been able to see myself retiring. The thought of not working just does not appeal to me. I like to imagine that I will be like Caleb. Caleb was one of the two spies who came back from their scouting trip into the Promised Land with a good report. It was he and Joshua who were ready to go and take the land as the Lord had commanded. Caleb and Joshua were the only two from their generation to enter the promised land after the forty years in the desert. After five years of battles to take the Promised Land he was now 85 years old. That is older than most people live. So we could imagine that after five years of fighting he would be ready to hang up the sword. But not Caleb.

At the age of 85 years he approached Joshua and laid claim to a promise he had received from God; he wanted the land he had been promised. This land was mountainous and filled with a mighty warrior people. It did not matter. He had been promised and he was ready to go and fight for what was his. So this mighty man of God did not come into his destiny until he was 85 years of age, but he lived every moment of his life up to that point.

There are many mighty servant's of God who did not come into their destiny until well after their retirement age. The thing is in the Kingdom of God there is no retirement. We have been called as workers. Sometimes our work requires 60 years of preparation for 10 years of ministry. Sometimes we live most of our life fulfilling our destiny. It is different for each of us. So, if it is still unclear for you what that destiny may be, work hard at living what you know. Work hard at the development of you character, of never quitting, of persevering even if it is 40 years in the desert.

Consider Caleb today. He had to suffer 40 years in the desert because of other people's stupidity, but he never gave up. He spent five years fighting for other people before he was able to fight for his family, but he never gave up. He was a man of character even at the age of 85 years. Most of you are just kids compared to 85 years but your training has already started for the battles you will be fighting. I wonder where you will be and what you will be doing when you are 85 years old.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pay Attention!

Good morning everyone,

Well, I must love my students. Here I am rushing to get out the door to go to Gatineau yet I take a few moments to discuss this morning's reading with you. :-) Can't you feel the love? Or is it that I am compelled to do it. In either case it will probably be short.

So, Joshua, son of Nun, followed the Lord's instructions to the letter and he defeated the great city of Jericho. Jericho was not just any city, it was one of the original cities in the world, according to the people who know such things in the world today. Joshua did not win it by superior numbers or great battle tactics. He won it because he followed the directions of the Lord. But then sin entered the community as sin tends to do. Achan liked the shiny stuff. This is where Joshua made his first mistake.

Joshua figured he now knew what he had to do, as many of us think. We have our instructions so we head out to complete our mission. But things change. Even the spiritual world is not static. There are adjustments that are made, especially because of the introduction of sin into the situation. Joshua should have been praying. Joshua should have checked with God on the next battle. They did not lose because they only had half the troops. They lost because it was a spiritual warfare and they had just lost their strength. If Joshua had been praying he would have known that fact.

Like everyone else Joshua tried to place this failure at the "feet" of God. But God was having none of this. Joshua seemed to have been a matter-of-fact guy and God dealt with him in a matter-of-fact manner:

"Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction."

"They have been made liable to destruction." So the great spiritual condition the people were in for the Jericho battle did not exist for the next battle. They could have entered the fight with 100,000 warriors and they would have still lost. We keep forgetting that this work is not a physical work with prayers thrown in. It is a spiritual work with some physical stuff thrown in.

The point is that we cannot tune in to God once a month or once a year or once in a life-time. We need to be constantly tuned in, every day so we can stay on top of our situation and the situation of our context. When we remain sensitive to the Spirit he shows us things, he makes us aware so we can adjust. This is important. Pay attention spiritually and the enemy will never put you to flight.

Friday, April 4, 2008

And Your Decision Is?

Good morning my friends,

There are certain great passages from the Word of God that stand out in my memory. One of these we have read this morning:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, "Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, "Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 30:11-16)

"It is not to difficult for you or beyond your reach." Even more so after the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. It is not difficult and it is not beyond our reach because it rests in the decision we make. Do we decide to obey God or do we decide to continue in our disobedience. Maybe "obedience" is not the word I should use, especially with teenagers. They hear that enough. So let us substitute that word with the word "love". After all, that is what Moses has written here, "For I command you today to love the LORD your God." It is that love that leads to doing what that person wants us to do, "to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws."

Without love the other things are impossible. I can preach all the commands and decrees until the cows come home but it will not make a difference if there is no love. I can convince the students of logic of following God's commands and decrees. They make sense. Some of them are very practical and it is easy to see their benefit. However, our sin nature often gets in the way of logic because of a very basic human instinct; "I want wha I want and I want it now". Only when we are convinced of Jesus' love and respond to that love will those bonds of our sin nature be loosed and allow us to walk in obedience.

It is my heartfelt desire to see each of my students succeed. I want to see them overcome the many obstacles in their life such as "fear of the future", "laziness", "lack of motivation", "disobedience". I want to see my students shine with the glory of God, prospering at everything they put their hand too. I want to see them living lives to the glory of Jesus Christ. But, without love it will not happen. God has promised us blessings with obedience, but it only happens with that decision to love.

It was set before the people:
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. It does not get any planner than that. What will you choose?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Here We Go Again

Good morning everyone,

Well, here we are back from break; kinda. You are there and I am here, at home, with another of my children who is sick. Strange, it is always our hope that we would come leaping back to school after an extended break with vigor and determination to press on to the end. Instead, I look around and it seems like a war zone, with casualties spread as far as the eye can see. Both students and staff seem to have been hit hard by the latest illness to blanket the city.

So, if we are truly the children of God fulfilling our purpose in serving him why are we so open to illness? There are several reasons for this. The first is that we serve our Lord in a fallen creation where illness is only one result of this fallen state. In the beginning there were no colds, no influenza, no cancer, no aids, nothing at all. But as sin entered into God's perfect creation, introduced by the decision of Adam, so disease and illness followed.

The second reason is because we live our lives as if we are invincible. There are certain things we can do to avoid illness and to avoid spreading it if we are sick. Washing our hands throughout the day is a simple and practical method. Eating our proper meals, getting our proper rest helps our bodies to fight off illness, as does getting proper exercise or living an active life. A couple of ways to prevent the spreading of our illness is to stay home during the contagious period and to know how to cough properly in public.

The third reason we get sick is due to our spiritual condition. Just as our bodies need to be strong to fight off disease so does our spirit. If we neglect our spiritual condition then we will not have the faith to overcome the simplest things that we face. This is not to say that we will never experience illness. We know that the Apostle Paul was afflicted with something that God permitted to exist. His response to Paul's prayers was "My grace is sufficient". There are times that God has a greater purpose for the things we face. However, do not miss the fact that Paul prayed and received an answer about his affliction. Sometimes we do not even bother to pray.

As you come in to school today and you see the number of people missing understand you also have a responsibility to fight for them. Pray for their healing. Regard the staff who look like the walking wounded and pray for supernatural strength for them. Help them; fight for them; encourage them. It is what we do as followers of Jesus Christ.

I pray you have come back healthy and full of energy. Be encouraged and encourage others today. He is our God! We are his people! And he is here with us!