Inheritance

Read
Psalm 136
Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things.
A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.  Proverbs 13:20-22 (NIV)

Reflect
I have never had the misfortune of working through a will that was being contested. For that I am truly grateful.  

Lawyers are often needed when a large inheritance is being divided – even when stated in a legal will. Without that framework, the people in some families would tear each other apart over the money or things they expect to get as their entitlement.

Inheritance issues can be controversial, but, in the Bible, inheritance is also a great example of a good gift: it’s given by grace – not earned. It is a gift received from the God who loves us and gives us good gifts from above. Psalm 136 celebrates the way God gave the promised land to Israel “as an inheritance.” Again, and again the refrain echoes, “His love endures forever.” As history shows, Israel had done nothing to earn that inheritance. God was creating a new nation that would bless all nations by providing a Saviour.

In the New Testament, Jesus said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). And 1 Peter 1:4 describes salvation as “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”

What a heavenly treasure we have in Christ! All by grace, through faith!

Pray
Thank you, Lord, that you are our inheritance, and that to know you, and the Son whom you sent, is eternal life, greater than all and every earthly treasure! Amen!

In The Grasp Of His Love

Read
Romans 8:31-39
(nothing in all creation) will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Verse 39 (NIV)

Reflect
While in Tanzania I was witness to a trial held by a neighbourhood group that had the authority to bring guilty people to trial in the nearby city. Using “switch sticks” on people’s bare backs and the bottoms of their feet, they were beaten until the desired answer was given. When I walked away from that event, I said to myself; “I would confess to almost anything to have that beating stop.” My pastor friend who was there and had been falsely accused of theft told me he had already felt the pain of the switch. Then he said nothing would ever make him tell a lie and disgrace Jesus.

In this passage Paul was naming some of the hardships he had faced and then he declares to his own soul, and to ours, “No, not persecution. No, not famine. No, not that, or that, or that, will be able to separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why? Because God’s love is unshakeable, and God gives us the strength not only to face but also to conquer the enemy’s attacks. How? Through the finished work of Christ’s victorious death and resurrection.

Paul says neither the present nor the future will threaten our confidence in God’s loving grip on us. When my mother was given the news, she had only two weeks to live, she did not shed a tear. She knew that at the end of this life there was a glorious new beginning that would last through eternity. No, not even death could separate her from the love of God, rather death would usher her into the presence of the Saviour she loved.

Is there anything in your life that feels too overwhelming to handle? The power of the living, loving God guarantees a strong grip on you as you face your hardship head-on. Never give up.

Pray
Lord, we are weak, but you are strong. When the troubles of life pummel us, help us to find comfort in your love that never lets go. Help us to keep looking to you. In Jesus, Amen.

Who Is Not Here?

Read
Luke 14:15-24
Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many. 1 Corinthians 12:14 (NIV)

Reflect
I have been in pastoral work for about 25 years. One disappointment that has remained with me is the fact that truly multi-racial congregations are very few and far between. I understand that ethnic and cultural backgrounds hold to different traditions and expressions of worship. I also understand that feeling comfortable in worship seems to be a highly valued piece of our worship. I just wanted to believe that we would be enriched by a wide diversity of peoples and cultural expressions.

Having said my mind above, there are still many, many like us, who do not attend church for one reason or another. Some people don’t attend church because they sense they are different from everyone else who attends church. Others don’t come because people in the church do not welcome them. If a church really wants to reflect the body of Christ, which is made up of many parts, they need to ask themselves regularly, “Who is not here?”

About 20 percent of the population have disabilities; but do 20 percent of the people at your church have visible or “invisible” disabilities? Do people who have been in prison feel welcome? People from a variety of social classes? Single adults? Poor people? Rich people?

In Jesus’ parable, the servants are sent out to “compel” people to come. God calls us to do the same in our churches. We must work to welcome people who feel that they don’t fit. We need to consider how we might need to change our relationships, our ways of interacting, our worship, so that people who are typically excluded will find they are welcome and needed by our churches.

Every church excludes people. Whom is your church excluding, and what changes do you need to make so that they will feel welcome? How can your church actively invite people who are not attending? A good start is to make friends with people and then invite your friends to come with you.

Pray
Lord Jesus, you welcomed people who were looked down upon by society. In the same way, teach me to welcome people much different from my “own kind” into my life and my church. In your name, Amen.

Hospitality

Read
Genesis 18:1-8
Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9 (NIV)

Reflect
The first team that I took to Tanzania were surprised at the hospitality of the local people in the village of Igoma. We were there for two full weeks and had the joy of working together to help build the clinic building for the church. But what was astonishing to most was that these people scurried around on departure day to be sure everyone was leaving with a gift. People who had next to nothing, lived in mud huts and lived from day to day and depended on the grace of God to sustain them wanted to be sure that we felt appreciated and loved. So, we were blessed with a gift to remember the friends we had for a short time, but brothers and sisters we have for eternity.

One author writes: “In many parts of North America, hospitality has become rather anemic. It often amounts to little more than a coffee gathering among friends. It’s more common to see “hospitality” advertised by restaurants, hotels, and resorts that try to snag my dollar when I’m on vacation.” I agree with him.

The hospitality of the Scriptures is not a welcome based on how much cash (or plastic) you have in your wallet to pay for a room and a meal. It’s not even confined to people who are “like us.” The hospitality Scripture speaks of is typically focused on people different from us.

Many of us have a certain fear of strangers. We’re intimidated by people who dress, eat, and talk differently than we do. But biblical hospitality looks beyond differences to see similarities – to recognize others as fellow image bearers of God. The hospitality of scripture is an act of welcoming grace – and participates in the very dynamic of the character of Jesus Christ. We would do well to remember the cliché of a few years ago: “What Would Jesus Do.”

One day Sarah and Abraham welcomed visitors who were actually the Lord and his angels. Whom in your community do you need to welcome in the name of our Lord? You may be surprised by who you showed hospitality (Hebrews 13:2).

Pray
Father, grant us the grace to overcome our fears and welcome people who need hospitality, that we may share the love we have received from you. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Necessity Of Touch

Read
Revelation 1:17-18
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (NIV)

Reflect
Compassionate ministry calls for the necessity of touch. A hand on a shoulder or holding someone’s hand while they work through a difficulty in their life or while the Holy Spirit convicts of sin is a sign that you care and want to be of assistance. Of course, in our present culture we need to be sure we ask for permission to touch.

Throughout his teaching ministry, Jesus gained a reputation for reaching out and touching people. When people with leprosy cried out to be healed, Jesus touched them. He touched the eyes of people who were blind. Touch was an integral component to Jesus’ healing ministry.

We see the gift of Jesus’ touch in this passage of Revelation as well. John fell at Jesus’ feet – as though he were dead – because he could not remain standing in the Lord’s presence. Jesus responded to John’s fear by reaching out, placing his right hand on him – a gentle touch, and saying, “Do not be afraid.”

What a calming touch Jesus provided! What powerful words of assurance he spoke! This story does more than just provide a picture of what happened to John on the island of Patmos when he stood face to face with Jesus. This reveals who Jesus is as the ascended and exalted Son of God: Jesus is the Lord of love and compassion. Just as when Jesus came to bring the good news of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-34), touch is central to his healing ministry.

I believe that the Spirit of God invites us to see ourselves in this picture. Jesus reaches out to us. He puts his right hand on us, in a world of uncertainty, and says these powerful words to us: “Do not be afraid.”  May we be comforted today by Jesus’ touch, his words of ­assurance, and his presence that removes our fear.

Pray
Lord Jesus, when we feel overwhelmed or alone or in need of healing might we feel your touch. Lead us more and more into the embrace of your loving touch. Amen.

Now I See

Read
John 9
Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”                                                                                                            Verse 25 (NIV)

Reflect
I can remember a number of times when one of my kids finally caught on to a concept that had alluded them. As we worked through the issue, slowly the light began to dawn and then finally in a shout of victory came: “I get it, I get it!” or “Now I See!”

A man blind from birth met Jesus. This story shows us that there is a difference between seeing physically with your eyes and seeing the truth – knowing the truth – clearly with your mind. The man blind from birth could only see after Jesus gave him the ability to see, both physically and spiritually. But the Pharisees, who could see physically all their lives, still couldn’t see the truth. They still couldn’t understand who Jesus was or what he was doing.

It’s not that the man blind from birth understood everything about Jesus. He answered many of the Pharisees’ questions about Jesus by saying, “I don’t know.” For people who follow Jesus today, that’s often true as well. There are some things about Jesus that we know for certain, and there are other things about Jesus that remain a mystery to us.

But just like this man in John 9, we can know with certainty what Jesus does in our lives. We can know the truth about how Jesus forgives our sins. We can know the truth about how Jesus gives us a new life and a new beginning. We can know the truth about hope for the ­future. Because of the ­promises in the Bible and because of the change Jesus makes in our lives, we can know the truth about our Saviour, Jesus. This is something we can see clearly, no matter what our physical sight is like!

Pray
Lord there are so many things that we still do not know or understand about you and your ways. Help us to see clearly what you can do in our lives through Jesus Christ. Amen.

A Silver Crown

Read
Proverbs 16: 22-33
Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness. Verse 31

Proverbs 20:29
“The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old.” (NIV)

Reflect
I remember my dad having a full head of gray hair at the age of 50 years old. So, I wonder why I just keep looking at brown hair in the mirror with hints of grey at the sideburns? I suppose I should just rejoice that there is still hair to be brushed on my head.

Today’s ­proverb about gray hair not only denotes age and experience, but also denotes a righteous life. Not all those with gray hair have acquired wisdom and righteousness.

The proverb for today reflects a general belief that long life was a sign of God’s blessing. We still agree, as we often hear someone say, upon reaching old age, “I’ve been blessed.” As an indication of age, gray hair is not a disgrace but an honour. It’s a crown of splendor, an achievement to be celebrated. It’s a way of identifying the elder­ly who deserve respect. And if those having the crown of splendor are ones who’ve lived a righteous life, we should treat them with even more respect. They are people to whom we should listen if we are to live wisely and obediently.

We cannot picture Jesus with gray hair. Yet he lived the most righteous life ever. He wore a crown of thorns, colouring his hair with his blood, coloured red for our sake. If we are wise, we will give him the respect and worship that he deserves!

Pray
Father, thank you for displaying your love in the person of your Son, Jesus. Help us to see the wisdom demonstrated by a life crowned in glory, showing us how to live. In his name we pray. Amen.

Struggling To Understand

Read
Romans 11:33-12:2

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.                                          Verses 11:33-36 (NIV)

Reflect
Have you ever had the occasion to wonder why someone did not take your advice despite all of the evidence that shows you are correct? That is a very frustrating situation and I have seen it happen on numerous occasions.

Paul wrestled with a very personal problem. By God’s grace he had come to know Jesus as his Saviour. As he went about doing his missionary work, many Gentiles came to faith in Jesus as Lord. But many of his own Jewish people rejected Jesus. Paul struggled incredibly with this reality. Were they not God’s special people chosen to share God’s love with the world? Despite his struggle, Paul was so confident of God’s great mercy that he broke into song (Rom.11:33-36).

Paul confesses that we can never fully grasp God’s eternal plan. Our efforts to understand God, define him, or reduce him to our level will ultimately fail. God’s ways are not our ways and he owes us no explanation, he alone is God.

There is something we can do – in fact, two things. First, Paul implies that we should keep praising God because all glory belongs to him forever. Then Paul goes on to say that the only reasonable response to all this is to offer ourselves in complete service to God and to be completely available for his use (Romans 12:1-2).

I admit sometimes this is hard to do, however this is what we are advised to do!

Pray
Lord help us to be strong and hold onto your grace even when we don’t understand. May we be faithful. Amen.

Quiet Prayer

Read
Psalm 19:14   May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (NIV)

Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. (NIV)

Reflect
The Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada’s past President, Phil Delsaut, often began his prayers with the phrase, “Lord you hear our prayers, not because they are eloquence of speech, but because you love us.” It always reminded me that our prayers were not about the words we speak but about the expressions of our hearts. I’m not sure about you but I know that my words are very limited in trying to express what is in my heart, both in good times and in bad times.

When we talk of silent prayer or quiet prayer, we still think of using words but just saying them in our heads and not speaking them out loud. Jesus warns us about using too many words and just babbling (Matthew 6:7). Have you ever thought of not using words and letting the meditation of your hearts speak to God?

Being still, without using words, can help us reflect on the majesty, power, beauty, love, and other characteristics of God. The command to “be still” in Psalm 46 has the concept of pursuing the knowledge and the heart of God, and not an emptying of the mind to find inner peace. The words “be still” in verse 10 are immediately followed by the instruction to know God. Prayer helps us grow in our knowledge of God and knowing the heart of God is what enables us to be still in his presence. Psalm 46 indicates, God is both power­ful and kind. How can we help but “be still” in the presence of such a magnificent, loving God?

Practice being silent in God’s presence. Quiet reflection intensifies prayer as the mind is filled with thoughts of God. Allow your heart to meditate on the beauty, the power, the glory of almighty God, who lovingly comes to us as our heavenly Father.

Pray
Lord, thank you for enabling me to be still in your presence. You are my strength, and I trust in you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Right Choices

Read
Proverbs 3:1-12
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.                             Verses 5&6 (NIV)

Reflect
Early in our marriage we had a wall hanging, that Naomi had woven, with this verse: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15). That hanging was intended to remind us that we had made a clear decision to follow and serve Jesus.

When we trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, all our other decisions are based on obeying his teachings, not relying on our own understanding. Guided by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word, we know what to do. We know that God’s Spirit will not tell us to disobey God’s Word. Obedience and right choices lead to being on the right path, whatever the cost.

We make conscious and not-so conscious decisions throughout every day. The choices we make say something about who we are and whom we serve. Is life “all about me,” or am I aware that what I do is really my response to the God who saved me? We read, “In all your ways submit to him.” That calls for trusting that God’s ways are good, and that following them leads to living life to the full, as God intends for us.

Knowing what to do, making right choices, comes more easily with a whole-hearted commitment to serving Jesus. Then, like Jesus, we’ll be focused on our calling to be disciples who make decisions based on knowing God’s will and serving Him.

Pray
Lord Jesus, thank you for being the example of living obediently. By the power of your Spirit help us to make decisions based on your Word. In your name, Amen.