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He Shakes The Foundations

He shakes the foundations.
 

“He makes the mountains of Lebanon jump like calves and makes Mount Hermon leap like a young bull”.

Ps 29:6 GNB

 
A few hundred years ago a man called Copernicus came out with the strange idea that the earth went round the sun. His thoughts shook the world of human ideas and challenged many previously-held beliefs. It had always been assumed that the earth was flat like a table and that it rested on foundations.
Mount Hermon is a high mountain which can be seen from most parts of northern Israel since it dominates the skyline. Mount Lebanon is close by. Before the Israelites came to the land the locals had regarded it as the abode of their gods. So violent was the storm that it seemed that God was even shaking it to its foundation as he played with it, making it jump and run like frisky young calves. The poet rejoices at God’s might in thus expressing his total superiority over other lesser gods. Whilst marvelling at what we would call the strength of nature, he revels in the thought of God’s all-dominant supremacy.
We understand much more about the working of the universe now. But the occurrence of earthquakes, tsunamis, floods and droughts brings home to us the unpredictable character of some aspects of nature, and our dependence on God. We do not worship nature but we do worship the God who created it and recognize our frailty when the earth is shaken to its foundations by some terrifying upheaval. Such an event also reminds us how normally dependable this world is that God has created. Storms come and go but God maintains a reliable system so that we can plan, use and manage it for our benefit and to his glory.

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Made To Soar

Made To Soar

When I visit the zoo, I skip the eagles’ cage. I can’t stand the pain of seeing those majestic birds sit there on their perches day after day, their burnished brown wings draped over them like an ill-fitting old coat. They were created for the heights, to dance among the clouds, not to be prisoners in a cage. Those birds were made to fly.
Many people who profess that they are Christ’s men and women are like those caged eagles. They are made to live as free citizens of heaven, but they are imprisoned by their own sin. Their condition must break God’s heart. He knows what they could become, but they have put themselves in a cage. And the irony is that it is a cage with open doors.
The apostle Paul said that we who have put our trust in Christ have died with Him to the sin that confined us in our old life. And we are now alive in Him. We are not the person we used to be. Therefore, we must stop facing life as we used to face it.
Think long about those truths. Remind yourself of them often. Through Christ, you have been set free! You were never meant to be imprisoned in a cage. Confess your sin and trust God anew. You were made to soar.
Lord, I thank You for salvation,
For Your mercy, full and free;
Take my all in consecration,
Glorify Yourself in me. —Codner, Elizabeth
Christ is the open door out of the cage of sin.

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Never Too Old

Never Too Old

Look at what some people have accomplished despite advancing age. When Grandma Moses was 100, she was still painting. George Bernard Shaw wrote a play at 94. Arthur Rubinstein gave a great recital at Carnegie Hall when he was 89. And at 82, Winston Churchill wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
The Bible tells of many godly people who didn’t let the advancing years stop them—Caleb and Moses, for instance. At 85, Caleb (one of the men who had spied out the land of Canaan) entered the Promised Land and drove out the Anakites (Josh. 14:6-15). And Moses continued to lead the people of Israel faithfully until he was 120 (Deut. 34:5-7). The secret of their success was faith in God and an attitude of steadfastness until God called them home.
There are many people who have lived far beyond the 70 years mentioned in Psalm 90:10. They are still bearing “fruit in old age” (Ps. 92:14) by encouraging others and using their energy in God’s service. Others, however, far younger, have decided to coast home.
As long as we have strength, we need to dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service. Then, no matter what our age, we can “rejoice and be glad.”
Growing old but not retiring,
Lord, the battle still is on;
I’ll go on without relenting
Till the final victory’s won. —Anon.
To stay youthful, stay useful.

Attachments

2 Corinthians 8:11 – Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have.
After being sent yet another attachment for which I did not have the necessary decoding programs, I decided to “clean out” my computer… purge it of all the unwanted, undeciphered attachments that were just taking up space in my e-mail. Only thing is, somehow, I cleaned everything out of my e-mail. All my “ins”, all my “outs”, all my “trash”.
The attachments were gone, but so were some of the beautiful words and letters from friends, family, and people I haven’t met but who have sent their words of encouragement, support and thanks for some of my devotionals.
My computer person extended me a sympathetic look while welcoming me to the wonderful world of computers. Via e-mail, my older brother sent his sympathies, promising not to send any more attachments, and offered some possible techniques for retrieving the “unretrievable”. They didn’t work. All was gone.
But all was not lost, nor forgotten. It reminded me of the time when we, as teenage girls would save the grocery bag which had been packed by our latest “crush”, or the ticket stubs to movies, the title of which was later forgotten. Attachments which were important at the time were “cleaned out” and replaced with new ones.
Perhaps the “ins” and “outs” of this lesson are that we may have “attachments” to which we still cling, but that once they are “cleaned out”, our load is lighter and we can carry on. There is however, one very important attachment we form in our lives, and that is the one we have with Christ. For if we choose to clean this one out of our lives, our load becomes heavier.
Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, we ask that you help us to see clearly those “attachments” in our lives that are just taking up space. May we, with your grace and guidance, be led to lighten our load. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Ascension Day Sermon

Today we celebrate Ascension Day,
the day when Jesus physically left earth and ascended into heaven. 
Ascension Day officially is celebrated 40 days after Easter Sunday which was Thursday.
For many Ascension Day ranks up there with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.
And it is something that is important to our Christian faith.
Many people attend worship services on Thursdays.
It is mentioned in the two most common summaries of faith
the Apostles and the Nicene Creed
In a number of countries throughout the world including Finland, Germany and Indonesia is considered so important that it is a public holiday.
And importantly you can find details about Jesus’ ascension in a number of places in scripture including
Acts chapter 1 verse 9 we heard
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

In going to heaven Jesus has not just left us stranded here and gone on some holiday.
Sometimes I think that is what people believe.
Sometimes I even wonder this, but then God reminds me what He is up to.
In 1 Peter 3 verse 21 we are told that Jesus sits in heaven at the Father’s right hand with everything under His authority. 
That is a good thing to keep in mind as we live our lives.
Everything is under Jesus’ authority.
Not just some things but everything.
Now that doesn’t mean everything is good or happening to how God wants it.
But it does mean that God is interested in everything and everyone.
It also means everything and everyone will be judged by Him.

But Jesus is also active for us.
He has gone to heaven before us to prepare our rooms for us
In John chapter 14 verse 2 we hear In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

And he is also concerned about us now, on earth
That we continue to follow him and continue His work on earth
Listen again to a number of verses from Acts 1
4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with  water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
For our life now God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

IS SEEING ALWAYS BELIEVING?

“Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all.
He walked away puzzled, shaking his head”.
Lk 24:12 EHP

The resurrection of Jesus is one of the most difficult things in the Christian faith to believe. Even Thomas, who was there at the time, found it hard. It is much harder for us, separated by thousands of years and living in a scientific age when so many scoff at anything to do with religion. And whilst most Christian believers accept as fact the stories of the resurrection as told in the New Testament, others can’t fathom out how it could possibly have happened.

On Easter Day Peter, after listening to the story of the women who were first at the tomb, and being very skeptical of their story, went to see for himself whatever was on the go. What he saw was no body, but the grave clothes were there. If we accept Luke’s story, Peter was totally confused. He probably wondered who had taken the body. Or could the unlikely possibility that Jesus had been raised from the dead actually be true? From what he saw and heard, Peter was not sure, at any rate for a while.

Belief is not always a constant factor. Some people never waver. They know and never doubt. Others find their belief ebbing and flowing. Sometimes it grows, but at others it’s a struggle to hold with clarity and certainty. Faith is like that. And often some who have had serious doubts end up with unshakeable convictions. If you are one of those who, not having seen, find it difficult to believe the whole resurrection story, keep following Jesus anyway. One day, the light will come.

BE NOT AFRAID TO PREACH THE GOSPEL

Rev. 10:8-11; Ps. 118; Luke 19:45-48

“And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter” (Rev. 10:10).
A voice from heaven told John to take and eat the scroll in the hand of the angel.  John did so, and the scroll was sweet in his mouth but made his stomach bitter.  Then the voice told him, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev. 10:11).  The scroll contained the word of God that John was to preach, and so it was sweet in his mouth.  But he also had to predict the sufferings that would come because of the sins of the people.  This is why the scroll made his stomach bitter.
This was John’s vocation.  He had to preach the word of God that offered salvation; but many would reject the word he would preach, and so he also had to preach the punishment that would come upon them for their rebellion.
This is indeed the vocation of a preacher of the word of God in any age.  We are to eat the scroll, that is, fill ourselves with the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ and proclaim it to all we can reach.  Some will accept it.  Others will reject it.  But God will strengthen us not to fear those who reject the word that God sent us to preach, but to continue preaching it.
Israel was, in fact, very hard-hearted and stiff-necked, a rebellious people who often refused to listen to and heed the words of her prophets.  Ezekiel had this problem.  God also gave him a scroll to eat that was sweet in his mouth (Ezek. 2:3-4).  And he was told, “You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house” (Ezek. 2:7).  God will strengthen him to faithfully continue to be a messenger of God’s truth to them, even though they reject his message.  He does the same to us and expects us to be equally faithful to our ministry of preaching the word among many who do not want to hear it, and to continue preaching it anyway.
The Lord said to Ezekiel, “Behold, I have made your face hard against their faces, and your forehead hard against their foreheads.  Like adamant harder than flint have I made your forehead; fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house” (Ezek. 3:8-9).  He will do the same to us.
We are to preach the gospel.  That means the inner heart of the good news that God has sent the world a Savior, Jesus Christ, his only Son, who died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.  He did this because he did not want us to have to die eternally in hell for them, as would be just, and as an all-just God would have to do.  But in his infinite mercy he suffered this death himself, for us, instead of us, in our place, on the cross, meeting himself the just demands of his law and of all justice for us.
Thus the blood of Christ was the redemption price, the ransom price, that he paid to God to release us from the captivity of sin, guilt, darkness, spiritual death, alienation from God, and eternal death in hell.  He redeemed us from all this by his blood shed for us in reparation for our sins on the cross.  Through our personal and trusting faith in Christ and his redeeming work on the cross, we are redeemed from all of this and made righteous and new in Christ to walk in the light of his resurrection.
Christ then sends us out to preach this salvation from sin and death to all the peoples of the world.  To do so is the mission of the Church.  We are to remain faithful to this mission in spite of opposition and rejection, and continue to preach this gospel, this good news of salvation, calling people to repentance, conversion, and faith in the Christ.

Some Assembly Required

Matthew 6:6 – But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
It is fine to give someone the gift of a tool, or a gift which states “some assembly required”… but not if you leave out the instructions. The gift then becomes a burden because they want to use it, but don’t know how.
It seems that very thing was done with the Hermit with a Permit devotional last Friday, on the benefits of Contemplative Prayer as opposed to Christian Meditative Prayer.
While I was so excited to share that I’d finally found a wonderful tool to help me pray, I neglected to share the instructions. Well, here they are, as I have understood them:
Christian Meditative Prayer focuses or “centres” on a specific prayer, topic(s) or request(s). Contemplative Prayer however, “opens” our minds to what it is that God wishes us to hear. We choose a word or phrase which will help “bring us back” to that centre, for those times when our minds fly off in many directions which are not important, for that particular time. It is not the same as a “mantra” or word which is repeated over and over; it is merely used in those “fly away” times. It does take a little work, but when it comes, it is indeed, a wonderful tool.
God is with us always, especially in prayer, no matter where we are, or when or how we choose to do it. This is merely one tool which I found extremely helpful.
My words are “peace” and “grace”. I “open” my mind to the wonderful things God is doing in my life, and when my mind races off to the grocery store, the empty gas tank, something to write, getting someone somewhere on time… all those things… I simply think of “peace” and “grace” and am back focusing on God again.
I am most thankful to the “Hermit”, Rev. Cynthia Bourgeault, for teaching me how to do this, to the many people who “prop me up” along the path and help me share what I am learning…and most importantly, my thanks be with God, who directs me on this path.
Prayer: Peace and Grace you give to us Lord, peace and grace may we share with each other. In Your name we pray. Amen.

TRUTH TO TELL

“They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up”.
Lk 24:9, 10, 11 EHP

In a court of law, witnesses are lined up by the prosecution and the defence. When the judge passes judgment, however, he or she will usually say just how credible the various witnesses have been. Witness one will be considered a credible witness, but two will be a “poor witness whose testimony cannot be relied on”.

In Jewish society women were not regarded as very credible witnesses in a legal sense. But it was first to them that the truth of the resurrection was given. And no matter how adamantly they spoke, the disciples dismissed their story as nonsense. But the truth was what counted, not the supposed credibility or lack of it in the story-tellers. Luke wanted the church to whom he wrote thirty years on to know exactly who the first witnesses were. It wasn’t just any old women. He was saying, in effect, “If you want to check it out, speak to these two Marys or Joanna”. We can marvel today at how strangely God entrusted this vital element of gospel truth to “small people”. It wasn’t to the people who, by Luke’s time, had become big names – John, Peter or Andrew – that God disclosed his truth. Yet these women were the people to whom he granted the priceless privilege of seeing the empty tomb. And they told the disciples. The disciples told others.

And today we are the little people who tell others.

Asking

John 16:24 – Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (NKJV)
A radio talk-show hostess was interviewing a blind athlete. I admire this particular interviewer, for she “knows her stuff”, and she is sincere. She knows exactly the right questions to ask; how to ask them; and when to ask them. She can ask the toughest questions with the most compassion, and pertinent questions without seeming prying or nosy. Her audience is surely be left feeling all the questions that they would have liked answered, were, plus a few more.
The athlete, who was not blind from birth, said that one of the most important things she had learned was to ask for help when she needed it: help for things like crossing extremely busy streets. She said there were some crosswalks she simply would not attempt to cross on her own because the traffic was just too heavy and too fast. She said she will speak aloud, asking for help, and sometimes she waits out two or three lights before someone will help her. She does however, always get help; she just has to ask.
We too, must learn to ask. When we come to those “crosswalks” in our daily life that are just to “busy” to attempt alone, God will help us. He has said that when we ask in His name, we shall receive. Trouble is, we just may not be asking the right question, or in the right way. We may be asking for what we want, or think we should have; when we should be asking for what He wants for us. We may be asking for what we think we need, but only He knows what we need and He will answer accordingly.
When we ask, it may seem as if we’re waiting for “two or three lights” but He always hears, and He will answer, when He knows we need to receive it, and God always knows whether or not we’re sincere.
Prayer: We know you hear our every thought and prayer. May we strive to understand that your answer is what you know we need to hear. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.