Churchie Feeds

How to Cultivate a Christian Mind

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 02/11/2019 - 11:00

The human mind is a vital component of our uniqueness among God’s creatures. Even so, because of the fall of mankind, our minds are damaged and need redemption plus ongoing enrichment.

The Apostle Paul deals with this need for enrichment. He points out that, after we become Christians — that is, after we are justified and made new creatures in Christ, we need the enrichment of the Christian mind.

In a loving pastoral letter he sets before the Philippian congregation eight key words to focus the process of refreshment that their minds needed — and our minds need.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

I intend to comment on the first three words in this blog, and deal with the remainder next week. 

Think on whatever is true. Our God is the very essence of truth (Numbers 23:19); grace and truth came by Jesus Christ (John 1:17); as well, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). Truth should therefore be a foremost issue in all our thoughts and communications. God’s truth is like the North Star to the mariner; it will guide us through every dark night and eventually bring us safely to the harbor.

For example, the Bible claims to speak God’s truth when it considers marriage to be the union of one man and one woman for life. From the perspective of divine truth this is not negotiable. The Bible challenges us to test these and all other truth issues by the words of our Lord Jesus. He is The Truth (Matthew 19:3-12).

Think on whatever is noble or honorable. That is, whatever is elevating, or worthy of respect. We are to train our God-redeemed minds to sort the noble from the ignoble in all our dealings and to come down on the side of whatever is noble or honorable.

Jesus is our best example. He saw worth in little children in a way the disciples did not and he demonstrated it. He honored the dignity of the deaf, not putting them outside his concern because of their affliction. Even lepers, who were shunned by everyone at that time, got fair and compassionate treatment from him because disease did not hide from him their worth.

Think on whatever is right. The word “right” is from the same root as the word “righteousness.” This in turn conveys the sense of obedience to God’s law. No one except our Lord Jesus himself has met the requirements of God’s law perfectly. We joyfully profess that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He and he alone is the Lord, our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6).

The Apostle Paul reflects how that marvellous gift of righteousness should affect our characters when he writes to the Corinthian church regarding a misunderstanding: For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man (2 Corinthians 8:21).

When it comes to righteousness we more often think of “doing” what is right than of “thinking” what is right. But our doing what is right begins with our thinking what is right. In this precious passage in Philippians the Apostle gives us guidance: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is just. Here is a good start.


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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Prayer Knows No Boundaries

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 11:00

Many thoughtful people feel a quiet alarm concerning recent social trends. For example, over the past six decades marriage and the family have been severely diminished in favor of greater personal freedom; the historic understanding of gender is under attack; and this past week infanticide came back into view as a legitimate procedure under the term, third trimester abortion.

All of this prompts me to remember the saying John Bunyan is credited with — that you can do more than pray but you cannot do more until you have prayed. We have ample instruction on prayer in the Bible. Consider the Apostle Paul’s instruction.

From his cell in Rome, he writes to the Ephesian believers as “an ambassador in chains.” Beginning at verse 18 of chapter 6 he includes a detailed paragraph calling believers to constant and effectual prayer. He believed prayer had a reach that could not be limited by shackles.

Having used the Roman soldier’s armor as an analogy earlier in the chapter, he makes a strong appeal for the fuller use of the Christian’s ultimate spiritual weapon — prayer. Consider what he commends.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions (6:18a). Paul would say, for example, we should pray when we get up in the morning, when we retire at night, when we sit down for a meal, when we leave for work or school, or when we meet in a committee. The Spirit makes our prayers living communications.

Pray with all kinds of prayers and requests (18b). What does Paul mean by this? He suggests that our prayers can take many forms. We can extrapolate that they may be private or public prayers; or prayers of petition, prayers of thanksgiving, intercessory prayers, prayers of penitence. They can be prescribed prayers such as the Lord’s Prayer or Psalm 4, or impromptu ones. There is a kind of prayer for every situation.

Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people . . . (18c). The implication here is that we are to be attached to a company of believers. Paul would know nothing of lone ranger Christians. Our attachment may be to a rural congregation, a city church, or a prayer cell.

Beyond these specific fellowships, however, we belong to all the Lord’s people throughout the globe — the persecuted in one locale, the hungry in another, the war-scattered in yet another. These are set before us as subjects the Spirit would remind us to remember.

Pray also for me, he adds, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel . . . Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should (19). The single-mindedness of the Apostle and his focus on making the mystery of the Gospel known is always evident when he writes.

To be sure, looking at just two of his other epistles, we know he wants the infant believers in the city of Corinth to mature in the faith and live like adults. And he wants the Galatian Christians to turn from their legalism and re-embrace the Gospel as they first knew it. He is pastoral toward existing churches.

But at the same time he was also looking for new situations in which he could fearlessly make the mystery of the Gospel known to people who had not yet heard. He knew that collective prayer by many believers would be the mightiest energy to soften hearts to the reception of the Gospel.

And so when alarmed by social trends, let us take the advice of John Bunyan and the instruction of the Apostle Paul to pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers, for all God’s people, that we might be fearless in sharing the saving truth of the Gospel to those new to it.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

The Peril of Rushing to Judgment

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 01/28/2019 - 11:00

How could King David have imagined that his act of kindness would be misjudged and lead to a blood-spilling war?

Here’s the background: The young King David had captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and twice defeated the Philistines. Military engagements in other theaters had been successful too (2 Samuel 10).

Israel was at peace when David heard that King Nahash, of the Ammonites, had died. Remembering that King Nahash had shown him kindness in the past, David sent envoys to return the favor, delivering his condolences to Nahash’s son Hanan, who was now on the throne of Ammon.

But upon the envoys’ arrival the military commanders in Ammon were immediately suspicious of their mission, even though the envoys were peaceful and showed no signs that they had come to size up Ammon for later attack.

Nevertheless, the commanders “just had a feeling” that the envoys had sinister motives, and they shared those feelings with King Hanan.

Don’t you know, they said, that these men are really here to spy out the city and overthrow it? It was a groundless opinion but it registered like a firecracker with the king.

As a result, he had the envoys seized and each man’s beard shaved half off — a serious indignity in that culture. It would make them appear to their peers like clowns or worse.

The king also had their long robes cut off at the buttocks in order to produce further humiliation. In this half-shaved and scantily dressed condition they were sent on their way.

The word of their mistreatment got to David quickly, and he sent word to the envoys to wait at Jericho until their beards grew back.

At the same time, however, back in Ammon the commanders were having second thoughts. What if their actions had aroused David’s fury? Might he send his army to even the score? They began to make war plans just in case.

The Ammonites hired twenty thousand Syrian foot soldiers as well as the king of Maakah south of Ammon and a thousand of his men, and another thousand men from Tob to the north and east.

When David received this information he further escalated tensions by dispatching his general, Joab, with his army of battle-tested fighting men — perhaps as many as thirty thousand in number.

The battle was joined and became so extended that near the end of the ensuing war the Syrians even summoned troops from beyond the Euphrates River to come and engage.

Before it was over, David gathered all of Israel’s remaining manpower and he himself joined the battle.

He won, but the result was both tragic and gruesome. David’s forces had killed seven hundred of the Syrian charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers.

How could such a bloody struggle develop out of an official gesture of sympathy and respect? The story is set in ancient times, with their gruesome military practices, to be sure, but we may draw a modern moral lesson.

To wit: It is words of suspicion and misunderstanding, not physical weapons, that initiate wars. Such words once uttered can take on a life of their own. A word spoken with haste can wound or seriously damage a relationship.

It all calls to mind the arresting words of Jesus: But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

How Do Christians Put the Trials and Troubles of Human Existence into Proper Perspective?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 01/21/2019 - 11:00

I have been thinking about this question this week. By the age of 93, I think I have learned what we do not do:

  1. We don’t pretend that trials and tribulations don’t exist.
  2. We don’t treat them stoically (though there are times that just “hanging on” is part of the answer).
  3. We don’t blame them on others.
  4. We don’t surrender to self-pity.
  5. We don’t ask “why me?”

So then, what do we do? The Apostle Paul was the expert in facing the harsh experiences that come in the active life of faith:

As may be seen in 2 Corinthians 11, he was three times beaten with rods; once pelted with stones; three times shipwrecked. He spent a night and a day clinging to the wreckage of a ship in the open sea. He faced danger from rivers; bandits; hostile fellow Jews who considered his “blasphemy” worthy of his death; false believers; and on and on.

It is hard to think of any man who endured so many hardships, and all in a time without modern resources and comforts.

For St. Paul, one of our most important human ancestors in the faith, what was his formula for staying on top?

In his own words, here it is: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

How Powerful Are Genes and Family Influence?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 01/14/2019 - 11:00

I lost both parents 52 years ago this past Christmas season. My mind travels back to ponder ways I am like them due to the genes we share and my long exposure to their influence throughout childhood and youth.

As a young man, I was not wise enough to ask my parents many questions and write their answers down to save family lore. But their children (three older siblings, a ten-year lapse, and then me and my younger sister, Eunice) retained enough insights to patch together often-repeated highlights of their early days.

As well, Carol, our niece by marriage, has shown keen interest in our family history and her research has added to what we know.

My parents came to Canada from Lancashire, England, choosing to settle on the sparsely populated prairies in the West. My father arrived alone in 1904, one year before Saskatchewan was declared a province.

Imagine the resolve and courage my father and mother must have shown. At 20 years of age and not long married, Dad left my mother behind, boarded a ship in Liverpool, and sailed across the vast Atlantic Ocean to Halifax at the eastern ship approach to the young country of Canada.

In Halifax he boarded a train of turn-of-the-twentieth-century vintage and endured what must have seemed an endless journey of two thousand miles into something like oblivion—the unknown and largely unsettled prairies of Western Canada.

He landed in Roche Percee, where there was a developing coal mine in the southeastern region of what was about to be incorporated as the Province of Saskatchewan. His design was to put his coal-mining skills to work and thus provide for the arrival and support of his wife, Esther Jane (née Millington). She was able to join him five months later.

He had good reason to begin his life in Canada as a coal miner, because back in England at fourteen years of age he had been taken into the Lancashire coal mines to work full time with his father. This was permitted by law, and so by the age of 20 he was well qualified, having spent stretches of six years underground, digging coal.

Although he had completed only five weeks of schooling before being taken out of school permanently, he soon graduated from coal mining in Saskatchewan to become a market gardener and later a merchant. In today’s parlance we would say he had no education at all and few “marketable skills.” But he had ideas and vision and endurance.

He was also intensely motivated. This showed to the end of his life. Hard work was a challenge, not an insult or imposition. I remember him as restless, always moving, thinking of other possibilities. To the best of my knowledge he wanted to get out of the rut of the working poor. It was that, I believe, more than anything else that pointed them toward Canada.

His behavior and interesting brogue never let his family forget that he was a Lancastrian by birth and acculturation. In one sentence he might speak of the ’air on his ’ead. In the next his subject might be the hair in the hatmosphere. He never confused the patterns.

For my mother’s later journey to join him she had the association of some other family members. But she also had the added challenge of an ocean storm that kept the ship rolling in rough seas and the passengers secured below deck for several days. Then she had to face the same tedious railroad journey into the far reaches of the developing Dominion of Canada.

My mother’s family also was poor but she had a certain sense of propriety in her manner. She was the disciplinarian of our home. She had the notion that children should obey always never be “cheeky” with adults, and believed that laziness was an offense and would be sure to lead to the poorhouse. She read the Bible to us daily and I think that’s where she got some such ideas.

As immigrants from England to Western Canada, they had no savings to fall back on and no family behind them to rescue them. They knew that if they were ever to come to a place of reasonable security it would be by their own ingenuity and hard work.

I look back on their homesteading venture as noble. They were not complainers, but occasionally they gave us glimpses into how exacting their pioneering life had been. Once my mother spoke of a time of drought early in their days in Canada when she walked three miles across the prairies to the nearest neighbor to exchange turnips for a few carrots so there could be some variety in their diet. All of this helps me to understand why they lived so frugally right up to the end of their lives.

When I think of the early chapters of their lives as immigrants I am filled with awe at their courage and determination to establish themselves in the New World. They both lived to be 83. With a few weeks more than six years of education between them, they established themselves as self-supporting, responsible citizens.

If they were alive today they would blush to learn that I write this way. They were humble people, aware of their imperfections and those of their offspring. But God had put in them a flame of energy to achieve and they exercised it with a will. I treasure their heritage.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Why Must Christians Pray in Jesus’ Name?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 11:00

Attend a Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, or Interdenominational church service in your community and you may notice some differences in forms of worship or theological emphases. But, in every case, you will observe a common likeness in the conclusion of prayers offered — the prayers will end with words like these: We pray all this in the name of Jesus, our Lord.

The practice of praying in Jesus’ name can be traced through history to the final and intimate words of Jesus, spoken to his distraught followers hours before his trial and crucifixion, as recorded in John 14-16.

John tells us that seven times Jesus instructed his followers to energize their continuing work through prayer. In five of those references he told them (and us) to offer prayers in his name (John 14:13a; 14:14; 15:7; 15:21: 16:23). In the other two, Jesus does not mention using his name, but it can be assumed (14:6; 15:7).

In 14:6 Jesus says to his followers, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” This is comprehensive. It refers primarily to the eternal destiny of believers, but it seems to me to also support the additional truth that in all our prayers we come to the Father through Jesus.

Frequent approaches to God through prayer in Jesus’ name during our lives on earth can be seen as preludes to how we will experience our eternal destiny in heaven.

Only one of these references is a promise without limitations: “You may ask me for anything in my name” (John 14:13b). The absence of limits to what we can ask here has been troubling to some. It’s as though prayer gives us access to a candy shop.

In the instruction that precedes, however, Jesus tells his followers to ask in his name so that the Father will be glorified in the Son. Our prayers in his name are in this promise first and foremost to bring glory to God.

In another of the promises of abundant resources through prayers offered in his name there is the expectation of constancy or faithfulness: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Intimacy with Jesus through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit appears to be a prerequisite to effective Christian prayer.

Such promises of fruitfulness, however, do not assure smooth sailing in the life of a disciple. Jesus tells his followers that the world will hate and treat them roughly because of his name: and “If they persecuted me they will persecute you also” (15:21).

As an aside, it is interesting to note that in our fading Judeo-Christian culture, when ministers or laypersons are asked to offer a prayer at the start of a community function, the protest heard most commonly is not against the act of prayer itself but against its being offered in Jesus’ name.

Returning to John’s account, Jesus gives a final assurance of results from the effect of praying in His name. “My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be full” (John 16:23b-24).

There is a connection here between the constancy and depth of our prayers and the joy we experience in the Lord’s service. This explains why Christians who suffer severely for their faith and pray deeply in their suffering may appear to have a joy more abundant than those living untroubled, comfortable lives.

It is clear from these verses that even on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus expected the work of his Kingdom to go on in the world and he gave out the prime resource for expansion of that Kingdom: prayers uttered in faith and in His name.

However much we have yet to learn about prayer, may our prayers offered regularly in Jesus’ name bring depth to Christian living and joy to the Father’s heart.


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Re-Post: Making Good Decisions and Sticking to Them

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/31/2018 - 11:00

Our grandson Zachary is about to complete his residency in anesthesiology. After four years of medical school, this five-year program, as you would expect, has been highly focused on what an anesthesiologist must know.

But along the way, nuggets of truth tangential to his training have also proven to be valuable. He gave me an example.

Some time back, he listened to a talk a medical doctor had given to a chapter of the Christian Medical Fellowship. It was about how to make good decisions.

The doctor, he explained, set forth two reference points that should be reckoned with when one is making decisions: righteousness and wisdom.

The doctor’s first point was that the standards of righteousness are fixed. They are set down in the Scriptures, and these standards, God’s Ten Commandments, are solid and unchanging reference points.

They may not break down for us the thousands of questions our minds can raise but our decisions are more to be trusted if we act in accordance with them.

For example, we are to worship no other gods, and to revere God’s name; we are not to steal or bear false witness, etc. Issues like these are not negotiable (Exodus 20).

At the same time, the standards of righteousness, though changeless, do not need to be consulted for every decision. For example, whether to wash the car on a Saturday afternoon may not require moral pondering. But whether to return an extra five dollar bill given out unintentionally by a cashier requires a clear and instant moral response.

What to wear to a picnic may not take a lot of moral thought, while whether to enter a business partnership with someone whom you sense may not always be honest does trigger a process that should lead to a clear moral decision.

Wisdom, Zach heard, is the application of common sense undergirded by our understanding of righteousness. Both of these aspects of our reality must be factored in for good decision making.

For example, wisdom helps us to choose our friends wisely. It aids us in making good vocational moves. Working together with the demand that we must aim to be righteous, wisdom applied can save us from entanglement with false friends and such entrapments as substance abuse, pornography, and other soul-destroying enticements.

Wisdom encourages us to maintain our commitment to righteousness and at the same time wrestle with the unknowns and perplexities of life. That is, our commitment to righteousness gives us a solid footing for decision-making while wisdom helps us probe the options, imagine consequences, and evaluate godly advice.

The point the doctor made that seemed most helpful to Zach — and would have been most helpful to me at the same age — was that when we must make a decision for which there is not an obvious “wisdom-directed” answer, after we have satisfied the righteousness criteria we can move forward without paralyzing fear.

That’s because when our first impulse is to honor God and always make righteousness our primary aim, and when we use the best wisdom at our disposal, we can believe that God will take our decisions and bless their outcomes, or even teach us from them. And we can believe as well that he will deliver us from the paralysis of second-guessing our decisions.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Christmas Makes Us Want to Sing

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/24/2018 - 11:00

Saint Luke lays out very carefully the story of our Lord’s coming to earth as a baby. In the process, he includes hymns, or releases of lyrical praise, in four situations in the drama.

After receiving the angel’s message of the special child she would bear and name Jesus, the Virgin Mary traveled from Galilee to the hill country of Judea to visit her relative, Elizabeth. There, Elizabeth exclaimed to her prophetically that she would bear the Lord Christ, and in response Mary broke forth in a beautiful song of exaltation beginning with: My soul glorifies the Lord … (Luke 1:46-55).

I visualize this outbreak of joy and amazement as beginning at the entrance to Elizabeth’s humble dwelling when the two women greeted each other and began to share their stories.

Months later, eight days after Elizabeth’s baby was born (to become John the Baptist), the infant was taken for circumcision and naming. There was some disagreement among friends and relatives about the name, some of whom expected the baby would be named after his father, Zechariah.

As you will recall, Zechariah was unable to speak. This was punishment for his disbelief when the Angel Gabriel made promise of the baby’s coming birth. At that time, Gabriel had also told Zechariah what the baby was to be named. Now, in obedience, Zechariah settled the community discussion by writing on a tablet, “His name is John” (1:62-63).

With that, Zechariah’s powers of speech were restored and the Holy Spirit came upon him. He began to prophesy in a second hymn-like burst of praise, beginning with: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them … (1:68). It’s a long prophecy full of a great hope for Israel.

Luke then tells us about a group of shepherds who some months later were in the region near Bethlehem guarding their sheep from the perils of the night. Unexpectedly, an angel of the Lord appeared and the region glowed with a heavenly light so beyond the ordinary that it terrified them.

The angel first spoke calming words, assuring them that nothing in this extraordinary moment should frighten them. Then followed his message: I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord (2:10-11).

The heavenly messenger then gave simple instruction on where to find the baby: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger (2:12).

As soon as this message was delivered, the lone messenger was joined by a vast company of the heavenly host filling the nighttime skies with their radiance. The heavenly choir sang the third song in the Christmas account: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests (2:14). Due to this special announcement, the shepherds were the first visitors to the newborn baby Jesus, God’s Messiah.

Finally, Luke writes that when the time for Mary’s purification came (forty days after the child’s birth), the parents appeared at the temple to offer two pigeons, the sacrifice required of the poor, and to present their firstborn to God, all in keeping with Jewish law.

While in the temple, this couple was met by Simeon, who was a regular presence there. Simeon not only was a righteous and devout man but a man living under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He expected to see God’s Messiah — the consolation of Israel — before leaving this life.

That day Simeon, by divine appointment, met Joseph and Mary and the six-week-old baby Jesus. He took the baby into his arms and there on the spot sang a song of praise to God: Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace, for my eyes have seen your salvation (2:29-30).

And before Joseph and Mary had even left the temple that day they were accosted by yet another constant worshiper — a prophet named Anna. She was 84 and had been widowed after seven years of a marriage. She had given her life to worship and never left the temple, spending her time there in fasting and prayer.

When she came upon the couple with a baby she too discerned instantly what his unique mission would be. From her, there was no fifth song but she gave public thanks to God and spoke prophetically about the child to other worshipers who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel.

Luke tells the story of that first Christmas as having been saturated with song. The Almighty was manifesting his glory in Jesus the Son and believers were responding. And to this day choirs gather in cathedrals and house churches and even in the aisles of department stores or hospital wards to sing the good news; a Savior has been born — Christ the King.

Along with Mary, Zechariah, the angels, and Simeon, when we observe Christmas well may we also break into song — to the glory of God.

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The Faith of a Beautiful Young Woman

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/17/2018 - 16:07

Leonardo da Vinci – Annunciazione – Google Art Project

As I reviewed last week, the angel Gabriel told the aged Zechariah that his wife would bear him a son in spite of her lifelong infertility and advanced age, and that this son would be a delight to them and would do wondrous things (Luke 1:13-17).

Zechariah returned to his home when he had completed his temple duties in Jerusalem, and in time he learned that Elizabeth was expecting a child just as the angel had foretold.

Then, in Elizabeth’s sixth month, Gabriel appeared again, this time to Elizabeth’s relative, a young woman named Mary who lived in Nazareth, a small town 85 miles to the north. Luke (1:26-56) tells us she was already formally committed to be married.

The angel’s address to Mary was clear and forthright: Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you. But his words frightened and perplexed her. After all, angels don’t often visit in visible form and this unusual appearance would at first be troubling.

Gabriel calmed her fears. Don’t be afraid, Mary, he said.

He went on: God is pleased with you. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. The angel declared both the child’s sex and name before a conception had even taken place. The information was being delivered directly from God.

Gabriel continued: Your child will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. Amazing!

Mary would know the facts of life. Hence her perplexity: How can this be? she asked. What the angel foretold would be contrary to nature as she understood it. Virgins did not have babies; babies were born to mothers and fathers. Gabriel responded: The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Mary’s response was wholehearted. Without hesitation, she answered: I am the Lord’s servant. May your words to me be fulfilled. With that, Gabriel vanished.

Some who consider this account are left asking: Is a virgin birth possible? Therefore, some believers struggle with doubt over this part of the Advent account.

Here are two thoughts to encourage faith.

First, the language used describes not the natural but the supernatural. Gabriel’s message is not from those who know only the sciences, but from God the Most High. The Most High is above all — Transcendent, Unlimited, Unrivaled — and he is thus able to do whatever is in accordance with his purposes.

Further to this thought, consider that Mary was told that the conception of this baby was to be a divine enablement radically beyond the natural. Moreover, when the angel said, the power of the Most High will overshadow you, he was using the language of creation (Genesis 1:2b). If God could create the universe with supernatural power at the beginning by the utterance of his word, why could he not work the wonder of a virgin birth?

Second, our personal faith is also encouraged by looking back on the creeds of Christendom. They appear to be unwavering on this matter. Consider the ecumenical version of the Apostle’s Creed. The middle section makes ten affirmations about Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Here are the first two: he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…

When we utter that creed’s declaration from the heart we join with millions of believers across the centuries and in many parts of the world. We believe! And while we worship Jesus the Christ as our Lord we honor the maiden who willingly, and at great initial cost to her reputation, became God’s servant in his plan to dwell among us in the person of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem, all on a Christmas morn.
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say —
“Most highly favored lady,” Gloria!
(from a Basque Christmas Carol)

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When Unbelief Becomes Belief: Zechariah’s Story

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/10/2018 - 11:00

The first chapter of the Gospel of St. Luke introduces us to Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, both of whom were descendants of the priestly line of Aaron.

They were clearly a godly couple. They kept the Commandments and were careful to seek divine favor. But in spite of all this, they were now advanced in years, perhaps 80 or so, and had remained childless throughout their long life together.

The numbers of Aaron’s descendants had increased across many generations, so all priests could not be on duty at the same time. So they were divided into groups, each with its assigned time of service.

On this occasion, Zechariah’s task was to burn incense at the altar in the temple room adjoining the Holy of Holies, the latter room believed to be where God dwelt among his people.

To the worshipers outside the temple, Zechariah appeared to take much longer than usual and this made them uneasy. The holiness of God was a mystery not to be lightly regarded.

Luke, a doctor known to research and report meticulously, must have learned the details of Zechariah’s experience of that day: An angel had appeared to him. He was startled and shook with fear. The angel calmed him before delivering his special message.

The message was that their decades of prayer about childlessness had been heard. (We might assume they had long since ceased praying for a child. In the world of prayer inexplicable divine delays are not uncommon and are tests to faith.)

The angel went on to tell Zechariah: Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son. His name will be John. He will be a delight to you; he will bring rejoicing to many beyond his parents; the Lord’s blessing will be on him in abundance; he will never drink wine or other fermented drinks (Luke 1:13b-15a).

This amazing news was followed by a more astounding prophecy in three parts. (1) This child will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. (2) He will be God’s instrument to bring a great revival of faith to Israel. And (3) His ministry will be as though Elijah had reappeared (1:15b-17).

Just as in Elijah’s sweeping ministry, Zechariah’s child was promised to bring healing to the broken relationships between parents and children or children and parents all across the nation. There was to be a great revival of family unity and strength. This promised likeness of miraculous events spanning four hundred years between the Testaments was uncanny.

Zechariah responded in unbelief. He cited his and his wife’s advanced age as a ground for his not believing. Given the long delay of unanswered prayers and the natural impossibility of a pregnancy at their ages, the reader might at first sympathize with his unbelief. But a second look makes it harder to let Zechariah off.

Consider that it was an angel who addressed him. The angel had introduced himself: I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God. I have been sent (1:19). Gabriel is named explicitly only four times in the Bible. He is one of God’s most elevated servants.

Moreover, Zechariah, the Aaronic priest, must have known about the promise of the miraculous return of a prophet in the form of Elijah as given in the last lines of the Old Testament.

In addition to all the above, Zechariah received the announcement while he was burning incense in the Holy Place. Where would one get a more convincing revelation of some miraculous and hoped-for event? Where would it be easier to believe? Despite the long-practiced faith and piety of Zechariah, he is caught in the clutch of unbelief.

All of this explains why Gabriel pronounces a temporary judgment on him. Zechariah is told he will be speechless until the promised event is realized. In this way, God would both chastise his doubting servant and at the same time promise to be gracious.

Doctor Luke tells how all this came out (1:59 – 66). After the birth of John the Baptist there was general disagreement in the community over the baby’s name. Asked to weigh in on the controversy, and remembering Gabriel’s words, Zechariah took a tablet and wrote on it: His name is John!

Zechariah’s unbelief had been grave but its penalty was erased by this moment of obedience: Immediately his powers of speech were restored and he began to sing: Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them (1:68).

Photo credit: Dr. Partha Sarathi Sahana (via


Categories: Churchie Feeds

Advent Calls to Deepen Our Faith

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 12/03/2018 - 11:00

You’ve heard some say that key narratives in the Bible are based on myths — stories that serve to explain issues otherwise beyond human explanation. This claim can be used to dismiss portions of the Bible and eventually the Bible as a whole.

It is true that the Bible is a library with literature of many kinds — parables, proverbs, history, poetry, letters, apocalypses, etc. — and that each of these genres may convey truth in a different way. But in the light of this variety, is the Gospel narrative in particular a made-up story intended to brighten the reader’s spirit? Or is it truth to nurture saving faith?

The Advent season of the church year is a good time to face the question afresh: Are the historical claims of the Gospel account to be trusted? Was Jesus miraculously born? Did he really heal the blind? Did he die to grant forgiveness of sins? Is he the only way to God in this life or the next?

One faith-prompting passage for me and many other believers is the opening paragraph of the Gospel as Luke presents it (Luke 1:1-4). Luke was an educated man. The Apostle Paul refers to him as “our dear friend Luke, the doctor” (Colossians 4:14). That is significant. He would have the scientific training of that era. His first paragraph is like an introduction to a medical treatise.

It is also significant that Luke’s introductory statement (verses 1-4) is one complete sentence in the original language (though divided into more than one in our English versions). It is written in beautifully crafted Greek without punctuation or spaces. It is the longest sentence in the Bible and shows a style and content any qualified first-century scholar would use to introduce a serious historical document.

Without taking anything from the beauty and thoroughness of the sentence, I break it down to show its several elements, with an editorial touch, perhaps, to aid clarity. Luke writes as follows:

Something wonderful has actually happened among us and this has prompted a number of witnesses to try to capture its essence in writing.

The witnesses I speak of were eyewitnesses to these wonderful events and were already testifying to them and telling their meaning when they passed the truth on to us first hand.

I take the information I’ve received seriously but at the same time I have investigated every detail for myself from the very beginning. I’ve left no detail unexamined.

I’m doing this for you, Most Excellent Theophilus. I decided that I too would write a carefully researched and ordered account for your benefit. I write to reinforce your faith in the truths you already have been taught.

We don’t know who this Theophilus was. His name means God Lover. He may have been a convert from paganism to the faith who needed further guidance and grounding. The way Luke addresses him he may have been an elevated officer of the Roman government. It is even possible, though not likely, that Theophilus was a fictitious name that Luke used as a foil to tell his story.

Whatever the case, Luke’s first paragraph radiates seriousness and substance. And God’s Spirit uses his thoroughness to testify to the truth that follows. When we feel the power of Luke’s first paragraph, we are like someone standing at the entrance of a beautiful cathedral — The Gospel According to Luke. We hesitate momentarily before entering his report.

Pausing there, we are filled with wonder and awe. We kneel instinctively to absorb this ancient man’s forceful account as inspired by God Himself. And once we enter Luke’s narrative, we are open to the possibility that it is indeed a cathedral of God’s truth and love and no myths could renew us as these sacred words stand ready to do.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Why Pay Attention to the Children?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 11:00

I was seven years old when my first nephew, Barry, was born. Perhaps I was a bit giddy about my new status in life. After all, at such a young age I was Uncle Don.

As other children came along to enlarge my parents’ family – nephews, nieces, my own children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – God put a love for them into my heart, a love that has never left me.

Our most recent addition is Baby Isabel, eight months old, the daughter of Zach and Lisa. Our love for her is nourished by means of pictures sent electronically to update us on her development through her first year of life. We will see her at Christmas.

And we have the promise that, come spring, by the mercy of God new love will come yet again, this time for the child of Ben and Charis.

My love never made me an expert in bathing or changing diapers or otherwise caring for the little ones’ intricate and earthy needs. In that category my best grade would be “awkward.”

But I loved to talk to them and rock them, and to get down on the floor with them and “communicate” with special sounds. Insofar as possible, I have followed closely the development of each of my children and grandchildren right into their adulthood.

This love for children seems to have been part of my calling in life. Back when I myself was approaching young manhood and my mother could see I was preparing seriously for the Christian ministry she offered me one word of advice.

In less than one minute she said, and never repeated it a second time: “Don, when you are a pastor do be sure to pay attention to the children.”

Even now her words remind me of Our Lord’s parting assignment to Simon Peter after the resurrection; Simon’s first task was to feed my lambs (John 21:15b).

Earlier, when his disciples thought Jesus too busy to pay attention to children, he rebuked them. He saw in the little ones what the disciples at the moment did not see: eternal worth and the need for love given wisely.

He said to his disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). He then took time to gather the little ones in his arms and bless them.

Not long ago I had a conversation with a public school teacher with advanced training in early childhood development. She was recognized in the public system for her skill as a teacher and had exercised her gift with children in the church as well.

Speaking in the context of the church we noted the need of children to be recognized among the congregation – to be greeted and assured of a place – and their need to be protected. In today’s church, especially, well-planned systems of oversight must be put in place and followed.

But the comment that registered most deeply was that people who work in children’s ministries should be aware of the capacity of children under five years of age to learn.

Two-year-olds, she said, can be taught to sing a simple chorus. And three- and four-year-olds can take in well-told Bible stories. They can memorize short pieces of Scripture too.

Sunday school for the little ones can be much more than a nursery or a place for them to be entertained. To teach them Christian things at that age sets a good base for spiritual development later on and lays the groundwork for their personal response to the Gospel.

It is nearly 90 years since I was taken to my first Sunday school class. The few of us little ones were gathered around a dark oak sand table in the corner near the pulpit of the little church. The mirror facing upward in the sand became the Sea of Galilee. The teacher’s name was Elva Tisdale. She was loving and feeding Christ’s lambs.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Is Our Greatest Need God’s Presence?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 11:00

As recorded in the book of Exodus, God gave Moses the demanding task of leading two million or more Hebrew slaves from captivity in Egypt to God’s Promised Land.

His first task was to get the wicked Pharaoh to let them go. Moses exercised the power of God that softened Pharaoh’s will. He watched that same power save his people by the drowning of Pharaoh’s pursuing army in the Red Sea. God later provided water for his people in the arid desert.

After they escaped from Egypt, Moses then led the throng down the Sinai Peninsula to the base of Mount Sinai where they struck camp for a period of time. They were free. God had delivered them every step of the way.

During this time, Moses and his young assistant Joshua ascended for some time to the mountain heights, in order to receive the tablets of the law inscribed on stone by God’s hand. Moses’ brother Aaron was in charge of the camp below.

During this absence the people in the camp became restless. They rejected the authority of Moses and demanded that Aaron make gods for them that they could see.

From the gold jewelry the people turned over to him Aaron fashioned a golden calf. Soon a full-fledged pagan celebration was underway. That explained the wild shouting that Moses and Joshua heard as they descended the mountain.

The Lord was angry. His people had embraced idolatrous ways. He threatened to withdraw his Presence from the people of Israel for the long trek to the Promised Land.

In distress, Moses entered a period of deep engagement with God. In his intercessions, what would he ask for? A fresh release of the power that had overwhelmed Pharaoh? Or that provided water in the desert?

No, his intercessions were to ask God not to remove his Presence from his disobedient children. In the intimacy of the moment, Moses said: If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here (Exodus 33:15). God’s presence was precious to Moses.

The Lord relented and replied: I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name (Exodus 33:17). For Moses, God’s presence was also more precious than a release of his destructive power.

It was not God’s omnipresence that was at issue here (that God is everywhere at all times); it was his manifest presence (that the living God demonstrates his presence at specific times and in particular places).

For Isaiah God manifested his presence in the temple (Isaiah 6); for Saul of Tarsus it was on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). On the Day of Pentecost it was in the upper room (Acts 2:2).

Wherever it occurred it could awaken joy: In your presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). His presence supports even when fear attacks: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me (Psalm 23:4).

Recently our daughter-in-law, Jan, spent time in the hospital. She reported to us afterwards that she awoke in the middle of one night with a manifestation of the Presence: the words of a Fanny Crosby gospel song brought to her mind. It was the last line of the first stanza that assured her that she was in God’s care and his presence was with her. The words? For I know what’er befall me, Jesus doeth all things well.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

How Is the God of Christianity “Three-In-One”?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 11/12/2018 - 11:00

The doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is three Persons in one Being – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This doctrine faces us with a measure of mystery.

The word Trinity (tri-unity) itself does not occur in the Bible but the teaching of the Trinity is founded upon a rich array of Holy Scripture and is, in fact, held as a benchmark of orthodoxy across the sweep of Christendom. Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism along with all other major Protestant denominations hold Trinity to be revealed truth.

My purpose is to construct a simple overview of this doctrine, and to affirm that the mystery and reality of the Trinity can be experienced even when not fully understood.

We begin with the introductory sentence of the Shema of the Old Testament: Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one (Deuteronomy 6:4).

God’s chosen people were to pray this prayer twice a day. It is in phase with the first Commandment: You shall have no other gods beside me (Exodus 20:3). The Lord God of Israel was One and unrivaled in the religions of pagan neighbors.

But if God is One, how then can Jesus also be God? And how can the Holy Spirit be God? For four centuries, the developing ancient church grappled with these questions.

At the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) the conflict was strong. It was the heresy of Arius (Jesus was great but not quite God) against the orthodoxy of Athanasius (Jesus was in every respect God). For the most part, orthodoxy won the day.

But not until the Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) were the Godhood of Jesus and the Godhood of the Holy Spirit established in the doctrine of the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

The doctrine of the Trinity is well supported in the Scriptures. The introduction to the Gospel according to John, for example, gives strong grounding to the full deity of Jesus. He entitles him “the Word.”

When creation was formed, he writes, Jesus already “was.” He was not only with God; he was God. He was the agent of all creation, and he was the light who would give light to all humankind.

In the words of the Nicene Creed, he was “very God of very God”! But can the same be said of the Holy Spirit?

After Jesus ascended into Heaven and the Spirit was poured out with the sound of a mighty wind and the falling of what appeared to be tongues of fire, the newborn church moved forward in the supernatural energy given by the Spirit.

Although the phenomena of Pentecost (wind, fire, speaking in other languages) were powerful to the senses, the young church quickly learned that the Holy Spirit given in power that day was much more than a mere sensation or influence or feeling.

For example, Ananias and his wife Sapphira decided they would try a little deception on church leaders (Acts 5). The Apostle Peter saw through their deception. You have lied to the Holy Spirit, he said. The consequences were dire first for Ananias and then for Sapphira.

Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit? It was clear that the Holy Spirit who was given to guide the church was personal. One cannot lie to a feeling, nor to an idea. Lying and deception are what goes on between persons.

Throughout the Acts of the Apostles and on into the epistles, the Holy Spirit is regarded as a person (the third person of the Godhead) to indwell believers, illuminate and bring to life the Scriptures, and give divine guidance to the church. He teaches, guides, corrects, consoles.

So, how can we say God is one and at the same time three? One way to do so is as follows: God is one in being or essence or Godhead and at the same time three in persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

At Jesus’ baptism the Son was present, the Father spoke from heaven, and the Spirit descended in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16,17). Not three Gods but One, yet three persons.

The issue is to affirm the unity of God — “The LORD our God is one” – without confusing the Persons – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are distinct persons but united as one in the Godhead.

For a summary statement, note the first article of religion for the Free Methodist Church, of which I am a part: There is but one living and true God, the maker and preserver of all things. And in the unity of this Godhead there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three are one in eternity, deity and purpose; everlasting, of infinite power, wisdom and goodness.



Categories: Churchie Feeds

Is Jesus God?

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 11/05/2018 - 11:00

Whether the answer to these three words is yes or no is hugely important. If we say yes, our answer is orthodox (widely held by the church universal to be true). If we say no, then the flow of church history judges us as heretical (that is, opposed to Christian teaching).

Recently Ligonier Ministries, a Reformed Christian organization, partnered with LifeWay Research to conduct a survey of what Americans believe, theologically.

The survey asked 3000 people a series of questions that included this one about whether Jesus is God. Of the 3000 people, 581, or 32%, were identified as evangelicals by a standard definition.

Here’s how the question referenced above was presented in the survey: “Either Jesus is God or Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God. Which is it?”

Seventyeight percent of the evangelicals chose the latter of the two answers.

Christianity Today then asked 10 evangelical scholars to comment on the responses of these 581. All four were surprised, because 78% of evangelicals had supported what has been widely held for two thousand years of church history as an heretical view.

The struggle between the options can be traced as far back as the third and fourth centuries A.D., having been settled with the answer “Jesus is God” from that time to the present, 1700 years later.

In 325 A.D. the Emperor Constantine called church leaders to gather at Nicaea in what is today the country of Turkey. He was concerned that division on this question between different groups of Christians would be harmful to the Empire. It was an enormous gathering. Some say there were as many as 600 bishops in attendance.

For many years after the Council of Nicaea, with the divinity of Jesus upheld, the heresy that he was a created being continued to surface here and there. It is called Arianism after Arius, a scholar from Alexandria, Egypt. His was a strong voice in the debate. He argued that Jesus was like God but not really God; Jesus was exceedingly great but nevertheless a created being. His major opponent in the struggle was Athanasius, also from Alexandria. He argued that Jesus was in every respect God.

Arius lost at Nicaea but the heresy of Arianism went on broadly debated and the question was not fully resolved until a further church council was called to meet in Constantinople in 381 A.D.

At that council the issue was again resolved and the answer recognized as proceeding from Holy Scripture and the witness of the Apostles and other early church leaders. The affirmation that Jesus is God is also codified in statements of faith such as the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. All statements attempt to say what orthodox believers must hold to be true about Jesus, Son of God, our Lord and only Savior.

It is surprising that the question was not more quickly dealt with back then by referring to such passages as the introductory paragraph to John’s Gospel account. John says of Jesus, the Word:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind. That light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

In John’s introduction he tells us that Jesus is the Eternal Word of God, that he existed before creation, that he is one with God and at the same time in his person distinct from God as a member of the Trinity. John also tells us that Jesus is the very agent of creation, and that he is the light that shines in the darkness of our fallen world for all humankind to see.

Yes! Jesus is God! And Jesus is Lord!

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Dealing with the Pride That Blinds

Just Call Me Pastor - Mon, 10/29/2018 - 11:00

A neighbor may be proud of his vegetable garden, a mother of her son’s achievements, both giving thanks to God. Such expressions of human pride may be harmless pleasantries.

But there is a pride that displeases God and brings judgment. It is characterized by the human heart’s perverse inclination to compete with the Almighty, and in effect to be godlike.

Alan Richardson writes: “According to the Bible (and to classical Christian moral teaching) pride is the very root and essence of sin. Sinfulness consists essentially in the rebellious pride which attributes to itself the honor and glory that are due to God.” (A Theological Word Book of the Bible.)

To recognize this pride we start where the Bible starts. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). This opening sentence divides all existence into two distinct realities: the Creator and the created — God, who exists eternally and rules over all, and all else he has created to exist in time, utterly dependent upon his favor.

Adam and Eve were in the second category. They were his creatures, settled in the beautiful Garden of Eden with a large freedom in God’s creation, but with one restriction: they were forbidden to eat fruit from a certain tree. Eve’s conversation with the talking serpent, Satan, and Adam’s willing participation led the couple to yield to the Evil One’s enticement: Disobey your Creator, he pressed; eat of the forbidden fruit and “You will be like God.”

From then on the Old Testament shows that pride — this impulse to be God’s competitors and to make false gods that were more easily controlled — caused the repeated downfall of God’s chosen people. They rejected God; turned again and again to idols, and committed the sins their idolatry encouraged. This brought judgment leading eventually to exile in foreign lands.

For example in a time of great peril for Judah, under succeeding attacks from neighboring states, the prophet Isaiah said to wicked king Ahaz: Ask the Lord for a sign. In spite of the devastation, Ahaz would not humble himself before Almighty God. He replied, I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test (Isaiah 7:10-12). Although this left Judah wasted Ahaz was unyielding.

For us, pride may be found to exert itself hiddenly in a score of situations — in family conflicts, workplace tensions, human authority issues, self-preoccupation, congregational conflicts, even divisive theological differences, and these may each be traceable to a prideful reach by us to be on top, even godlike.

For Christians, this is the pride which, if not addressed at Christ’s cross often, will infect our effectiveness and diminish our service to the Kingdom. St. Paul knew this to be so. He wrote, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). In this way, Paul and other New Testament writers address the remnants of human pride in two ways — first in repeatedly calling our attention to the example of our Lord himself, and second, in exhorting all believers to seek humility.

Jesus, our Messiah, humbled himself. He was born in a cattle stall, of a young virgin, and a surrogate father, a carpenter. As a growing child he was obedient to these parents (Luke 2:51); although he was sinless, at the outset of his ministry he insisted on being baptized, taking the position of a sinner to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:13-17); he washed his disciples’ feet when the disciples appeared to place themselves above such a task (John 13:4-10); above it all he yielded himself to an excruciating crucifixion — for others (Matthew 27:32-50). And rightly he said of himself, I am meek and lowly in spirit (Matthew 11:29).

So with all this in mind, St. Peter wrote to Christians scattered by persecution: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6). To Jewish Christians, St. James quoted wisdom from the proverbs: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6,10).

And St. Paul offered the young congregation at Philippi this exhortation: In your relationship with one another have this same mindset as Christ Jesus: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by being obedient to death — even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:6).

For Christians, in every part of our lives, pride is the sin that blinds and tends to open us to sinful attitudes and conduct. Pride must therefore be radically confronted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit awakens us to this reality we are moved to meditate on the example of our Lord, to repent and deepen our faith in Him, and to pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to make us victors over the pride that blinds.

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Categories: Churchie Feeds

Praying for Our Daily Bread… Abandoning Tomorrow’s Worries

The Idol Babbler - Fri, 07/27/2018 - 20:31

“How great the value which this truth teaches us to attach to each single day! We are so easily led to look at life as a great whole, and to neglect the little to-day, to forget that the single days do indeed make up the whole, and that the value of each single day depends on its influence on the whole. One day lost is a link broken in the chain, which it often takes more than another day to mend. One day lost influences the next, and makes its keeping more difficult. Yea, one day lost may be the loss of what months or years of careful labour had secured. The experience of many a believer could confirm this.”Andrew Murray

A good friend of mine posted this quote on social media. I can relate, because there are days where my goal is to just get through it… rather than slowing down to take in the moments that God has given me.

Praying for Our Daily Bread

This goes along with something which has impacted my prayer life recently… realizing that my prayers (as taught by Christ Himself) ought to focus on today, and not necessarily tomorrow or the next day, but today. Not that it is wrong for me to pray about tomorrow, but maybe it is more proper for me to pray for TODAY, how I am to deal with what I might see on the horizon. The thing is, the horizon may or may not ever come. Therefore, I ought to instead focus on asking the Lord to be with me this day. After all, Jesus did not teach His disciples to pray for tomorrow’s bread, but today’s…

Matthew 6:11 (HCSB)
Give us today our daily bread.

A few verses later, Jesus made this point about putting too much emphasis upon tomorrow, rather than today…

Matthew 6:33-34 (HCSB)
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The half-brother of Jesus would later also touch upon this concept when he wrote to the 12 tribes in the dispersion regarding their materialistic mindset…

James 4:13-15 (HCSB)
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.
Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Abandoning Tomorrow’s Worries

It is so tempting to get caught up in what tomorrow might bring.

As James wrote, we must realize that our lives are “like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.” It is why Jesus encouraged that our prayers be rooted in today, instead of tomorrow.

May we (Christians) learn to pray about the moment we are in, abandoning the worry we create when we lose sight of the peace that Christ has provided us….

Philippians 4:4-7 (HCSB)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Godspeed, to the brethren!


Categories: Churchie Feeds

Loving His Manner

The Idol Babbler - Mon, 07/02/2018 - 23:46

This blog article can now be found here.

theidolbabbler is now a proud blog contributor to the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

A Simple Way to Explain to an Unbeliever Why We Are Guilty Before God

The Idol Babbler - Sun, 06/24/2018 - 23:17

This blog article can now be found here.

theidolbabbler is now a proud blog contributor to the Bible Thumping Wingnut Network.

Categories: Churchie Feeds

That Helpful Tension

The Idol Babbler - Wed, 06/13/2018 - 19:46

Matthew 22:34-40 (HCSB)
When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Jesus said that “all the Law and the Prophets” depend on love. They do not depend on anything else. If we take away love, we take away the foundation.

What happens if we take away love, what would all the Law and the Prophets then stand upon?


When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he talked about this same theme, mentioning some other things which become meaningless when love is removed from the equation…

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (HCSB)
If I speak human or angelic languages
but do not have love,
I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy
and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and if I have all faith
so that I can move mountains
but do not have love, I am nothing.
And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor,
and if I give my body in order to boast
but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Possessing a great acumen for oration, having an incredible wealth of knowledge, or even consistently displaying a sincere religious fervor, none of these things matter if they are not backed by love. Not even an impressive resume of charitable giving carries any weight when love is not in the picture. Take away love, you take away everything. When it comes to God and love, we must remember: when John described who God is, he said that He is love…

1 John 4:8 (HCSB)
The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

If love is what the Law and the Prophets depend upon (as Jesus taught), and if God is love (as John tells us in his epistle), then His commands to us are actually an expression of who He is. They describe His character, His essence. Violate His commands, you then not only violate love, but you also violate who God is.

Does that possibility give you pause?

It should, because we all know that we do not always love. John even warns against ignoring the fact that we fail to love. Look at what he writes…

1 John 1:8 (HCSB)
If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

That Helpful Tension

John goes on though, giving us hope. Yet, he does not release that helpful tension, holding it all together, which keeps us sober in our walk…

1 John 1:9 – 2:11 (HCSB)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, “We don’t have any sin,” we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing you these things so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father — Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him: by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” yet doesn’t keep His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: The one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old command that you have had from the beginning. The old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Godspeed, to the brethren!


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