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Showing posts from December, 2009

VIRGIN MARY'S PROTEST SONG

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From nursery rhymes to top 40 hits, every song tells a story.  Behind the songs are the feelings and thoughts of writers musing over the matters of life.
Every century of time has been filled with men and women who wrote songs and shared them within their respective communities.We have a rich history of traditional Christmas songs borne out of worshippers from every generation.To understand the writer’s own story adds depth and clarity—their story informs our own experience of the songs.
When Mary visited her ‘also pregnant’ cousin Elizabeth, she was inspired to burst out in song.Luke records the words of Mary’s song, ‘The Magnificat’.In the words we hear the hope of the poor and oppressed.God is aware of human need and has responded.

Luke 1:46-55 (Today's New International Version)Mary's Song46 And Mary said:  "My soul glorifies the Lord47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will…

LOVELESS RELIGION

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John 5:
41"I do not accept praise from men, 42but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. 43I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. 44How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?

Human approval can become a deadly snare.Jesus knew well that the accolades and flattery that people gave him was easily forgotten or dismissed by them when the circumstances and pressures on their lives changed.

Think about the fact that we devote ourselves to praising Jesus and yet he is not easily fooled.He saw the Jewish leaders praising one another, but with a conspicuous absence of God’s Love in their hearts.It’s easy to create a loveless system of approval.A simple checklist can be used to validate who is in the club and who does not belong.

The love of God on the other hand, messes with our best plann…

THE FATHER AND THE WORD TESTIFY

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If Jesus’ claims were fringe theories, the religious leaders would have dismissed John’s words as well.But they saw John the Baptist as being reliable.

They were not ready to accept Jesus on the basis of their laws of verification.To believe Jesus would require a dismantling of their mindset and assumptions.

Jesus thrusts his challenge deep where the sun does not shine.

John 5:
36"I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. 37And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, 38nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. 39You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

What a claim!Jesus calls the Father to the witness stand.

The God whom t…

CALLING JOHN TO THE WITNESS STAND

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I know that there are some who deny the Christian faith and write it off as a fringe theory.They examine a hypocrite, a wayward fanatic or an imbalanced view and dismiss the whole thing as a pack of lies.There are plenty of fringe theories to use against the faith and always will be.Gossips thrive on the reasons to dismiss the followers of Jesus.

Beyond gossip, there are genuine seekers who are examining the faith for themselves to see if it is true.They are willing to examine historical truth.They can accept archaeological truth and eyewitness accounts.Hearing a personal experience and change in someone’s life becomes a stepping stone towards accepting God’s presence and work in the realm of humans.

There were plenty of Jews in Jesus’ time that looked at him as a fraud or delusional madman.Jesus challenged his enemies with a call to examine their basis of belief.He appealed to the greatest figures in their system to get them to think about how they evaluate him.

John 5:
31"If I test…

GOSSIP AND FRINGE THEORIES

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Over the years, I have heard some intriguing rumours about myself and the church I pastor.

Someone thought I was a dealing drugs and the church was my cover.Someone else heard I had quit and the church was shutting down.Another time it was alleged that the place had burned to the ground.

I hope the gossipers were relieved to learn that none of these things were true.I know I felt better learning that ‘my cover was not blown and that the doors were still open’.It’s sometimes laughable when you consider the gullibility we have to believe things based on hearsay and half-truths.

Before we hasten to judge ‘gossips’ let us bear in mind that most people will at one time or another accept something as true without having the all the facts.There may be times when we want to believe something just because it makes us feel better, and not because there is any substance to the allegations.

The entertainment industry makes obscene sums of money in the gossip genre.Tabloids, documentaries and televisi…

HERE COMES THE JUDGE

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The inclusiveness of allowing a man to judge humanity shows the Father’s heart to be not only above, but among the earth’s people.  Jesus gives us a judge who understands our weakness and speaks our languages.


John 5:
28 "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Jesus never claims to act or think independent of the Father.  Even though the Son has been given authority, He still references his plans and judgments with the Father.  It is difficult for us to imagine such a loving, intertwined cooperation.  We are quickly prone to become independent and self-important.

In verse 28, Jesus tells the listeners not to be amazed by the coming resurrection and judgment.  Jews believed in a re…

JUDGE JESUS

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It was apparent that Jesus’ self-identity was inseparable from a relationship with the Father.  He was an obedient son who patterned his life after the Father.

Listen to how he describes their connectedness.


John 5:
19 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

Jesus’ obedience to the Father is matched by the Father’s loving interest in His Son.  The Father’s love is demonstrated in t…

THE GOD WHO BREAKS MAN'S SABBATH

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Following Jesus’ healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda, the Jewish leaders began a fresh smear campaign.  Jesus responded to them with words that further troubled them.

John 5:
16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. 17 Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." 18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

The religious leaders were very concerned about the slightest infraction of the laws regarding Sabbath.  But rabbinical thought faced a dilemma in understand God’s observation of the Sabbath.  Apparently God worked on the day of rest.

Divine providence remained active on the Sabbath, otherwise, all nature and life would cease to exist. As regards men, divine activity was visible in two ways: men were born and men died on the Sabbath. Since only God…

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

Peter Gabriel grew up with distance in relationship to his father.  Later in life he wanted to close the gap, having realized his father was getting old.  He decided to have yoga lessons with him, an intimate way to get close to his dad. 



When Peter’s son Isaac was born in 2002, he wrote the song ‘Father Son’.  Peter’s thirty-three year old daughter Anna created the video for the song.[i]

There are many who can identify with a lack of closeness to their father.  Many have wanted a different relationship with their dad.  Reasons are plentiful and the passage of time does little to still an orphaned heart.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Jesus’ life was an inseparable connectedness to his Heavenly Father.  We do not read any accounts in the gospels of personal conversations with his earthly father Joseph.  There are a handful of conversations recorded between Jesus and his mother Mary, but little is said of Joseph’s words.  Perhaps, he was the strong, silent type.  Maybe Joseph was…

BEYOND ANGELS AND HEALING POOLS

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John 5:
8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.  The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
11 But he replied, "The man who made me well said to me, 'Pick up your mat and walk.' "
12 So they asked him, "Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?"
13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you."  15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Knowing it was going to trouble the waters of religion, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  This was the work of God breaking man-made rules about Sabbath obs…

COMPETING FOR WELLNESS

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John 5:
5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

How long had it been since this man had a conversation in which he was asked what he wanted for himself?Most of his conversations were held with an underlying assumption that he was crippled and that was a foundational truth of his existence.Most who knew him would shrug and shake their head at his hopeless hope, endlessly waiting at the pool.

Jesus asks a startling question – do you want to get well?Like the angel troubling the water, Jesus asks a question that troubles the mind.Imagine asking a paraplegic if they would like to walk.It’s a question rarely asked in polite society.

Thirty-eight …

WHERE CRIPPLES SWIM

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We can hear the story of the great banquet and realize that it paralleled Jesus’ life.

John tells us of a time when Jesus was on his way to a great banquet, one of the religious festivals held in Jerusalem.Big parties were part of the religious observances of Israel.


John 5:
1 Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 

Like the servant in the banquet story, Jesus is found in places where the blind, lame and paralyzed would be found.The great banquet of Israel centered in the Temple.Jesus is travelling to the Temple, but not without gathering those whom the Father desired to be at the table.This was not a place that most people would frequent.It was a place that many avoided for fear of contagion, offensive sights and the belief that s…

HISTORY BEHIND HIS STORY

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From the tribal fire to visits at your uncle’s house, generations of children have wanted in on the conversation of adults.  When they are not told to go play, they are curious about their parents’ generation and prior.  They want to hear the stories that explain where we came from and share in the laughter of their jokes and past mishaps.

Jesus was a masterful storyteller.  He knew the family history of Israel and he created moral tales that brought their issues into sharp perspective. 

One of his famous stories described a luxurious banquet for which the Master sent out his servant to find guests.  The instructions were specific.  Find people who are crippled, injured, diseased and blind.  Give them good reasons to come to the table. 

In this story God’s heart of love is revealed.  God wants to gather broken people and honour them in His presence.  This is the heart growing in His children.  We are to gather broken people and honour them with hospitable, dignifying love.

In the parabl…

LEVI, THE APOLOGIST

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Apologetics - the art/science of presenting reasonable defenses for the Christian faith.

When my son Levi accepted Jesus at the age of 4 or 5, he ran out onto our front porch and yelled to his friends playing in the street, "Hey guys, I am a Christian!!!"

He's now 14 and in Grade 9.  Yesterday he was in one of his classes when a discussion broke out about God.

Many opinions flew around the room.

One of the girls stated, "If there is a God, why would he make us as imperfect creations?  Why would a good God allow us to do bad things?  That would be an evil God."

Without forethought, Levi's hand shot up.  He wasn't sure what he would say but felt the need to say something.  He paused and then addressed the teacher.

'Miss, is there such a thing as darkness?'


'What do you mean Levi?'


'If I turn off the light switch, what happens?'


'It gets dark.'


'So Miss, is there such a thing as darkness?'


'Why, yes there is.'


Levi…