Archive for January, 2018|Monthly archive page

Cracked pots

The apostle Paul says believers are just jars of clay – nothing special by themselves.

But what lives inside them is very special – the Spirit of God.

“We have this treasure (the Holy Spirit) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us,” says the apostle in 2 Corinthians 4:7.

Paul is telling his readers that he is not despairing despite all the troubles he faces because the power of God is working through his very human self.

“We have become convinced that God wants to use ordinary, broken, sinful, weak, foolish people, just like us and just like you, to advance his kingdom,” say Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft in Everyday Supernatural: Living A Spirit-led Life Without Being Weird.

Pilavachi and Croft say that in Paul’s day, people kept their money in old cracked pots because there were no banks and they figured thieves would search the best pots for their treasure.

That puts an extra shine on the apostle’s words about God putting his treasure – his Spirit – in us “cracked pots”.

“The history of the church has never been about great men and women of God,” the authors say. “It’s always been about the great God of men and women.”

Indeed, we need only look at people like Jacob and David and Moses and we can see their human weaknesses.  But God used them powerfully because they turned to him in their need.

Pilavachi and Croft offer stories where they felt God asking them to do things they really didn’t want to do.  But when they obeyed, God acted in wonderful ways in the lives of the people they were dealing with.

“God wants to pour his treasure into your cracked pot,” they write.  “He wants to use you – even when you feel weak, broken, vulnerable, fearful and confused – to bring him glory.”

I find that encouraging.  I am weak but God can still use me.

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God or Satan?

Who is winning the battle for the minds and hearts of North Americans – God or Satan?

On the surface, Satan seems to have the edge.  But I believe there is more to this than meets the eye.

It is true that there is a major assault on Christian values such as the sanctity of life.  It is also true that the Christian church is declining overall in numbers in North America with many young people abandoning church.  A lot of churches are closing.

But it is within the power of God to turn the tide – if we believers turn to him.

This week, our church joined with four other churches to pray for our city.  This was part of the third annual city-wide week of prayer in January for the people and institutions in our area.

One of the pastors at our meeting pointed us to the well-known passage in 2 Chronicles 7:14 where God tells Solomon that trouble will come to Israel if the people reject God.  Then, he adds these wonderful words of hope:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

This declaration is aimed at followers of God.  We need to examine our own hearts, confess our sins, turn back to God and pray.

Then, God will act.

God responds to people with repentant, humble hearts throughout the Bible.  And we have seen the same through many revivals over the centuries since Christ ascended to heaven.

Like many believers, I find the growing anti-Christian wave alarming and even discouraging.  From Christian history, I know that the once-dominant church virtually died in North Africa and parts of the Middle East over the centuries – leaving only a few vestiges behind.

But in recent times, there are reports of many people turning to the Lord in Muslim-dominated countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.  Some observers say it is the greatest ingathering of new believers in these areas since Islam toppled the church more than a thousand years ago.

The apostle Paul said that the real battle is not an earthly struggle of kings and presidents, but a behind-the-scenes battle in heavenly places between God and the dark forces of Satan (Ephesians 6:12).

Paul tells us that we should arm ourselves with spiritual armour such as the word of God – and pray!

Many Christians are now taking up this challenge in Canada and the United States.  They are putting aside denominational differences to pray together to our all-powerful God.

Praise God!

Clueless

It has taken me all my life to discover how clueless I am.

It’s a kind of blindness – spiritually, emotionally and psychologically.

I don’t think I’m alone.

I’m glad, though, that I have found this out.  I believe it is Christ working in me.  He is changing me.

I am forever grateful that Christ opened my eyes almost 60 years ago to the most important truth in the universe – he is the only way to God.  As he said, he is the way, the truth, and the life.

It is not unusual for young people to feel that their way of looking at things is the only real way.  I was one of those.

But adults are not immune from this tunnel vision.

Like many other believers, I came to feel that my view of Christ and the church was the right way.  I was suspicious of other views and approaches.

I believe that there are completely wrong ways of looking at God and the world around us – views that have no scriptural basis.

But there are areas which are much less certain – opinions which should not keep believers apart.  Christ wants all believers to be one in the Spirit.

Perhaps the most difficult areas for me to see well are in the areas of the mind and the heart.

Gradually, the Lord has worked through others – particularly those I love – to show me that my way of thinking is not the way everyone else does.

The Bible certainly makes that clear.  Jesus was always dealing with people who disagreed with – and even denounced – him.  Most did not understand him.

Over time, I have learned that I should listen and ponder other ways of looking at things.  And sometimes I have started changing how I live.  In this area, I realize I have a long way to go.

This leads me to my heart.  With my mind, I know what God wants of me, but I still resist in some areas.  This is a heart issue.

But I am hopeful.

I seize on the words written by the apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

He was writing to the Philippian church which was actively sharing Jesus’ love and words with others.

But I believe this is true of everyone who loves Jesus and is committed to him.

 

Outsiders

How are we Christians to live in an alien world?

Do we fight it?  Do we conform to it?  Do we withdraw from it?

The apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 2:11 that we believers are “outsiders and wanderers” or “pilgrims” in this world.  Our home is not here.

And yet we live here until we go to be with Christ in eternity.  While we’re here, we face a society that is increasingly non-Christian and sometimes hostile to what we believe.

The magazine Christianity Today confronted this issue with a series of articles in November 2015.

In essence, the articles acknowledged that Christian values no longer dominate our society.  But they debated how closely we should work with non-believers who may object to our values.  They offered different thoughts on how we can help the most vulnerable in our society and how strongly we should defend our values.

This make me think about the prophet Daniel, a person I admire greatly and often write about.

Young Daniel became a captive of the Babylonians – a slave.

Almost immediately, he faced a tough decision.  He and three young Jewish slaves were chosen to serve the Babylonian king after a period of training – but to eat only Babylonian food which Jews found against their faith.

With respect and wisdom, he asked the king’s chief of staff to allow these Jewish slaves the right to eat their own food during a trial period and see if they did as well as others.  The chief of staff was reluctant not to carry through his master’s orders, but God was at work and he agreed.

Daniel gained a reputation of wisdom in Babylon and served the king well.  But King Nebuchadnezzar had a bad dream which none of his wise men could interpret.  He pledged to execute them all if they could not tell him what the dream was and interpret it for him.

Daniel took the issue to God who revealed to him what the dream was and gave him the interpretation.  Nebuchadnezzar was astonished when Daniel told him the dream since the king had told no one.  He made the young Jewish slave one of the highest officials in the land.

Many years later, Daniel’s enemies conspired against him during the reign of a later king.  They knew that he prayed three times a day to the Lord in the window of his home.  They convinced the king to agree to have no one pray to any god other than the king himself and whoever broke that law would be executed.

Daniel continued praying to God and was hauled before the king and thrown to the lions to devour.  But, again, God stepped in and shut the mouths of the lions so he was untouched.  And the king responded by telling his empire that God was the living god and everyone should tremble before him.

The lessons I draw from these events is that we must serve others well, wisely and with respect.  And we must depend on the Lord to guide us in all our dealings with people who hold different views and values.

Like Daniel, we should stand for what we believe.  Sometimes, that will lead to persecution.

The early Christians behaved that way – loving others while remaining true to what they believed.   And they had a gigantic impact on the Roman empire.

In our own small ways, we, too, can have an impact on people around us.