Archive for October, 2018|Monthly archive page

Darkness before dawn

It’s easy to get discouraged by the dark forces at work in our western world today.

But a glance back at Bible history reveals that periods of turning away from God often led to people repenting and turning back to the Lord.

In other words, the darkness was often followed by the dawn of a new day in Israel – a spiritually strong day.  The people hit rock bottom and threw themselves upon the Lord and he responded.

As I look back at our own history in Canada, faith in God played a large part in the formation of our country.

There is still a strong remnant of belief in this country.  The church is declining but remains significant.

Yet there is little doubt that the prevailing winds in society are anti-Christian.

Our small study group has been looking at the Book of Judges in recent weeks.  It’s a raw and bloody book with constant war between Israel and its neighbours.

But worse than the wars was the tendency of the Israelites to turn away from God and adopt the religious viewpoints – and gods – of the surrounding nations.

As they worshipped these foreign idols, their morals declined and their belief in Yahweh – the Lord God – evaporated.  And God left them to their own devices.

Gradually, the neighbouring nations defeated them in battle and oppressed the Israelites.

After a period of time, the people would cry out to God in repentance for their sin and God would stir someone to lead the people out of slavery to the oppressors.

In Canada, we are not yet under foreign oppression.  But the country is largely turning away from God and adopting the philosophies of the larger world.

What will this mean in the long run for those who follow Jesus?

It could well mean that times will get even more troubling for believers.

But I take heart from Bible stories that show God is still at work even in the worst times.

Dark times often lead to a new dawn.

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A call to action

I am constantly amazed at how God works in the lives of followers of Jesus.

Weak as we are, he often calls on us to do what we feel is impossible.  And, if we accept the challenge, he steps in and gives us his strength.

This last weekend, I heard a conference speaker describe how he felt God’s prodding to break out of the comfortable, traditional cocoon he lived in to reach the outside world for Christ.

He obeyed.  He had no plan, no grand strategy.

Instead, he spent time listening to God and studying the Book of Acts for two years.  Then, he and the little church he pastored changed the way they “did church”.

They realized that Jesus spoke often about spreading the good news of the kingdom of God – not just about a one-time encounter with the Saviour.  Many of Jesus’ stories – “parables” – are really about God working to transform the world around us through his followers.

The conference theme was about intimacy with God leading to influence in the world.  Often, this involves personal sacrifices.

The results can be great, although I know that people can work faithfully for a lifetime without seeing any obvious fruit.  Yet a simple word can change someone’s life and you may never know until you see that person in the life to come.

The speaker’s church, which he calls an “apostolic centre”, has succeeded in encouraging people to use the spiritual gifts God has given them.  The people are taking seriously the call to advance the kingdom of God and I understand they are having a considerable impact in their community and beyond.

In fact, that little church has now built a network of connections that have spread internationally.

The conference, organized by our son and daughter-in-law, was a call to action – a call to step out of our comfort zones, listen to God, and trust the Lord to take us where he wishes.

The scriptures are full of stories of people like that.

Gideon, for example.  Gideon believed he belonged to the weakest clan in Israel and was terrified when God asked him to lead his people to freedom from the enemy.  But he listened and obeyed – a faltering step at a time.  And God provided the power he needed.

A call to action – not an easy message for timid people like me.

But the benefits can be eternal – for us and for others.

Wonder

I wonder if I have lost my sense of wonder.

I heard of a foreign student who was busy snapping pictures of squirrels.  When asked why he was doing that, he said he was fascinated by squirrels because there were none in his country.

That story makes me realize how many things I take for granted in the world around me.

Mark Batterson, author of Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, says: “When we lose our sense of wonder, what we really lose is our soul.”

The point Batterson is making is that we are living in God’s creation and wonder is a sign that we are awed by what God has done.  It should be a natural reaction of God’s followers.

In Psalm 24:1, David writes: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to him.”

I have pondered this verse often in the last little while.  It tells me that everything I see and touch really is God’s and bears his fingerprints.

That should spur me to praise and thanksgiving.

Batterson asks: “Is it possible we’ve studied the God of logic without truly worshiping the God of wonders?  When you descend the flight of stairs into the soul of Christianity, what you discover is primal wonder.”

It is often said that many astronomers and astrophysicists believe in God because they realize the wonders of the stars and planets must have been created by a creative mind and not by blind chance.

Others have pointed to the intricacies of the human eye as the work of a supernatural genius.  Batterson says God designed the retina to process close to 10 billion calculations every second so that we can see a particular image.  Mind-boggling.

The author points out that God loved creating the universe.  In Genesis 1, we see that God’s reaction to his creation was that he saw that it was good.  He was pleased with it.

When I think of it, God created even the little ant.  The ant is an amazing creation.  Very intricate with a certain God-given sense of purpose.

All of this is reminding me that I need to keep my eyes open to what is going on around me.

And I need to be thankful for God’s creative impulse.  He loves me and he loves his creation.

He is the giver of good gifts, even the so-called humble things.

God be praised!