Devotional: How Amazing It Would Be! (Part 2)

How amazing it would have been to be with Jesus when he healed the sick and raised the dead.

Well, maybe. It would have been quite a sight to behold as a spectator. But would it have been as exciting to be with him in action?

If you are like me, there is a tendency to not rock the boat too much. While I understand that it is progressive to express that change is good and desirable, inside I prefer things to be predictable, more certain, and definitely well-ordered. Continue reading

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Devotional: How Amazing It Would Be! (Part 1)

“How amazing it would have been to have personally seen Jesus in action, walking on water, healing people, or raising people from death.” Those were the words of opening on a daily devotional post that I read recently.

On the surface, this resonates with me. It is a personal blessing to be in Israel and to lead trip participants along the paths that Jesus literally walked. But when I dig introspectively beneath the surface, I wonder. How would I, and those who are in my circle of friends and fellow believers, have reacted to Jesus?

As the legendary Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story,” and in three parts. Continue reading

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Canada Day and Independence Day

On July 1, 1867 Canada was officially born as an independent nation. Congratulations Canada on your milestone 150th birthday! On July 4, 1776 the United States declared its independence and became an independent nation. July 1 is Canada Day in Canada and July 4 is Independence Day in the U.S.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

“This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13: 1-7).

For all of our national warts, citizenship for those of us who have been blessed to be born in Canada or in the U.S. is a privilege. In both nations, liberties are treasured, the right to vote to select representatives is protected, and we enjoy religious freedom.

That was not the case in biblical times. God both warned against nationhood and nationalism and called his people to submit to political leaders because all authority is given by God.

God called Israel to be a holy nation: a people who singularly focused on obedient living. When they begged him to give them a king so that they could be like the nations around them, God warned them. Through the prophet Samuel, God told them to be careful what they wished for, because it would not go well. They persisted, God allowed it, and it ended badly. There has never been and never will be a perfectly good human leader.

Some among Jesus’ followers wanted him to upend Rome. The Jewish people wanted the foot of Rome to be taken from their necks. They had not learned from the stories of Saul, David, and the rest of their kings. They wanted Jesus to reclaim David’s physical throne and reestablish the national power of Israel. On the Mount of Olives, they chanted and cheered him on. Jesus would have been the perfect leader. But, instead of ascending a throne in Jerusalem that day, he wept. The people did not understand. It is through God’s obedient people, and not through political kingdoms, that God brings his kingdom.

Those of us who are believers with a reformed worldview do not accept parallelism. We believe that God reigns, that his kingdom is ever advancing, and that every square inch of creation belongs to God.

Therefore, reformed believers do not let governments do their own thing without seeking to influence decisions and be decision-makers for Christ. Christians belong in government, not to promote theocratic rule, but to seek justice and love mercy and seek to bathe deliberations in our faith perspective of loving God above all and our neighbors as ourselves.

Christian resistance to governments should never be violent or vile. Instead, resistance by believers must be in the context of honor and respect for the points of view of those with whom we disagree. God said so!

Jesus could have destroyed mighty Rome with a single word. Before his ministry even started, Satan tempted him to do just that. Satan offered him all of the kingdoms of the world, if he would just bow to him. Even Satan knew that earthly power is temporal, corrupts, and is not God’s way of obedience.

Rome certainly deserved God’s wrath. Caesar claimed to be god. Rome controlled its subjects with cruel punishments, including the most horrible, crucifixions. Soon after Paul wrote the letter to the Romans, the Roman emperor would execute him, and Paul knew the time was coming.

Still, Paul wrote to the Romans that even those Roman emperors are to be respected and honored. Their day would come, but in the meantime, their earthly authority was allowed by God. So, yield willingly to them by paying your taxes. Respect them. Honor them.

The words of Romans 13 are for us today, too. In Canada and in the U.S. our governments and our leaders are in place today because God has allowed it. It is our duty as followers for Christ to apply the words from Paul. Whether we agree or disagree with direction or decisions, do so with respect. Whether we agree or disagree with our leaders, honor them because God says so.

Freedom to serve God without the restraint of government control is our greatest liberty. It should be our primary reason to celebrate Canada Day and Independence Day, giving thanks to God.

Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services

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Devotional: Dead and Living Stones

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” I Peter 2:5

If you are reading this on Tuesday, June 27, I am in Israel. Continue reading

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Tell His Story

This week I am in Israel. Yes, again. It will be trip number 13 for my wife and me since 2000. When I tell people that I am heading to Israel for the 13th time, reactions are mixed.

Some are simply amazed. Others are surprised. A few are perplexed. Continue reading

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Devotional: Being the Pentecost Church

Pentecost is rightly considered the birthday of the Christian church. So, what is the church born to do and to be? Three thoughts.

First, on Pentecost morning, the words of the prophet Jeremiah in chapter 31 came to be. In verse 33 God spoke through the prophet, “’This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” God literally changed his address! He left the Holy Place of the Temple. The veil had been ripped at the crucifixion. It was no longer needed. God left the place in the symbols that he had given to the people throughout the Old Testament. His new address was within the hearts of each believer. What a beautiful Pentecost takeaway. God has chosen to live within you. To paraphrase Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:19, “Your body is now his temple.” Take heart and be encouraged.

Second, these were God’s instructions for the harvest time: “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:9-10). Believers must be generous, caring for each other and for the poor. How big are the corners of your fields? In other words, how generous are you with the business of the kingdom? God does not ask for your entire field, but only that you are generous by leaving large corners.

Third, Ezekiel 47 paints a marvelous Pentecost picture. After Pentecost, the disciples followed Jesus’ command and went to the ends of the earth with the good news. From the Temple steps the good news spread throughout Judea and Galilee. From there it spread to Syria, Lebanon, Arabia, and the Fertile Crescent. It spread to Asia, Rome, Africa, and India. Eventually it reached Europe and China, the Americas and Australia.

Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 47 describes it this way. A trickle of water appeared from under the threshold near the Holy Place (toward the east, God’s direction). The trickle ran down the southern stairs (the people’s place where Pentecost happened).

The trickle flowed to the east. There it entered the Kidron Valley. As it flowed, it grew. The trickle became a stream, and the stream grew from ankle-deep to knee-deep to waist-deep in a short time. Soon it was a torrential river that no one dared cross. It was a wadi flood that would sweep you away!

The Kidron empties near EnGedi in the Rift Valley. There the typical wadi flood washes into the deadest of seas. The Dead Sea’s salinity is about 30 percent. It cannot sustain life. But in Ezekiel’s vision the water of this flood does a miraculous thing. It turns the Dead Sea to fresh water. The newly freshened sea sustains fruit-bearing trees on its shore and all kinds of fish live in it.

That is the “so what” of Pentecost. The trickle of water is the good news of the kingdom of God. As kingdom-advancing disciples spread the good news, the kingdom advances as unstoppably as the river in the Kidron. When the good news is believed, even the most sin-sick lives and places in this broken world become alive with the hope of the gospel.

Those who have been called to be disciples and to be kingdom advancing leaders are like cups of water in the river of life. May those who are dead in sin find the hope of new life. And may we be God’s hope-bringers. May we be the Pentecost church.

Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services

This devotional is republished from Pentecost 2012

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Devotional: The Ruach is Here!

“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting” (Acts 2: 1-2).

Jesus did not teach us that God is triune. Trying to understand and explain the nature and persons of God was the work of the church leaders in the ensuing centuries. God is Spirit. To explain the persons of God for human understanding is a challenge, but to comprehend how three is one and one is three is beyond our capacity. It requires faith.

For the Jewish believer, God is Father. YHWH is not two in one or three in one. YHWH is one. YHWH reveals himself to his children in ways that they can understand. The one God reveals himself in ways that speak to his relationship with his creation and his children. He is creator. He is Father. He is Shepherd. He is rock and fortress, strong deliverer and more. God chooses to paint very concrete pictures of himself so that his children can best understand their relationship to him. Continue reading

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Devotional: Lesson 2 from the Tamarisk Tree

(If you have not read last week’s devotional, “Lesson 1 from the Tamarisk Tree,” please do so before reading lesson 2.)

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God” (Genesis 21:33).

Here is a confession from a seasoned Christian school principal. One of my most difficult times, requiring my greatest restraint and holding my tongue, was when a third or fourth generation family came to my office and said, “We have prayed about it, and God wants us to send our children to the public school to be a light.”

Why was this so difficult for me to swallow? There are several answers. First, I knew any response of disagreement would be received as judgmental, and I never intended to close doors or burn bridges. Secondly, the “prayer thing” stops the conversation, because who can argue with the voice from heaven? Continue reading

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Devotional: Lesson 1 from the Tamarisk Tree

“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God” (Genesis 21:33).

From Google Images

What an odd verse to be put into the scripture narrative! Abraham was doing some landscaping in the Negev Desert. How is that relevant to God’s story?

The answer: it is a profound lesson! Continue reading

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Devotional: Anticipating Pentecost

“’The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’” (Jeremiah 31: 31-33).

What day is the prophet talking about? Continue reading

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