Psalm 16 Utmost confidence in my Safe Place!

Where do you find confidence?  When everything around is in turmoil, when life gets, overwhelmingly, loud and there is a constant demand for your attention where can you find some peace?

Do you have a safe place?   This is a question those who are on the spectrum need to have an answer to.  They need a safe place to regain confidence when melt down is imminent.  A safe place to go when the stims of life have turned an otherwise healthy environment toxic.  But they surely aren’t the only ones who need to know where their safe place is.  Even King David the writer of this Psalm spoke of his safe place.  The place where he turned and found renewed confidence and inner peace to carry on.

This Psalm of David has no specific point in history for us to look up.  No heroic battles won, or near death escapes for the King of Israel.  It is simply a declaration of what David knew to be true.  So, if you have your Bible or app along you might want to turn there and follow along.  Each version has its nuances so follow along in which ever version you prefer.  We’ll look at each verse this morning out of the NIV and the NLT and see if we too have discovered David’s safe place.

Psalm 16 (NLT)

David begins,(1)   Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.”   You and I know that God is a person not a place.  So clearly David isn’t suggesting otherwise here?  Yet repeatedly David has taken refuge in His God.  Psalm 7:1, “O LORD my God, I take refuge in you; save and deliver me from all who pursue me…” (NIV).   Psalm 11:1, “In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain” (Psalm 11:1 (NIV).  David’s confidence was clearly in the Lord, he rejected the idea that refuge was to be found elsewhere.

As I wrote that, I suddenly found myself thinking of the refugees out in Summerland that Sylvia and Renee mentioned a while ago.  If you remember, after escaping war-torn Syria, enduring horrendous living conditions, they sought refugee status in Canada.  And like winning the lottery they were granted visas and sponsored by caring Canadians.  Then they traveled to the other side of the earth, looking for a safe place to raise their family. Looking for a refuge.

And as they settled in Summerland it surely looked like safe refuge for them.  But then, as we have often seen as of late; when the vacancy rate of rental properties dips below 1%, and prices of those few remaining rentals increase with demand, these refugees had the house sold from under them.  At the point S&R asked us to pray for them, they had two months to move and it was causing great inner turmoil for them.

They thought they had found refuge in a house but it was sadly temporary.  Yet David clearly expressed much confidence in his Refuge, his safe place.  A confidence that seemed unmoved by circumstances.  David, “(2) …said to the LORD, “You are my Master! Every good thing I have comes from you.”   David’s Refuge was found in the same place that S&R asked us to pray for those refugees.  In fact, God was the source of everything good in David’s life.  Can we pray for better refuge than that for them?

In verse 3 David thanks God for that which God has blessed him with.  (3) The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”

The Godly ones!  Did you notice that?  Psalm 84:10 says, A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked” (NLT)

The day I began to write this message Rika went home to her Refuge.  She had lived a long and sometimes difficult life but in the end, there was no doubt how godly she had grown.  Like some versions of your bibles, the word godly and saint were interchangeable.  Rika was a delight to be around even though she was feisty at 97, there was no doubt that Jesus was her Refuge!

David delighted in the saints because of Who their refuge was.  He didn’t worship them, but he sure admired them.  Called them heroes!  They were the people he enjoyed being around the most.

I hear sad things at times out of the mouths of people who call themselves Christians.  Like when they say they prefer the company of the ungodly.  In fact, they’d rather be out with the ungodly than be with the godly at church.   I just shake my head.

How is that possible I wonder?  How is it that a professing Christian finds more in common with the people who find nothing in common with the one whom they profess to be their Refuge?  What does this really say?  Are they truly whom they claim to be?  Or have they never actually met those “godly people” …David’s “true heroes”?

Seriously if you would rather keep the company of the ungodly that says more about you than you think.  I know you will likely come back with “but Jesus hung around with “tax collectors and sinners”, “prostitutes” and shady characters”.  “And He was God in the flesh. If it was good enough for Him it is good enough for me”

But really?  Did he hang out and party, cursing and carrying on like them?  Enjoying what they enjoyed and doing what they did?  Worshipping what they worshipped?   And did those people carry on doing the ungodly things they had always done once they had been with Jesus for a time?    His record is spotless how about yours?

Delitzsch writes, “The expression of his abhorrence attains its climax: even their names… he shuns taking upon his lips” (1:224: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 5: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs.)

David said, Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods. I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood or even speak the names of their gods” (Psalm 16:4 (NLT).   Basically, he said, “I’m not with them, I’m with the godly ones.” He taken a stand.  Which doesn’t mean he thought he was perfect like you and me!   Clearly there is a line that you and I ought not cross even as we try to bring the ungodly folks that come into our lives to further a relationship with our Lord.  But it does mean he’s all in.

 “LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing. You guard all that is mine” Psalm 16:5 (NLT) David has things that are dear to him.  He’s not some ascetic monk living in the wilderness.  The truth is God has given that once shepherd boy a kingdom full of things that his heart desired.  Fancy clothes, horses and chariots and clubs and swords….  Gold and silver and precious stones, even land!   “The land you have given me is a pleasant land. What a wonderful inheritance!” (Psalm 16:6 (NLT).  He possesses much but it doesn’t possess him.  He doesn’t worry about leaving it to go and do what God is calling him to because he knows that God gave it to him and will keep what he needs for him.

How does he know this?  Well, David gives us a clue in verse 7.   “I will bless the LORD who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me” (Psalm 16:7 (NLT).  That’s a personal relationship with the almighty that David is getting at.  A relationship that he clearly cherishes.  His counselor is the creator of everything and he acknowledges his reliance on the God who guides.

I don’t know about you but I know I have times when my days are hectic and so full that time to think things through just doesn’t happen.  And Like David I have experienced those times when I finally go to sleep and sure enough in the middle of the night the answer suddenly comes.  I try to get up and write it down.  Or I’ll make a note beside my bed on the tablet.  Cause sure enough I’ll forget it by morning.

Now I can ask other Pastors, and talk with smart people, even Google answers when I need to know something but trusting God as your counsellor – is the safest place to go to and the safest to listen to.

David was that confident.  He was so confident in his safe place that he wrote, I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me”
Psalm 16:8 (NLT).   Put your confidence in man, and even the most loyal one will eventually fail you or not be there when you need him.  Trust in technology and you’ll find out quickly when the power fades how poor a safe place that is.  But when you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, now you’re in your safe zone.   Now your confidence has a resting place.

I think David surprised himself with his declaration in verse 7 because in verse 8 he writes, “No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice. My body rests in safety”
Psalm 16:9 (NLT).   With God, right beside you, what have you to fear?  Yet I find, as I wander at times, that the assurance the David proclaims doesn’t hit home.  And in those times, I don’t sleep so well.  I may toss and turn all night long…ever been there?  David is doing more than instructing us and giving God praise in these verses.  These things he writes are for instructing his own heart, telling it what the truth is.  Not accepting the counsel of the wicked, or giving into fear and superstition. He reminds himself where His refuge is found and he instructs his heart to go to his Safe place when even death threatens to rob him of his peace.

He thanks God that,God will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave” Psalm 16:10 (NLT).     David didn’t want death to be the end of it all.  And now he knows that the best is yet to come! But at the time he wrote this do you think he understood the resurrection?

I’m aware that the Apostle Peter used these very verses in Acts 2:23-25 as he spoke of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, our Safe Place confirmed according to Paul.  Peter looking back confirms what David spoke in faith, looking ahead.

He was told by the prophet Nathaniel; the account is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, that David’s legacy would live on through his children.  But was it more than a spiritual resurrection as they call that?

Nathaniel said to him, “(12) When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, (euphemism for dying or death.  David did know that like his fathers he would die.)  Nathaniel goes on to say, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, (this would be a physical, blood line descendant) and I will establish his kingdom.  (And we know that Solomon, David’s son did carry on as King of Israel).  Nathaniel goes on to say, (13) “He shall build a house for My name,  (Still speaking of Solomon.   Solomon’s Temple is a historical, traceable fact of history…you can read all about it.  It happened as the prophet predicted.) Nathaniel predicted, “He shall build a house for My name,  and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”. (David was told about a throne that will last longer than a man lives.  Forever. One of David’s descendants’, Jesus Christ, His Kingdom would last forever.   Jesus – the son of David, the Son of God whose body never saw decay nor did it stay in the ground!  Because on the tird day He rose from the dead in accordance to the scriptures.  Jesus would literally live forever! )   But wait for it…).     Nathaniel speaking for God goes on to say, (14)  “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, (15)  but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you”
2 Samuel 7:12-15 (NASB).   This king would suffer taking on the sins of the world, being corrected by man’s devices, beaten and hung on a cross to die, but unlike Saul who went to the grave, whose body did decay this son of David would continue to reign under God’s protection and refuge and history confirms this too.  But wait for it… Nathaniel then says, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever’2 Samuel 7:16 (NASB).  Jesus rose bodily from the dead, “did not see decay” ascended to the right hand of God, the place of absolute authority and reigns forever.

So when David said confidently, For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.  You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16:10-11 (NLT).  If this was written after Nathaniel’s prophecy, David already understood that he was of the lineage of the coming Messiah and spoke of the joy of being in God’s presence with his son forever.   Is that cool or what!  No wonder he had such confidence!

Romans 8:10-11 says, “(10)  And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (11)  The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you” (Romans 8:10-11 (NLT).

Make this your safe place and you can never be shaken!  Amen?

James 1:1-4 Refining faith God’s way.

Zach was telling me the other day that the first couple of weeks at the Gym are particularly busy this time of year but that quickly trails off as people begin to realize the perseverance it takes to retain never mind grow healthy muscle tone.

Those muscles don’t happen over night.  Sometimes people try to take shortcuts to make that happen but that can often lead to very negative results.

Shortcuts like anabolic steroids taken to make those muscles bulge and produce a temporarily increase in strength.  In the short run, steroids may produce the looks that one hopes for in lieu of the pain of persevering at the gym.  But in the end the folly of taking steroids produces infertility and impotence.Continue reading

Psalm 1:1-6 Finding good direction for your life.

Every trail leads somewhere but do all those paths end up in the same place? And if not, just what happens when you find you’ve ended up on the wrong path?  What do you use to reset your direction?    Some people just follow the crowd, others set their own direction by intuition, while still others seem to have some sort of spiritual director guiding their way.  What about you?  We all need some direction at times.  It doesn’t matter if everything is going good or if the path we are on is rocky and we’re carrying a load.  But just where can we find good direction that brings us to a successful conclusion?

Continue reading

Luke 19:1-10 It’s your move, what are you going to do? James Mugwe

Our Thanksgiving address was given by James.  Jimmy shared with us how the story of Zacchaeus spoke to him even as a child growing up.  Join us as he unpacks this passage in HIStory.



 

Dig deeper into HIStory:  Luke 19:1-10

 

  1. How has someone talking badly about you affected you and what others say about you?

 

  1. Who are the people least respected in your culture or community? Why is that?

 

Read today’s passage in more than one verse of the Bible.  (Luke 19:1-10)

 

  1. Where did this passage take place? What do we know Biblically about that place?  (Luke 19:1; Josh 2:1; Josh 6:26; 1 Ki 16:34)

 

  1. Who are the characters involved? (Luke 19:1, 2, 3)

 

  1. How is Zacchaeus portrayed by Luke, and the crowds? (Luke 19:2, 19:7)

 

  1. What issues did Zacchaeus have with the crowds? How did he over come them? (Luke 19:2-4; 7-8)

 

  1. How did Jesus respond to Zacchaeus? (Luke 19:5, 9-10)

 

  1. How did Zacchaeus respond to Jesus’ self invitation? (Luke 19:6, 8)

 

  1. What effect does your reputation have on your life? (Daniel 6:3-5; Ezekiel 20:9-10; Prov. 22:1; Acts 10:1-4; Acts 24:16; 1 Thes 4:1; 1 Tim 3:7; 2 Corinthians 10:17-18; Matthew 6:1-8)

 

  1. When sharing the gospel how much attention should be placed on a person’s reputation? (Luke 19:10; Luke 5:31-32; Luke 15:4-7, 32; Matthew 9:13; Rom. 5:6)

 

  1. What does the response of Zacchaeus to Jesus show us about the power to change lives? (Luke 19:9; Heb 7:25; 1 Peter 2:10)

 

Number 21:4-9 Listen your Father has heard you!

Psalm 121:1-8 (NIV) “ 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? 2  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3  He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; 4  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5  The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6  the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7  The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; 8  the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

Slide2Ever since I got those silly drones my passion for the great outdoors, and the beauty of God’s creation, has been rekindled in new ways.Continue reading

Mark 1:40-45 The Least of These?

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

That passage in Matthew has always caused me great concern.  I’ve wrestled with it for years now.  Especially every time I walk by a street person or drunk out begging or get accosted by the guy who stands at the corner of Channel Parkway and Eckhardt Avenue.  Lately though I’ve wondered are these the least of these that Jesus is speaking of?

So tell me.  Are people like the ones pictured here the ones that Christ was talking about in Matthew 25? Why or why not?  Are these the least of these?  What do you think?

(Zach wrote down the answers on the screen.   See the video above if interested in how we grappled with this question.)

Slide1
As I came to this morning’s passage I chewed on this story in Mark for more than a week before sitting down to write out my thoughts. And as I did my mind would keep coming back to that passage in Matthew 25, back to “in as much as you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me” (40).   Are these stories intertwined?  Do they complement or antagonize each other as it seems.

I looked at all my commentaries and many different versions of the Bible itself to see if I could better grasp why this story is included and what practical applications I can draw from it.  But every time I started to write I kept coming back to just a few questions.

  1. Are there people you find particularly uncomfortable to be around?

I don’t know about you but I find those who are physically disfigured be it through disease or accident at least somewhat uncomfortable to be around.    Now I’m not exactly sure why.  But I think it may stems from my morbid curiosity.

I find I want to really take a good look and examine what has happened that caused this disfigurement.  I want to look at  them from different angles and get right up close.  In fact I find some things fascinating that way.  But I also know, that more often than not, that starring would make the person really uncomfortable to be around me.  So for the main part I restrain my curiosity at least until I can get to know the person and hear their story.

Slide2I found that getting to know part particularly difficult when I was in Kenya though.  Since I did not know the native tongue it was often hard to even begin a relationship.  Never mind getting to know someone well enough to ask those awkward questions that would allow me to satisfy that curiosity.

And there were a few totally cool looking people that I would have been interested in finding out what happened.   I so wanted to hear their story.  Like my friend Pastor Wyjonji the bigger man pictured here.  His head and hands were truly amazing to see.  As I talked with him I found out that it was some sort of heart defect that caused some hormonal imbalance which in turn caused this wavy growth on his head and unusually big hands and body size.

When I first met him in 2011 I wasn’t sure I’d get to see him again as the heart issue seemed of major concern to him and those around him.  We prayed together and God saw fit to keep him around and a part of every visit to Fafarol since.   He is a truly amazing man, gentle and very loving!

The man next to him, pictured here, is a stock photo I got of what leprosy looks like according to some info I found.   I’ve never met him but again I’d love to hear his story.  I can’t begin to imagine what life has been like for him, can you?

Leprosy is a disease mentioned often in the bible.  In fact leprosy would from a biblical sense actually describes both of these men.  It was  used to describe many skin ailments from severe rashes to unusual deformities.  So it was not limited the same definition as Leprosy today is.

Today’s leprosy has much fewer strains and scientists now believe it all started in East Africa and spread throughout the centuries and across the continents following trade routes.

The characteristic loss of fingers and toes, facial deformity and even blindness is due to the nerve damage that the disease inflicts on its victims.  Since the nerves no longer send pain impulses to the brain, those with leprosy often don’t know that they burned or cut a finger or toe which eventually becomes infected and if left untreated falls off or requires amputation.  And though leprosy was fairly common in Biblical times this disease is still very active in our world today.  In fact in the last year or so 121 countries reported new instances of this terrible disease which is caused by a germ, or bacteria, called Mycobacterium leprae.

Even in Canada 2-10 new cases are found each year.  It is treated quite effectively today with multi-drug-therapy that takes from six months to a year to complete.  But once started this therapy quickly makes the person no longer contagious.  So Isolation is no longer necessary as it was practiced Biblically and especially practiced throughout the middle ages until about 1960.

Slide4This Island was once connected to Crete but according to historians it was dug around and eventually fortified in the 1500’s.  Being well fortified and separated from the peninsula  made this the perfect place to put people, to isolate them from the rest of the population.  And in the early 1900s to 1953 the island was used as a leper colony having housed many people with leprosy at times.

In Biblical times often the leper was simply put out of the camp, town or city and forced to live away from family and friends.  In fact it wasn’t unusual for these poor souls to lose all human physical contact if the disease was not cured.

Once the priest pronounced the person unclean, according to Leviticus 13:45-46, “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.” 

So not only was the deformity debilitating but depression must have been rampant for these social outcasts.

Which makes our Bible story today all the more miraculous and touching once you realize what this poor man had been going through.

So if you have a Bible with you open it to Mark 1:40-45 and let’s look at this passage together this morning.

 “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.  Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere” (Mark 1:40-45 (NIV).

 “If you are willing you can make me clean!” – As this man comes and kneels before the Lord the one thing that is not said by him is “I’m not sure if you can help me but give it a go”.

Slide6There was no doubt that Jesus had within him the power to heal this deadly, deforming, disease, called leprosy!

Where did this man get such faith?  How did he know that Jesus could heal?  Had he heard about all the people outside of Peter’s house that found that Jesus not only heals the sick but casts out demons?  We can only assume he did because his earnest plea was full of faith!  you can make me clean” (40).

And yet having been subjected to isolation for who knows how long, and having not had the simple pleasure of a hug in ages this dejected man did express some doubt.  Didn’t he?

It appears from what he said that he wasn’t so sure that Jesus would chose to help him.  That’s what this “if” is about.  Why is it that,  It is sometimes easier to believe in God’s power than in his mercy ?(Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary – Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 630) 

Have you found yourself there?   You believe that God can do what you need Him to do but you just aren’t sure He’ll do it for you?

Why is it that we can believe in His power but not His mercy and grace?

Slide7Somehow this man had faith that healing was in the realms of possibility.  And he certainly knew there was nothing he himself could do to get rid of leprosy.  But I believe he also knew that emotional sting along with the stench of this disease.  The sting of isolation had created doubt.  And that isolation caused him to doubt that anyone cared enough to help him at all.  But that doubt was short lived.

You got to love our Saviour’s response!  And His compassion even at a time when Jesus was trying to avoid the crowds… it speaks volumes about our wonderful saviour.

If you look back just a couple of verses (Mark 1:30-39) you’ll see that Jesus had tried to escape the growing crowds of people wanting miraculous healings.  He even snuck out under cloak of darkness to a secluded place so he could have a talk with His father uninterrupted (cf. Mark 1:36).   And when the disciples finally found him and told him everyone is looking for you he said “let’s go somewhere else!” (Mark 1:38)  But when this poor dejected man knelt before Him compassion welled up inside of Jesus.

And then He did the remarkable.  He did what no one else had done since the day the man was sent away from that town.  Jesus actually reached out …and touched the man!  That’s the miracle here.  He reached beyond his comfort zone, beyond the cultural taboos and touched a disease ridden man.

 

Now, scientists today are pretty sure that leprosy spreads through contact.  Particularly through sneezing and coughing because of direct bodily fluid contact like most infectious diseases.   And I’m sure when Moses, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit, set forth the laws concerning leprosy, God already knew it spread by contact.  So there was good reason for social isolation.  So when Jesus reached out and touched this man it was not the thing to do humanly speaking.   It was the beginning of a miracle!

The fact is most of us might even find being in this man’s presence uncomfortable, never mind actually reaching beyond that discomfort and touching him.  Even though today we know that the chances of actually getting leprosy from casual limited contact are slim indeed.   And yet the stigma is still there big time.

But can you imagine for a moment the eyes of the disciples?  Of Peter, James and John as they watched what Jesus just did?  It would have been priceless to see their expressions as Jesus hand actually made contact.  Since anyone who touches something unclean becomes unclean until evening at minimum according to the laws of Moses they would have been aghast!  The Law which guided their thoughts and at convenient times even their actions was in them from childhood.   They knew that no one was to touch a leprous man!

Yet that didn’t stop Jesus, he not only reached out, touched the man but answered that man’s question, “I am willing!  Be clean!” (41).

Slide8Alexander MacLaren writes,  “People tell us that to believe in sudden conversion is fanatical. This is not the place to argue that question.” (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture – St. Mark 1-8, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1906), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 48).

Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured!(42)  It was over in an instant!  A few words of instruction and the Master was on his way.  It has taken me much longer this morning to speak about this event then the event itself took!

But do you think, even for a moment, that this man, once the leprosy was gone, wanted to do what Jesus asked of him next?

We read in verses 43-44, “Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them” Mark 1:43-44 (NIV).

Funny isn’t it?  He told that man, don’t tell a soul!  And the man immediately told everyone he came in contact with.  Warren Wiersbe so eloquently puts it,

“Jesus told this man to keep quiet, and yet he told everybody. Jesus commands us to tell everybody—and we keep quiet! (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 114).

Jesus specially said to you and I, “… as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give…Go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you until the end of the age…(Mat. 10:8, 28:19)…

But know this!  “…whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”(Matthew 12:50). 

Those who go and tell the Good News, who make disciples…those are Jesus’s brother’s, and sisters…  You mean like some poor leprous man who was healed but couldn’t follow the Master’s immediate orders?

But wait, doesn’t that make him one of the least of these?  As well as one of Jesus brothers? Hmmm?

Slide9

Why do you suppose Jesus said, “don’t tell anyone” to this once leprous man?  Especially if He knew that the man wasn’t capable of keeping this secret between them?   Why was that included in this passage?

Well some say that Jesus was using reverse psychology on him.  You know, if you tell someone they can’t touch something they will likely prove you wrong quite quickly.

But other scholars seem to think it was because Jesus didn’t want that kind of publicity.  He wasn’t looking to become the best magic show in town.  Jesus had come to bring salvation from God, to restore wholeness to broken humanity not just heal disease, but something far more important.

But to this man who was isolated and hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually, the sudden release from the prison he was in was overwhelming good news!  There was no keeping that a secret!

That kind of good news is just too much to keep inside!   So that man “went out and began to talk freely, spreading the good news.

There were consequences to his actions though!  It’s right there in the text.  Verse 45.

As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere”  Mark 1:45 (NIV).   

“Surely you can see how Jesus took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows …” Isaiah 53:4 (NIV)?

Slide10Did you notice?  Did you notice Who was then the one on the outside looking in?  Did you notice Who was now in a sense the outcast, the one in forced isolation?

Mark says,  “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly…he had to stay outside in lonely places!”  Could that be why He asked the man to keep it to himself?  To do as Moses commanded, and give glory to God the old fashioned way?

And yet that’s our Saviour!  He was willing to trade places so that the very illness that separated us from God could be remove once for all.  And it cost Him His very life on the cross.  And that was only the beginning as we saw last week.  He has risen!

Jesus still answers our prayers of desperation with those words that brought healing and comfort to that leprous man.  “I am willing, Be Clean!” (41).

And that kind of takes us full circle to where we started today.  Back to Matthew 25.  Back to the least of these.  Who are the least of these?  Is it the poor, the imprisoned, the outcasts?  Well, actually the answer is right there in what Jesus said.

Slide11I don’t know how I missed it for so long.  It’s not talking about those who are goats, who Christ said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ …they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:46 (NIV).  They are the ones who mocked the Master and persecuted His brothers, and sisters and even His mother!    These goats are NOT “the least of these”.

The least of these are you and I and everyone who, having been set free by the master and having gone out and, talked freely, spreading the good news, even if it meant we went hungry, thirsty, or naked!  And trust me there are plenty in foreign lands who fit those descriptions.   Many who are forced into isolation or imprisoned or beaten and murdered because of Christ’s name on their lips.   Jesus says to them as well as you and I:

 “… ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’  “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

They are the ones that Christ said is our brothers and sisters to whom we had the privilege of feeding and clothing, visiting and even giving a cup of water in His name!  AMEN?


 

Read Mark 1:40-45 in several versions. Then read Matthew 25:31-46 and begin the lesson.
1.  Are there people you find uncomfortable to be around? Why is that? What makes you or them uncomfortable to be around?
2.  Who is Jesus referring to in the Matthew 25 passage as “the least of these”?
3.  What do we immediately find out about the man in Mark 1:40?
4.  What do you know about his infirmity?
5.  How would you define his disease Biblically? What does the Bible say about it?(see also Lev. 13:1-46; Num 12:10-15; Deut 24:8-9; 2 Samuel 3:29; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:3-4; 2 Kings 15:5; Luke 17:12-19)
6.  Do people today still suffer from that disease? (Ask mr. google for statistics, you may be surprised!)
7.  What did the man do when he met Jesus? (Mark 1:40) Why is it easier for us to believe in God’s power than in His mercy and Grace?
8.  How did Jesus respond to the man’s faith and doubt? (see also Mark 6:34; Luke 7:12-13; Heb 1:3; Heb 4:15; Ps. 33:9)
9.  There was more than one miracle mentioned in verses 41 and 42 what were they?
10.  Why did Jesus strongly warn the man in verse 43? (Mark 7:36; Matthew 9:30; Luke 8:56)
11.  What did Jesus tell the man to do? (Mark 1:44; see also Lev. 14:2-32)
12.  What did the man actually do? (Mark 1:45) What is so funny about that? (See comment in my notes)
13.  Who actually are “the least of these” according to Matthew 25:40?
14.   Is there a person that makes you uncomfortable that you need to help this week? Who should you see in them?

Week 3 – Genesis 4:1-16 Cain & Abel and WHO?

To see all of today’s study questions, click here.

In the beginning God created the heavens and earth and everything in them.  Birds and fish and animals and then it was time to create His masterpiece. 

 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. …God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day” Genesis 1:27-31 (NIV).

You and I were created from very good stock!  In God’s own image.  What on earth went wrong?   I know Gen. 3 right?

But if the scholars are right…for about the next 65 – 100 or so years of our forebears lives things were still pretty much paradise on earth.  The work was toilsome but food was plentiful, clothing was provided, and fellowship with God was strained but still awesome!

 

Having babies?  Well it was awesome too but maybe not as awesome during the delivery as it could have been.  God did say to the woman, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” Genesis 3:16 (NIV)

The punitive effect of sin had already begun by the time we get to chapter 4 of Genesis.     But this threat didn’t seem to stop Adam and Eve.  And they got right down to business.  The business of being fruitful and multiplying! (cf. Gen. 1:27)  Soon children were born to this happy couple.

On that front, what was the name of the person first born to Adam and Eve?

Watch out! It’s a trick question.  You need to really examine HIStory in Gen. 4:1-16 to figure this question out.

If you are anything like me you have read the Bible with what I would describe as blinders of finite time and what appears to be infinite space.  And because of the finite time aspect you may have come up with what seems a logical answer to that question.  But trust me you need to know this next story in our 52 week challenge through the Bible.

So let’s read through it again and see if we can actually find an answer to the name question.

(Gen. 4:1-16 (NIV))

Slide6Ok so do you have the answer to my first question?  What is the name of Adam and Eve’s first child? 

Slide7

Trust me I didn’t see what was in front of my eyes either.  But let’s go through this tragic story again a little slower and examine the evidence.

First things first: Who is it that we have in this story.  Who are the main characters?  Adam, Eve, Cain, and Able?  Is there not someone else present?  Physically present?

Here’s a hint:

Slide8

Look at verses Gen. 4:6, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 (NIV).  Who is talking to whom?  You can circle in or underline in your Bibles verses 6, 9, and 10. “The Lord said”.

Where was the LORD when He said these things?  Was He invisible? Or perhaps just an audible voice from out of heaven like when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan? (cf. Mat. 3:17).  Or is another explanation?

Slide9In verse Gen. 4:3 we see that, “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD”.   Where did he do that?  Was it done in person or simply symbolically?  If it was simply symbolically or perhaps a better word might be religiously, after all the word used there is “offering”.  Which by the way is the very first offering mentioned in the Bible.  But was this offering in HIS presence?  Or only symbolically in HIS presence?

If symbolically then how does Cain know that the LORD looked on Abel’s offering with favour but Cain’s without favour as it says in verse 4?   Slide10And not only that but why on earth would Cain lament as he did, “I will be hidden from your presence” in Genesis 4:13, if God’s presence wasn’t right there with him?

And if God truly wasn’t present then what really happened when as verse 16 tells us, “Cain went out from the LORD’s presence?

Slide11I think it is very safe to say that the main characters of Genesis 4:1-16 are: Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel and GOD or perhaps a Theophany of HIM as it appears from this passage.  But wait if these are the main characters of this story who are the others?  And just what was the name of Adam and Eve’s first born?

Now I know you can point to verse 1 and say its right there Pastor.  “Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Genesis 4:1 (NIV).   There is your first born!  His name is Cain.  To which I would have to say are you sure?  Yes it does say that the two did what husband and wives do and  the result of it was a male child named Cain.  There is no denying that from this passage but how do we know that Cain was the first born?

Well some say, since it is the first verse that seems to imply sexual intimacy between Adam and Eve we may be jumping to the conclusion that this male child was their first offspring.   This seems reasonable to conclude this until you reach verses  Gen. 4:13-16.

Slide12When “Cain said to the LORD”“whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4:13-14 (NIV)…  Just who was he worried about?   He had already killed his only known brother by then. And mom and dad are so naive they actually listened to a snake and ate forbidden fruit when the snake said it was ok.  So they likely hadn’t noticed that Abel was missing yet.  So just who was Cain worried about?

This is the first time we begin to see that there had to be other people around along with those main characters.  And this is confirmed when God said, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.” Genesis 4:15 (NIV)   Who are the “anyone” and “no one” that God was referring to?  Could one of them have been Adam and Eve’s first born?  And could she have been not mentioned because of the Patriarchal bent of Moses to whom this written account is attributed to? –  This would be only speculation on my part because Genesis is silent on this matter.

According to Dr. Adam Clark, let it be observed that the death of Abel took place in the one hundred and twenty-eighth or one hundred and twenty-ninth year of the world” (ACC:Gen4:15, see also Gen. 5:3-5).

And since Gen. 4:17 says that “Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch”
Genesis 4:17 (NIV). 

We can rest assured that there had to be more people around then the five we have already identified.  In fact you don’t build a city unless you have workers and a need for shelter do you? Slide13

Dodd speculates that “421,164” people were conceivably the offspring of Adam and Eve and their children by the time Abel was murdered.  But Adam Clark says a more reasonable conservative estimate is “1219” (Adam Clark Commentary:Gen. 4:15).

You see in HIStory some clues are left at times to help us understand that we don’t have the whole story.  We shouldn’t be dogmatic about things that are not clearly defined in HIStory.

Somethings are very clearly defined.  Sin, the effects of sin and the way of salvation for example.  I have no issue with being dogmatic about those things.  But as importantly we should always ask and concentrate on what the author was attempting to convey when this passage was written.

What is clear from verse one is that Cain was the first male child born to Adam and Eve.  What also is clear is that this was very important to Eve.  But can we assume that she was so thankful because of the promise we read about in Gen. 3:15?    

That would be a stretch.  However, it is reasonable to think that Eve wanted the promised “he child” that would “crush the head of the snake” (cf. Gen. 3:15).  Who wouldn’t?  Birthing was a pain!   So I think it is reasonable to assume that Eve hoped God would soon crush Satan so that everything could get back to normal. 

What we do see for sure is that Eve gave God thanksgiving for the man she had conceived in verse 1.  She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man” Genesis 4:1 (NIV).    But soon it would become evident that this was not to be the man she or Adam had hoped for.

I really feel for the ‘mothers of Cain’ today.  They went through the pain of child birth only to find out later that they brought the devil’s helper into the world.  It has to be a terrible burden to carry through life.  God have mercy on you if your son or daughter has done such evil.   But was Cain actually born evil?  Cain we’re told in 1Jn 3:12,  “…belonged to the evil one…Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous”  1 John 3:12 (NIV).   Does that mean he had no other choice but to be evil all his days?

We aren’t told about the growing years for Cain.  Was he the strong willed child?  Can’t say.  Nor are we told why he decided to make an offering to God on that fateful day. Flip Wilson theology would say “the devil made him do it”.   But Genesis has no record of God asking for or demanding sacrifices or offerings.  So we really can’t speak to his motive.  But we are told that he knew right from wrong.  God said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

Other than the fact that he knew right from wrong what else does the passage tell us about Cain?

Cain was a hard worker.  He was a farmer.  His crop came from the land.  So it makes logical sense that Cain would give a thank offering from that which he toiled to produce.   “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD” Genesis 4:3 (NIV).  There is nothing wrong with giving God an offering of grain or other crops according to Leviticus 2.  Especially a thank offering.  Cain brought some of his work product.  We’re not told what it was but apparently from Gen. 4:11 we find out that God had been blessing that crop.  And then were told that blessing came to an immediate and abrupt end as the events unfolded that day.

 

Artists often depict these two brothers as being about ten and twelve when all this was taking place.  I suspect they were much older than that.

We’re told that “Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil”. Genesis 4:2 (NIV).    We’re also told that Abel did things in faith whereas Cain was the pragmatic one.   Hebrews 11:4 says, By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead”.

And that offering is the centrality of this passage.  Abel brought the best portions, the fat portions.  He was out to please God.

Cain…he was shall we say more pragmatic.  He knew God wasn’t going to eat it so …you know…what would it matter if it was a bit bruised, slightly rotting not necessarily fit for human consumption?  It’s not like God needs it….right?

Cain got real jealous over God’s appreciation of Abel’s gift. And he really let it get to him instead of accepting God’s rebuke and heeding the loving correction. Cain let it fester in his heart until anger got the best of him.  And I can say without a doubt he had help with that festering.

I’m sure the devil reminded him again and again of the events that day, playing each moment over in his mind.  The devil loves to do that wouldn’t you agree?

Slide17So Cain took his little brother out for a walk in his field. And that jealousy exploded into rage and the rest is HIStory.  God knew the power of sin to corrupt human lives but He also knows that with freewill man could choose.   Cain was warned that sin was at his door.  He was told to master it, control that anger, or sin would win out.  He was without excuse. And so are you and I when we let sin master us.

Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse”.

Was it in Cain’s mind that with Abel out of the way God would have to accept His offerings?  We don’t know.  But anger turned into rage and that was consummated with Abel’s blood being poured out on the ground.

And then just like Adam, Cain tried in vain to cover-up his sin.

Yup the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Cain buried Abel in the ground and went about his business like nothing had happened.  Sin seems to embolden those whose conscience it has been hardened. But all it takes is one word from God…just one little question that is all it took to crack that hardened heart.

“The LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”(9)   As if God hadn’t witnessed all that just happened.  But God gave Cain opportunity to fess up.  Cain couldn’t undo what he did to Abel but he could have manned up for having done it and accepted the consequences of his sin.  Even fall on the mercy of God and ask for forgiveness of his sin.   But as Proverbs so aptly points out “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

“I don’t know,” Cain replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9 (NIV).   God showed great restraint in not sending a lightning bolt out of heaven after that first recorded sarcastic remark in HIStory.

Sin had won a battle but not the victory. God could have wiped Cain from the face of the earth.  But God is just.   He had not yet told anyone not to murder their brother.  That would come later in Gen. 9:6 and there He would demand blood for the blood that was shed.  So God cursed Cain and did you notice that the curse took away Cain’s ability to offer another sacrifice?

It’s there in verses 11-12.  “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.  When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Genesis 4:11-12 (NIV).  Cain was the first person ever fired!

He immediately felt the sting of sin.  And he immediately tried to get out of the way of God’s wrath.  “Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear” Genesis 4:13 (NIV).

He could have said, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner”.  Or even, “I’m real sorry for what I have done”.  But Cain was only worried about His own sorry self and what the other sons and daughters of Adam might do to him.  There was no repentance.

But there was still mercy to be found in God’s presence!

God himself chose to protect Cain!  “The LORD said to him, “… if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” Genesis 4:15 (NIV).

Peter would later write, “The Lord is …patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).  God had graciously protected the first murderer and prevented the sin of retaliation from permeating Adam’s family for the time being.    God already had a plan in motion for the salvation of even the sons and daughters of Cain!  Because HE knew the pervasiveness of sin and just how much grace it takes to bring redemption.

John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” 1 John 1:8-10 (NIV)



Read Genesis 4:1-17

  1. Who are the main characters of this story?
  2. Was Cain actually born evil?  (see 1Jn. 3:12)
  3. Does that mean he had no other choice but to be evil all his days? (Gen. 4:7)
  4. What else does the passage tell us about Cain?
  5. Was there something wrong with offering produce instead of animals as an offering to God? (Lev. 2)
  6. Where was the LORD when He said these things?  Was He invisible? (Gen. 4:4,6, 9)
  7. Who are the“anyone” and “no one” that God was referring to?  Could one of them have been Adam and Eve’s first born? Genesis 4:15 (NIV)  
  8. Why didn’t God take Cain’s life? 
  9. How many people were on the earth when this story took place?
  10. When“Cain said to the LORD” … “whoever finds me will kill me.” Genesis 4:13-14 (NIV)…  Just who was he worried about?  
  11. What stubbornness do we see in verses Gen. 4:13-14?
  12. What do we learn about the pervasiveness of sin from this story?
  13. Why is this story included so soon after Gen 3? How does it fulfill Gen. 2:17? 
  14. What do we learn about God’s grace from this story?
  15. How can you learn from this story and not go the way of Cain? (1 Jn. 1:8-10)

HIStory – The Bible in 52 Weeks Challenge

Acts 22:14-15: “’The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouthYou will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard”.

This was Paul’s assignment: Go share Hope!

How?  By being Christ’s witness telling people what he has seen and knows of Christ.

As I meditated on these verses the week I went on the retreat in November.  Thinking about the simplicity and enormity of what Paul was called to do.  And looking at the outcome of this marvelous commission.   I came to the conclusion that it was not a unique assignment at all.

In fact it was the same assignment the rest of Christ’s disciples received in Acts 1:8, “And you will be my witnesses…” It was in keeping with Christ’s Great Commission found in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, … teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

Make disciples who are making disciples who are making disciples!  This is the call from Acts 22:15.  This is “all that” ( found in Acts 22:10) that Paul was assigned to do.    All that the Apostles were assigned to do.  ‘All that’ the disciples in Acts were assigned to do.   And it is ‘all that’ you and I are assigned by God to do almost 2000  years later.  Like Paul, Jesus has chosen you to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words that are from His mouth.

Is that awesome or what?  You are chosen.  You are a part of the chain that began with God, in the beginning and continues beyond our days “to the very end of the age”.  But how can we continue that chain and not not be a broken link?

How can we make His disciples and make sure that they are not simply becoming our disciples?  How can we begin and carry on to fulfillment, “all that” God has assigned us to do?

For some Christians the question is: where do we even start?

It’s seems a simple assignment on the surface.

“Be His witnesses…” OK? But how do we do that?  Well we could do what Paul and the early church disciples did.  They accurately and honestly told people what they have seen and heard about what Jesus has done.  In essence we communicate about the past to help bring people hope for the future.  We talk about His story in our lives and those that came before us.

As I prayed and hashed this out with Jesus a thought came to me.  Do the people  even know Your Story?  You know the one that begins in Genesis and ends in Revelation?  Do people know that Jesus truly is the Alpha and the Omega the beginning of the Bible straight through to the end?

Slide10

And then another thought came to me.  In preparing for this last mission trip I took a course from the Biblical Training Institute that I put on SD cards and actually left with the Pastors and church people over in Kenya.  That course looked at 52 stories from Genesis to Revelation.  It is History but it is also your story and my story as we become part of HIStory!

Gen3-Slide1

When I came back from that retreat I was so excited!  I told the Leadership team here at church how I felt God was giving us an assignment.  Read the Word, tell someone the story, and soon you’ll know your place in HIS Story.

One story at a time.  Can you and I tell one Bible story a week?  Help one other person or perhaps many others to learn what God has said and done?  One Bible story at a time.  It’s our story but really it’s HIStory.

Here’s what I think God wants us to do for 2016.  One story a week told and simplified from his Word through our lips to ears that hear or at least may be listening.

Logistically it will begin with reading a Scripture Portion on Sunday morning.  Hearing about that story from whoever is bringing the message that day.  This can help solidify HIS story in our minds.

Then it’s your turn.  Throughout the week as opportunity arises, read the story again and then tell someone the story in your own words and in time you will know that you part of HIS story.

We can do this one on one, and also for those of us equipped to do so using social media and the web.

So you can have a coffee, tell this week’s story in your own words, with perhaps some of my words and perhaps some of the words that I heard but most importantly always begin with HIS Word.

What I believe God is calling us to do in 2016 will see 52 weeks of boosting our level of biblical understanding and helping our remembrance of HIStory while we continue to do ‘all that’ God has assigned for us to do.

Namely Acts 22:14-15.   This is true of every believer of Christ and every disciple who is called to go and make disciples who will go and make disciples that make Disciples of Christ.

“The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth and to be a witness for Him to everyone you will tell of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15).

One year…52 weeks… 52 stories from Genesis to Revelations of Christ.  His lips, through your mouths, to their ears.

Can you try?  Will you accept the assignment He has given you and help people to know and follow Christ?

 

 

2012 to L.I.F.E.

Pastor Blake’s Report on the L.I.F.E. of Grace in 2012

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

With each New Year comes a new word from the Lord.  2012’s word of L.I.F.E. will stick with us because it is, according to the Bible,  what Christ came to do, and what He would have us share with those He brings our way.   He poured out His L.I.F.E. both for us and to us so that we will Love Intentionally For Eternity those whom He directs our paths to.

And it certainly was a year of Loving Intentionally For Eternity!  From the moment it started it seemed like we were given so many opportunities to Love Intentionally For Eternity sake.  One thing after another appeared on the calendar docket.  From Swahili on Sunday evenings that saw us gather to pray; to Spirit filled bible studies throughout the week that were marked with a hearts’ cry for God to manifest Himself in our Love Intended For Eternity to the people He brought our way.

It seemed like there was a never ending flow of Fundraisers for Grace Mission to Kenya 2012, Jerusalem Children’s Ministry and for PureLoveNow both before the five week mission trip and after that stretched us all to Love Intentionally For Eternity.

Kenya 2012 started out as a pastor to pastor encouragement mission that grew to include medical camps at some of the churches we visited and a small building project too!  Each step we were forced to our knees to ask God in Jesus’ name for wisdom and direction on how best to love folks intentionally for eternity was at stake!  The costs were high yet our Lord did exceedingly abundantly above all we asked or even hoped for.  When the tally was in He had drawn to Himself more than 10,000 souls saved, and hundreds of lives touched by His L.I.F.E. with medicine and food and clothing and shelter!

Grace Church, you did amazingly in all this!  People from all over the globe (more than 500,000 of them this year alone, if the internet counters are right) have come to know that Grace in the Heart of Penticton is where disciples meet and love one another! Our African brothers and sisters continually praise God because of your L.I.F.E. poured out to them in the Name of Christ.

“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. …I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:7-11).

But it was never to the masses that we set out in Jesus’ name, it was always to one or two people whom Christ placed in our path.  Like Doreen, a young nurse who was depressed and felt hopeless, sure that God didn’t know she existed, never mind her address!  Every month since pouring out L.I.F.E. to her, I receive another prayer of thanksgiving from her praising God for Grace.

Yet the requests and the visible needs were overwhelming for me at times coming from so many directions at once.  At times I retreated to my prayer closet and ignored everyone hoping to hear from God just what to do.  To say I forgot just how big a God we serve would be an understatement!  My faith was tested and His L.I.F.E. caused me to hold on to Jesus, at times in tears, continuing to trust in His leading and following Him to places I’ve never been before.  Oh, how He loves you and me.

Along with Doreen, our pastor to pastor mission saw Pastors Isaac, Tim, Edwin, Soikin, Wanyonyi, and especially Dr. Bramwel praising God for Grace because you cared enough to share your L.I.F.E. with them and they in turn were inspired to go and do likewise.  And every time I hear from Jimmy, DJ, Dennis, Apollo, and George, and others of the PureLoveNow men and women it is with profound gratitude to God and to Grace because of the L.I.F.E. they have experienced.

But less we think that Grace has become an African Mission I would also point out that you’ve been just as busy in the heart of Penticton.  Pastor Peter credits Grace with having made a difference to the L.I.F.E. that he was able to show the street people whose lives desperately needed L.I.F.E.!  Both The Penticton Christian School, and our youth praise God for Pastor Scott & JoAnne because of their L.I.F.E. poured out so that Christ will make a difference to the next generation and truly for all eternity.  And let’s not forget the many men and woman who have found a little office at the front of the church a great place of refuge and a hot seat for God’s L.I.F.E. to be poured out through Pastor Gail.  And where would Gleaners be without the L.I.F.E. you have shown them?

But wait, if I am going to praise on what God has done through Grace, let me not forget Sadie (who will be missed on our leadership team) who mends L.I.F.E. week in and week out!  And how about Walter & Irene who selflessly meet and pour out L.I.F.E. to listening, sometimes lonely, ears in care homes throughout the city. We were given much L.I.F.E. by all our musicians including the D-Team and Y-Team and many special ones along the way. It was a huge blessing to see Oceans and Lights pour out their young L.I.F.E. at Gyro Park this past summer.   But don’t stop looking for L.I.F.E. with just these folks. Look at the list at the back of the reports and you’ll find that without exception L.I.F.E. is found in and flowing through all these people who show Christ’s L.I.F.E. to neighbors, friends, relatives, people around the world and yes, even you who are reading this! (Thanks Ann!)

 

“Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else”

(2 Corinthians 9:13)

The year was also a time when we said farewell to some L.I.F.E. givers here at Grace whose L.I.F.E. lesson we’ll miss.  Hilda Bendig, having made it 100 years, will be missed as will Ted Walter, Frank Evans, and Don Coull.  They have finished pouring out L.I.F.E. on this side of eternity.

May God Bless you with T.I.M.E. so that you may continue with L.I.F.E.

Pastor Blake