Category Archives: Dens Devotions

A Hockey Player Understands the God of the Old Testament

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You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, (Is 55:5)

The carrot is misplaced.

Isaiah continually says if you follow God you will essentially rule the world. 
You be able to dominate other nations and of course, if you don’t follow God other nations will dominate you.

My issue is I don’t give a rip about dominating other nations. I don’t even want to do that I just want to live in peace.
 The carrot for an ancient warrior tribe on the verge of extinction from many different fronts, would, I guess, be domination. But that means nothing to me as a peaceloving, free, and largely protected Canadian! — In fact, all this “world domination” talk is objectionable to my ears.

I have little doubt that colonialists probably had these verses emblazoned on their ships as they went around on world conquest in the name of Jesus. 
So how do I love this?

  • 
How does this become a source of encouragement to me?
  • How does this help me understand God better and have a full appreciation for him?
  • What would this sound like if I was to translate into Canadian language?



”If you follow God you will win the Stanley Cup, 
If you don’t you’ll be stuck in perpetual mediocrity like the Vancouver Canucks, or even worse your team will be relegated to the AHL. You’ll have no control over your players, the NHL will own you, picking up your best players whenever they want! Look, if you don’t obey God it’s everlasting “B “league for you.”



Ok, I understand now 👍

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What’s the Point? 


Then I pray to you, O Lord.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.  You are all I really want in life. (Psalm 142:5)

What is the goal for the follower of Jesus? Are we looking for happiness, wealth, a home in heaven, eternal riches, a good reputation, a mansion, a good life now, what?

 David tells us we follow Jesus because we long to be with God. It’s fundamentally a relationship that we are seeking with the creator of the universe. All we want is to know that we love and are loved by God. From this relationship springs true life, true love, true joy. Oneness with the creator makes life as it should be. We long for God, to be tucked in safely beside him forever. God is not the means to a selfish end he is the end himself.

Listen to Correction 

Let the godly strike me!
It will be a kindness!  If they correct me, it is soothing medicine.  Don’t let me refuse it.  (Psalm 141:5)

In the previous verse we learn that the natural tendency for all humans is to “drift towards evil” like a log drifting towards Niagara Falls. David tells us that as humans we find ourselves prefering the “delicacies of sin”. We devour the chocolate cake before us, refusing to consider that it is laced with poison. This is why David is rejoicing when other godly men and women have the courage to smack him in the mouth and say “don’t eat that cake!” Christianity was never meant to be private or solitary. We are a community of faith that supports each other in our efforts to live lives pleasing to God. Instead of being filled with resentment when concerned family members within the community call us to repentance we should celebrate. It is only pride that keeps us from listening to the corrections of another and that’s the worst poison of all!

The Subtle Sin of Selfish Ambition

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If you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. (James 3:14-17)

It sneaks in quietly through an unlocked back door. A tiny little thought, a tinge of resentment and a pinch of disgust.

He seems to be more successful than I. He is better than me at something, people are noticing him and not me.  I don’t like him for this fact.

I need to be number one. I need to be the one that people talk about. I need to be the one that people are the most impressed with. I need to restore my preeminence, but I need to do it in subtle ways or I might be unmasked and shamed.

What’s my plan? At first nearly imperceptible boasts about myself followed by subtle, soft & gentle lies about my competitor. I mask my demonic plans with humour and sarcasm. “Just kidding” is a favourite camouflage of mine.  Slowly I build myself up and tear him down. I am the champion again.

This is the devil’s wisdom that destroys our world. God’s wisdom pursues peace and rejoices in the successes of others with a pure heart.

God give me that pure heart.

Laziness is not an insignificant flaw

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He hasn’t disciplined them I Samuel 3:13
I suspect that Eli’s problem was laziness. All through this narrative we are told of his problem with obesity. In this spot in the story it says that he failed to discipline his children. He couldn’t be bothered to shape their character, that would require too much effort, anyway “boys will be boys” right? Eli’s bulk made him a slow moving vehicle, unable and perhaps unwilling to lead his children. He let them go their own way. “They will figure it out” he thought to himself, as he remained seated, stuck to his chair, munching on yet another lamb chop.
Laziness is the passive form of selfishness. Those who possess it in large quantities will not be a part of God’s kingdom no matter how religious they are, or how nice they are. To be a dad and to be lazy or disinterested about that responsibility is truly one of the great tragedies of humanity.
In 20 years of pastoral work, I see this problem to be among the most damaging for human flourishing. God help me to not shirk my responsibility to be a loving, involved dad, who is absolutely committed to the hard but wonderful work of shaping my children’s character.
Amen.

Life is hard. Is trusting yourself really the best option?

The Lord gives both death and life; he brings some down to the grave but raises others up. The Lord makes some poor and others rich; he brings some down and lifts others up. (I Samuel 2:6-7)

This is life. Complete with success and failure, triumph and defeat, good and bad, struggle and ease, life and death. For the Christian the overriding thought is that God is behind it all. God is to be praised when we succeed and God is to be trusted when we fail.

Dispense with the idea of God and what do you have? The very same problems and struggles only now you have no one to praise but yourself (and perhaps others who helped make you into what you are, if you are inclined to share credit). And you have no one to trust but yourself.

Which is the better plan? Neither eliminates suffering. However the benefit of the first plan over the second to me is obvious. The second has a greater likelihood of leading people down a path of pride, arrogance & self-righteousness. If my success is solely because of me and your failure is solely because of you. What’s to stop me from thinking I’m better than you? Nothing! So goes the world without God. We need God to help us deflect glory so we don’t swell. We need God to help us rise above absolute despair when the bottom falls out of our lives.

“Lord I need you, how I need you, every hour I need you,  you’re my one defence my righteousness, oh God how I need you”

Big League Sin

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If you see a fellow believer sinning in a way that does not lead to death, you should pray, and God will give that person life. But there is a sin that leads to death, and I am not saying you should pray for those who commit it. (I John 5:16)

We do not know what the “sin that leads to death” actually is. However, we do see it as so severe in John’s mind, that he wonders a loud if it’s even worth praying over. This individual evidently is so hell-bent on his own destruction that John sees that perhaps prayer energies would be better spent on someone else. How does one make that judgment? Without more explanation how is this passage helpful? Is this a descriptor of the modern-day terrorist? The modern-day pedophile? I hope not, because this sinning person is referred to as “a brother”. Is this then about someone who would claim to be Christian but yet is so decidedly evil? In this epistle John is particularly hard on 2 types of people

  1. Those who claim to be Christian yet have hearts full of hate
  2. Those who claim to be a Christian yet deny Christ’s real identity. (In those days the tendency was to accept Jesus’ divinity but not his humanity, now a days, the mistake is the other way around)

Are these people so far gone into their own destructive hate and delusions about the person of Jesus that they are beyond the point of return? Is this what John is talking about? I wonder if it’s even possible to know for sure.

What is the lesson for us? Is it that some sins are more severe than others? Yes, certainly that is one point, but I don’t think that’s the main point. The Christian must take all sin very seriously.

We know that God’s children do not make a practice of sinning (Vs 18)

The Christian person will run from and resist all sin at all costs. The Christian life will manifest itself in loving actions and attitudes toward other humans.

If we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? (4:20)

If it does not something is “deathly” wrong.

Pray, but also be ready to Punch?

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But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. (New 4:9)
“Let’s just pray about it.” was not quite enough for Nehemiah. They were going to pray about the danger, but also arm themselves and be ready to protect themselves should the enemy show up. Their prayers to God were backed up with immediate human action. They believed that God would protect them, but they also believed that they themselves would be the means through which God would do the protecting!
“God we need your protection, but I have my sword here straped to my side, so that you can answer my prayer through it’s blade.”
What enemies do Christian people have in the western world today, and what possibly could be the application for a text like this? Regarding enemies I would have to say it would mostly be hostile world views and wicked philosophies of life, as far a actual people as enemies, well, there are many tempter’s out there both computer generated and real and smooth talking charlatans abound.
So whats the application? It’s certainly good to pray about those dangers but it’s also just as important to take drastic action against them. What exactly that looks like I’m not even sure. My faith tradition is against violence of any kind. So punching out a smooth talking charlatan is probably not the right course of action, (though, I must confess sometimes the thought is appealing) but it would seem according to this story that in some cases we will need to push back aggressively against real enemies. Prayer is part of the pushback but so to is action.
Does this contradict Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies and pray for them? Maybe. But in some cases I wonder if the best way you can show love for someone is to resist them, to fight against them and their beliefs. Was it not the best thing for white people when Martin Luther King resisted them? The entrapments of racism and superiority had blinded white people for centuries. It was a soul eating cancer. Kings active resistance against it not only liberated black people but it also freed many whites from their blindness.
Christian people will always need to be praying but sometimes they will also need to stand up, raise their metaphorical sword and say “No more!”

Believe or Die!

So Josiah removed all detestable idols from the entire land of Israel and required everyone to worship the Lord their God (2 Chron 34:33)

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Once again we see that there’s no real choice in the matter, you have to worship the true God or else. Involuntary religion is the name of the game throughout the entire Old Testament. Often we see examples where worshipping the “wrong God” is a capital offence!

We see this all through Christian history as well. For example, In GJ Meyers book on WW1 I learned that Prussia was originally inhabited by Slavic people. German Christians moved in and with the help of the Teutonic Knights, they crushed the Slavic people militarily. They allowed the survivors to stay on the condition that they would convert to Christianity. Many did and it was from this combination of Slavic and German people that the German Empire of the 1800 and 1900s came to be.

Religious freedom is definitely a new development for the human race. Sometimes Christians can look at the inflexibility of Islam and frown. Certainly it’s lack of religious tolerance today, is a major problem, however Christians need to remember that it wasn’t so long ago that they too were we’re forcing people on point of death to accept Christianity.

My question is how does one appreciate the religious intolerance of the Old Testament? Or what can be learned devotionally from reading it? Certainly we don’t want to follow the Old Testament example here and regress into a form of Christianity that forces itself upon others with dire consequences for those that do not comply. So what then?

The New Testament was written when Christianity was a fugitive religion without any power. Is it because of this fact that it’s message for nonbelievers is completely different than the Old Testament? I hope not. In any case the mandate for Christians coming from the New Testament is crystal clear: we are to love our enemies not kill them or force them out. Ok, got it. So we know that the many examples of Christian brutality in human history are definitely outside the margins of what Jesus prescribed. But still the angst for me is in trying to figure out what kind of value there is in the Old Testament here? What’s the lesson? Christians believe that the Old Testament is God’s word too right?

Devotionally speaking it could be an opportunity to thank God that we are in the time of voluntary religion over against involuntary. Perhaps this passage could serve as a warning to us, that even though we enjoy religious freedom, there is only one true God and those who turn away will one day face severe consequences. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Phil 2:10) We don’t force people to bow nowadays, but it doesn’t change the fact that one day they will. These Old Testament passages serve as a sober reminder that true faith is not found in a smorgasbord of belief options. Salvation does not come from a pick and choose,”It’s all good” kind of universalism. We all get to make our choices nowadays with who or what we worship, but still as in the Old Times there is only one right choice. In graphic and often troubling fashion these Old Testament passages remind us of this all important truth.

The Problem of Power & Pride

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16 But when he had become powerful, he also became proud, which led to his downfall. (II Chronicles 26:16

In the Biblical record of Jewish kings we see leader after leader succumbing to self absorption and then ruining all things good. Power corrupts.  Power turns itself into pride which results in problems for everyone. This isn’t just a localized problem that ancient Jewish kings experienced. This is every humans problem. It’s the story of human history! As I have read The History of the Medival World by Susan Wise Bauer and now GJ Meyers book on World War 1, this truth is the one constant! What is the cycle of human life?  Gain power — Develop inflated view of self — Hurt others — Repeat.

What protections do I have against the corrupting nature of power?

1) Embrace  A worldview that demands humility  — I believe that I am the one who is broken. I am forever in need of a Saviour. I am the one who needs mercy, grace, and forgiveness.

2) Embrace a lifestyle that seeks service as the greatest form of leadership  – “I am amoung you as one who serves” says Jesus, this “be great by serving others” model of living is exactly what Jesus attempted to instill in his followers.

3) Embrace a worship that exalts what is truly glorious. For the Christian, God is the creator and redeemer, the one who truly helps us and the one who will ultimately restore all the broken things in our lives and in this world. This God alone is worthy of the greatest praise. To celebrate the goodness of God in all things is of tremendous assistance when wanting to avoid the all to natural tendency towards self inflation.