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Encouragement From The Word

Gentle influence

One of the delights of being on a pilgrimage that includes some people you don’t know is that you have the opportunity to get to know them while travelling. So one day, when someone I didn’t know was sitting across the aisle on the bus from me, I said, “Tell me a story.”

Among the things this young woman told me was how she got involved in the congregation in which she participates. Much to my delight, it was through the gentle influence of a mutual friend.

This friend would care for her children, and would invite the kids to sing Bible songs and learn Bible stories while in her care. And as time went on, and it seemed appropriate, she would make soft invitations – to church events, to fill Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, to come to Christmas services, then Easter services, and then, well, she got involved whole-hog!

A whole family came to know Jesus because of the kind words and simple invitations of a Christian who cared.

Think of the gentle influence you may have…and think of the people over whom you might have it!

…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3.15b-16a, NLT).

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Uncategorized

Come and see for yourself!

My apologies…being out of the country, I failed to post this beyond my Mailchimp campaign!

Hello, from Israel!  My wife and I are helping to lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  We arrived yesterday, and (no thanks to Air Canada) were late arriving, so not only did we hit the ground running, we hit the ground running past our first stop, since it would be closed by the time we arrived. Still, we managed to get to Mount Carmel before dusk last evening.

It’s a great place to start, actually, because from the roof of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery atop the big hill, you can see so much history:  to the west, the Mediterranean, where Elijah and his young assistant watched for the coming, promised rains; and to the east, the Jezreel Valley, where so much biblical history took place; and beyond that, you can squint and see into Galilee, where we are as I write this.

If you have not made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I recommend that you do so if you are able.  It really makes the Bible come alive in three dimensions when you can picture places that you are reading about.

We are spending a few days in Galilee, and as I write this (what for you is Thursday afternoon, but for me is Friday morning!), we are going to visit Nazareth today.  When I think of Nazareth, and visiting the Holy Land, I am reminded of Nathanael’s response to Philip’s invitation to meet Jesus. “Nazareth!…Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  ‘Come and see for yourself,’ Philip replied” (John 1.46, NLT). 

Indeed, do come and see for yourself.  It will change you forever.

Encouragement From The Word, Uncategorized

Picture This

“Picture this.”  Can you imagine yourself in a Bible story?

There’s an ancient spiritual practice called “Gospel Contemplation”, in which we pray, asking the Lord to sanctify our imagination, and read a story from one of the Gospels several times, each time paying more attention to the details in the story.  We use all five of our senses to place ourselves in the story.  It can be a way that the Lord speaks to us through his Word.

For example, consider the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10.46-52 (NLT):

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!”50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

Read this several times over, paying more attention to the details each time.  Toward the end, ask the Lord, “Who am I in this story?”  And ask, “What do you want me to learn from my role in this story?”

It’s possible that the Lord Jesus might be asking you, “What do you want me to do for you?”  Sit with that question in the presence of the Lord.  Seek the boldness to ask it.

There’s nothing formulaic about this; we can’t command God’s presence.  But we can seek to broaden our experience of his Spirit in our lives as we read his Word.  Why not try using your holy, sanctified, God-given imagination as you do?

Encouragement From The Word

The Sound of Silence

“The sound of silence.”

Some of us may think of the old Simon and Garfunkel song when we hear those words. That song may not give the most solid advertisement for the value of silence!

The reality, today, is that most of us do not know the sound of silence, because we hear so little of it.

For some, it’s simply a mindless habit: when we get up, we turn on the radio or the TV or a streaming device, and sound motivates the start (and maybe middle and end) of our day.

For others, it’s an intentional act to avoid silence because they fear what they will encounter in the silence.

Understand this:  silence is where God may want to reach you.  Silence may be where you have the best opportunity to hear from God.

Elijah learned this.  He had conquered the prophets of Baal, with God’s help, and was now running from Queen Jezebel.  He stopped to rest, basically parking under a broom tree saying that he’d had enough of life. God sent an angel to feed him and give him strength for the journey ahead (that he didn’t want to take).  God said he would speak to Elijah, so Elijah went into a cave at Mount Sinai, as if to hide.

God asked him what he was doing there.  Elijah offered an excuse.  God sent him to the edge of a mountain, and along came a windstorm, and then an earthquake, and then a fire.  But God was not in those phenomena.  We read in 1 Kings 19.12b-13 (NLT), “And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”

God spoke in the gentle whisper.  It was not the booming sounds of windstorm, earthquake or fire in which the voice of God was to be heard, but in the quiet.

When you spend time with God, do you set aside time in silence?  Who knows how the Lord might speak if you set aside all the noise of life even for a few minutes.

Biblical Messages

So you think you can see?

Jesus said that the Pharisees were guilty because though they had sight, they refused to see.  So often, people lack self-awareness, like the Pharisees did.  The man born blind, on the other hand, saw Jesus for who he truly was.  Based on John 9.35-41, you can watch or listen to this message below.  I apologize for my pre-pubescent, raspy voice.