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The Joy of Jesus

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My desk is piled high with books—and I ordered a few more. The quest? It's all in the name of research for an upcoming project. I even found, on one of my Bible apps, a week-long study on the subject I am researching. Last night that took me to Philippians 1:3-11. Here it is:

"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best a…

Because You Say So

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Last night Marilyn and I were watching the baseball game. A commercial appeared, one that included a snippet of a song that contained that oldie, but goodie, that says when someone says "jump," the correct response is to ask, "How high?" I turned to Marilyn and told her that in the past I have sometimes gotten myself into trouble when someone told me to "jump" (to do something just because he or she said so). My response has often not been, "How high?" but "Why?"

So this morning as I was reading Luke 5, I remembered our conversation of the night before. In the first eleven verses of the chapter, the story is told of Jesus borrowing a fisherman's boat so that He could more comfortably teach the crowd of people who had gathered to hear Him. At the end of His discourse the Scriptures tell us: "When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch'" (5:4).

Tha…

The Least is the Most

I can’t say that John the Baptist was exactly the most welcoming of preachers. He was your “fire-and-brimstone” kind of guy.

Imagine him standing by the shores of the Jordan, fiery, penetrating glance scanning the crowd that gathered. Many were curious. Who wouldn’t be? This crazy-looking self-proclaimed prophet appears from the desert regions dressed in camel hair. Weird enough, but then they find out about his diet…well, that would have sent a few people running!

Apparently there were enough among the people who came to hear him that responded to his message to attract the notice of the authorities, both political and religious. The message? “…a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” writes Luke in his Gospel (3:3). There were tax collectors and pious Jews, soldiers and the common folk, who came to hear what he had to say—and John had plenty to share! When asked, he informed each segment of his immediate society exactly what was required of them (Luke 3:10-14).

But he was…

At Ease In The Land Of Giants

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Over the last several months I’ve been a participant in a missions coaching course. Now, as we get to the nitty-gritty and think about what the possibilities and opportunities might be for our church to be more effective in reaching those who have yet to hear the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the task looks daunting—at least as far as the big picture, the need around the world, is concerned. The specific interest rising to the surface in our discussion seems to be to reach those people who are the most difficult (even dangerous) of all to reach, and those who live in countries to which we have limited, or no, access.

Throwing in the towel and concentrating on something easier seems to be an option here. Who are we to think we can make much of a difference under such challenging circumstances? Then Numbers 13 came up on the schedule for this morning’s Scripture reading.

Ever have that moment when the Lord taps you on the shoulder to remind you of something important? Here it …

On Complaints and Concerns

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Now the people complained…” (Numbers 11:1).

There is always something we can find to complain about, isn’t there? The classic complaint is usually about too much winter. Then, when summer comes, it’s too hot! For the Hebrews the issue was hardship. Perhaps packing and unpacking their tents was getting on their nerves. For that, (and it was something I hadn’t paid any attention to before) “…fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Not having learned the lesson, the next complaint was about the food (11:4). Now that has a familiar ring! They were getting bored with the manna that the Lord provided for them. They wanted something to chew, not something that dissolved to mush in their mouths.

Even Moses seems to have gotten caught up in the vicious circle of “why, me?” Why hardship? Why can’t life be easier? Why can’t I eat what I really want instead of what I have? For Moses the complaint became: “Why do I have to get stuck with these complaine…

Cloud Watching

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I’ve always jokingly said that I was in such a hurry to get started with life that I was born a month prematurely and have been running ever since!

Like just about everything, being fast isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But then again, it can get a person into trouble. In fact, going too slowly can do the same thing.

Perhaps that is why this passage from Numbers 9 caught my attention. At the end of the chapter the writer is describing the cloud that covered the Tent of Meeting, or the tabernacle, that was the centerpiece of the Hebrew camp. During the day it was a cloud, at night it was a pillar of fire—the same cloud and fire that had been with the Israelites since they had left Egypt. Moses writes: “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; whenever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped” (9:17, 18).

The passage goes on to say that sometimes the cloud settled for only a few h…

Lessons from the Litter Box

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Everyone wants to be great—even if it is just a little bit!

That’s what makes it so hard to be the one who always ends up cleaning the litter box. It just doesn’t jive with greatness.

I don’t think there were litter boxes in Jesus’ day, but if there had been He’d be the one cleaning them out.

Talk of the kingdom had put delusions of grandeur in the heads of some of Jesus’ disciples—and their relatives. On one occasion, the mother of James and John came to Jesus to ask Him to put her sons in positions of greatness when He established His kingdom (Matthew 20:21).

Jesus’ reply would not have been understood until later. He said “You don’t know what you are asking…Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (20:22).

They were thinking Bordeaux, and He was meaning suffering, when they replied, “We can” (20:22).

This conversation, fueled by the furor of the others when they realized that someone else had thought to make the request before they did, led to a teaching opportunity.

Jesus replied: “