James 1:19-27 Sermon

It’s been a long time since I’ve been up here to give a full sermon, the last time would have been just after I returned home for the MV Logos Hope.  As many of you know I spent two years serving on the mission ship run by Operation Mobilization in Southeast Asia. Now this ship was made up of many different nationalities so we often ran into situations of miscommunication because of language and cultural differences. An instance that comes to mind is a meeting with my foreman, a big Brazilian guy by the name of Matheus. ‘Luke,’ he said, ‘today you are going to take some beams, steel beams for the new pump we are installing, and paint them.’ ‘What colour?’ I asked ‘No, you need to paint them.’ ‘I know. What colour do you want them painted?’ ‘No, no, I mean bend them.’ ‘Oh, bend them.’ Accents and second languages can cause a lot of problems, even if you are listening hard and paying attention. And even thought I’m a native English speaker and you can all understand English, I assume, doesn’t mean you don’t have to listen closely. You still need to listen intently. Just because we aren’t talking, doesn’t always mean we are actively listening. The same rules for conversation apply to the Bible and to our relationship with God.  There needs to be listening in addition to talking. You’ve probably heard a phrase that goes something like this ‘you have two ears and only one mouth, so you need to listen twice as much as you speak.’ And James makes some good points for listening well.  I have three points here; just the way Adam likes it, the first point is Calm down, verses 19 – 21, then concentrate 22 – 25 and finally care for 26 – 27.

Calm down: My mother has an anecdote that she likes to tell about me; she says ‘I always know when Luke is sick, because he stops talking and he stops eating.’  It’s true I have a habit of talking, sometimes without actually saying anything, you can ask my parents, my sisters or my wife, and they would agree that I would not be what James calls slow to speak. I believe many of us suffer a lack of one, if not both of these commands; quick to listen and slow to speak.  Men, how many times have we nodded in agreement while our wives said something, and then afterwards had to think really hard ‘what did she ask me to do again?’  James tells us that this should not be, he says to be quick to listen and slow to speak. This can be a fairly difficult thing to hear and put into practice in our society today.  Everywhere you look you will see people encouraging the populace to be loud, to let your voice be heard and not take things quietly.  You need to be vocal until you get your way, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. As far as I know, the only time that society demands silence is at movie theatres. Is James writing this because he doesn’t like people talking and prefers the peace and quiet? Let’s see some other verses that call for thoughtfulness over chattiness.  Eccl 5:2 Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. Have you ever said anything and immediately afterward you wish you hadn’t said that? Maybe somebody cut you off when you were driving, or your child walked across the clean floor with their dirty shoes again, or the waitress got your order wrong? Maybe it’s late in the evening and as you’re crawling into bed you remember the embarrassing, or brash thing you said earlier in the day in the heat of the moment. Feels pretty bad doesn’t it? If you feel ashamed to speak recklessly to another human, how much more than when a hasty promise, i.e. a promise that we have no intention to fulfill, is made to God, how much greater the shame? Not to mention it is a sin as while, as it is lying.  The Pharisees had a problem of making problems they couldn’t keep. Matthew 5:33-37 Again, you have heard that it was said to the ancients, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ But I tell you not to swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor should you swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ Anything more comes from the evil one. Many Pharisees were using this habit of swearing on various items, places or celestial bodies to determine the severity of the oath. The bigger the item, the more binding the oath, however that was often just an excuse to break an oath, ‘If I really meant to keep it I’d swear by the sun, or by the temple.’ Making a promise without the intent to keep it is lying, and Exodus 20:16 says you shall not lie, so don’t be quick to make a false promise to God.  Now the last phrase in verse 19 often gets left out, and I feel it ties it all together, ‘and slow to become angry.’ This wasn’t just tacked onto the end of a list of dos and don’ts ‘don’t talk too much, be a good listener and don’t get mad,’ but rather it is directly related and completes the message being presented. Listen first before speaking and you will reduce anger. Think about it, how often have tempers flared because of a miscommunication, it’s the plot line of many episode of TV sitcoms. If someone cuts you off or tries to talk over you, or when you were younger and your mother told you do something for the second or third time and you said ‘what, I wasn’t listening.’ If we aren’t opening our ears and focusing or others or if we are talking when we should be listening it is very easy to become angry, for both the speaker and the listener. Anger is an emotion that James warns us against, but what is so bad about being angry? I know a lot of people are comfortable with their anger, and will even use Biblical examples to , even biblical to become angry, as long as it is a ‘righteous’ anger.  The passage often quoted for this is in Matthew 21:12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  ‘See, Jesus got angry, so it’s fine if I get anger, especially at the injustice and bad things.’  If we can’t love to the same capacity Jesus loves, if we can’t show mercy to the same level he had mercy, if you devotion is not the same degree of devotion he had, if our sadness does not go as deep as his, why do we think we can show anger the same way His anger burned when we saw the desecration of the temple? This is what James says about our human anger, this is the NIV version of verse 20, ‘…the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.’ God is Holy, He is righteous, and He tells us to live lives that are Holy and righteous as well, He has set the standard in many texts, such as 1 Peter 1:16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’ Being angry does not help us get closer to the standard, but instead further away, being angry does not show God’s glory or grace through us.  James also includes filthiness and rampant wickedness as qualities we should avoid in our lives,  and encourages his readers to accept the word with meekness, that is referring to Jesus, as it can save you, and is in fact the only thing that can save us.

Concentrate: Even if you don’t have young children you are probably familiar with the game Simon Says. The leader, designated Simon, says an action and as long as he precedes it with Simon says you carry out the action.  If you don’t do what Simon says, or you do something Simon didn’t say, you’re out..  Now on a much larger scale that is the idea behind verse 22 to 25.  God speaks to us, in the Bible and we need to obey.  Be doers of the word, James says, and not hearers only. For if anyone is a hearer not a doer he is like someone who looks intently at his face in a mirror, then goes away and forgets what he looks like.  The comparison James gives here, likely because Simon Says had not been invented yet is of someone looking into a mirror and then forgetting what they look like.  This metaphor is used to emphasize the foolishness of being a hearer but not a doer.  I know it’s easy to forget somebody else’s face, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve last seen them, or you weren’t very well acquainted to begin with. However, James isn’t talking about forgetting other people’s faces; he is talking about our own face, right after you’ve seen it in a mirror.  If you forget your own face, after you have just looked in a mirror, that’s not a good sign.  But this isn’t a condemnation of those with bad memories or dirty mirrors, rather it is for those who after reading the word of God, or hearing it from the apostles and other disciples, neglect and turn back to their sinful ways.  The reason we look into a mirror is to see how we look, to compare how we currently look to how we know we should look, to see if there is something wrong with our face.  If there’s a piece of hair sticking up, or something in your teeth, or a bit of dirt or food on your face, you can only see that in a mirror.  Only by looking into that mirror can you see what is not in place or dirty and be able to clean it up.   Likewise only by looking intently at the word of God do we see where the stains and dirt are, the sin stuck in out teeth that we were blind to otherwise. Without the law, we would be unaware of sin as Paul says in Romans 7:7.  What then shall we say? Is the Law sin? By no means! Indeed, I would not have been mindful of sin if not for the Law. For I would not have been aware of coveting if the Law had not said, “Do not covet.” Without the law we cannot see our sin, just like without a mirror you cannot see your face.  Verse 22 says ‘But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’  If you looked in the mirror and saw that you had some spinach in your teeth, would the knowledge of the spinach alone make it go away? No, you need to pick it out, use floss or a toothpick or your fingernail just get it out.  If later in the day you go to meet a friend and they said, ‘hey, you got something in your teeth’ would you respond with ‘yes, but I’m aware of it, so it’s fine’? No, knowledge doesn’t removing the imperfections, actions do.   When Paul says that the Law made him aware of sin, he doesn’t follow it up by saying, and because I was aware of my sin it no longer was sin. Rather, as Paul says to the church in Colossae, in Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Put sin to death, get rid of it, let it be in your life no longer. You need to repent, believe in Jesus and trust in Him, and you need to be doers of the Word.  Now, back to the mirror metaphor, forgetting what you look like is just as silly as hearing a sermon about loving your neighbour, then going to work the next day and trash talking the weird co-worker. Or if you read a devotion on the importance of forgiveness, but continue to harbour that same grudge against your neighbour that you’ve been holding for years.  This is why James tells us to look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, look into it like a mirror because the Bible is the standard which we should live and which will point out the flaws and the dirt so we can clean up our lives.  Without having God’s perfect Word as our standard we don’t have that image to compare ourselves against.

Care for: The last couple of verses are a few examples of how the readers of this letter could be doers of the word.  James is concerned that these people have a fake faith, one that rests in just words, and is not being lived out. He says if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart this person’s religion is worthless.  Obviously, someone was not watching their tongue, as James warns later on in chapter 3:8-10 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[a] these things ought not to be so.’  Our tongues can be very dangerous, they can lie, curse, gossip, belittle, deceive, and many other sins are verbal.  Proverbs says in chapter 26:18-19 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbour and says, “I am only joking!”  Despite what some television shows would have you believe, no human being can read another’s thoughts.  Only Go alone can know our hearts, why is this relevant?  Well, since I can’t judge you by your thoughts to know who you really are, I have to go by the things I can see and hear.  There are only two ways to show somebody what you think, by speaking and by acting.  And since actions take more effort than words, actions are weighted much more heavily than words.  It’s easy for me to say, I’m the best hockey player in this town.  But all it would take for you to find the truth would be to put me on some skates and watch as I hopelessly flail about aimlessly.  This is why James charges his readers to watch their tongues, because it is so easy to ruin a reputation, especially the fledgling one the early church would have had, with careless words.  If the first Christians would have claimed to have a new life in Christ but no visible change in their lifestyle, that would have been a poor witness and a weak foundation for the modern church.  So he gives some examples of practical application of our faith.   What does the last verse say ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the father is this,  to do a little less sin then your neighbour?’ or ‘don’t be as bad as the people in jail?’ ‘or go to church every Sunday?’  No, it says ‘to visit orphans and widows and to keep oneself unstained from the world.’  We are required to take action, we are told to not just sin less than the next guy, but to refrain from it completely. To keep yourself unstained, other translations say unpolluted, uncorrupted, without defilement, you get the idea? Also, be doers of good, not just abstaining from evil.  God watches over the oppressed, notably the orphans and the widows and it is not only James who highlights these two groups, but so does the psalmist Psalms 146:9 The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The prophet Jeremiah as well,  Jeremiah 7:6-7 contains a portion of a message given to Jeremiah by God, it says  if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.   Likely there were orphans and widows who were being overlooked when James wrote this letter, since he is addressing this issue. The last verse in the chapter really is just reiterating and giving a practical example of verse 22  Be doers of the word, and not hearers only.


So I have three points of application, Listen, Look and love;



How do you feel when someone cuts you off? It’s very annoying right?  It makes you feel as if the person talking doesn’t actually are about what you are saying, but is instead more interested on making sure their opinions get heard.  Well what about when you don’t listen to God? How many times, even in this last week, have you cut off God and His voice? How often do we speak to God in prayer without quieting our hearts and listening for His reply? Verse 19 applies not just to human conversations, but also to our interactions with God. Think about the last time you prayed, was it mostly you doing the talking? We can be so quick to pray for something; health, finances, good weather, success, family, etc without listening to hear what God has planned for us.  Psalms 95:7-8 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.  When God speaks to us, through His Word, dreams or other people, we should not ignore it.  This is why there are so many people who get angry at God for not answering their prayers, or not answering them the way we wanted or expected.  And even though you can argue that Christians are still allowed to be angry in general, I cannot find any verse that supports being angry at God. Why do you get angry at people? Essentially it boils down to ‘they did something I think was wrong.’ They took my parking spot, they lied to me, they mistreat people, they are arrogant, etc, etc.  If we get angry at God it’s the same as saying, ‘God, you’re wrong.’ Which, by extension, is robbing God of His glory, you’re saying that God is not all knowing, that He did something wrong, and that you, a created human being, know better than the omniscient creator.  That’s a problem.  As James says in verse 20 the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  I think a lot of our actions, not just anger should be weighed against that statement. ‘Does what I am about to do or say produce the righteousness of God?’ How do we know the answer to that question? By listening to the Word of God.  Read your Bible, listen to what it says. You need to be carefully listening to God’s word and being quick to follow His instruction.


James says that if you hear the word, and don’t do what it says, it’s like you’ve forgotten your own face in a mirror.  It’s like you have seen the dirt on your face, but you decide you don’t need to clean it up.  You need to look at your face, we can’t have a mindset of ‘well, if I don’t look at the mirror I won’t know what’s wrong.  There’s a saying that goes ‘what you don’t know can’t hurt you,’ unfortunately that saying is very wrong when it comes to the Bible.  If you don’t know about your sin, does God still see it as sin? If you say, ‘I don’t want to go to church, they’ll tell me everything I like is bad,’ will that make all your sinful habits unsinful?  Food stuck in your teeth is there whether you know it or not, and sin is sin.  Like that game of Simon Says, if you don’t do what God’s Word requires you to do, you don’t remove the sin and stains, and you’re out. Repent of your sin, turn to Jesus, he and he alone can cover the sin and your life, bring forgiveness and carry you into eternal life with him. If there is anyone here today who has not accepted Jesus as their Saviour, this is for you to hear, Jesus sees your sin, even if you don’t know about it, the Bible says in Romans 3:23.  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but there is a way to remove the sin, if we look intently into the Bible and see that Jesus’ sacrifice takes away the punishment from us.  1 John 1:7 – 9 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If you already know Christ and are following the Word then you know that we are not perfect beings and still struggle with our sins daily, so look in the Bible, then look at your life and see what areas still need to be given over and cleaned up.


Love is such a central theme in the Bible, God’s love for Israel, for those who follow him, and for the whole world.  John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” So when James tells us to look after orphan s and widows, the oppressed and down trodden in society, this is an act of love. Loving those around us is a great and practical way to show that there is something different in us. Just as James says to his readers later on in 2:15-16 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  There are so many people in need; the homeless, the poor, refugees, immigrants, the elderly and so many more, these are the people we need to love.  Maybe even in your own family there is a relative in need of help.  Even if you don’t know exactly how to help, there are food banks, charities, government programs and even the church.  There is no excuse for not doing anything, especially as a Christian we are called to look after the oppressed.  We need to be a physical example of Christ’s love.


So when you go home and look into the mirror in your bathroom, think of what that mirror would look like instead if it reflected back the sin in your life.  Would you even be able to recognize who was underneath all the sin, or has it been wiped clean by faith in Jesus?  Remember that this is what your bible is, a mirror that will expose the sin in your life.  And if you’re afraid to open it because you don’t want to feel convicted, than that’s even more reason to read it.  Read the Bible, and do what it says, love on the oppressed of the world, be slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to become angry, be doers of the word, and not hearers only deceiving yourself.


We Are One

The following post is from my notes when I spoke at an event on board, so if somethings don’t make sense…I promise it sounded better when I said it. Maybe I can upload the audio file…once I have better internet.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,
To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance.
1 Peter 1:1-2

Peter, speaking to the early church, identifies them as strangers, exiles throughout the world, echoing the words Jesus spoke years ago when praying to the Father. He said “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world.” We know that Jesus is not from the world, he came down from heaven, but what a blessing this must be for the believers then who received Peter’s letter, for us who live in these troubled times to know that this is not our home, that we are exiles, strangers, foreigners. We are living in a land that is not ours, because like Jesus, our true home is in heaven. On earth we have divided the nations, by race, by language, by religion, by politics but in the bible the only division we see is the unbelievers from the believers at the final judgment. God says to the sheep on his right “Come” but to those on his left he says “depart from me, I never knew you.” Why have we allowed not only the world, but our churches to become divided? Where was it that we decided our preferences on how to worship, or when to baptize or what to eat and drink overwhelmed our desire to follow Jesus’ petition, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” This is what Jesus prayer before he died, that we may all be one. Whether rich or poor, living in the east, west, north or south. Whether we’ve been Christians our whole life, or found Jesus later on, we are to be one. And I want to say, as someone from a ‘Christian’ country, that each and every one of you is as much a brother or sister to me as my own family, as much as any person aboard this ship. From the closet believers in China, to the underground churches in North Korea, the Mega Churches in America. We are one.
One of the big questions we get asked on the ship is how do people from so many different countries live together. We have cultures that are totally opposite of each other. I don’t know if you have ever thought about this, but different cultures can react very differently to situations. For instance, people from the UK, Britain love queues, love forming an orderly line to wait for things. However, this ship spent most of the last two years in Asia, where people just kind of mob around in a crowd and push forward until they are at the front. But, an Asian person confronted with a problem, will usually avoid talking to the person they have the problem with. So if you had a roommate who snored, an Asian person is more likely to just buy earplugs and not say anything. A German or a Dutch person on the other hand might wake them up and say hey, stop that. Right to their face. On the ship, our biggest people groups or British, Germans and Asians, so how do we get them all to work and live and fellowship together? The first answer is Jesus, and the only answer is Jesus. Without his love and grace in our lives the ship ministry would not see any fruit, not just because we couldn’t get the ship to go, but because we would not be living examples of Christ. Peter also says, in chapter 4 verse 8 of his first letter “Above all, love each other deeply for love covers a multitude of sins.” People tell us all the time there is something ‘different’ about the ship. And that difference is that we love them. How do we show the world that we are different? We love each other. Peter says deeply love each other. If Christians can’t love each other, how can we love Buddhists, or Muslims, or Atheists, or Hindus or anyone? Peter ends chapter 4 on an encouraging note, saying ‘Dear friends,’ and I say to you as well, ‘Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trials you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.’ Many times we wonder, God I am following you now, why must I still suffer. Instead Peter says “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” When I first joined the ship two years ago, I didn’t feel like I belonged to it, I felt like a stranger, like I didn’t belong, or that no one really cared I was part of the ministry. But on my second Church tea, visiting a local church in Port Klang, Malaysia, the Pastor Introduced us and said to his congregation “let us now welcome the team from Logos Hope. And as we stood and walked to the front of the church I felt something I had not felt before, a sense of belonging, that I was part of this. That I was a member of the ship that brings Jesus to people, that I was part of what God was doing in the countries we visited. And it filled me with so much joy. And friends, if God fills me with joy when I see my part in a small part of his plan, how much joy will overflow when we see, at the end, our part in it. When we see how our sufferings healed others, how our hardships moved mountains, how our sickness brought health, how our slavery made people free, and how our testimonies brought people to Christ. There is no greater privilege in my eyes, than being able to suffer for God. In Peter’s words “If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed.” This is a promise from God. “If you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear the name…so then those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” Never let hardships stop you from doing the right thing. “These trails have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold – may prove genuine, and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Because that’s what our lives are about, bringing praise, glory and honour to Jesus, regardless of the hardships.
Near the end of this letter Peter writes ‘Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” Friends, do you worry? Are you afraid of what tomorrow may bring? For those living with families or in communities that do not know about or accept their faith this can be a daily issue. But I want you to seek comfort in knowing that Christ cares for you. Yes this ship does as well, and while we can fellowship with you, and pray for you, and encourage you, we are not all powerful, we are not all knowing, and we are not all loving. But we do take comfort in the Lord our God. And as brothers and sisters in Christ we encourage you to also look to our God, knowing that in the end, we will have been part of something bigger, than the desires of man, something better than the quarrels of this world, we will be part of the royal priesthood, the disciples that faithfully followed him. ‘Though you have not seen Him, you love him‘ something the world cannot comprehend. And you are filled with inexpressible joy for you are receiving the goal of your faith. Do you know what Peter says it is, the goal of our faith? The salvation of your souls. So not only do we see our part in God’s plan, not only do we give him praise, glory and honour, but we have received salvation, and get to spend eternity with him. Brothers and sister, if that does not bring joy to your heart, I do not know what will. On behalf of the Logos Hope, my Church, all the way back in Dryden, Ontario, Canada that serves the same God you serve, that loves the same saviour you love, I say Hallelujah, for we shall all meet again in heaven, because we are all in this together. Brothers and sisters in Christ; We. Are. One.

Living Like It is Saturday

Luke 12:16-20

How many of you as kids looked forward to the weekend? As a child, Saturday marked the start of the weekend, 2 days without teachers, desks or books. Classrooms on Friday afternoon were full of kids paying more attention to the clock than the teacher, waiting for that bell to release them for 48 hours. And what a day Saturday was; watching cartoons, hanging out with friends, building forts, exploring in the creek behind the house, it was all a big game to us. As we got older Saturday became a day to sleep in, get some homework done, or more likely, make excuses on why not to do it until Sunday night. As a teenager much of Saturday was spent in bed, in front of some sort of screen or procrastinating. I Now, in a grand sense, we are living in a Saturday of sorts, a day betweens days, and we will have to choose how we spend it. What do I mean? Well, maybe some of you are familiar with a sermon preached several years ago titled ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.’ The preacher compared the darkness and despair of the world on Good Friday as Christ was crucified, and then Christ’s glorious resurrection on Sunday. How the disciples ran away, deserted, forsake Him, how he was beaten, flogged and put on the cross. It’s Friday. But Sunday’s Coming. And Oh what a wonderful Sunday it was, the earth shaking, the angels at the tomb, and the tomb, empty, our saviour’s body not in the ground for death could not hold him! The pastor preached the sermon much better than that, but you get the idea.
But what about Saturday? It is barely mentioned in the scripture, almost in passing really, that they took the bodies off the cross before the Sabbath rolled around. What were people doing then? I bet many wondered if they we wrong, did we put all our hopes in him, only to be let down. “You are one of his disciples are you not?” “I am not” Peter denied three times. I’m sure the Pharisees thought they had won, the disciples felt lost, the crowds wondered how could this man be built up so high with all these expectations. “He saved others let him save himself” cried some of the crowd. Or like the soldier, resolute saying ‘Surely, this man was the Son of God” A king. A Saviour. Now a dead man. Confusion, pain, regret, loss, hope, fear, faith. Now being experiencing that on a grand scale. Christ has physically left our presence, but rather than being in the grave he is in glory, by the father’s side, as Stephan said, look I see heaven open and the son of man sitting at the right hand of God.’ And like the disciples of old, we wait for Christ’s return, he will be coming back, not from the dead but to raise the dead, to take us home. And while the disciples were told that it would be on the third day, we are told that it will be like a thief in the night. For it is not for us to know the times or the dates the father has set. So we wait. Some with the intentions that Christ may come tomorrow, this very hour even, others wondering if God will ever keep his promise. The angels told the disciples who were staring into the sky that ‘This same Jesus will come back in the same way you have seen him leave.” And Paul says that we will not all sleep but we will be changed, at the last trumpet. This is a reality then that we are living in a Saturday so to speak, between a Good Friday and the Sunday of the resurrection. And how should we live then? In fear and terror, thinking we’ve made a mistake in following this Jesus? Or desperately clinging to the hope we have? And do your actions reflect your attitude?
In other words; will you live this Saturday like a child or like a teenager (I cannot speak of adults, for I am not one yet). The child, waking up early, knowing that he must make the most of today, for soon it will be over, and he has so much that he wants to do. Or the adolescent, who turns over in his bed saying, I can get everything done tomorrow; there will always be another tomorrow, another Saturday. Ha! The fool, he does not know what tomorrow may bring. What is your life, you are but a mist that appears for a little while then vanishes. But the child doesn’t see why he would wait to do something, he does what he can do now! He knows that soon the weekend must end. “We must work during the day for night is coming when no one can work” “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Says Jesus in Revelation, “Blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” So I ask you how will you live on this Saturday this time before Jesus returns to us, victorious, and commanding the armies of heaven. I do not need to remind you that the unrighteous will perish while those who do the will of the Lord will be saved, so do not put off what Jesus is calling you to do, for you may be running out of time. It’s Saturday, but Sunday is coming.

The Price of a Soul

ONE MILLION DOLLARS!!!!! Or Euros, Pesos, Rands, Francs, Pounds, Yen, Kwatcha. It’s Money. It’s something we deal with everyday, literally we deal with it. We make deals and agreements on it, we bargain, barter and bet. To quote Abba “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay, Ain’t it sad And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me that’s too bad.” Money. A $10 bill from Canada is bigger than a 500 Kwatcha bill from Zambia. This is one of the strange things money can do, it can distort the value of things. My roommate is from Zimbabwe, and his country has bills in the trillions, but still, those bills are worth less than $10CND.
I’m not here to brag about the Canadian economy, I can do that on my own time, but rather the economy of a place where we’ll all be someday; heaven. What is worth any value in the kingdom of heaven? Revelation 21:21 says that “the streets will be paved with gold.” It’s so commonplace that they pave the streets with it. And precious stones are used to build the walls. Revelation 21:19 explains that jasper, sapphire, emerald, topaz, amethyst, and other value gems made up the foundations of the New Jerusalem. Pearls, the rare, exotic gem from inside oysters are as large as gates. The maker of all of heaven and earth resides there, what does He hold close to his heart, what does he place value in? If God had a floor safe, or a safety deposit box in a bank what would he put in it, or if he saw it in the store, he’d give all to buy it? The answer is simple. Souls.
1 Peter 1:18-19
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
For it was not with perishable things that you were redeemed. In the eternal kingdom there is no room for things that will not last through eternity. The soul lasts for ever. Gold and silver do not. So God did not buy our souls with gold and silver, even though he has access to every national reserve, all the veins that reach deep down into the crust of the earth and all the riches buried under the seas. I saw an article online about how astronomers have discovered a planet made of diamond. But it is not with earthly ‘riches’ that God bought us with. No, later on in the verse it says …but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. The Precious blood of Christ, I don’t think I can stress that word enough, precious. This is not golem from Lord of the Rings, obsessed with his precious. This Blood is precious because it is perfect, there is no corruption, there is no blemish or defect and most importantly there is no alternative, no duplicates. There are imitations, people trying to buy your soul for counterfeits. Our physical currency has security features, holograms or things that only show up under UV light. And likewise people will try to buy your soul with things that are not the blood of Christ. But whatever you do, do accept a fake. Christ was willing to pay the ultimate price, the death of His prefect life, his blood, that precious blood. Never sell our soul for anything less, no cults, no other religion, no hedonist way of life can offer you the amount that your soul is worth.
Your soul. Is there anything else that Christ gave his blood for? No. Just your soul. It was not for riches that Christ died, nor for power, position or religion. Jesus didn’t die so he could brag to everyone that he did the impossible, He didn’t do it for any sort of fame. He died to purchase your soul. When Satan tries to tell you you’re worthless, think of the value of your soul, your redeemed soul is not worthless for God would not fill up the heaven’s eternal mansions with worthless, decaying souls. The almighty, everlasting One seeks eternal residences for paradise; nothing empty and worthless could enter heaven. We are not empty and worthless, we are full of Christ, we have his seal of ownership on us, he holds the receipt saying he bought us, he owns us and he knows the real value of our souls. So be encouraged, know the price you were bought at and refuse to ever think of yourself as anything less than a precious child of God.

God’s Flock

Ezekiel 34:11-16

Ok, so one of the questions that gets asked a lot around here is ‘What did you do before you joined the ship?’ I can’t speak for everyone but I find it’s pretty interesting to hear about what people did before they came to the ship. Some were students; others had part-time jobs, at restaurant, cafes, and retail stores. Others were higher up the corporate ladder, supervisors, managers, and some had specific training, police officers or doctors. Before I joined the ship I had a part time job at Starbucks and I also worked on our family farm; our main livestock, sheep. Now when my grandfather started the farm 50-something years ago there were over 400 sheep, now we are down to only about 150. But I can say I completely understand why God compares us to sheep. Over and over again “we all like sheep have gone astray(Isaiah 53:6),” “My people have been lost sheep (Jer. 50:6)” “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”(Romans 8:36). Sheep are by far the dumbest, simplest, most helpless animal I have ever seen. If they fall down, they can’t help themselves up, if you walk towards them empty handed, they run away, but with a bucket of oats, they run toward you, they are limited in their understanding, they need to be shown the correct way or they run all over the place. To put it simply without the Shepherd the sheep would be lost, helpless and harassed by wolves. We have a sign on our barn door that says “Eat Canadian Lamb, 20,000 coyotes can’t be wrong.” Now I can’t say we really had a problem with coyotes, but wolves, wolves were another story. We saw wolves occasionally, if you were quick enough you could stop them before they got to the sheep, but many times, we never saw the wolves, many times we would just see the results. A carcass, blood, bones, not pretty, not the cuddly fluffy white sheep that it used to be. And how often as God’s flock do we see these wolves attacking us. I think very rarely so we see the wolves, but very often see the results. We don’t always see the grudge that’s been started by unforgiveness, but we’ll see when the person lashes out verbally or physically because of built up anger. We won’t see the husband who looks at pornography but we will see the marriage starting to fall apart, but only after it’s too late. If me or my father would’ve been watching attentively through the night, maybe we could’ve stopped the wolves, but we aren’t omniscient we can’t watch over everything at once, but God can, our Shepherd can. I want to look again at Ezekiel 34, specifically where it says “As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock, when he is with them, so I will look after my sheep. I will rescue them.” Does God do anything half-heartedly? God watches over us, His flock with 100% efficiency, if there was one time, even for just a second he stopped watching over us, he couldn’t be God, he is perfect in all ways, and he is perfect in his protection over us. I was not a perfect shepherd, I couldn’t watch over the sheep all the time, I couldn’t keep them safe all the time, I couldn’t love them all the time, because I’m not God. God watches over his flock because this world is full of wolves, as sheep by ourselves we are defenceless but when we turn to the Good shepherd who has laid down his life for us, we will be rescued from the wolves and the fires of hell.

Play the Man

2 Samuel 10:6-14

So I’ve been a Christian for a while now, and over the years I’ve heard a lot of sermons, devotions and talks, been to many camps and youth events and many messages that seem to be based on only a select few of the passages out of the thousands that compose the Bible. You know, there are parts that seem to get all the attention? Or maybe I just wasn’t focusing on the whole bible, just the parts that were easiest. I know that when I was younger I missed out on a lot of the Old Testament, because I’d start at Genesis and by the time I got though Leviticus I’d give up and skip to the New Testament. I missed 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Joshua, Judges, Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah (just to name a few of my favourite OT books). But God showed me this passage of scripture in an unorthodox way; a girl in my church gave me a CD which was based on parts of John Piper’s ‘Don’t Waste Your Life’ series set to techno music.

I kinda laughed and didn’t really think much of it; I honestly didn’t think that it would be anything other than just a random rag-tag mash-up of Piper’s sermons with some beats in the background. But as I listened to some of them I picked out some verses and references that I guess I never really noticed before. One came in a sermon (song?) called Awaken, and I would like to challenge you, the way that I was challenged by this verse. It’s the main focus of this devotion, even though 6-14 is the whole passage; the focus is on verse 12. I’ll write it in King James Version because I like the way it’s worded. “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.” So if you didn’t read the Bible passage for this devotion, I recommend you do, so you understand what I’m about to say.

Joab and Abisai we brothers, Joab the commander of David’s armies, and the King’s nephew, had been in many battles, led many battles and I think would be a pretty manly man. So when he’s facing the Ammonites and Aremeans and tells his brother to be strong, and play the man for their people and for God, I think we can take that and apply that to our lives. I believe the reason God included this is His book, is not just to tell us a cool story of victory for His people back in the day, but for His people of today, to make victories in their lives as well. When we are faced with difficulties we need to play the man, this means relying on God. Too often in our culture we are told that a real man is independent, leaning on no one and is weak if he has to ask for help or direction. This idea couldn’t be further from the truth.

Joab knew that it was God who would be giving him the victory in this battle. I don’t think any of our countries’ soldiers, weightlifters or thugs could compare to the kind of men that led armies several thousand years ago. Joab would have seen the power of God in many battles, where the fledgling Israelite community overtook powerful nations that had been established for generations. He would know that the outcome of the battle rests not on the biggest, strongest or toughest looking guys but on those who sought the Lord’s favour. I mean, look at Joab’s uncle, King David, little shepherd boy who took on a giant named Goliath. Would Goliath be the more ‘manly’ of the 2 fighters? By today’s standards, yes, but in God’s eyes, no. So Joab, knowing that this job is too big for man alone calls his brother, telling him to play the man for God. To be God’s man, fighting not to impress, not for revenge and not to gain a better name for themselves, but fighting because the want to obey God, and fight for the cities God has given them.

So when God gives us a challenge, it is really just an opportunity for us to play the man He has designed us to be, to call on Him first, and fight not for our own desires but to glorify Him. When we overcome Satan’s plots, temptations, and schemes we show the world the power of our God. We show them the power Jesus has by triumphing over the grave, defeating death and bestowing on us the Holy Spirit. He gives us the choice each day to either rely on Him, or rebel and try (and subsequently fail) to do it by ourselves. So I want to encourage you to be men and women of God, to take the stand against the enemy, to fight not for our own glory, and to not fight on our own, but to fight for God, with God.

How Seasickness brought me Closer to God

men, Real men. Especially as a ‘man of the seas’ men generally tend to think of themselves as invincible, not taken easily by the turbulence of life of the whims and trends of every thing that ails, blocks, or otherwise causes us to stumble. And even for the Christian, feelings of, we’ll call it, “supermanliness” can creep into our subconscious and begin to take root. It’s often not til the root takes stem, leave and bud that we notice it, and I will admit to coming face to face with the thistle of my own “supermanliness,” which ultimately becomes, less reliance on our jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and more on our own. For me, the transaction was not so much a “one day I’m leaning on God as my support, and the next day I’ve tried walking on my own.”  But more like a patient of some terminal disease that decided he didn’t need all the pills to keeps his heart beating, I slowly cut out a feel vital aspects of my Spiritual life, determined that i couldn’t possibly need God in every single breath I took, or step I made.

I don’t know if many, or any, of you have experienced seasickness, or motion sickness of any kind, but it’s not pretty. It’s not like a normal illness, one you sleep off, or vomit and feel better afterward. there are pills, but I’ll get to that later. The point I want to make is this; no matter how strong physically you are, no matter how many times you tell yourself you can make it through, seasickness has a way of bringing people to their knees like no other ailment I know of. (Well, of course the terminal ones, but that’s not the point I’m making) I’m not talking about physically doubling over, retching and taking a few timid steps towards the near thing that’s not shifting from side to side. I’m not talking about the waves of drowsiness that overcome you after you’ve popped a few of the seasick pills.  I’m talking about having to admit that you’re not strong enough to make it through the day. For me, that’s been one of my hugest pride issues, having to admit defeat, having to throw in the towel of ‘Me’ and saying ‘ok, fine, so i can’t do this.’ I’ve had to say it to several things in my life, some have been big issues, like a friendship that I’ve seen die and realized it wasn’t beneficial to my Spiritual growth. But it was seasickness that really crumpled me.

I’ve always thought of myself as a healthy person, not prone to many illnesses, but because i was stricken with seasickness I guess I’m not immune to all types of illnesses. As I crawled into my bed to relieve myself of the dizziness, I realized I had gone 24 hours without proper food (Let me restated, food that stayed in my stomach) But it had been even longer since I had had a solid Spiritual meal. If you tried to get through life by having a big meal every Sunday (if you managed to wake up for it and felt like it fit into your schedule) and then had snacks maybe every other morning you’d be hungry, pretty hungry and most likely weak. You wouldn’t be prepared for anything that required any sort of energy. Now, think of the Spiritual life, for ‘Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.’ This passage from Duet. 8:3 and repeated by Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:4) shows how vital our spiritual food is. Jesus later says that ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.’ (John 4:34)

the bible is full of references showing our dependence on God, and instead of me just giving you a list of verses to look up, it would delight me to no end to have you open up the bible on your shelf and find out for yourselves how much you need God, for eternity and for every day on earth.

You open up Your arms and give me a new start
I need You, I need You more than my next breath
I know that I am loved, cuz You bought me with Your blood
I need You, I need You more than my next breath yeah

My Next breath, by Hawk Nelson, i think it sums up my idea pretty neatly.

Until next time, your brother in Christ, serving on the Logos Hope, sailing for Singapore