There is an interesting anecdote about General Stonewall Jackson, who was a general during the Civil War and it is a story worth repeating. Once an officer stormed into Jackson’s barrack and demanded that the general would punish the soldiers in a certain tent. “What is the problem?” the general asked. “They are praying,” the outraged officer explained. “And before that they have been singing too.” The general raised his eyebrows. “What’s wrong with that?” “Everything,” said the man with a scowl. “It says in the book of conduct that no unusual noise in the camp may be permitted. There needs to be a punishment for this offense.” “My dear officer,” the General said, “God forbid that praying and singing praises to God will be seen as an unusual noise. If the time has come in which praying and worshiping God are unusual noises I will resign, for in that case I have no hope anyone will survive the war.” *** Praying is the communion of a respectful heart withContinue reading »

Not too long ago I heard a story about a person who had learned to swim. “When I was a small kid,” he said, “I already knew how to keep my head above the water, but only recently did I learn how to really swim. All those years I thought that swimming meant struggling with the water. I used up all my energy to stay alive and when I climbed back out I was usually exhausted. Swimming, as a result, was really not much fun. But then someone saw me fighting with the water and asked me what I was doing. I answered him that it was obvious. I was swimming. But he laughed and said I was just wasting my energy. ‘You should not fight the water, but rather trust the water to keep you afloat’, he said, ‘and then use your strength to actually get somewhere.’ It took me some time to realize he was right, but now I am actually enjoying swimming as it is no longerContinue reading »

It is clear from the opening lines of Psalm 2 that some people would be overjoyed to live in a world without faith. We read, “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.” “Faith,” such people claim, “is oppressive and one of the many root causes for all the suffering in this world.” Of course, technically speaking, no one is without faith. Everybody believes in something, but what is meant here is faith in ‘God’; more specifically, the God of the Bible, who the Bible itself calls love. * But what does a world look like that has cast away the cords of God? In such a world ‘self’ will be central. It can’t be any other way. If we can’t rely on God, we will have to rely on ourselves. Therefore, a world without faith is a world that is all about self-preservation.Continue reading »

Are you using Christianity for your own gain or to look good in another’s eyes? You may not think so, but be willing to examine yourself. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV) Here is an example – my automatic email signature says “Yours in Christ,” but when I email someone I am not sure is a Christian, I delete that part. I am not saying that this is necessarily bad; I am saying I need to examine my motives. If I remove it, why? And if I don’t, why not? If I remove it am I just being politically correct, or am I afraid of repercussions? In my correspondence to potential employers for freelance jobs, am I afraid I might not get hired? Yes, I am. If I don’t delete this part, and I am not offered the job for that reason, would I haveContinue reading »

Florence Nightingale, the famous British nurse, wrote on her 30th birthday in her diary the following words: “I have reached the age of 30. That was the age at which Jesus started his ministry. Therefore, starting today I do no longer wish to occupy myself with trivial matters. I only want to do Thy will, O God.” When they asked her at the end of her life what was the secret of her life that had given her the power to perform such wonderful deeds she answered simply, “I love God dearly and I gave Him everything. I have not withheld anything from God. *** A heart that is filled with warmth and a sincere love for God cannot truly be happy in this shallow world with its superficial values. What is important to the world seems to be diametrically opposed to what God thinks is important. The world believes in power, might, influence and possession, but God’s Spirit leads us to other values. God thinks much of humility, meeknessContinue reading »

There are vines that climb up at the trunk of a mighty oak and cling to the tree during the storms. These vines have little to fear because of the protection they receive from the tree. When the wind blows on the opposite side of the tree, the vine is safely sheltered from the fierce winds. When the storm blows from the other side and the vine is exposed, the vine is only pressed closer to the trunk and that way there is no danger either. This is a beautiful picture of our lives as Christians. When we hold on to God as the vine does to the oak we have little to fear from the storms of life, we are protected and sheltered by God. It has always been one of life’s greatest mysteries why God allows pain and suffering in our lives. After all, nobody likes to reside in the garden of affliction. Nevertheless, it also seems true that the rarest and most precious of flowers grow inContinue reading »

“He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.” Isaiah 53:3-6 (MSG) The Bible is one continuous historical and prophetic story; it is the story of Jesus Christ, the Lord. It begins in Genesis where God has created everything out of nothing, by His powerful spoken word He has made water, and dry ground, the sun, the moon and all the birds, fish and animals and He called it all good. “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in ourContinue reading »

“You have granted this great victory by the hand of your servant” -Judges 15:1:18 Even the mightiest of men, Samson, knew that his tremendous physical power was rooted in God. Samson, a man of huge proportions and stronger than many “ordinary” men, recognized that even he had limited power. In the wake of his victory at Ramath-Lehi, wherein he defeated 1000 Philistine soldiers with the jawbone of an ass, he realized that it was the power of God, through the onrush of the Holy Spirit, that carried him through the bloody mayhem to victory. Using the jawbone of a lowly wild ass, or onager, Samson laid low the powerful army of Philistia who had conquered the eastern Mediterranean and almost Egypt itself. This was the nation who introduced the powerful iron weaponry into the region and flourished on military organization. The Philistines, who dominated the region of Israel and Canaan, were no match for the jawbone wielded by the powerful arm of Samson, fueled by the Spirit of the Lord. SamsonContinue reading »

“He could work no miracle there, except from curing a few who were ill by laying hands on them” – Mark 6:5 It is stark comment, made by Mark who had witnessed so many signs of power and wonder from Jesus, that in Jesus’ hometown he could not perform any miracles. Matthew softens the stark nature of the comment, in his Gospel, by saying the Jesus would not perform any miracles. But, why not? What prevented Jesus from yet more glorious displays of the power of God? Many detractors of Christianity, in their woeful lack of understanding of faith, point to these passages as evidence of the limited power or, even worse, mercy, of Jesus. Such an unfortunate rendering! Miracles are glimpses of the Kingdom of God and the wondrous power which permeates Kingdom of Heaven. Miracles are the power of God breaking into our realm. However, as page after page of the Bible teaches us, this power will only come us if we have faith and are open toContinue reading »

“He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed.” Isaiah 53:3-6 (MSG) Although this is the prophecy in Isaiah that speaks of Jesus, it is somehow at odds with what we see and hear about Jesus during His ministry. It is plain to see in the gospels that everywhere He went people were drawn to Him. His magnetism was such that when He called his disciples they immediately dropped what they were doing and left with Him. In Luke chapter 5 Luke includesContinue reading »

No one has ever, or will, ever suffer more than Jesus. Isaiah called Him “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” Isaiah 53 is speaking of Jesus 700 years before His birth. The Bible tells us that God’s plan from “the foundation of the world” was Jesus Christ as our Savior; the whole Bible is the story of Jesus; the fall of man, the payment for that sin, and the glorious return of our triumphant King of kings and Lord of lords. “He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and thatContinue reading »