Monday, September 27, 2010

Enduring the discipline of God

What images come to your mind when you hear the word “discipline”? Perhaps being talked down to, or scolding a strong-willed child, or even the berating of a drill sergeant-type figure. Recently I discovered this image of discipline that has stuck in my mind:

Discipline bridge2

Clearly, the notion of discipline as both saving and corrective in nature or even as training squares well with the character and ways of God – to say the least! So perhaps we can look at discipline as the bridge between where we are and where God plans for us to be (cf. Jer. 29:11).

The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers not to make light of the Lord’s discipline as it indicates God’s love for them. Moreover, believers need to submit to such correction and training because “God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10 NLT). So the big question appears to be how much are we willing to endure to cross that bridge of training?

In Heb. 12:3–11, the analogy of a father’s method of training his son is used to help us understand and have confidence in God’s program of moral and religious education for His people. Author and speaker Jim Elliff captures the learning value of these times in his hymn “The Discipline of God is Strong”:

The discipline of God is strong
To make the sinning Christian bend,
Until affection, thoughts, and ways
Are each conformed to God's own end.
The selfish child must not forget
The Father's love is sometimes found
In troubles and hard circumstance,
And in the rough uneven ground.

Do not lose heart when you're reproved,
No matter how extreme the flame.
He turns the ground and burns the roots
Of suffocating weeds of shame.
We must not faint, nor are we free
To treat His love without concern,
When God takes love's severest course,
For lessons to be soundly learned.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Great truths that have been learned

1) No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats.. 
2) When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.
3) If your sister hits you, don't hit her back. They always catch the second person.. 
4) Never ask your 3-year old brother to hold a tomato.
5) You can't trust dogs to watch your food..
6) Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair..
7) Never hold a Dust-Buster and a cat at the same time. 
8) You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. 
9) Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts.
10) The best place to be when you're sad is Grandma's lap.

1) Raising teenagers is like nailing jelly to a tree.
2) Wrinkles don't hurt.
3) Families are like fudge...mostly sweet, with a few nuts 
4) Today's mighty oak is just yesterday's nut that held its ground... 
5) Laughing is good exercise. It's like jogging on the inside.
6) Middle age is when you choose your cereal for the fibre, not the toy.. 

1) Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.... 
2) Forget the health food. I need all the preservatives I can get. 
3) When you fall down, you wonder what else you can do while you're down there.
4) You're getting old when you get the same sensation from a rocking chair that you once got from a roller coaster. 
5) It's frustrating when you know all the answers but nobody bothers to ask you the questions... 
6) Time may be a great healer, but it's a lousy beautician
7) Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Learning to be mature 3

Francois Fenelon (d. 1715), a French Roman Catholic theologian, poet and writer, says "When we suffer aridity and desolation with equanimity, we testify our love to God; but when He visits us with the sweetness of his presence, He testifies his love to us."

To persist in trusting God when no reward seems imminent is a test of mature faith. In those times, the believer can struggle with envy, futility, and weariness (c.f. Psalm 73). Moreover, one wonders if the Lord has rejected us, vanished, or forgotten to be merciful (Psalm 77:7-9).

The mature understand, albeit with difficulty, that the immediate payoff to trust in the world’s resources cannot substitute for the resources that God can give (cf. James 1:16-17). Oh, what a challenge these times can be!

“Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.”
(Proverbs 23:17-18)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Learning biblical generosity

“But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Cor 8:7).

One of the major ministries of Paul’s third missionary journey was the taking up of a special relief offering for the poor Christians in Judea. Besides the material assistance such an offering would provide, Paul also so this as an opportunity to strengthen the unity of the church by teaching the kind of equality all believers share.

In urging the Corinthians to follow through in their pledge, Paul points out that generosity can be extended to them as well: “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality…” (2 Cor 8:14). But what plenty did the believers in Judea have to share? I believe that answer is found the letter to the Romans, written shortly after 2 Corinthians. In it, Paul refers to the Gentiles sharing in the Jew’s spiritual blessings which obliges them to share their material blessings in return (Rom. 15:27).

It seems that God has arranged things in his church such that some have more material blessings to give and others have more spiritual blessings to give. This mutuality in sharing seems to be the equality Paul has in mind.

One example of such equality can be seen in Saskatoon, SK. The Bridge on 20th Street is a street mission which partners with various churches in Saskatoon. Together, they serve the hungry people bowls of soup, provide clothing through a give-away corner, and minister weekly Bible studies and Sunday services. The pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church says this about his church’s involvement: “Emmanuel’s relationship with The Bridge on 20th Street has been one of our most exciting partnerships.  It has allowed our congregation to express obedience to our Lord’s command “to bring good news to the poor.” We love the holistic vision of The Bridge to address the physical, emotional and spiritual hunger of people in the community.  Our involvement has blessed us in return, helping us realize our common spiritual poverty and the joy of learning to share.”

Whether we are need of material blessings or have some to give, it seems generosity is a grace that both the rich and poor can experience. Now that’s what excelling in the grace of giving can look like!


Monday, September 6, 2010

You are what you eat

What come to your mind when you hear the phrase “You are what you eat”? Perhaps an image like this: Laughing out loud


I guess that expression is primarily rooted in concerns about health. But eating also has some roots in concerns about spirituality according to the Bible.

For example, during the exile, the Jews found it practically impossible to avoid eating ritually unclean food. In that situation, the Jews were subject to a pagan authority that dismissed their concerns over preparing food according to their own laws. Imagine the physical, psychological, and spiritual experience of eating ritually unclean food and then sitting with it inside you digesting! So the idea of “you are what you eat” in these contexts underscored notions of purity, intimacy, and devotion to God.

But another perspective worth knowing involves a social custom from ancient Jewish culture. Ray Vander Laan writes here about first century betrothal practices. He notes that:

…when a young Jewish man reached marrying age and his family selected an appropriate wife for him, the young man and his father would meet the young woman and her father to negotiate the “bride price,” the figurative cost of replacing a daughter. The price was usually very high.

With negotiations complete, the custom was for the young man’s father to pour a cup of wine and hand it to his son. His son would turn to the young woman, lift the cup and hold it out to her, saying, “This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you.” In other words, “I love you, and I’ll give you my life. Will you marry me?”

At this point, the young woman had a choice. She could take the cup and return it and say no. Or she could answer by drinking the cup - her way of saying, “I accept your offer, and I take your life into mine (perhaps an allusion to “the life is in the blood” cf. Lev. 17:11) and will follow you.”

With Holy Communion, the concrete experience of eating the bread and drinking the wine/juice can be further enriched by such symbolism and imagery. It is as though we respond to Christ by saying, “Yes, I accept your pledge and your sacrifice. I take your life into mine and choose to follow you all the days of my life.”


Ray Vander Laan, “His Body, His Blood”, Retrieved September 6, 2010 from See more at Vander Laan’s website,