Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Franciscan Benediction: A Hope for the New Year?

Happy New Year
Welcome 2019

Wow! Another new year full of hope and promise. What will it hold? More of the same? Something better? Hopefully not something worse. Here in my sixtieth year, with the big "R" of "retirement" starting to loom ever closer, I wonder about whether or not I can afford to start slowing down the career a bit. The joyous expectation of another grandchild on the near horizon will no doubt add a new blessing to the new year. With another new year we once again think and pray for our kids and their spouses, and their employment situations in these sometimes turbulent times. Likewise, with a recent serious illness of one of our close friends right before this past Christmas, we think of health for all our loved ones, both family and friends alike.

What will this new year hold?

While it's yet far too soon to know what the new year will hold, and in truth we cannot ever know what tomorrow holds, yet we can know Him who holds it. In other words, whatever 2019 holds for us, it is ultimately God alone who holds it and all its intricate details. Can we rest in that?

"Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visable for a little while and then disappears [into thin air]. You ought instead to say, If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing]. But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self conceit. All such boasting is wrong. So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it, to him it is sin." (James 4: 13-17; Amplified)

So much for man-made resolutions. Maybe that is why they often fail; God is not necessarily in them. Sure, He may be, but He also may not be. Hmm. Yet despite the apparent dichotomy, I do want to resolve to try and do something in this new year. I would like to see 2019 become the year that I focus less on me and more on what God would like, and if it please Him, more of what He would like to do through me.

Years ago I came upon the following benediction (or blessing) attributed to Francis of Assisi. Recently I discovered it again when a friend shared it on social media. Perhaps therein lies our hope for the new year. May it speak to you as much as it did to me.
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May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live from deep within our hearts. 
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace. 
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. 
And may God bless us with just enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in the world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done: to bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.
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Happy New Year, friends. Praying that 2019 may be a blessing to you and yours. Peace.

For more on Francis of Assisi, please see these posts as well:

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Heaven: A Book Review

"My home is heaven. I'm just traveling through this world."
Billy Graham

Have you ever wondered what Heaven will be like? I’m sure that we all have a time or two. Perhaps that is why, upon the recommendation of a friend, I purchased a copy of "Heaven" by Randy Alcorn.

In its 500 pages, Alcorn argues for a more literal eschatology, as opposed to the perhaps more common, figurative views held by many Christians. Having said that, and though he uses a plethora of scripture quotations to back up his take on Heaven, he admits that these are just his views and that he may be wrong in some of his interpretations. Fair enough.

One of the terms he often uses in the book, that apparently he himself coined, is “Christoplatonism.” This comes from his belief that the church has borrowed ideas from Plato, an early western philosopher who essentially saw the physical world as a liability. The body, he thought, was little more than a prison for the soul. Alcorn believes that this platonic thinking has crept into the church, even though many scriptures point to a physical heaven in physical bodies. He delves into this argument in greater detail in the first of the book’s two appendices. In the second appendix Alcorn discusses literal versus figurative interpretation.

In the book Alcorn talks about two heavens, so to speak. When the Christian dies, his/her soul goes immediately to be with the Lord. I suspect that not too many of us would argue with that. However, the Bible also speaks of a “New Earth” into which we will one day be physically resurrected. This, says Alcorn, is a physical earth, which will be made up of physical inhabitants. Just as Christ was physically resurrected, we too can expect to be physically resurrected, and as such, our eternal heavenly home will be physical like it now is, minus the sin and corruption. Here is where the eschatology of many seems to get a little more cloudy, thanks in large part, believes Alcorn, to the church’s platonic influences. Thus his term, Christoplatonism.

Many of the book’s 46-chapters, divided into 12-sections and into 3-parts, seem almost a Q&A format (Question and Answer). In them Alcorn tries to answer some of the many questions he apparently has received over the years on the subject. The topics he covers in these 12-sections are:

  • Realizing our Destiny
  • Understanding the Present Heaven
  • Grasping Redemption’s Far Reach
  • Anticipating Resurrection
  • Seeing the Earth Restored
  • Celebrating Our Relationship With God
  • Ruling on the New Earth
  • What Will the Resurrected Earth Be Like?
  • What Will Our Lives Be Like
  • What Will Our Relationships Be Like?
  • What About Animals?
  • What Will We Do In Heaven?

All in all, I enjoyed reading Heaven. Did I agree with everything in it? No, my own theology caused me so say “Hmm” a few times. Still, it’s a good and interesting read. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s a great reminder of the eternal hope that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ. This life is short and fleeting, and will soon be over; we all know that. Then what? “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn tries to answer that question and many more.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so in Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
(Hebrews 9: 27-28; ESV)

Ἀμήν, ἔρχου κύριε Ἰησοῦ 
(Revelation 22:20)

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Fresh Anointing

This was shared with me today and was both timely and a real blessing. May it be a blessing for you as well. Peace.
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May the Lord Himself pour out a fresh anointing on your life today.

May you suddenly have a heightened discernment about where to walk, what to say, and how to pray.

May the Lord fill you afresh with new insights from His Word.

May your taste for things that weaken you be replaced by a hunger for that which strengthens you.

May God open your eyes to the importance of your life and calling.

And may you find strength and courage with every faith-filled step you take.

You are mighty in God. Have a great day today!

Blessing Source: Susie Larson
Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons

Sunday, 7 October 2018

My Devotional Life: A Handwritten Bible

"I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer." - Martin Luther

Well here we are, October 2018, and another Thanksgiving weekend is upon us. (For my American friends, sorry; you'll have to wait until next month for yours). 😉 Seems like only last week was the start of Spring! In our region, the first couple of snow falls of the season have already come and gone. Maybe it's a sign of getting older, as I've heard some say, but time sure seems to race on lately. You may be able to relate. Wow!

Well this Thanksgiving also marks an anniversary. It has now been two years since I started my quest to create a handwritten Bible. In those two years I have completed the entire New Testament, as well as the Old Testament from Genesis through Job. As a matter of fact, I said farewell to Job just this morning. So far I have three volumes that make up the New Testament, and I just recently began my fifth volume of the Old Testament. Now, here on the second anniversary of this project, I begin with the Psalms. I am looking forward to this next chapter (no pun intended) of this early morning devotional routine.

I have blogged about this experience a little before. Is there a take away from this project? Most certainly there is.

The first thing I noticed in trying to create a handwritten Bible is how much slower one has to read the Bible if the object is to copy every word and punctuation mark. While this may sound tedious to some, I find it strangely therapeutic in that it also results in much more scriptural meditation and reflection. In other words, I spend much more time on a passage of Scripture than if I were to simply pick up the Bible and read as one might read a novel.

Another thing I've noticed is that the very early mornings are now my favourite time of day. I'm now usually up between 4:00 and 5:00am (without the help of an alarm clock, I might add), and sometimes earlier yet. Well before anyone else in the house is stirring, and with the coffee pot on, I typically get lost in the Scriptures for the next one to two hours before having to leave for work. There's something about an early morning time in prayer and Bible reading that just sets the day off on the right foot. As a matter of fact, from personal experience, when I don't have that quiet time before rushing off to work, my day often seems disjointed and more stressful than normal. Coincidence? I think not. What a beautiful way to start the day!

So here's to the Psalms. Judging by the many markings and notes, not to mention the tattered pages, I've clearly spent some time here before. I can't wait to do so again.

Peace, Blessings, and Happy Thanksgiving. 😊
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Other related posts:

Me as an Amanuensis: Morning Devotional's Next Level?

Morning Devotions Are Awesome Once Again


Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Jesus Unbound: A Guest Blogger Book Review

Buy here: Jesus Unbound
Once again, Keith Giles has written a book with a title that is bound to get a few feathers ruffled. While you may not agree with all that is presented, I feel that most people will come away in general agreement. Many will try to use the Canon to shoot holes in his argument (I couldn't resist), however they will likely find, as I have, that his opinions are well founded in research. The chapters are quite concise, and the prose easy to follow.

As with his book JESUS UNTANGLED - Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb, Giles is not “against” the subject at hand, but rather “for” a deeper, personal relationship with the risen Lord.

Another “must read”.
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By guest blogger: Waldo Rochow

Jesus Untangled: A Guest Blogger Book Review

Buy here: Jesus Untangled
Well, this is a first for me. I read this book in less than a day. Now in fairness, it may be the first time in a long time that I could devote a day to reading. All the same though, the author's prose, and the logical flow of the book made it difficult to put down.

Keith Giles is clearly knowledgeable and has obviously done his research. But more than that, he seems to have been granted an insight that may be hidden from many American evangelicals today (the target audience). Now I must admit, that I am neither an evangelical, nor an American, so some of the concepts that may be controversial to the target audience didn't phase me, however I can see how they might cause some to flinch. 

I am a strong believer in introspection, and as a Christian, I feel it is extra important to, as Mr. Giles says, “place our convictions on the anvil and hammer them out a little. Not just  so we can watch the sparks fly, but so that, when we are done, we will know if our assumptions and beliefs can stand the test.” 

In this book, you will be presented with many questions. For some, the answers to these questions may be uncomfortable. For others, downright scary. But I believe that if you call yourself a Christian, you owe it to yourself to dive into this book give the Spirit a chance to talk to you.

Finally, as mentioned before, the target audience is the American Evangelical community. But if you are not from that group, you will still find value in this book. It is obvious that the author chose this group because that is his background. However, I also found something for me, even though I am a Canadian from outside the institutional church. The time spent on reflection is never wasted. Read this book. You will be glad you did.
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By guest blogger: Waldo Rochow

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Exchange: A Day of My Life for ...

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1)

Every once in a while I discover a little nugget somewhere that ends up having a profound effect on me. It's not about whether the source has Christian origins or not. It's about a truth in a message, regardless who the messenger is.

Today was one such day when I discovered the following, said to have its origin with the Trappist Monks at Genesse Abbey. It goes something like this:

This is the beginning of a new day. I've been given this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I'm exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.

Profound, isn't it? I thought so. For me it begged the question: "How do I spend my days?" Can I name even one positive thing that came out of today? Was someone's day a little brighter and more hopeful because my path crossed theirs today? Was I a blessing today?

Or did I essentially waste the day, once again, a day that I can never get back? Maybe I was more of a curse than a blessing. Maybe I once again dragged my sorry self through the day, complaining about who knows what, being a cantankerous old fool, and taking down those whose paths crossed mine, as opposed to blessing them. I hope not.

What did you exchange for this day of your life?

Something to think about. Peace.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons