Monday, June 28, 2010

No stretching required

If I want "the things above" (or heavenly things) mentioned in Colossians 3 (verses 1 and 2), it's good to remember that I don't need to stretch very far to reach them.  It's not a stretch because they're as close to me as Christ Himself! When it says, "If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1), I need to remember that being "raised up with Christ" means that I am already right there "where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God".

Many people reading this verse may imagine a picture of us down here on earth straining to reach up to Jesus and "the things above" way up there in heaven. But that's not a true picture of reality for a Christian.  When we consider this verse, we need to remember Ephesians 2:6 which tells us that God "raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus".  So all those "things above" are actually right at our fingertips!  Easily within reach.  And if we're prepared to "keep seeking" them, we should find that they are quite easy to grasp and that as we do so, our lives will better reflect the fact that we're living "in the heavenly places" (Eph. 2:6) as ones who are "hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3).

These verses in Colossians also urge us to "set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth" (Col. 3:2).  That means setting my mind on where I'm seated, and especially on who I'm seated with, as well as on all the abundant life-giving blessings that come with being in Christ.  That's a daily choice to set our minds on such things.  In fact, it's often a moment-by-moment choice that helps us to live in the wonderful reality of being united with Christ. And it helps me to remember that it's not such a stretch to lay hold of "the things above" that I so eagerly set my mind on!

© 2010 by Ken Peters

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Growing in faith

How on earth did Abraham keep believing God for promises that took 25 years to be fulfilled?  Abraham had no written Scriptures to read and be encouraged by.  There were no biographies written about saints who had gone before him to read and be inspired by. He was surrounded by a pagan culture with no faith community to support him through those 25 years of waiting (Genesis 12:1-4; 21:1-5).  And the longer things took, the more impossible it must have seemed that that promise would ever come to pass.  In fact, all those years of waiting would have given Abraham plenty of opportunities to second-guess God and to wonder, "Did God really say...?"

And yet, Romans 4:20 says "with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief" (NASB) or "no distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God" (ESV).  How did he do that?!  Or perhaps I should be asking about how -- with the myriad of spiritual supports and encouragements that I'm surrounded by -- can I so easily fall prey to struggles with unbelief or a lack of trust in God?  Obviously I have something to learn from Abraham.

Paul tells us in Romans 4:20 how Abraham kept believing amidst so many obstacles:  "he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God" (ESV).  It was glorifying God that cultivated his convictions and strengthened his faith.  In other words, he firmly focused more on God than on the obstacles.

This means I've got to be ready to praise God amidst any circumstances, thereby declaring that I don't believe any circumstances can trump God.  Praise is the language of faith.  This means exalting and worshiping God regardless of delays or disappointments. And as I do all that from a sincere heart, this verse is proof to me that God will then grow in my perceptions and my faith in Him will rise.  That is the way to grow in faith so that no distrust will make me waver concerning the promise of God!  Praise and worship of God regardless of what's going on around me. That's a choice we face daily, and it's a choice with a certain outcome: increased faith.  Not to mention, wonderful promises fulfilled!

© 2010 by Ken Peters

Friday, June 18, 2010

What a scene!

There are times when I need to re-examine my expectations of Jesus.  And recently, as I read Matthew 15:30-31, I felt the need to do so again.  It's quite an amazing scene.  And I don't think I've ever actually paused long enough at these two brief verses to consider what it would've been like to be there.  It says that "the crowd marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking and the blind seeing" (Matthew 15:31).

Imagine the excitement! The exclamations being shouted and the joy and amazement of all the people!  Over there is a woman excitedly speaking for the first time in years -- people crowding around her, grinning and laughing at the wonderful sound of her voice.  And over there is an old man who'd been maimed for years, surrounded by his awe-struck family, joyfully demonstrating all the ways he can freely move about, and how he can lift his giggling grandchildren high in the air without pain.  And there is a man who'd previously been paralyzed, running around a bunch of laughing people, chasing children, everyone overjoyed to see him on his feet for the first time since a childhood accident. And closer to Jesus, who is smiling happily, is a young woman who is crying with joy as she sees the smiling tear-stained face of her father for the very first time.  And there are others celebrating additional miracles before a crowd who is glorifying God at the sight of so many laughing, cheering, crying, hysterical people!

It's a stunning snapshot of Jesus' ministry.  Heaven invading earth.  So do I believe God calls us to create such scenes?  Or am I a cessationist at heart when faced with the idea of seeing miracles on such a grand scale as this?  I'm challenged by it, to be sure.  But more so, I'm excited by it!  Because there's no reason to believe that God wouldn't want to create the same scene today as His children take up their delegated authority to "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons." (Matthew 10:8).  Through our obedience to such commands, heaven can continue to invade this world!

© 2010 by Ken Peters

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Divine Appointment amidst the Sewage (church bulletin cover)

Eighty out of 100 of the units at a Manitoba Housing complex had recently had their basements flooded with at least 12 inches of sewage-polluted water.  As I checked the basement of a single-mom whose social worker had called Gateway Church asking if we could help get the sewage-soaked stuff out of her basement, the smell was unbearable.  I quickly got back up the stairs and told her I'd let her know.

Once I'd confirmed enough volunteers to do the job, I called to tell her that we would do it.  When we arrived the next evening, I found a sign on her door saying she was at the complex's community centre, so I went to look for her.  The centre was full of life and conversation as people crowded into a room to enjoy a dinner graciously provided by ladies from Calvary Temple.  And there she was with a plate of food in hand, grinning when she saw we'd arrived.  She quickly stepped out to open up her house to us.  But as I followed behind her, another lady called out to ask, "Could you clean up my basement to?"  I had no idea how long the first basement would take, so I simply asked for her name and address and said I'd let her know.

It was clear from the start that we had a big job on our hands as we donned our face masks, rubber gloves and gumboots and headed downstairs.  The smell was overpowering, but as we picked away at the dripping clothes, the soggy boxes and the crumbling particle board, we encouraged one another in the work!  Occasionally Ron would shout something like, "This is what we were made for!"  The camaraderie grew as the work progressed, and after about an hour, the job was done.  There were smiles all around as the masks came off, and the biggest smile was that of the mom we had just helped as she thanked us.

But what of the other basement we'd been asked about?  We checked it out before deciding, but of course, we agreed to do it and went back at it!  And it was soon clear that this resident was finding the losses from this flood very hard.  It became apparent why as we began carrying up items that reminded the mother living there of a 25-year old daughter who had died of cancer only two years earlier.  There were pictures on hard drives that may have been damaged, and tears were welling up in the eyes of both the mom and her other daughter at the thought of losing those memories, as well as other special items that had to be thrown away.

Once that second basement was finished, we asked if we could pray for the mom and daughter.  And as Mary prayed, the mom broke down and sobbed as the pain of what she'd been through came to the surface.  But the gratitude she expressed to us, as she hugged each of us, her eyes still wet with tears, clearly revelaed how much Mary's prayer had comforted and touched her heart.  And to think of the "chance" way we met her while looking for the first lady in that noisy, crowded hall.

You could think of this as a pretty smelly and messy way to love Winnipeg.  But amidst all the sewage and the losses, the Lord had singled out a broken-hearted mom who needed His love, led us to her, and helped us to express His love and comfort to her and her daughter.  God is good.  And He loves Winnipeg -- each and every one of us.  And the smell of sewage won't even keep Him away!

© 2010 by Ken Peters