Archive for December, 2013

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 52 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Scripture: One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. Mark 10:13 (NLT)


Observation: Little children brought to Christ, v. 13. Their parents, or whoever they were that had the nursing of them, brought them to him, that he should touch them, in token of his commanding and conferring a blessing on them. It doth not appear that they needed any bodily cure, nor were they capable of being taught: but it seems, 1. That they had the care of them were mostly concerned about their souls, their better part, which ought to be the principal care of all parents for their children; for that is the principal part, and it is well with them, it if be well with their souls. 2. They believed that Christ’s blessing would do their souls good; and therefore to him they brought them, that he might touch them, knowing that he could reach their hearts, when nothing their parents could say to them, or do for them, would reach them. We may present our children to Christ, now that he is in heaven, for from thence he can reach them with his blessing, and therein we may act faith upon the fulness and extent of his grace, the kind intimations he hath always given of favour to the seed of the faithful, the tenour of the covenant with Abraham, and the promise to us and to our children, especially that great promise of pouring his Spirit upon our seed, and his blessing upon our offspring, Isa. 44:3. [Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (1799–1800). Peabody: Hendrickson.]


Application:  We’re often reminded of this story on those days when we have a service of dedication of children in church.  It is then that we affirm their parents for making that important decision and confirm their commitment to raise their children to love and follow Jesus.  But we have to be reminded, as parents, that dedicating our children to God should not be something that happens early in the life of the child, once and for all, but rather something that we do every day of their lives, even (or maybe specially so) when they have grown up and have moved away from home.

We’ve talked about the importance of praying for our children daily in other places.  This prayer that we speak about today is not simply a prayer of requests but a dedication, or a presentation of our children to God.  It is as if we lifted them up so they may be closer to God.  And isn’t that the best place for them to be?


A Prayer You May Say:   Father God, I lift my children up to you today.  May they draw closer to you each day.

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Turn Humbly Toward God

Scripture: But I, the LORD, won’t destroy any of your people who are truly humble and turn to me for safety. Zephaniah 3:12 (CEV)


Observation:  These verses emphasize the fact that the judgment on the day of the Lord is a purging judgment. The reason why “you shall not be shamed” is that the blot of wickedness will be removed from Jerusalem. The “remnant of Israel,” that is, those who are saved from the judgment, pattern their lives after the Lord whom they serve (v. 5). They live humbly, trustingly, and righteously under the watchful care of their God.[ Andrews Study Bible Notes. 2010 (J. L. Dybdahl, Ed.) (1207). Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press.]


Application: Insurance companies have termed catastrophic events in nature, such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes, as “acts of God.”  In that sense, Satan has continued to spread widely lies about God blaming Him for the things that he and his evil companions cause upon this earth and its people.  The promise of this verse is that God won’t destroy any who turn to Him humbly for safety.

As I think of all the marriages and families falling apart, the destructive hand of the devil has caused painful havoc to many innocent children’s lives.  The security and safety of their homes, the loving atmosphere of their parents’ marriage, the peace and comfort they should enjoy during their growing years has been exchanged by yelling, anger, and even physical harm.  It is no wonder that many children, growing in such homes, don’t seem to have any interest in God or what He has planned for them.  If parents facing marriage difficulties would stop to consider the damage they’re causing their children instead of only looking at the pain they’re experiencing at the moment they might take the steps to change their home situation for the benefit of all.

Today’s verse holds a promise for all of us wishing to have a happy, healthy home.  Turn humbly toward God for in Him we will find our safety zone.  Commit yourself and your family to God every day, humbly submit to His power and His guidance, and rest confident in His protection.  The key word is “humbly.”  Our sense of self wants to be independent, but God wants us to learn to depend on Him.  We want to be self-reliable, but God offers to help us if we rely on Him.  Humbly submitting to God may be the hardest thing we have to do, but also the best thing for us and for our family.


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, today we come humbly before You, asking You to help us, change us, and be our safety.

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Ministry for All!

Scripture: “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28 (NKJV)


Observation:  afterward—“in the last days” (Is 2:2) under Messiah after the invasion and deliverance of Israel from the northern army. Having heretofore stated the outward blessings, he now raises their minds to the expectation of extraordinary spiritual blessings, which constitute the true restoration of God’s people (Is 44:3). Fulfilled in earnest (Ac 2:17) on Pentecost; among the Jews and the subsequent election of a people among the Gentiles; hereafter more fully at the restoration of Israel (Is 54:13; Je 31:9, 34; Ez 39:29; Zec 12:10) and the consequent conversion of the whole world (Is 2:2; 11:9; 66:18–23; Mic 5:7; Ro 11:12, 15). As the Jews have been the seedmen of the elect Church gathered out of Jews and Gentiles, the first Gospel preachers being Jews from Jerusalem, so they shall be the harvest men of the coming world-wide Church, to be set up at Messiah’s appearing. That the promise is not restricted to the first Pentecost appears from Peter’s own words: “The promise is (not only) unto you and to your children, (but also) to all that are afar off (both in space and in time), even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Ac 2:39). So here “upon all flesh.” [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Joe 2:28). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]


Application:  Since I began in the pastoral ministry, nearly thirty years ago, my wife has been by my side.  We have had to move many times due to the opportunities of ministry or because we were asked to serve a congregation other than where we were.  Each time I took a new church my wife had to leave her job as a teacher and apply for a job in the new location.  We have been blessed each time that she was able to find a teaching position nearby.

I have learned through all these years that the ministry, whether pastoral or teaching, is not something you chose to do but rather something God calls you to do.  I have also learned and have been a witness to the fact that God calls men and women, as He wishes, and equips them through His Holy Spirit.  In addition , I have learned that when God calls somebody, and they allow Him to lead in their lives, the results are evident in what takes place in their ministry.  For instance, as a pastor you see positive changes in the congregation you serve, you witness growth, both numerically and spiritually, and you see changed lives as a result of God working through you.  As a teacher, you witness the very same things – spiritual and numeric growth in the school, positive changes in finances and in the school facilities, and you see the changed lives that result from the work of these dedicated ministers in the teaching ministry.  The Holy Spirit is the same, the call is the same, the ministry is the same.  In fact, Paul wrote to the Ephesians that God gave His church the gift (not gifts) of “pastors and teachers.”  Not two separate gifts but one.

In marriage, when husband and wife work together, as the spiritual ministers of their home, everyone benefits, everyone is blessed.  When we as husbands and wives allow the Holy Spirit to equip us and use us we become able ministers of one another.


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for calling us, equipping us, and using us to minister to others, beginning with our spouse and children.

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Scripture:  Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (MSG)


Observation:  Fall. Self-confidence is dangerous. This is illustrated in the case of Peter, who thought that nothing could cause him to swerve from his allegiance to Christ (see Mark 14:31, 50, 67, 68, 70–72). All should heed the warning and be on guard continually, lest they be deceived by the suggestion that they have reached such a state of spiritual strength that nothing can lead them to sin. True safety lies only in the recognition of one’s absolute helplessness apart from Christ, and the constant need of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to deliver from sin (see John 14:26; John 15:4–7; 16:7–11, 13; 2 Cor. 12:9, 10). The admonition to “take heed” needs to be repeated frequently, for man is easily convinced that he is well able to take care of himself. Spiritual pride is a great deception, one in which it is easy for the tempter to lead the self-confident believer to fall into grievous sin (cf. 2 Sam. 11:1–4; Rom. 11:20). The exhortation to be constantly on the alert against the danger of spiritual pride is particularly appropriate to those who live in this period of the world’s history, when men are confronted daily with multiplied allurements to indulge in gratification of the carnal appetites (see Luke 21:34–36). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (743–744). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]


Application:  We live in a society that prices self-confidence.  We hear messages everywhere that we need to believe in ourselves, that the solution to our problems lies within us.  Even from pulpits we hear the prosperity gospel being proclaimed.  While I don’t discount the fact that there’s much we can do to make positive changes, I also believe that we may at times become over confident and may try to take care of all our problems all by ourselves instead of recruiting the help that we need from others.

Richard and Rita Tate list nine warning signs your family may not be able to solve its own problems.

1. You Go over the Same Issues Again and Again with No Resolution or Closure.

2. Your Networking Is Not Working.  Every attempt at reasonable conversation fails and ends with shouting, disregard, or someone walking out of the room with no-closure or resolution.

3. There Is Physical and/or Emotional Abuse.

4. You Pretend to Respect a Family Member Whom You Do Not Really Respect.  One dysfunctional family member rules the rest of the family, usually by fear.

5. You’re Afraid to Say Certain Things in Your Family.  When you don’t feel comfortable sharing your feelings and thoughts without being demeaned, criticized, or bullied, something is terribly wrong.

6. You Deny, Excuse, or Choose to Ignore the Signs of Problems Such as Drug or Alcohol Abuse.

7. You Have a Recurring Wish That You Were out of Your Family or Had Never Come into it at All.

8. No One Admits a Problem, Yet Everyone Knows it Exists.

9. You Ignore or Excuse Signs of Bad Behavior in a Family Member.  Bullying, giving orders, pulling rank, verbal abuse, arrogance, and indifference to the feelings of others are signs of this malady.

Sometimes we can’t fix things ourselves.  It is at those times we need to seek outside help before our marriage or our family falls apart.


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help us to recognize when we need help and to look for it before it is too late for our marriage or our family.

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He Can Hold it Together

Scripture:  God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like him in every way. By his own mighty word, he holds the universe together. After the Son had washed away our sins, he sat down at the right side of the glorious God in heaven. Hebrews 1:3 (CEV)


Observation:  Upholding. Gr. pherō, “to bear,” “to carry,” “to bear along,” “to bear up.” Here there may be the added meaning of movement, purpose, guidance; proceeding with definite intent. Christ is the one who is upholding all things in the entire universe and who keeps the heavenly bodies in their appointed paths. Compare the phrase, “by him all things consist,” that is, hold together (Col. 1:17). Pherō is more comprehensive than our English word “consist,” since it embraces the concept of purposeful working, of planning. This definition changes the concept from that of a mere power sustaining the physical universe to that of an intelligent Being who has a plan and is in the process of carrying it out. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (397). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]


Application:  It is estimated that there are 400 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way.  Scientists estimate that in the Milky Way alone there are 500 million potential planets, other than the earth, where life can exist. If these numbers are applied to all the galaxies in the universe there could be a staggering variety of planets capable of supporting life.  It is all speculation, but several branches of mathematics, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics have all come to similar conclusions: our universe is just one of many.

There’s another “universe” just as vast. . . the human brain.  Our brains are remarkably complex objects with a hundred billion neurons, a quadrillion connections, and we still know very little about how this organic super computer operates. But we do know the human brain is the most complicated thing we have yet discovered. It gives us the power to form language and culture, consciousness, the idea of self, the ability to learn, and understand the universe and reflect on our place within it.

The vast expanse of the universe moves, expands, contracts, all in a uniform, organized fashion.  It is God who holds the universe together.  The vast universe of the human brain is also held by God.  We don’t understand how it happens, how it all works, but know that it does.  So, if God holds the universe together, and He knows everything about how our brain works, doesn’t He also know how your family works, and can’t He hold your marriage together, too?


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for holding everything under Your hands’ control.  I submit myself, my marriage, and my family under Your control today too.

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Scripture:  And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (ASV)


Observation:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh—Visits were seldom paid to sovereigns without a present (1 Ki 10:2, &c.; compare Ps 72:10, 11, 15; Is 60:3, 6). “Frankincense” was an aromatic used in sacrificial offerings: “myrrh” was used in perfuming ointments. These, with the “gold” which they presented, seem to show that the offerers were persons in affluent circumstances. That the gold was presented to the infant King in token of His royalty; the frankincense in token of His divinity, and the myrrh, of His sufferings; or that they were designed to express His divine and human natures; or that the prophetical, priestly, and kingly offices of Christ are to be seen in these gifts; or that they were the offerings of three individuals respectively, each of them kings, the very names of whom tradition has handed down—all these are, at the best, precarious suppositions. But that the feelings of these devout givers are to be seen in the richness of their gifts, and that the gold, at least, would be highly serviceable to the parents of the blessed Babe in their unexpected journey to Egypt and stay there—that much at least admits of no dispute. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Mt 2:11). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]


Application:  At this time of the year we enjoy reading again the story of the birth of Jesus.  We are reminded of the visit of the angel to Mary and Joseph, of Joseph’s decision to proceed with his plans to marry the young, pregnant girl, of their trip to Bethlehem, and of the birth of baby Jesus.  No matter how well we know that story, we love to read it and hear it again and again.

Today’s text is part of the story of the visit of the wise men from the East to see and honor the newborn king.  Theirs was not just a trip borne out of curiosity; they knew the prophecies concerning the Messiah and understood their fulfillment and set out to follow the star that would lead them to the newborn King.

As I think about the story of Jesus’ birth, I see that these main characters gave baby Jesus the best gifts they had.  The wise men brought rich material gifts.  Mary and Joseph gave him a stable home environment, a godly home, the example of parents who worshiped, had faith in, and served God.

Our materialistic society leads many parents to believe that the more toys they give their children the happier and the better off they will be.  I would not presume to tell you not to buy any toys or material things to your children.  I would, however, suggest that best gifts you can give your children are a stable, healthy, loving home environment, as well as an environment that is most conducive for your children to learn about God and will become His disciples and His children.  In practical terms that means to have daily morning and evening devotional time and prayer with them, to worship every week together at church, and to make sure they attend a church school until they graduate from college.  The combined effort of home, church, and school is the best gift you can give them, a gift they can carry throughout eternity.


A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, help us to provide for our children not only materials things but most importantly the environment and opportunities for spiritual growth.

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