All posts filed under: Teaching

Folsom Prison, California Credit: Vidor/Wikipedia and Charles Manson Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation/Wikipedia

Who Died and Who Didn’t

David Cassidy was the poster boy for teenage girls around the world, about thirty years ago. He has lived a show-business life, with failed marriages and a serious addiction to alcohol. In 2015 he declared bankruptcy. On November 19 2017, the news came out that he was in a coma, with multiple organ failures, and his family was gathering at the hospital. The doctors said he didn’t have long. This morning, November 20, the news is that David Cassidy has regained consciousness and he is very much alive. If his condition improves so that he can see a computer screen, he can read on the Internet that he died yesterday. Someone posted information about his death, in anticipation. I don’t know how much time he has with us, but good for him, he outlived his obituary. One person who did die yesterday, at the age of 83, in Bakersfield California, is Charles Manson. This is confirmed; born November 12 1934 and died November 19, 2017. RELATED: Charles Manson dead: CNN This was a truly terrible …

Credit: Chuan Chew/Flickr/Creative Commons

Fear of the Words

[by Keith Hazell] What are the most fearful words that most people hear? It could be “you have been laid off” or “ I  am leaving you” or perhaps “We are bankrupt”. All of the above are words which strike their own fear into the hearts of the hearers. However one of the most fearful words we hear is “ I am sorry but you have cancer.” These words carry with them fear and unbelief. We cannot believe that we have been “chosen,” singled out for such a horrible thing. To many of us who hear this, it is like we have heard a death sentence and that we need to prepare ourselves for the inevitable events that will culminate in our passing. More than 21 years ago I received such information from a urologist. My initial reaction was like most of us… “ I guess my days are numbered”.  In my early 50’s I had not reckoned on a truncated life. However, the devil reminded me that both my siblings died early as a …

Considered to be the location of the Garden Gethsemane located at the foot of Mount Olives in Jerusalem where Jesus sweated blood Credit: tango7174/Wikipedia

Italian woman sweats blood confirming Luke 22:44

The Canadian Medical Association Journal recently published an article on the case of a 21-year-old Italian woman who has been bleeding blood from her face and hands. Italian doctors reported that over the past three years the woman has gone through episodes were she spontaneously bled blood without any breakage in the skin. According to their report the episodes would last up to five minutes. Though they occurred at any time from sleep to periods of exercise, doctors noted the bleeding intensified when she was under emotional stress. Embarrassed by her condition, the young woman was becoming a loner refusing to leave her home. After ruling out chromhidrosis, a condition that causes discolored sweat, doctors diagnosed the young woman with a rare condition called hematohidrosis – ‘blood sweat’, when people actually sweat blood. Some believe it’s caused by rupturing capillaries near the sweat glands. This can happen during times of extreme fear or stress. An Indian health journal reported ‘blood sweat’ in cases of people about to be executed and even cited an incident that …

Philadelphia Eagles football stadium, 2013 Credit: Matt Hecht/Flickr/Public Domain

Is water baptism intended to break down the racial divide?

Marcus Johnson, 23, was an undrafted free agent when he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2016. He was injured early in his professional tryout and missed most of the training camp. He was waived, but then added to the Eagle’s 2016 practice roster. Johnson played for the Texas Longhorns in college. His stats were not outstanding. But this year, he impressed enough to make the Eagles’s 53-man roster. Just before the Eagles’s game against the Carolina Panthers on October 12, 2017, a game the Eagles won 38-23, Johnson sent out a photo and a tweet of him being baptized at the hotel pool where the team was staying. Johnson’s caption for the photo read: “First time being Baptized! Corporate Worship is a beautiful thing!! Cleansed and Reborn in Jesus name!! #Wholeheartedly.” CBS reported on Johnson’s water baptism and commented on the photo that showed several players gathered around the pool holding hands as the wide receiver was baptized. The teammates with their heads bowed seemed to be praying. This gathering included black and whites. CBS identified …

Police car in Stockholm, Sweden Credit: Armando G Alonso/Flickr/Creative Commons

Understanding your authority and power

9 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. (Luke 9:1-2 NASV) We read in the Gospels that Jesus gave His disciples authority and power. So what does it mean to have authority and power? The simplest definition is that authority means a person has the right to do something, and power means they have the ability to do it. Perhaps the best example of how this functions is seen in the role of police in our society. A policeman has the authority to make an arrest. It’s an authority that has been given to him by the government. When he sees someone breaking the law, a police officer doesn’t have to phone the governor or premier to get permission to arrest the individual, he or she has the right or authority to do it. And though only one person, an officer is empowered by tens of thousands of …

Credit: Lucy Lang/Flickr/Creative Commons

Neither do I condemn you

In an article for Foxnews, Angel Hatfield shared a powerful story on forgiveness. Hatfield, who serves as executive producer for a movie “Because of Gracia” grew up in a Christian home. In fact, her father pastored a church. As she left her teen years, Hatfield became rebellious: “I skated in sin believing the big lie that there was more pleasure to be found in this world than in God.” Hatfield became pregnant and after hiding her pregnancy for five months, she finally decided to come clean with her father on what had happened. She was expecting her father to react and judge her for what she had done. Instead, he hung his head and when he finally spoke, her dad expressed his disappointment for what had happened but then he added: “And you have made poor choices which now have consequences. It won’t be easy — and there will be struggles and a hard path ahead of you. But I love you — and now I figure I have been given more to love.” Then …

Credit: Mikhail Noel/Flickr/Creative Commons

The white pebble

In his exhortation to the Church at Pergamum in the Book of Revelation, the Apostle John warns that they were dwelling in the place where Satan had his throne (Revelation 2:13), but urges them to overcome. But then the Apostle makes the odd statement that those who overcome will receive secret manna and a “white pebble” with a new name written on it. 17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 NASV) Many of us are familiar with the story of God providing Israel manna in the wilderness and the “hidden manna” may describe the manna put inside the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 16:33–34). But what does the white stone refer too? There are many opinions on this. Some wonder if it refers to the semi …

Do not judge. Credit: skambalu/Flickr/Creative Commons

Does this study confirm Matthew 7:1-3?

A study by psychologists at the University of Plymouth in England uncovered an interesting trait in humanity which confirm words that Jesus spoke 2,000 years ago. In the study reported in Scientific American, Sophia Harvey, Simone Schall and Jennifer Benton found that people who considered themselves morally unclean were more apt to judge others as being wrong than those who didn’t feel unclean. In the study, the researchers had people do a number of activities such as watch brief films where people did something wrong such as lying when they created a resume. They also had them watch disturbing segments from movies and then after read “moral vignettes.” An important part of the study was trying to induce a sense of cleanness in the test subjects and they did this by having half of them wash their hands before responding to what they had seen or read. They asked them to wash under the pretense that they would not dirty the room being used by staff. Even in the Old Testament, ritual cleansing was a …

Karachi, Pakistan Credit: Benny Lin/Flickr/Creative Commons

Marilyn Hickey, a Pakistani anomaly

As we read about Christians being persecuted in Muslim countries, a weird anomaly keeps popping up — American televangelist Marilyn Hickey. Aged 86, last November during a eight-day tour she preached the gospel in Karachi, Pakistan before crowds totaling nearly one million people. She did it freely with no resistance from the government or threats from Muslim extremists. According to reports she is known as the ‘mom of Pakistan” and for some reason has even been accepted by imams in the Muslim Pakistani community. The terrorists basically ignore her because she is an old woman. Officially known as the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with 201 million people it is the sixth most populated country in the world. It was formed in 1947 as a home for Muslims living in India and nearly 95% of the country is Muslim. In its revised 1973 constitution, the country declared Islam its state religion and all laws must be in accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah. At this point, the country has not implemented Sharia law, however polls indicate …

Black mustard growing as a weed along the banks of a river in Germany. Credit: anro0002/Wikipedia

The Kingdom of God is like a weed?

Three of the Gospels, Mark, Luke and Matthew, record Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to a mustard plant: 31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 NASV) Because of the reference to the size of the plant, it appears that Jesus was talking about the Black Mustard that can grow upwards to 10′ tall (and even higher under ideal conditions) from the smallest of seeds (1 mm in size) used for crops and herbs. Similar to today, the ancients valued the ground-up mustard seed as a seasoning (condiment) for meat and for its oil. The leaves are also edible and used in stews and salads. But what was Jesus referring too when He compared the Kingdom of …

Credit: Harold/Flickr/Creative Commons

But We Can’t Afford That

A few days ago, a young woman who lives near me overdosed on Fentanyl. Her family drove her to a hospital and I think someone did CPR during the ride. She almost died, but the hospital staff were able to save her. Something bothered me about that story, and then I noticed that they drove her in the family car; they didn’t call an ambulance. I don’t know the family but I guess they can’t afford a five-hundred-dollar ambulance ride every time their addict overdoses. Transporting critically ill patients in a private vehicle is something we should never do; the ambulance crew might save a life before arriving at the hospital. But that ride has a cost, the whole system costs millions, with dispatchers, EMTs, vehicles and equipment, and sometimes helicopters. And life-threatening problems like drug addiction are becoming epidemics. And another story; I keep the tickets from McDonald’s coffee cups. Where I live, each cup has a peel-and-stick ticket and a detachable card. Seven tickets will buy one cup of coffee. I don’t need …

Ritsumazijl, Frise, Netherlands Credit: Hindrik Sijens/Flickr/Creative Commons

How far is far enough?

[by Keith Hazell] “Don’t go too far dear.”  These were frequent words that I heard from Mother when I was growing up. Usually, it was a warning that there was an unmarked perimeter that I should not pass. However, once on a beach in the UK during the Second World War, the warning was to remind me not to go under the barbed wire onto the sand where land-mines were buried. Thus to hear such a warning, is to realize that going beyond certain limits where things appear ok, can actually put us in mortal danger. One of the currents going through the church to-day questions the value and purpose of church as we have known it in the past. It is said that the church has no relevance and its meetings are no longer a place where believers can actively and meaningfully interact and express the life of Christ. There is a legitimate need to get back to a simpler form of Christian Life and to re-discover the lifestyle and benefits of a closer …

Wailing Wall in Jerusalem Credit: Fernando+Merced/Flickr/Creative Commons

Is the church actually the continuation of Israel?

It’s an age-old question. Is the church the continuation of Israel or something completely new that God started after Israel failed to fulfill God’s will? The church under this latter scenario is God’s second choice, an afterthought. To bring some perspective on this I was intrigued by an article on Breaking Israel News about a sermon recently preached by a famous Hasidic Jewish Rabbi Alon Anava. He was speaking at the 23rd anniversary of the death of another renown orthodox Rabbi, Menachem Schneerson. In his sermon Anava spoke of the coming of the Jewish Messiah. Though the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, orthodox Jews still believe in a promised Messiah. In fact, many believe signs suggest that the Jewish Messiah will be revealed very soon. But Anaya said in order for the Messiah to come, the Jews must first preach the Torah to the gentiles: “You know what is missing? The nations of the world. Now all we need to do is involve a couple billion people from the other nations to be part of the redemption.” …

Credit: LJ Mears/Flickr/Creative Commons

How strong is God’s love for you?

What picture would help us grasp the magnitude of this love? There is a verse in the Song of Solomon that describes the love between the bride and bridegroom — a picture of the love relationship between Jesus and His Church, the people of God. “Set me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy is as hard and cruel as Sheol (the place of the dead). Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame (the very flame of the Lord)! (Song of Solomon 8:6) It provides several metaphors revealing God’s unquenchable love for us: the seal, death, fire and jealousy. The Seal In Biblical times, the seal was a stamp of ownership and authenticity put on an object. In the Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman is asking her lover to put this stamp of ownership on her heart so she can be completely and only his. Brown’s Bible Commentary describes it this way: “She was ‘leaning’ on Him, that is, her …

Credit: Alpha/Flickr/Creative Commons

Help, I can’t get promoted!

For part of my career I worked in a large university. I also trained to be a Christian minister but jobs were just not available in churches, so I taught in a university. I was promoted to be the coordinator of the department, like a vice-principal in a school for adults. This promotion was a surprise to me, and I was supposed to be interim; our Director was going to quit and someone had to hold things together until the new Director arrived. When he finally came, he needed people like me, so he extended my tenure as coordinator. That’s when my friends started hating me and senior managers started looking at me as a liability instead of an asset. They needed to save money and I was a cost, and my friends wanted my job. On the success side, I schemed and politicked my way into a large window office, in a place where most of us worked in cubicles, with no outside light. I am ashamed to tell you that now. God never …

Cell phone gods?

According to a 2011 BBC documentary, popular electronic devices such as cell phones can potentially be a religious experience for some owners. In their documentary – Secrets of the Superbrands — Alex Riley and Adam Boome were struck by the intense brand loyalty of some users towards their Apple products. In London, England, the two witnessed massive line-ups outside Apple stores when its latest and greatest gadget was released. Some even lined up hours before opening to guarantee a spot at the front of the line. Riley and Boome were curious what caused such intense brand loyalty. They were surprised by what they found. In their documentary, they had neuroscientists use a MRI scan to study the brain of a devoted Apple user while using his Apple device. “The results suggested that Apple was actually stimulating the same part of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith,” wrote Riley and Boome. In a nutshell, for some using an Apple product was akin to a religious experience. Idols in the heart? Throughout the …

Blind leading the blind by Francesco Pieter Brueghel the elder (1525-1569) Credit: Choo Yut Shing/Flickr/Creative Commons

Insight into Riddles

Webster’s Dictionary defines riddle as,  “Something proposed to be solved by guessing or conjecture; a puzzling question; an ambiguous proposition; an enigma; hence, anything ambiguous or puzzling.”

Encyclopedia Britannica describes a riddle as a, “deliberately enigmatic or ambiguous question requiring a thoughtful and often witty answer. The riddle is a form of guessing game that has been a part of the folklore of most cultures from ancient times. Western scholars generally recognize two main kinds of riddle: the descriptive riddle and the shrewd or witty question.”

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary calls a riddle, “a mystifying, misleading, or puzzling question posed as a problem to be solved or guessed.” Hebrew Definition The Hebrew word ‘hdyx’ (chiyah) is the original word translated to ‘riddle’ in the Old Testament.  ‘Hdyx’ is also translated in some scriptures as, ‘dark sayings’ and ‘difficult questions’. The Hebrew word ‘hdyx’ is  translated into English as, “riddle, difficult question, parable, enigmatic saying or question, perplexing saying or question”. Form of Entertainment In today’s society it is common for family members to watch television and play video …

Credit: Richard Cassan/Flickr/Creative Commons

Have you been triggered lately?

Have you been triggered lately? The urban dictionary defines this as “Getting filled with hate after seeing, hearing or experiencing something you can’t stand.” In my experience, a triggered person is not responsible for their anger. Someone else’s fault opened the door to their rage and now anything could happen. Recently, a comedian Kathy Griffin posed with a faked severed head of President Donald Trump, Bill Maher used the “n” word in an interview, and Stephen Colbert has been criticized for something crude. Kathy Griffin, at least has received serious death threats for her offense. Related: Maher, Griffin, Colbert: Anti-Trump comedians are having a really bad moment: Washington Post So how did popular culture descend to crude violence and death threats? People were triggered. They are annoyed, usually by Donald Trump, so there are no limits on their behaviour, and now the other side is triggered and issuing death threats back at them. If this seems crazy to you, good. This is collective insanity, and it seems to be a thing these days. But Christians …

Credit: Jyrki Salmi/Flickr/Creative Commons

Avoid man’s glory

Years ago, I remember pushing away from my desk, walking down the hallway to a co-worker’s office. Once there, I bluntly asked what he thought of the most recent issue of the publication I worked on. I saw the pained look on his face. It was obvious that I was fishing for a compliment. My coworker knew it, and he awkwardly answered it was great. Later, I hated myself for what I had just done. It also wasn’t the first time I did something like that. Insecure people crave feedback from others to affirm them in their gifting, ministry or job. But these pats on the back are like a drug. Once is never enough and you desire these constant affirmations from others to keep you going. As you begin to minister in spiritual gifts or areas of ministry, this is one area that must be nipped in the bud. Insecure people are constantly tempted to find out if the words they are giving have impacted the people receiving them or if the teaching was …

Credit: abbyladybug/Flickr/Creative Commons

Turn Down the Noise

Recently I learned one of the most important lessons in my life. Why can’t we learn all the important lessons at the age of 12 or 14? A few years ago I knew an older couple, and the wife was a severe critic of everyone. You know the type. The problem for me was our failed relationship. When I visited them I always left angry. Her criticism of me was irritating, but maybe I deserved it and maybe there was some good advice in her cruel words. My breaking point was all the judgmental things said about other people. I didn’t want to join in and sometimes I tried to defend my friends. I can remember my anger as I write this. It’s impossible to correct an old critic. These old people were devout church-going Christians, respected by everyone who knew them, and I am a Christian, so this was one of the biggest defeats in my life. My clinical description above doesn’t show my emotions; those people made some of us crazy. And then …

Don't let fear dominate your life. Street art in Dublin, Ireland. Credit: Giuseppe Milo/Flickr/Creative Commons

Achieving your full potential — deal with your fear

There is an interesting parable in the Gospels that I believe Jesus purposefully told to prepare the disciples for Christ’s eventual departure. It would be a harbinger of what was to come. I am referring to the teaching on talents found several times in the Gospels. It appears in different forms and at different times, and it seems Jesus told this parable multiple times, because it was a message His disciples needed to hear. In the account recorded in Mathew 25:14-30, a ruler is going on a long journey and decides to leave his wealth or talents in the hands of his slaves to invest, until he returns. This parallels Jesus departure from earth, the bestowing of the Holy Spirit and His gifts (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8) and then Jesus second return. What are the talents? I  believe in God’s kingdom, they are the giftings (spiritual and natural) and callings that God has bestowed on every believer. The Lord has tasks for us to fulfill before He returns. Some of them are spiritual and some …

The Sea of Galilee where Peter "briefly" walked on water. Credit: Asf Antman/Flickr/Creative Commons

The incredible, delayed healing, of Delia Knox

It was Christmas Day, 1987, when a drunk driver slammed into the back of a car that Delia was a passenger in. She along with her sister and brother-in-law were driving home from a church service in Toronto, Canada. Their car ended upside down and though her sister and husband only had minor injuries, Delia, then 23, was paralyzed from the waist down. Delia was also a gospel singer and though she continued to sing from a wheel chair, she dreaded ministering in other churches, because invariably they wanted to pray for her healing. At first, she appreciated their efforts but after a while she began despising these services that invariably focused on her healing. She recounts people dragging her out of a wheel chair and then watching her collapse to the floor. In an interview with CBN, Delia said “I’ve been plopped, dropped and flopped, and flipped to the point where I was like, ‘I just can’t go through this anymore.’” Then she met Bishop Knox, a speaker at a conference, she attended. They …

Credit: Simon Webster/Flickr/Creative Commons

Shod your feet with VICTORY

In his description of a believer’s spiritual armor, the Apostle Paul oddly refers to shoes. “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” (Ephesians 6:15 NASV) Compared to the breast-plate or shield, shoes are certainly not the most prominent piece of armor, but don’t let their insignificance fool you, they are key to a believer’s victory. The Roman soldier was equipped with sandal-like boots covered with brass that extended up to cover part of the shin. The sandals had nails protruding from the bottom giving the soldier extra grip. Though a wound to the foot or lower leg was not necessarily life threatening it was very incapacitating. My son was practicing soccer in our backyard gearing up for a series of big games. He kicked the soccer ball near a, until then unknown, hornet’s nest. He received a single, barely visible bite on his ankle and was off his feet for days. The smallest wound on the foot can hobble a soldier for extended periods of time making him completely …

Credit: Ruby Babson/Flickr/Creative Commons

Forgive for your heart’s sake

When Jesus spoke on forgiveness He was very clear on one thing: if we don’t forgive those who offend us, God would not forgive us. 14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:14-15 NASV) I sometimes wonder if we struggle to forgive ourselves for things that we have done in the past, that it is a sign of spiritual blockages caused by our unwillingness to forgive. These blockages hinder us from fully experiencing God’s forgiveness. But an article on John Hopkins Medicine, Forgiveness: Your Health depends on It, provides one more reason to forgive. We need to do it for the sake of our physical health. Like many of God’s commandments, such as circumcision that improves a man’s health, the need to forgive is another section in God’s user’s manual on proper operation of the human body. According to the John Hopkins’ article, studies show that people who hold grudges and …

King David moving the Ark of the Covenant from Gibeon to the Tabernacle of David in Jerusalem. Painter unknown

¿Por qué el rey David estableció el Tabernáculo de David?

English version: Why Did King David set up the Tabernacle of David? Quizás uno de los artículos más polémicos que he escrito es “el profundo y oscuro secreto del Rey David”. He tenido más comentarios sobre este artículo que cualquier otro articulo que halla escrito y más gente en desacuerdo conmigo. En el artículo sostengo que el rey David era ilegítimo. Cuando el dijo rey David en los Salmos que fue concebido en pecado – lo quiso decir literalmente. Su madre lo concibió en un acto de pecado. Yo nací en iniquidad, Y en pecado me concibió mi madre. (Salmos 51: 5 NBLH) Esto explica lo que sucedió cuando Dios le dijo a Samuel que fuera a Belén a ungir a uno de los hijos de Isaí como el siguiente rey de Israel, reemplazando a Saúl (1 Samuel 16: 1-13). La Biblia nos dice que los ancianos estaban temblando cuando el profeta apareció (v 4). Samuel aterrorizó a los ancianos. Y cuando el profeta de Dios pidió a todos los hijos, los ancianos se aseguraron …

Pero's Bridge, Bristol, England with its two counterweights Credit: Adrian Pingstone/Wikipeida/Creative Commons

A counterweight to worry

Pero’s Bridge is one of the world’s stranger looking bridges. Built in 1999, it is a pedestrian drawbridge that spans St. Augustine’s beach in Bristol, England. The two outside sections are attached to land and the inner section serves as a drawbridge that raises to allow boats to pass beneath. It has two distinctive, horn-like objects on either side of the bridge. At first glance, it seems they are nothing more than abstract art added to decorate the bridge. In fact, it is art, but they also serve as important counterweights that exert force in the opposite direction allowing the inner span to raise quickly. Also called a “bascule” bridge — French for “balanced scale” — people have used this type of design for centuries because counterweights raise bridge spans quickly and with relatively little energy. Like a bascule bridge, we all need something to counter what life throws at us. As you watch the media, a person can quickly be caught up worrying about world events and our rapidly changing society. We worry about …

Credit: Marcin Bajer/Flickr/Creative Commons

The Intersection

A few weeks ago at a weekly prayer meeting I had a prophetic word for a young man. After I shared the picture I had received with him, I knew I needed to remember it and apply it to my own life. I began to pray for direction for his life and immediately God gave me this “movie” for him. I saw him in his vehicle pulling up to a stop sign at an intersection where he had two or three options for his destiny. Which direction was he to take? Next I saw the action God wanted him to take. I saw him park at the side of the road, put on some worship tunes, and begin to worship God. He was to make declarations about who and what God is – He is Lord, He knows all, and is greater than all our circumstances. He knows what we need and how to get there. What happened next was not what I would have expected. As the worship and declarations went up like vapor …

Replica roman shields Credit: Kim Benson/Flickr/Creative Commons

Above all the shield of faith to repel condemnation and fear

When the Apostle Paul outlined the spiritual armor of the believer, one of the most prominent pieces he mentioned was the shield of faith: 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. (Ephesians 6:16 NKV) The Roman shield was about 2’ by 4’ and made of light wood covered with several layers of hide or sheet metal. The soldier used it to ward off blows and to protect himself from arrows. Paul says that the shield of faith has the specific purpose of protecting Christians from the fiery darts of the enemy. These particularly fierce weapons were fabricated of either hollow canes filled with incendiary material or arrows wrapped with similar ingredients (Psalms 7:13). They were lit and fired at their enemy. To repel this missile, the shields were made of a hardened material so the fiery darts would simply bounce off. If the shields were not properly constructed they were vulnerable. In one particular battle, an early historian recorded …

Breaking off those word curses hanging over you. Credit: Michal Jaskoslki/Flickr/Creative Commons

Breaking off word curses

Several years ago my wife and I received a prophetic word from Keith Hazell. Keith passed away in 2013, but he was one of a handful of people who I consider to be a full-blown prophet. Our church had brought him in for a time of prophetic ministry. He prophesied a number of things including that we would be writing. But then his prophetic word took an odd turn. He said that I had the ability to start a business. Then he added that God wasn’t saying that I should start a business, but only that I was capable of doing it. It is amazing how words people say can haunt you for decades. They hang like a dark cloud over your head. Years before this prophetic word, someone had told me that I was not capable of running a business. It was an off the cuff remark and I am not even sure the person meant it. It is not that I even had a personal interest in starting a business, but those words …

Credit: Ron de Boom/Flickr/Creative Commons

Will you complete the transformation?

In Romans 12:1,2, the Apostle Paul makes a life-changing statement that believers are “transformed by the renewing of our mind.”  Though we are saved by faith, the transformation for the Christian takes place as we change the way we think. That word transformed is the Greek word ‘metamorphou’ from which we get the English word metamorphosis that describes the transformation that takes place when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. This transformation is a gradual process for a caterpillar. First it spins a cocoon and then in the safety of this container, the insect dissolves and the mixture of enzymes reform into a new creature – a butterfly. The two insects are so different they can no longer eat the same thing because its digestive system has completely changed — one chews on leaves and the other sucks nectar. Paul says the Christian must undergo a similar transformation. Unfortunately, we can’t spend a few days in a cocoon to complete this change. We are forced to learn on the job. Further, Paul tells us that …

A woman prays near the Tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Credit: Jelle Drok/Flickr/Creative Commons

About Jerusalem

In recent years, I have been blessed to spend several weeks in the eternal city of Jerusalem. This is the only city on the earth which the LORD God of Israel declared, “In Jerusalem, I will put my name forever” (2 Kings 21:4-7). During my time in Israel, Psalm 122:6 was constantly before my eyes;  “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you.” Jerusalem is the most prayed for city in the universe.  At every meal, Jews pray the blessing, “Blessed are you, O LORD, who will build up Jerusalem in mercy.” Every Monday the Jews recite Psalm 48 from their Prayer Book; “Walk about Zion and go all around her” (verse 12). Jerusalem is a spiritual city (not sinless), set apart for a Holy God. Many days I spent just walking around Jerusalem and was constantly reminded of the  blessings connected with Israel that can only come from the true LORD God.  Indeed the peace of Jesus Christ is evident in the streets and there are places where one can …

Message in a bottle Credit: Kev Lewis/Flickr/Creative Commons

Has the church lost its message?

I was on a Christian website reading an article on Disney’s recent release of Beauty and the Beast that portrayed overtly homosexual scenes in a movie intended for children.  One person commented deriding and mocking the church’s failure to boycott the movie that was a box office success. Baited, several Christians responded some with vulgar comments condemning the person. One used the term “bum holer,” a comment that was later removed. To be honest, I felt a similar resentment towards this pro-gay commenter. I have been a Christians for years but a verse from the Gospel of John cited in a devotional I received recently caught my attention. I wondered if someone had just added this verse to the Bible in the last couple of years, because it seems so contrary to current Christian practice. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (Greek krino) the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NIV) The Greek word ‘krino’ means to judge as the NASV translated it or to …

Credit: mar is sea Y/Flickr/Creative Commons

Being centered: A personal struggle to belong

Joseph is one of my favorite Bible characters. After studying his life for the past year, I have developed a love/hate relationship with this Old Testament hero, both for the same reasons. He stood faithful in God, no matter what happened. No matter who lied or betrayed him, no matter how far down in the pit life pushed him, he kept serving and looking to God. He stayed centered on God when most of us would have given up on God and our dreams. But I want to look at one aspect of Joseph’s life that is often not discussed but is both encouraging and challenging. Most people agree that Joseph came from a very dysfunctional home: 9 older jealous brothers, 3 step-moms, and a doting father who was clued-out as to the effect that his favoritism was having on his family. After studying Joseph’s life, what I see is a loner. He was a loner but never alone. He was too Egyptian for his family and too Jewish for the Egyptians. At the end …

Nambia desert Credit: John Adams/Flickr/Creative Commons

Healing our rejection

Using a MRI scan university researchers discovered that emotional pain associated with rejection is as real as physical pain. In 2011, the group led by University of Michigan associate professor Ethan Kross studied 40 people who had recently gone through a romantic break-up within the previous six months. All the participants chosen mentioned having felt intense feelings of rejection due to the ending of the relationship. The 40 people were then put through two tests one related to the emotional pain they felt over the rejection and the other actual physical pain. In the first test, the study subjects viewed an image of their ex and were asked to think about the break up.  In the second stage, thermal devices were attached to their arms that created heat the equivalent of hot coffee. As the 40 people went through these and other comparative tests, the researchers monitored their brain activity using MRIs. The researchers found that feelings of rejection sparked neural activity in the same area of the brain where people felt physical pain. In …

Credit: Iamnotunique/Flickr/Creative Commons

Centered Like Clay

One of the best definitions of intercession I have heard goes something like this: “Intercession is not about defeating the devil in a particular battle; it is about getting into the face of God, with the defeat of the devil as the by-product.” Reading the many accounts of Jesus’ ministry to desperate people reveals something wonderful about God’s character. It seems that the more irreverent and noisy, and the more into Jesus’ face and space someone was, the more Jesus liked it. He even went so far as to touch a leper before He had healed him. Yuck! (Mark 1:40-45) What a wonderful Lord we serve, who beckons society’s “lepers” to come to Him, and get into God’s face and be redeemed! My question is, how centered on God can you get? Centered Like Clay The term “centered” means different things to people of different backgrounds. From doctors setting bones to machinists working on a lathe, being centered and focused is critical to the success of any endeavor. I want to look at two Old …