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Go Home – Lent Day 16

Mark 5: 1-20  “Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis[b] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.”

Have you ever taken a trip (well not in the last year!!) that you never wanted to end?  To have had such a life changing experience that you could see yourself always being a part of that experience?  We’ve had a few, although honestly, when we travel, we’re both done and ready for home after about 10 days.  We once took a trip to the States, and even with 5 days left of our vacation, we drove straight through from Nashville to home – just to be home.  But, put us in the Rockies or me in Israel – it’s much harder to leave.

Our trip around the Galilee has us at the north end of the lake today.  If you draw an imaginary line through the lake – the east is where some of the 10 communities of the Decapolis were in Jesus’ time, and was populated by Gentiles.  The miracle of healing took place in the community of Kursi.

Our account today records an encounter with a man who under the possession of demons, and because he refers to himself as “Legion”, we know that there were many demons to be dealt with.  Jesus drives them out and has them settle in a herd of pigs (that’s how we know it was the Gentile area of Galilee). Those pigs then run off a cliff and drown in the waters of the lake.

At the excavations of Kursi,  the ruins of the 5th Century Byzantine monastery were first unearthed by road construction crews.  The major excavation of the site took place between 1971 and 1974.  The monastery was surrounded by a stone wall, the entrance of which faced the Sea of Galilee and was guarded by a watchtower, with a paved road leading down to a harbour where boats could berth – the site of an ancient fishing village.  You can still see caves and a long cliff that fit the description of the situation in this Jesus encounter.

After the healing, the man wants to join Jesus and travel with him.  Jesus tells him to “Go Home” and “tell them how much the Lord has done for you.”  

“Mountain top” experiences are easy to stay in, but life happens in the valleys.  Mountain tops are beautiful and enticing, but valleys are real, and rough and sometimes, pretty dark.  But, when you’ve been taken to the mountain top and had your life changed, your job is to go back to the valley and tell people what God has done for you.

That can be scary, but no one but you can truly tell your story.  No one else has had your experience of God’s presence and work.  Let the memories of your “mountain top” keep you energized and be a reminder of God’s work in your life when times are hard.  But, let them be an encouragement to others so that they might seek their own “mountain”.  As God to show you just one person who need to hear your story this coming week, and when He does, “tell them how much the Lord has done for you”.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2021 in church life, family ministry

 

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Withered and Healed – Lent Day 13

Luke 6:6-11 “Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

10 He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored.”

One of the most exciting finds at the excavation site in Magdala was found in the centre of the Synagogue floor.  It was the routine that they would roll open the scroll for the leaders to read and teach from on this stone.  It was similar to an altar, or to our modern Communion Table.  It was set aside for holy purposes, and that purpose was to hold the Torah Scroll for the community to learn from The Law given by God.  The stone is carved with religious symbols, with the most significant being a 7-armed Menorah.

Today’s passage again has Jesus teaching in a Galilean Synagogue.  Luke doesn’t tell us which one, but we know that the Pharisees were just waiting for a chance to catch him breaking one of their many, many laws.  In the congregation that day was a man with a withered hand.

In those days, any physical challenge was a matter of shame, so imagine the shock of the man being told to stand in front of all who were assembled.  As if that wasn’t enough, Jesus then asks which is unlawful – to do good evil or to save life or destroy it.  Their response is not noted, but Jesus goes on to do a miracle – right in front of his accusers.

The instruction is to stretch out his hand.  Jesus asks him to present to him the very thing that brings him shame, the thing that stands between the man and full fellowship in the congregation.  When the man does that – he is healed.

Notice this very important detail and know that the same is true today.  Jesus did not ask the man to present that which was not shriveled.  The instruction was to present that which needed healing.  The part of him that he will have kept hidden but was in need of redeeming.  He still does that for us.  God wants all of us, but his most beautiful work is done when He heals that which we would rather hide, or that which others have taught us to be ashamed of.

Offer Him your withered heart, spirit, emotions, choices, etc. – and see just how fully He restores them and makes them healthy and whole.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2021 in church life

 

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Because They Asked – Lent Day 9

Mark 1:29-34 “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.  Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.  That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed.  The whole town gathered at the door,  and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.”

Yesterday, Jesus was teaching in the Synagogue in Capernaum, and Mark goes on to tell us that “as soon as” they left, they went to Simon’s (Peter) house. Our picture today, shows just how accurate that statement is. We took this picture on the steps of the Synagogue and our view is of Peter’s home – there is much archeological evidence that this was a home, then an early house church, as Peter described himself, and by the middle of the first century it was a larger site for worship. In the oldest part of the find, they found inscriptions of prayers on the walls that included that names of Peter and Jesus.

The very strange building above the stone ruins, is the church for public use today. The floor is glass and it allows pilgrims to view the house below, and protects it at the same time.

It had been a big day, Jesus had been teaching and wound up driving a demon from a man. Either of those activities as tiring, and when they happened one right after the other, Jesus likely just needed a good meal and rest. Heading to Peter’s house, he will have been hopeful for both. These were his people, and it was a place of comfort. Mark makes the point that those gathered told Jesus about the health of Peter’s mother-in-law.

Because he was God Himself, I imagine Jesus already knew how sick she was. But, it was after his hosts told him of the sickness that he went in, took her hand and she was healed.

There is much that could be said about this passage: how Peter’s mother-in-law got up and served everyone; how Jesus kept the demons he exorcised silent. But what jumps out for me in this passage is this – the family asked Jesus for help in their concern. They didn’t assume he knew, they didn’t apologize for bothering him. No, they told Jesus of their need and his response was clear and exacting.

Do you wait for God to respond to a need without ever talking to Him about it? Be certain of this, He already knows, but when we communicate our need we are ready for Him to act. When we trust that an answer is forthcoming, (it may not be the one we are wanting, but it will always be the answer we need), it continues to build our relationship with Him.

There’s a great old hymn that reminds us to “Take it to the Lord in Prayer”. There is truth to be cherished in the stanza,

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer”

Talk with him about your concerns and triumphs today – He’s always ready for a chat, after all, you are his favourite!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2021 in church life

 

Hear the Widsom – Lent Day 8

Luke 4: 31-37 “Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. 32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.”

There’s just something about coming into Capernaum. So much of Jesus time was spent here, and it was in the Synagogue that we first read of his public ministry here. It’s fitting, that in his new adopted home, Jesus would first be about his Father’s business. Today’s pictures are the ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum. You’ll notice 2 colours of stone in the walls. The upper white stones are Roman era, but the dark stones – they are basalt and are certainly from the time of Jesus. Additional archaeological finds show ruins of stones that would have topped the pillars around the building. The carvings on them indicate that this structure was indeed the centre of worship and business in the village.

To stand in a place where Scripture tells us that Jesus taught, and to have archeological evidence to confirm that this is indeed the place, “Right Here!!” is overwhelming. It was appropriate to read some of his teachings while we were there. It was Jeff’s joy to be able to share some of Jesus’ words with us in that spot the day we were there.

People marvelled at Jesus teaching, and found that his words has authority and wisdom. In the remainder of the this passage, they have the front row seats to seeing just how much authority his words held. Jesus commands a demon to leave a man. Even that demon knows who Jesus is, and request that he leave them alone!

How easy it is, with our digital Bible apps, multiple translations of Scripture, television preachers, etc., to forget the awesomeness of what God has chosen to say to us. It’s a little like living near Niagara Falls, you forget how incredible it is until you take someone there for the first time.

Today, let yourself be amazed by Jesus’ teaching. Let those words jolt you from the dullness and be awestruck again. The people of that time were astonished and surprised, because His teachings stood in stark contrast to not only the demonic spirits but to the established teachers. He still does that, we only need to be open to hear the words.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2021 in church life

 

What’s That You Say? – Lent Day 6

Luke 4:24-30. “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. 30 But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.”

When the time of temptation was completed, Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, filled with the Holy Spirit.  He had begun his time of ministry, and in this full passage, he went into to the synagogue and began to teach, and his new reputation preceded him.  To say those who had watched him grow up were unimpressed would be an understatement.  Especially as he read a passage from the Scroll, and then pronounced that “today the Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.  Imagine!  

The crowd was so angered by his pronouncement that they forced him to the edge of a cliff just at the edge of town, with the plans to throw him off it.  We don’t have the reason given to us, but he managed to just walk away from them.  This is the view from that cliff:

The people in Jesus’ hometown thought they knew him so well that there was nothing new he had to say to them. When Jesus first proclaimed the good news of God’s kingdom to his own townspeople at Nazareth, he was met with angry incredulity. Their very familiarity with him blinded them to his colossal mission. Many of us have been familiar with the words of Jesus from childhood. We have heard the narratives, the sermons, the parables so often that it is difficult to imagine it the way the author of Hebrews describes it, ‘The word of God is living and active’.

God can speak to us in the most unexpected way and through the most unexpected people and means.  If we are so fixed in our own conclusions, like those in the Synagogue that day, we leave no room for Him to work in new ways.  Pray that you will experience His Word afresh in this Season of Lent. Spend time reading from a translation you understand, (if you don’t have one, message us and we’ll see that we get you a contemporary Bible) and read with the expectation that God will speak to you.  He won’t disappoint, surprise and challenge maybe, but never disappoint.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2021 in church life

 

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Let Me Introduce You – Lent Day 4

Mark 1: 9-11 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

This morning, I want you to recall a few things. Imagine taking a bite of a fresh apple. Can you hear the crunch, and taste the tart and sweetness on your tongue? Next, picture a grape. Can you feel the juice rush as you bite down on it? Now, picture the smell and taste of a pomello. How your mouth reacts with the first bite, how much work it took to prepare it for eating. You likely can’t do this, because you’ve never been introduced to the fruit. (It’s a like a very large grapefruit, with an extremely thick skin, and a slightly sweet sectioned fruit).

Well, the main character in today’s account is a bit like picturing the eating of that fruit you’ve never tried. The Israelites knew that the Messiah was coming – eventually. But they had nothing to be able to picture what he would look like or where they would encounter him. Just as you need to be introduced to new foods to be able to know what to expect, Jesus had to be introduced to the people he had been sent to save.

Our picture today is roughly the spot where that Baptism occurred. We can’t know exactly, but we do know the area of the Jordan and we know how close it is to the Wilderness that Jesus would spend the next 40 days in, and it is here where we find the centuries old church and location that generations of piligrims have come to remember that event.

It’s not the cleanest of water – it travels from Mt. Hermon in the north down through fields and valleys and picks up who knows what on its way to the Dead Sea. That structure you see is on the Jordanian side, and it was only in 2012 that this site was reopened to the public again after years of unrest between the 2 nations.

It’s a powerful moment during a pilgrimage, and while I have not been in the water, I still marvel that this site is there. It was in this area that Elijah and Joshua split the waters, the power of God through Man. But it was in this area that God split the Heavens to show that Jesus was the power of God to Man.

Today, thank God for that moment and that person (or people) who introduced you to His Son. Then, ask Him to show you to whom you can do the same.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2021 in church life

 

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Growing in Stature and Wisdom Lent – Day 3

Matthew 2:21-23. “…and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

Today’s focus takes us back to just a few years after the Christmas account of Jesus’ birth. The little family left Bethlehem for Egypt to escape the madman, King Herod. And, after another dream telling him it was safe to go back, Joseph heads home for Israel. However, not back to Judea, because Herod’s son was now on the throne. So, it was back to Nazareth.

This is the community where Jesus grew up, learned his father trade and studied the Jewish scriptures. It was here that the Bible tells us that Jesus “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”.

The picture today is from a wonderful Christian ministry in the very Muslim city of modern Nazareth. Nazareth Village is a bit like our Black Creek Pioneer Village. They have done some arecheological excavations, and found some first century buildings and pottery. From those findings, they have recreated what the community will have looked like when Jesus lived there as a boy. They have actors who take on the characters, including Joseph in his carpentry shop. People from around the world come here to volunteer their time. And their focus is to help people know about the culture Jesus lived in so that we can know him a little better.

I love visiting here. It’s a wonderful retreat from the busyness of Nazareth, which is visible just over the walls of the village. And when our time here is finished, the tour bus returns you to the filled streets and constant sound of honking horns.

Lent calls us out of the “hurry” of our lives, although this year it’s a little more of coming out of the “worry”, and into the quiet presence of God. We know the outside world is just outside the walls of our home, but we can need to refresh and focus on the Author of the Scriptures. He longs to show us His plans, and His heart. Quiet times with His Words will hep us continue to grow “in stature and wisdom”.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Your own Gilboa – Lent Day 2

1 Samuel 31:1-8. “When the Israelites along the valley and those across the Jordan saw that the Israelite army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them.”

One more picture from Mt. Carmel, this time a better view of Mount Gilboa.

Yep, that’s the valley referred to in this passage. There are ancient ruins dotted along there, some found and some still to be discovered after these millennia. But Gilboa is an important reminder for us, as we prepare to head to the fertile Galilee tomorrow.

It was at Gilboa, where facing complete defeat, and certainly struck with fear, King Saul refused to have his life taken from him and he threw himself on his sword. (This where we get the phrase, “To fall on one’s sword”). The Israelite army fled from the Philistines and the entire nation left that region in order to avoid what that would mean for their lives. Not the kind of leader to hold up as a great example, is it?

For me, Gilboa is a reminder that our responses driven by fear, are typically for self-preservation. But in our response, do we take away the opportunity for God to do something spectacular with our circumstances? Sure, fear can be a life saving response and it’s good to pay attention to that. But when we fear change, or a decision that is out of our hands, do we choose to walk away or see if God’s best for us could be in the new direction? I strongly dislike change, but when I take a minute to step back to see the reasons behind it – it’s usually a good thing.

Your response to fear not only affects you personally, but those around you. Your family sees and responds right along with you, your co-workers and friends too. Never underestimate your circle of influence. We live in a season of fear, don’t we? We can choose how to respond to it – smartly or by retreating from everything.

If you don’t know the God who conquerors all fears, and in whom we draw our strength – ask Him to be just that today, and then let us know so we can be praying for you.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Ash Wednesday – Feb. 17/21

Today is the start of Lent. A time of reflection and preparation for the Main Event in the Christian Year – Easter. Lent is a period of 40 days, not including Sundays, for each Sunday is to be a little Easter!

This year, as I have in years past, I’ll be doing a daily reflection. Often it’s been on a prescribed set of readings, but this year we’re going to go on a bit of a journey together, no tickets or Covid tests required. Each day, we’ll see one of the sites connected to Jesus ministry. These are pictures taken during our own trips, and all have historic and Biblical significance. In most cases, there is also archeological evidence to support the Biblical account. So, come along with me, to walk the regions where Jesus and his disciples lived out the years and weeks and days leading up to the Cross and the Resurrection.

Today’s picture is taken from the roof of the Carmelite monastery at Mt. Carmel. I love to start our tours here because it sets the stage for all that we will see in the Galilee. Lying before us is the land of Israel’s history. So much of the Old and New testament happened on those plains before us.

Lying before us is the Jezreel Valley – where Elijah killed the prophets of Baal, the Tel that Deborah carried out her duties as a judge of Israel, Moung Gilboa where Saul was ultimately defeated, The Mediterranean shore, the ancient trade route that led to and from the Sea, and so much more.

As we begin this journey with our faces set towards the Cross and Empty Grave, it is good for us to stop and take stock of all that God as done for us. It’s been quite a year. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, lifestyles of travel and socializing and it’s been hard. But, there have been blessings too. Take some time today to think back on what the last 12 months have held. Lament those things you miss, and give thanks for those things that God as brought to you.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2021 in church life, Uncategorized

 

Stay – Anjuli Paschall

When this title was included in the Nuts About Books June offering, I mused “How appropriate”, and requested the opportunity to review it.

How wrong I was in my supposition, and I am so glad it was not at all what I was expecting. Anjuli Paschall writes about times of life what have been a challenge for her, and then turns those experiences into lessons and application for us all.

Life comes with hard times, and we spend energy trying to avoid it, or get out of the way of pain. Like an insight to her journal, the reader is invited to wait for God’s presence to be tangible in the midst of the brokenness, anger, shame, anxiety, etc. She beautifully reminds us that it is during those moments (days, weeks, years) when God comes the closest to us.

“Anxiety is the lighthouse in the storm leading me back to my tender need for God.” What a radically different and helpful way to put a positive turn on anxiety. When in the throws of it, it’s when I feel the very furthest from God’s care, yet this reminder has served to pull me back to Him. A reminder to be in His word, listening through prayer – sharing the yearnings of concern.

Each chapter is presented to the reader as an invitation: to remain present through awkward and upsetting things. Then, to wait and watch as God reaches to us in the mess. What a gift during these days of being forced to be still.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2020 in book reviews

 

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Set The Stars Alight – Amanda Dykes

Set the stars alight

It was the reading experience I had been waiting for this summer.  A campsite, the sound of waves on the beach, a fire and the newest offering from Amanda Dykes.  Perfection.  Why?  Let me tell you.

I became enchanted with Amanda’s writing when I read her first full-length novel last year.  “Whose Waves These Are” was such a captivating store, that it was a few weeks before I could pick up something else.  Well, she’s done it again.  This time she takes us to England in the search for the answer to a lost story.

A watchmaker’s daughter, Lucy Claremont learns to love stories and the mystery of the seas.  Her best friend, Dashel develops his exploration of the stars.  While time has led to the two drifting very far apart, their life’s works bring them back together again fur the ultimate treasure hunt.

Amanda takes us into this adventure, and capturing our imaginations as Dash shares the things the stars can help us know (historical facts and not astrology bumpf), combined with Lucy’s knowledge is historical events  we journey along with them as they seek the proof of a story her father told her from hundreds of years earlier.  Along the way, they see signs of the Creator who put all the elements into place.

This novel, while with a bit of a romance story, is an historical adventure.  It was one I was only too happy to accept the invitation to join.  I am excited to add this to our church library shelf, and to recommend to those who enjoy great fiction.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2020 in book reviews

 

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A Mosaic of Wings – Kimberly Duffy

 

a mosic of wings  Social Distancing and a warm summer Saturday were the perfect combination for this historical novel by Kimberly Duffy.

One of my favourite things is reading about places I’ve visited, recalling my time in the local area.  This offering is set between Ithica, NY – a place we’ve camped near on occasion, and India – a place I’ve only ever visited though others and their experiences.

Nora Shipley is a graduating student at Cornell, from the entomology program her deceased father taught in.  She is fascinated by bugs and the ways that they point to God’s marvellous creation.  She is torn between the opportunity for further study, saving a piece of her father’s legacy and an adventure of discovering in a vastly foreign land.

Set in 1885, she is truly not your typical young lady.  She’s not interested in being traditional in any way and she’s truly an independent spirit.  Through a series of events, she finds herself on the other side of the world, hoping for a special find that will aid in making her future plans come true.

Being a female scientist in this era is not easy and Kimberly paints this picture quite clearly for us.  We meet local people through Nora’s eyes, and see her deeply caring, Christian heart in how she interacts with them.

As I had hoped, this was a great read for an easy day.  Kimberly has given us a fine historical peek into late 19th century struggles for women to be accepted into non-traditional roles, and helps us to see the wonder in creation that is all around us.

I look forward to placing this into our church library. We will recommend it to those who enjoy romance, historical fiction and definitely as a starter novel for anyone venturing into Christian fiction, including our teen girls.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2020 in book reviews

 

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Living Lies – Natalie Walters

Lane Kent returns to her home town of Walton, Georgia. Fighting a dangerous depression after the death of her husband, she and her 5 year-old son hope to start a new life.

Out on a walk, she finds a highly disturbing find – a murder has occurred in this quiet town. And the discovery of the body gives a sizeable challenge to the new Deputy, and this all occurs on the first chapter!

Natalie Walters has given her readers an gripping mystery. I found myself not able to walk away from this read, until the last page was turned. She brings the audience into the lives of her characters, and fully into the mystery of the death that affects the whole town.

Lane’s father is less than supportive – unless it makes him look good in the press, and her mother is a willing participant in that behaviour. Her boss is a loving “grandma” who cares for the town through her cooking at the town cafe, where gossip and news get shared with equal zeal, right alongside of caring for others.

While both Lane and Charlie try to establish new normals in their lives, this murder is at the centre of everything. The novel is engaging, a mystery that holds on.

I would recommend this to a “new to Christian Fiction” reader, a John Grisham fan, and those who enjoy intrigue. Natalie is an author I’ve not read before, but be very sure – she’s one who’s work I will seek out again!

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2019 in book reviews

 

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Cost of Betrayal – Henderson, Pettrey and Eason

the cost of betrayal pictureI am a complete suspense fan – perfect reading for travels and time away. This offering for review as just that. 3 novellas in one edition, and a chance to “meet” 2 authors I’ve not read before.

The first story is by Dee Henderson, Known for her suspense filled series. “Betrayed” returns Paul and Ann Falcon to the reader. This time, they trip into the mystery of a murder, and the case the woman who’s been convicted of it – all because of an auction purchase. Ann thinks she’s picking up props for a new painting…

It was with this novella that I was reminded why I don’t often read this form of fiction. There just isn’t the space for the development and details that a full novel offers. Dee’s Known for her forensic details, and this presentation just doesn’t allow for it. Perhaps this is just the jumping point for a new trilogy?!

Dani Pettrey is an author I’ve not read before, but I know I’ll be picking up again. “Tenni” and her cousin, Julia have a tradition of racing each other to the buoy off the island as a way to end the season. But this time was different. When Tenni arrives at the marker, there is no sign of Julia, but there are signs that something terrible has happened to someone! A storm requires her return to safety, and the dark mystery begins to unfold. And how well this novella draws you in!

Lynette Eason’s contribution is the final section of the book, and “Code of Ethics” is the tale.  An officer is wounded on duty, and despite surviving the surgery – his life is in danger during recovery.  That threat comes because of retaliation of his having reporting a dirty fellow officer.  Lynette weaves this tale with great suspense and is yet another author to add to my list.

This book is a must for church libraries, as well as the readers who want to read the story quickly or for those who are fans of a well constructed suspense story.  Each author skillfully writes the characters faith into the plot line – without it feeling like an afterthought.

“Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2019 in book reviews, Uncategorized

 

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Little Women Movie – 2018 release

I’m always suspect when someone decides to remake a classic book into a movie or TV show.  So, it was with intrigue that I requested the link to review this movie that hits theaters Sept. 28th, and my screening was provided by Graf-Martin Communications and Pure Flix.  To them I say, “Thank you.”

Little women 2018

I think it must be my age, because the only actor I recognized was Lea Thompson as Marmee.  And because of that, I was able to watch the story unfold with basically no “history of roles” to cloud my viewing, or give in to expectations.

What a wonderful way to spend my afternoon off this week! I was completely enthralled, and had to get the tissues out more than once.  The story stays quite close to the book, but the updates for a 2018 audience are spot-on and quite clever.

The relationship between the girls and with Marmee is so special, it almost jumps off the screen.  And then throw Laurie into the mix, and well…it’s just as I pictured things in the book.  This movie has all the feels – and none of them are out-of-place to the situation.  It’s wholesome without being campy.  Proof that Hollywood can do quality family films, this is one I’ll likely invest in the DVD when it is offered.  I know I’ll want to see it again and again.

This is the 150th anniversary of the book, and with this wonderful version – a whole generation will discover this classic, and see just how timeless good writing and stories can be.  Fitting for the whole family, although rated PG-13 (not for language, but a few tense situations), I highly recommend an evening together enjoying this movie.

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Paul: Apostle of Christ – a movie review

Paul movieThe latest faith-based movie has hit theatres.  Paul: Apostle of Christ starring Jim Caviezel, better know as Jesus in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”.  As Executive Producer, he was able to bring this movie to life.  In a recent interview he said it was just something he had to bring to the screen.

The scene is Rome in AD67.  The situation for Christians is not good, in fact – we know that they are being used as candles for the Roman court – and Paul is in prison, nearing the end of his life.  Luke, the author of the 4th gospel, and the doctor among the disciples heads to the prison to write down Paul’s memories.  This account will become the book of Acts that we know today.

We see the compound where the Christians are living, and where Priscilla and Aquilla are living.  They are amazed at the gifts the other communities have been sending them.  One of my favourite lines to describe this was, ” even the Corinthians gave generously, if you can believe it!”.   One of the residents is a young boy Tarquin, and he offers himself to be a messenger between this community and some sympathetic Roman families who may be able to assist the Christians in leaving the city.

Luke is able to get someone to covertly get him into Paul’s cell, and he begins to record the accounts of Paul’s journeys.  I always find it fascinating to learn how the events in Acts connect to his letters, and this movie does that well.  For one not acquainted with the Pauline letters though, the skipping of the timeline would be confusing.  It’s impossible to present Paul’s writings in a chronological order when presenting them as memories.

I enjoyed this movie, although I found the settings dark in their lighting.  It would be better in a theatre setting I’m sure.  There were moments that tied themselves up just a little too neatly – but to delve deeper into these issues would have necessitate a much longer presentation.

Thank you to Graf Martin Communications and Sony Pictures for the opportunity to independently review this movie.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

So Much Food! – Lent Day 15

John 6: 3-15. “11 Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted.”

Remember when we could have people visit, and have meals together?  It feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?  Even this past summer, it felt so strange to be able to gather, but all the while keeping our safe 6 feet.  

I love to host people, to feed them and fellowship together.  At the same time, we love to be the recipients of gracious hospitality.  In the community we serve, we are blessed with people who, when we can do it safely, share this gift.  Excellent company, conversation and enough food to feed a small army!  It makes for wonderful times and memories.  As a hostess, one of my greatest concerns when entertaining is that the food will run out.  So, I always make more than I know we need, but no one goes away hungry.

Today, we leave Magdala and head just a little south along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.  It’s home to a Byzantine monastery that was established in the late 1930’s with the purpose of caring for the site and caring for Pilgrims, and is the traditional site commemorating the Feeding of the Five Thousand.  The earliest building was known to be here was from the writings of a 4th century Spanish Nun.  That building was reconstructed in the 5th century and then destroyed by during the Persian invasion in 614AD.  The ruins were buried under sand and dirt until 1932 when a number of the Byzantine walls and beautiful mosaics were uncovered.  The current building was restored in 1981, and the floor you see here is expertly crafted new mosaics that incorporate the original 5th century remains.

What this site helps us remember (we don’t know the exact location, like at Capernaum or Magdala) is the day that so many were gathered to Jesus teach, and time got away on them.  5,000 is the number we know best – but that would have only counted the men.  There will have been wives and children in the crowd too, and all of them very hungry.

By this point in Jesus’ ministry, the disciples have seen just what he is capable of.  Still not in full grasp of who they were serving, the disciples come and ask Jesus what they should do.  The people are hungry, and they’ve no food.  But Andrew, has found a boy with five loaves and 2 fish.  When Jesus tells everyone to sit down, he takes these bits of food and “gave thanks to God and distributed it to the people”.  John goes on to tell us that everyone ate until they had been satisfied.

It’s a story we’ve heard in church many times, and it’s a story I’ve heard taught with terrible theology…but that’s another day.  Today, notice that Jesus took what was presented to him, gave thanks and the people had enough.  Let that be your takeaway.

We don’t have to be fully equipped to feed people, to care for people, to teach people.  God still performs miraculous things with just the bits that we have.  When we give thanks for those bits and offer them to His use, there is enough.  In the words of the Brothers at Tabgha, “…there is enough, even more than enough. Sometimes we think we have very little, when in reality we have plenty.” 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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A Simple Touch – Lent Day 14

Luke 8:40-48 “Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. 48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.””

She was never meant to be seen.  After all, the men and soldiers in the crowd were so much bigger than she.  Quite aside from her stature, ailment and gender gave her no standing, even to be recognized as a person.  12 years of bleeding will have taken its toll on her general health. And so, in desperation she thinks that if she can simply touch the hem of The Healer’s cloak she might have some restoration to her body.

There’s a quiet chapel in the beautiful worship centre at the Magdala site and the entire back wall is painted with this mural. It’s magnificent and quite stirring.  It depicts the humble but trusting desperate act of faith.

When we read our English Bibles, we miss an important detail from the original languages.  The word for “hem or skirt” – referring to the hem of the cloak that faithful Jewish men would wear – is the same as “wings”.  Certainly, the woman with the issue of blood knew of this tradition, and it explains why she sought to touch the corner (the wings) of Jesus’ prayer garment. The same word used in Numbers 15:38 for corner is used in Malachi 4:2 for wings.  She will have heard these words from her Scriptures: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings,” Malachi 4:2. Does the end of that verse bring a song to mind? It’s parts of the carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”!

Mild he lays his glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth…


Risen with healing in his wings
Light and life to all he brings…


Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!…


Hail, the heaven-born Prince of…

Just as the man in our passage yesterday had to reach out his hand for healing, so too did the woman in our reading today. She knew that Jesus healing was in His wings, and by touching the corner of his cloak it was within her grasp.  2000 years hasn’t changed the requirement.  We simply need to reach out to God.  It only takes enough strength to simply touch the corner in prayer.  He still knows and responds when we draw near.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Harvest time – Lent Day 12

Matt 9:35-38  “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.””

The town of Magdala was a center of trade and fish processing.  Not far from Capernaum, but far enough away to have its own synagogue.  In fact, discoveries in 2009 found this mosaic floor that dates between 50 BC and 150 AD, making it the oldest Jewish worship building in the Galilee.  They further found a coin dated 29AD, confirming that this worship center was in use during the days of Jesus’ ministry, and because he taught in the towns around the Sea of Galilee, he will have assuredly taught here.

Matthew records one of his times of teaching in an area synagogue. His words are as relevant today as they were then.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”  Just walking through the self-help section of a bookstore speaks to how much the world is craving a deep meaning to their lives.  We who are Jesus followers know that he is the answer to that longing.

But so many of us are reluctant to share the Good News.  We are quick to tell someone of an amazing deal or that great movie we saw.  Why are we hesitant to tell other the very best news of all – our relationship with the saving Grace of the Living God.

It is the most amazing thing to watch someone who has the gift of evangelism find the best way to share Jesus with a stranger.  It flows from them with an ease that is simply conversational and not preachy at all.  It’s certainly not a gift I possess.  I can, however, pay attention to when God presents me with an opportunity to share His love.  It happened just a couple of weeks ago during a phone conversation with a clerk in a store.

I was looking to purchase an item, and he didn’t have it in stock.  When he suggested that I drive a fair distance away, I told him that I had no desire to drive that far after work.  I thank him though for his help and was prepared to say good-bye.  He then asked me where I worked, and the conversation turned beautifully into an opportunity to share with him my relationship with Jesus.  Our call ended with him thanking me for the chat.

John Bowen, a professor of Evangelism has said that bringing someone to faith is like farming.  Some till the soil, some plant the seed, some tend the crop while others harvest.  It’s not very often that one person has a role in the entire process.  By being faithful to the role God places us in at a particular time we add to the number of workers.

I didn’t see the harvest in my conversation with the clerk, but I may have loosened the soil for the next person to plant the seed of faith.  Ask God to show you what part of the harvest He wants you to be doing, then watch for those opportunities.  It will make an eternity of difference in someone’s life – and the Kingdom.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Sabbath Moments – Lent Day 11

Mark 1:35 – 37 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Right here moments abound in Israel.  Because we know that the house near the Synagogue in Capernaum was Peter’s and that Jesus stayed with them, we can conclude that the shoreline pictured is the place where he went in this passage.  The house and Synagogue are just over our left shoulder when looking out at the Sea of Galilee from this location.  It’s one of my favourite moments in the pilgrimage.  We build in time for folks to take 30 minutes to be…no teaching, fact telling, locale pointing.  Simply quiet time and solitary if they choose.

Jesus models an important lesson in ministry and in life for us here.  His previous day was one of exorcising demons, healing and teaching.  He knows that his reputation is spreading in this place, and the unfolding day promises to hold more of the same.

So, he takes some quiet time in this oh, so peaceful a setting, and prays.  Recharges his battery and reconnects with The Father.  When his friends come and find him, Jesus says that they shall go to another town in the area.  Why?  To continue to teach and fulfill the reason he came.  

Sabbath rest, recharging rest is important to restore and refuel ourselves.  It was a part of the pattern set out for us in creation.  It was reinforced in the Big 10, and here Jesus lives it out.  Fill your tank before you set out to help people fill their own.

You’re reading this, and that’s a start.  Take some time today to sit with God.  Chat with Him and listen expectantly for His answer.  Then refreshed, carry on with what you were sent into the world to do.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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When Being Blessed Doesn’t Feel Like it – Lent Day 10

Matthew 5:3-12 “Blessed be…”

Before you continue, take a few minutes to read through the list of the “blessed are” statements that Jesus makes in this opening to his teaching on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. They sure don’t sound like the self-help gurus that are popular today do they? These statements were and still are quite counter-cultural. It doesn’t feel like a blessing to mourn someone we love. It doesn’t feel like a blessing to have people insult us because of our faith. I’m certain that the first hearers of this teaching will have wondered what on earth he was talking about.

Today’s view is from the ground of the chapel on the Mount of Beatitudes. It’s the tradional site that honours the Sermon on the Mount. We have no evidence that tells confirms that this is where Jesus taught, but the landscape of the Galilee shore indicate that it’s highly probable that this is the area. Just across the lake is Tiberias, the literal “city on a hill” that Jesus speaks of, and to our left is Capernaum. Just to our right lies the chapel, and beyond that is a natural amphitheater. It’s not accessible, as the landscape is not safe for people to wander on, but it’s quite something. It would have been the only spot on the shoreline that is able to accomodate such large gathering of people, and where a speaker would be able to be heard by so many with first century sound systems! The setting is perfect to wander the garden and ponder on this passage of Scripture.

Ken Gire, in his book “Moments with the Savior” shows us how God uses all of these unexpected blessings to craft in us the character of Christ. He says, “When the Father begins crafting character, a crushing must first take place. Not because he’s a tempermental artist who’s angry with his work, but because the raw materials for his art come from a broken heart.”

Jesus was poor in spirit – he chose to leave his heavenly kingdom to have no earthly posessions. He mourned – Isaiah called him the “man of sorrows”, and we see him cry over the loss of his friend Lazarus. He was meek – riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, and staying silent when he was on trial speaks to this. Jesus knew was it was to hunger and thirst – he waited in the desert for 40 days, and in his final moments he cried out for something to drink. He was merciful – he showed compassion on so many through his healing of body and soul. His very life shows that Jesus was pure in heart, and he was certainly a peacemaker. Yet, becasuse of all of this, he was persecuted by the religious leaders.

When we are led into Christ-likeness, what is the outcome from these blessings? Gire reminds us of these:

“Comfort from the sadness we’ve carried in our hearts. An inheritance that staggers the imagination. A feast to satisfy every inner longing we’ve ever had. Mercy to salve every wound we’ve encoutered along the way. And, most exciting of all, the embrace of the Father welcoming his children home.

These are the blessings of a Christlike character. Freely extended to that motley crowd who first heard them. From a hand that reaches through the centures to extend them to us as well. Blessings that should not only give us hope for the road ahead…but happiness here and now so we can enjoy the trip.”

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

Will You Follow? Lent Day 7

Mark 1: 14-20 “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him. 19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Jesus has now left his hometown, having escaped the very angry crowd. (Do you see the foreshadowing to another angry crowd demanding his death?). He walks by the Sea of Galilee and begins to form his inner circle. He didn’t go to the synagogue, nor the schools to gather the most faithful or the smartest scholars. No, he went to where the every day workers were, and he meets some fishermen.

Today’s picture shows a wonderful view on Mount Arbel (when it’s not cloudy and raining, like it was the day we were here) of the entire Sea of Galilee. It’s truly not a sea…more like the size of Lake Simcoe. It’s also referred to as the Sea of Kinneret from the Hebrew word for “harp or lute”, since that is its shape.

There are 4 words that stand out for me in this passage. Read the focus verses again, and see if you notice anything astounding, I’ll wait… For me, those words are “At once” and “without delay”. Now, Mark liked to use phrases that indicated immediacy, and here is no different. Simon, Andrew, James and John had been working at their know trade and Jesus tells them to follow him. They don’t say they need more time, or that they have to finish something first – no, they don’t delay and straight away become part of the 12 who will be Jesus’ closest circle.

We have so many excuses when it comes to fully following Jesus. To let him be the centre of our lives, we must give him the centre of our lives. That means letting go of our own agenda and control to follow the teachings and directives of Jesus. It’s a hard, hard thing to do, this living a life of surrender to our own way. Once the decision is made, it’s hard not to take bits of control back from God.

Someday, I’m going to fully learn that it always goes better when I don’t try to put my way into effect first and pray about direction later. It’s a lesson that the head and heart don’t learn at the same time. Jesus still asks us to, “Follow Me”. His plans for the coming Kingdom have roles for us to fulfill. Cheifly, we are to share the Good News. There’s no reason big enough to stop us from saying, “Yes”. It’s the best decision you’ll ever make, “because 100 years from now, the only thing that will matter is someone’s relationship with God”(Reggie Joiner)

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2021 in Uncategorized