..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Barking under the Lord's Table: the Little Dogs and the Crumbs of Jesus

"But he answered and said, "I was not sent except
to the lost sheep of Israel." Then she came and
worshiped Him saying, "Lord, help me." But He
answered and said, "It is not good to take the
children's bread and throw it to the little dogs."
And she said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the little
dogs eat the crumbs which fall from the
master's table." Then Jesus answered and said
to her, "O Woman, great is your faith! Let it
be done to you as you desire." (Matthew 15:24-28),
(also, Mark 7:24-30).

Jesus can say some politically incorrect doozies,
can't He? What is He really saying here?

The story unfolds this way: In Mark's gospel
the account reads that Jesus enters a house
and doesn't want anyone to know He is there.
A little peace and quiet is always a good thing, but
Jesus "could not be hidden" (Mark 7:24).
What an understatement this is! Perhaps all Jesus
wants is just a moment to rest in peace and
here comes someone else pestering Him.
Israel by herself had enough problems to keep
Him busy. On earth, unending human need can weary
even the Savior.

I just finished reading some well-written
commentary on this passage but the commentator
suggests that Jesus serves up a softball to
this feisty, foreign woman so that she might hit a
"spiritual" home run. No doubt Jesus was trying
to elicit a reaction, but it seems to me like
He was throwing this woman a screaming
fast inside pitch, chin music, something
well-nigh impossible to hit. Jesus, what
were You doing? The gospels seem to favorably
highlight the people, often outcasts or gentile,
that push way past their comfort zone to pursue

The woman, a Canaanite, and Greek to boot, comes
to Jesus seeking healing for her daughter, but He
seems to shut the door rudely in her face saying,
"Sorry, I only serve Jews." She and her daughter
certainly do not fit that description: they are
gentiles, goyim, heathen, dogs. No doubt she was
the stereotype of, well, I better not go there.
She needs help. Badly. The daughter is
demon-possessed. Even dogs recognize bad situations.

Jesus then makes it harder by painting
the scenario that healing her daughter would
be as crazy as feeding the dogs at the table
and letting the the children sit on the floor.
The dogs, in this case, being her and her
daughter! Excuse me?

She takes the chin music solidly on the chin
and then proceeds to throw Him her own sweet
brushback pitch! She announces to Him that in
any decent family there is food enough even
for the dogs, so what is the big deal?
Even if she has to sit on the floor and
beg, even a bread crumb will do the trick!
In fact, I think she astounds Him!

Do you realize what she is saying?
She gets something that the disciples
do not yet grasp: that God's salvation
is for everyone, and even a crumb off
God's table will heal us. All we need do
is press up to, or under, the Lord's Table.

Dear ones, we, as the gentile world,
are the "little dogs" of God. In Romans,
Paul calls us, "wild olive tree branches"
grafted in (Romans 11:17). In Peter's trance
we are wild boars, crawdads, lizards and
vultures to name a few lovelies (Acts 10:12).
"Little dogs" next to that is starting to
sound like a compliment.

If we Gentiles are only eating the crumbs
that fall from our Master's table, they
are magnificent crumbs! It is a glorious
banquet, where no-one goes away
hungry. The Master is throwing us
hand-picked scraps that suit each
one of us! Oh to be Jesus' little dog!

The woman keeps calling out after Jesus,
but He's mum as a mute. The "crumb" she
needs is quite substantial, probably
technically more than a "bite", but it is
all in the approach, no? You can demand a
bite by barking or you can sit and look hopeful.
She manages to do both at the same time.

The disciples assume that they know what
Jesus is thinking. They assume He will send
her away because she is annoying, much too bold,
a heathen Greek, a woman, an embarrassment
with an embarassing daughter. Are we
like the disciples or are we like the
woman? How do we look at people? How do
we think of Jesus?

There is a political incorrectness that also
abounds on our side of things. Disciples,
then and now, are trying to "protect" Jesus
from "dogs"--from people whose need makes
them desperate, from people who will embarrass
themselves and mostly embarrass what self-righteous
people seem to think is the "cause of Christ." As if
Jesus could be embarrassed! Is it not those
who are filled with themselves who get embarrassed
and project it on the Lord? After all, it is only
the "self" that gets embarrassed and Jesus' self
was dead to all but God.

What they don't realize that here He is about to
teach them several things: that those who refuse
to be embarrassed, or turned back in their total
pursuit of God, are the ones who are rewarded;
that Christ has come for the whole world; and that
the kingdom of God is about Jesus coming not for
those who think they are well, but for those who
are hopelessly hungry, flea-bitten, stray and mangy!

The disciples have no idea that He is come to be
the saviour of the whole world. He has
been dropping hints to the disciples
that are bigger than boulders (John 10:16;
John 4:22,23, Mat. 8:5-13) but, of course, they are
not getting it, how can they? It is not until
Pentecost that God truly unites all believers,
Jew & Gentile, by making the Holy Spirit of promise
available to us all.

It is way too big for them to get yet. Here, Jesus
plays off the request of a woman. He lets a woman
outpreach him and I'll bet that got the boys'

God is eager to provide for all that come to
Him. They must simply pursue Him doggedly with a
strong sense of their need. His provision is
abundant. He is not throwing gristle and stale
bread crusts over the side of the table, He is
throwing us fistloads of blessings, and buckets
of spiritual delicacies: all that makes our hearts
sing and our spiritual stomachs happy.

He is throwing us salvation, and healing, and
full inheritance as His sons and daughters.
The only thing that stops us is our pride so
if we can get past the "dog" thing, a lot
will start to come our way.

All any of us need is a crumb from the Master's
Table. It does not matter if we are dog or child--
there is abundance for all at God's table.
Thank God that He has made us His children. But
frankly, being a dog under Jesus' table would
still be fine with me. As long as I can sit
near Him, I don't mind what role I have. Avail
yourself of the Master's bread. It only takes a
crumb to bring you the healing, the grace,
the provision, that you need. Can you "sit" with
Jesus? Can you "stay" with Him? Can you "lay
down" at His feet? If so, abundance is coming at you.

Never Despair, Never Lose Hope, Never Lose Faith

Never despair of who you are.
You answer to God and not man.
Every nuance, though not understood
by those you desperately hoped would,
can yet be,
yes, indeed, is,
a shining facet of a diamond,
perhaps still in the rough,
that God can be glorified in.

Leave it to Him and let Him
polish you. You shall one
day shine like the sun!

Never lose hope. Across the
days and years of life many a
wind will blow against you.
Hoist your sails and see where
the winds take you.
Trust they are the winds of God.
Let yourself go to them.

Never lose faith. There is only
One that sticks closer than a brother.
Only One who knows you better
than you know yourself. Only
One who believes in you enough
to carry you over the threshold
of Heaven's door.
When you cannot believe, let
Him believe in you, and for you.
Let Him carry you.

Never lose trust. Amidst the
harsh ways of the world, hurt
is inevitable. Pain can cause you
to push so much good away. Don't
let anyone or anything tell you
that God is not able to be
trusted. He is a Friend of Friends,
and in His company is safety
and refuge.

Never lose love. Without it,
the soul shrivels, the eyes dim,
the spirit blackens. Never doubt
that Love will triumph. He shall.
Love is what we live on.
Eat of He who is Love and prepare a
banquet for those around you.
Urge them to eat of Love also.

I know you have been misunderstood.
So have I. When people spurn you,
perhaps they spurn something of
Jesus in you. Perhaps not.
Let God sort it out.
Be the best you can be.
Give the most you dare. Then
give more. Take worthy risks.
Avoid judgment. Leave it to

Life is short. Eternal life is long.
Choices matter. Choose wisely.
Be good or at least let God be
good in you.
Say your prayers.
Never give up.
Never give up.
Life is a wonder.
God is good.

photo taken at Painted Mines, Colorado

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Devotions from the Heart: Being Sent By The Lord

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

Being Sent By The Lord

And the Lord looked upon him, and said,
“Go in this thy might, and thou shall
save Israel from the hand of the
Midianites: have I not sent thee?” Judges 6:14

The occasion of this encounter with Gideon
and the angel was a very low time in the
life of Israel. The angel said to Gideon
“The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of
valor.” Gideon’s response shows us his
heart, “If the Lord is with us, why then is
all this befallen us?” Most of us would reply
the same. Why all these troubles, problems,
hurtful, painful experiences? It is consoling
to learn that the Lord is with us during these
times, an obvious point with the angel in
saying this, for he could see clearly God was
with him.

Gideon was living in fear at this time, threshing
wheat by the winepress to hide it from the
Midianites. God never sees things the way we
see them, his approach to Gideon was to tell him
how He saw everything. Our verse tells us that
the Lord told him to “Go in thy might, have I
not sent thee?”

Gideon was totally unaware of any strength,
boldness, power or whatever. However, God
recognized and saw it, and knew it to be so.
The phrase, “Have I not sent thee?” says it
all. Because the Lord was sending Gideon,
although in his own strength he was weak,
now God was sending him and he was a man of
might. God never asks a man to do anything
without equipping him to do what He requires.

The emphasis must be on God sending us, if we
are sent by God there is nothing we cannot do.
In fact, our names should be called “mighty
men of valor”, as once the Lord has intervened,
weakness becomes strength and what was too weak
to fight now has become the power of God. Oh,
to be sent by God in these days, endued with
power, for only His mighty power will accomplish
anything in this world for His glory.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Cross: God's Signature

Behold your Suffering King--a cross the symbol
of His glory. A great mystery is hidden there--
the cross itself is a symbol of love extending
itself without defense--hands and feet tied
down and no way to protect the heart from
being broken.

Do you think that as you completely surrender to
Me that you will not feel total helplessness?
Dear child, look at the cross. Inquire as to
what it means for I am showing you something
about the way things must be.

Helpless trust and uncompromised love are
present there as a sign not just to men but
to principalities and powers. Do you think
that the cross was a humiliation my Father
turned His back on? No, it is His signature--
signed with My blood, stretching across
heaven and earth.

I am the LORD and I dwell in the hearts
of the meek and lowly. Come and know Me
at the cross and see just what it is that
your adversary opposes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Devotions From the Heart: Staying Encouraged

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

Staying Encouraged

"And David was greatly distressed, for
the people spake of stoning him because the
soul of all the people were grieved, every
man for his sons and daughters: but David
encouraged himself in the Lord His God."
(1 Samuel 30:6)

The timing of this scripture is of great interest.
The Amalakites had invaded David’s city, Ziglag,
a gift from the Philistine king Achish. He was
absent from the city when the Amalekites came
and burned it to the ground. Everything was taken,
including David’s wives and all the little ones
and wives belonging to his men.

It was obvious from the verse that returning to
find such devastation David’s men began to
question his leadership, and thoughts of even
stoning him for seemingly allowing this even to
have taken place. When emotions are hit hard,
reactions can be very dangerous.

Yet we read that David’s immediate response was
to encourage himself in the love of His God. So
often we allow the pain of difficult circumstances
to overcome us, so that we are engulfed in them,
instead of realizing that the Lord is there to be
our help. David was a praise man, he knew from his
psalms that praise was comely. He knew the secret
of staying close with God and leaning upon Him.

He once said “Though I walk through the valley of
the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou
art with me, thy rod and they staff shall comfort me”
(Psalms 23). The word used in Hebrews for “encourage”
means many things: to seize, fasten upon, be strong,
courageous, conquer, fortify, play the man, prevail,
be recovered, behave oneself, valiantly. There are
many more meanings but these will suffice.

Because he was encouraged he was able to approach
the priest to inquire what God was saying. He was
told he would recover all. What a lesson to learn!
There is no discouragement that need defeat us, if
we will only stay encouraged and being encouraged,
we will take and recover all. The Lord enables you
to do so.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Do You Betray Him With A Kiss?

"But Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you
betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?"
--Luke 22:48

There are many passages in the bible that
should cause one to cringe: this is one of them.

At the heart of the Passion Story is the
distressing betrayal of Judas. Here was
betrayal at the hands of a disciple, a comrade,
one who had walked the road with Jesus. Worse
yet, the betrayal came by means of an act
of intimacy: a kiss.

It makes one shudder.

David, too, speaks prophetically of the
betrayal of Jesus: "An evil disease," they say,
"clings to him, And now that he lies down
he will rise up no more." Even my own
familiar friend in whom I trusted, who
ate my bread, has lifted up his heel
against me." Psalm 41:8,9.

And, "For it not an enemy who reproaches
me; then I could bear it. Nor is it
one who hates me who has exalted himself
against me; then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal, my companion
and acquaintance, we took sweet counsel
together, and walked to the house of God
in the throng (Psalm 55:12-14).

There are few things worse than being
betrayed by a friend. And few things worse
yet but to use a sign of friendship to
accomplish the betrayal. Let us take this to
heart and be careful that we do not betray the
Lord. "I could never do that to the Lord,"
you say. Peter also said that and was
proved sorely wrong. Yet we, as the Lord's
people, are most capable of betraying the
Lord, in ways both blatant and subtle.

During this time of year when we remember
the Lord's passion and sacrifice for us,
let us purpose in our hearts to not betray

"And how would I betray Him?" you ask.
Every time you call Him, "Lord" and do
not do what He asks, you betray Him.
Every time He calls to you, and you turn
to other people and other things, you
betray Him. Every time you choose not
to speak up for Him when His voice is
needed, you betray Him. Whenever you
know the truth of His Word needs to be
spoken, and do not speak it, then you
betray Him. When you proclaim
yourself to be a Christian but follow
after your own desires, and respond to
things as you see fit, you betray
Him. Ah, I could say much more but I
already see that you are getting

Do you think that the Lord does not notice
even the smallest turn of our hearts? Do
you not think that our not choosing Him
whole-heartedly pains Him? He does not
expect those who are still in darkness
to love His light. Yet I wonder if He
is puzzled by why men and women, even
men and women who have come to know Him,
still sometimes, or often, choose darkness.

"He came unto His own, but His own received
Him not" (John 1:11). When we proclaim
that we know the Lord and yet do not
walk in intimacy with Him, we do ourselves
harm, and we do Him wrong. The Church often
has a bad testimony because they have subtly
or blatantly betrayed Him. When we do not
stand up for what He stands for, and we
do not oppose what He opposes, we are found
to be betrayers. If the Church of Jesus
stood together and obeyed even the most basic
commands of Jesus, the world would be

Thankfully, I have not yet met too
many people who would persecute me for being
true to the Lord in righteousness, holiness,
love, and mercy. Any I have met have
most sadly come from within the church,
rather than from without. I know many who would,
however, be quick to notice if I proclaim
myself to be a Christian and do not follow
through on that claim with a holy and
blameless life.

"But we are only human," you say. Yes,
and all the more reason to cling to Him!
All the more reason to exercise mercy to
our brothers and sisters, all the more
reason to watch our steps! Peter and
Judas both betrayed Jesus. What was the

Peter wept over his betrayal and repented.
Any remorse that Judas had was not mixed
with repentance. He would never understand
that true and deep intimacy with Jesus
is the best guard we have against betraying
Him. He heard the message from afar but
Judas did not let it penetrate the deepest
part of him. He only appeared to be Jesus'
friend. His heart was still self-contained,
still hard, still unmoved. He had not
fallen on the Rock, but the Rock was
poised to fall on him, and would crush
him to pieces.

How have you heard the gospel? Has it
left you any room for yourself? If so,
then it has left you room for betrayal.
For it is the flesh, left undealt with,
that will rise up and protect itself
at any cost. Peter had a scary go of
it when he found himself saying,
"I don't know Him." He was seeking
to protect himself and not the Lord.
Judas gave himself completely over to that
self-interest and self-protection. He
felt he knew best. He was sorely, sorely

We must take care that as we sing
our love songs to Jesus, as we think
fondly of what He has done for us, that
our hearts are found to match our lips,
and our lives are found to match what
we proclaim. Betrayal is insidious.
Who knows from what depths it springs
in our deceitful hearts? Who can say that
he is not capable of it? We can only
guard our hearts, turn to Him when
we are in turmoil, look to Him when
the world, the flesh or the Devil
try to turn us against Him.

Perhaps there is greater danger
of betrayal from within our hearts
then there is from an outside onslaught.
It is said, "Satan entered Judas,"
but what left the door open? Jealousy?
Pride? Intellectual reasoning?
Fear? Self-interest?

Where might our door be open? What could
get us to betray the Lord? Our Lord did
not betray us at the last minute, even
though, under pressure, He sweat great
drops of blood, and spilled His very
own Blood, in purchasing our salvation.
He went to the cross betrayed by us
all, alone, without the comfort and
support of the very people He had
come to save. If you have tasted
betrayal in even the smallest sense,
you would know how that felt.

Have you resisted to bloodshed striving
against sin (Heb. 12:4), striving against the
possibility of betraying the Lord?

Walk humbly with God. Strive against
hypocrisy. Hate evil. Guard your heart.
Do not betray Him with a kiss.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Until That Day: Remembering Jesus with a Smile and A Sigh

But I say to you, I will not drink from
now on of this fruit of the vine, until
that day when I drink it new with you in
my Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:29 KJV)

It is the Lord's Last Passover, and
the first Lord's Supper: just about closing
time on Jesus' earthly journey. Ahead
is the cross, just a few days journey
toward death: the dear Lamb struck down
for us in the fullness of time.

What must Jesus have felt? The disciples,
including the Betrayer, surrounding Him;
all, save Jesus, largely clueless as to
the immensity of the event. A sense of
destiny lingers heavily in the air.

Jesus is leaving. Knowing this, He takes
the bread: blesses it, breaks it, breaks
it knowing that soon He, Himself, will
be broken.

He takes the cup. Soon He will be poured
out wine. He looks past the cup, deeply,
no doubt, into their eyes. "I shall
not drink wine with you again until
we drink the Father's matchless vintage,
together, in the kingdom to come."

You can feel these bittersweet
words spoken with a smile and a sigh.
So much would happen between then and
the then-after. So much that they would not
understand. Only Jesus knew then. Only
the Father knows now.

Oh for that day! How many days have passed
since He spoke that, how many events
have transpired. How many have lived
and died hoping for that day. It is
now our turn to live on the earth
as the Lord's people, it is now our
turn to remember Him and to prepare for
and long for That Day.

Although, in actuality, little is recorded of
all that was spoken at the Last Supper,
that which is truly essential, IS recorded.
Jesus is helping us put our lives
in perspective, helping us put eternity
in perspective, helping us to remember that
there is a great feast to come, the Marriage
Supper of the Lamb.

Across the difficult days of our
lives, and the unknown hour of our
death, we can look to Him, remember
Him: our Brother, our Saviour,
our Bridegroom, our King, our Friend
who has gone before us to get the table
ready. A Heavenly Tea-Totaller awaits
until we come! The Best Wine is kept
to last!

Whenever we eat of Him, we prepare for
that day when we shall eat and drink
of Him continually, face to Face without
interruption, without measure, without end.
How can we wait!

For it is not a table of mere bread and
wine that is important in this kingdom
or the next, but a deep drinking of the
sweet Wine who is Christ and a deep eating
of He who is the Bread of Life. This feast
begins now, but makes us
ever so hungry for more. And more.
And more.

I sit and think of this Last Supper so many
years ago. I sit and think of that great
Supper to come. I long for it, in some
small way, in the same way that Jesus
must have longed for it: with a smile
and a sigh. For it is to this moment that
all of our lives as believers reach, and
it is to this destiny that we have been born.
Much cause to smile, for a grand destiny it is,
and much cause to sigh, since That Day still
may be way too many moments away, (for we know
how the Lord counts moments!), and
we must put our hands to the plow and
break up the stony ground of our hearts.

There is utter happiness at so great
a thought as this: God has remembered us!
Now He asks us to remember Him, for
He is unable to forget us! Has He
not engraved us on palms of His
nail-scarred Hands? (Is. 49:16) What
humility! What poignancy! Is this what
Jesus is thinking at this last
great meal?

In the gospels Jesus tells the story of
the wedding feast were many were invited
but most were unwilling to come. In their place
others were invited and yet one did
not respect the invitation as to
come appropriately dressed :this one
was sorely cast out (Matthew 22).

God is giving a great feast that has cost
Him dearly. Our life's work is to prepare to
attend that feast and to come properly
attired, not just on the outside, but on
the inside.

The Lord's Supper is not just for us,
it is for Him. It brings healing, strength
and comfort to us in the meantime of our
earthly journey. But it points past itself
to a greater Day, a more heavenly
Hour, when we will sit down and dine with
God at a Wedding Supper. We remember not
only what Jesus has done, but what He is
going to do, who He is going to receive,
what we are going to become for Him.
This we cannot forget, this must always
lay on the frontals of our mind.

On that great day the Lamb shall receive
the fruit of His labors. Amen! Prepare for
that day with a smile, and a sigh,
for it is a day of joy unmeasured,
and the ultimate longing of the
human soul fulfilled, a Day when all
sorrow and sighing can finally flee
away. It is His Destiny and ours
fulfilled together, completely, at last.

Eat of Him, now. Drink of Him, now.
Remember Him with a smile and
a sigh. Happy, oh so very, very happy,
are those who are called to His Supper.

But I say to you, I will not drink from
now on of this fruit of the vine, until
that day when I drink it new with you in
my Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:29 KJV)

Devotions From the Heart: Humbled to Rise

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

And thou shall remember all the way which
the Lord thy God led thee these forty years
in the wilderness, to humble thee and to
prove thee, to know what was in thy heart,
whether thou would keep his commandments
or no. And He humbled thee, and suffered
thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna,
which thou knewest not, neither did thy
fathers know, that he might make thee know
that man does not live by bread only, but
by every word that proceedeth out of the
mouth of the Lord, doth man live.
-- Deuteronomy 8: 2-3

Israel was left in no doubt that their being
humbled was to prove them, and to know what
was in their heart. It is amazing when we
hit bottom how our responses are different
to when all is well. Being humbled is about
learning about ourselves. So often we like
to think we are in a better place with God,
and then comes the humbling period.

And suddenly that placid, calm individual,
pleasant to live with, is another person.
We feel we are under attack and every spiritual
lesson we have learned goes out the door.
Once we thought we were possessors of so
much, then in a flash, we have nothing.
Humbling has brought us to nothingness.

God knows the human heart is a desperately
wicked thing. Humbling is about change. No
one likes change. Humbling shakes up things,
cuts our moorings, reaches in deep that we
might afresh reach out to God in complete
dependence upon Him. God sees when trust
begins to erode in the heart, and dependence
upon Him begins to slip away.

The wilderness was a tough lesson for Israel—
forty years being humbled because of unbelief.
Interestingly enough God says, to see whether
they would keep His commandments or not. Being
humbled is a low place, it is not the mountaintop.
Who wants to pray when things are not easy? But
this is what God is after. Will you obey Him here?
We are being humbled to obey God. To bring forth
an obedience in the toughest places, when God
doesn’t look as sweet as we thought He was.

Being humbled, will you obey today?

Remember Christ

When the Paschal evening fell
Deep on Kedron's hallowed dell,
When around the festal board
Sate th'Apostles with their Lord,
Then His parting word He said,
Blessed the cup and brake the bread--
"this whene'er ye do and see,
Evermore remember Me."

Years have passed: in every clime,
Changing with the changing time,
Varying through a thousand forms,
Torn by factions, rocked by storms,
Still the sacred table spread,
Flowing cup and broken bread,
With that parting word agree,
"Drink and eat; remember Me."

When by treason, doubt, unrest,
Sinks the soul, dismayed, opprest;
When the shadows of the tomb
Close us round with deepening gloom,
Then bethink us at that board
of the sorrowing, suffering Lord,
Who, when tried and grieved as we,
Dying, said, "Remember Me."

When in this thanksgiving feast
We would give to God our best,
From the treasures of His might
Seeking life and love and light;
Then, O Friend of human-kind,
Make us true and firm of mind,
Pure of heart, in spirit free;
Thus may we remember Thee.

--hymn by A.P.Stanley

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

God is Not Far Away From Thee...

God is not far away from thee...
Thou, like the inn of old,
hast been full of other guests;
thy affections have entertained other lovers;
wherefore salvation has not yet come
to thy house.
--William Penn, 1682

photo taken in Ludlow, England

I Have Felt Tender Breathings in My Soul After God

I have felt tender breathings in my soul after God.
--John Woolman, 1744

photo taken in Colorado Springs, Colorado

Come All Crosses, Welcome, Welcome!

Come all crosses, welcome, welcome! so I may get my
heartful of my Lord Jesus.
... Samuel Rutherford, letter, Feb. 20, 1637

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than
me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son
or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and anyone who does not take his cross and follow
me is not worthy of me.
-- Matthew 10:37,38

photo taken in Galisteo, New Mexico

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Compromised Gospel: Seduced by Safety or Sensuality?

A Compromised Gospel: Seduced by Safety or Sensuality?

When the Son of Man comes will He find faith in
the earth? (Luke 18:8)

I have been prayerfully pacing the floors
of my house lately. I know the world apart
from Christ is quite insane. It is the
Church that I am really concerned about.

On one hand I see part of the Church, in an
attempt to present a "reasonable" gospel,
sitting placidly on the shores of safety.
Not wanting to offend modern sensibilities,
they fine-tune all the "static" out
of the hard-to-hear message of Jesus.

"Was I hearing Jesus say, "sell all?"

"Oh, no, Jesus would never say that, He
is too kind and loving. He wants us to
prosper, and get things, not get rid of things."

"Was I hearing Jesus say, "Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand?"

"Oh, no, Jesus would not say that, He
humbly waits for you to notice Him and
need Him just a little bit, so invite Him
in, just a little bit. Give Him a try, like the
test-drive on a new car. If He doesn't suit you,
turn Him back in."

The church of safety is precariously perched
on the word "balanced." It is buffered from
the hard sayings of Jesus by a strong sense of
the importance of "playing safe." In an
extreme world, it reacts against extremes with
the promise of respectability and stability
and "family values", which in America can
degenerate into the children determining what
the family does. It shuns losing control of its
meetings, shuns being really open to the workings
of God, because that is not predictably "safe".
(If you have ever met Him, He is not "a tame Lion.")

Are we inoculating people against receiving
the full gospel? If we get them in the door and
they stay, will they ever go on to hearing, and
then obeying, the meat of the Word and not
the milk? Or has even the milk gone slightly sour?

Churches with this agenda pride themselves in
the presentation of "nice" programs, fun agendas
and great music with a "reasonable" bit of "faith"
thrown in. I wonder if this is exactly the kind
of thing that Jesus wants to vomit up in Revelation 3:16?

Christ calls us to give up fame, family and
fortune if need by. He does not flinch if you,
or your family, or the neighbors are offended by
His Word or if business-as-usual runs off schedule
in the meeting.

We can not usually control what our leaders do.
But we can look at our own hearts for we will
stand before God alone. Is there an unreasonable
amount of safety in your relationship with Jesus?

I am not asking you to behave as some kind of
raving lunatic, as you shall soon read, but I
do ask you, as I ask myself, "Have I played it
too safe?"

For fear of "hurting" you, and then you rejecting
me, have I watered down what I need to say or
do? Do I feel comfortable and satisfied
with my walk with the Lord? (I'm not sure
anyone can ever say a clear-conscienced "yes" to
that.) Am I too uncommitted in my approach to
things that I could easily walk by "a certain
man" attacked and wounded on the road to Jericho
(Luke 10:25-37)? Am I sitting on the fence about
spiritual things? Often we cannot see these things
in ourselves until it is too late. What worries me
is that 10 "Christians" went out to wait for Jesus
in Matthew 25 (1-13). Only 5 are received of Him.

On the other hand I am alarmed at the infiltration
of seemingly unbridled sensuality into sanctuaries
that claim to be the house of God. We have become
such seekers of supernatural experience that we no
longer seem to judge it by scripture. Coming up with
one verse of scripture,taken out of context, is not
judging something by the whole counsel of God.

Corinth is at hand. Segments of the church, segments
who often view themselves to be on the "cutting
edge of what God is doing," are becoming used to
extremely strange manifestations and off-center
prophetic words that they quickly attribute to
the Holy Spirit. One wonders with what standard,
if any, that these signs are being measured by as
they appear to smack loudly of the flesh and not the
Holy Spirit. Is anyone noticing?

Not only is there not much scriptural discernment
about the manifestations but it seems that
the crazier things get, the happier everyone is.
Solomon said, "He who digs a pit will
fall into it, and whoever breaks through a wall
will be bitten by a serpent" (Eccl.10:8). Is a
wall of spiritual licentiousness being broken
through? Many "follow the cloud" looking for
their next fix of "holy ghost goosebumps".

The question is, "Is the cloud they are under
from the Lord or a dust storm of the Enemy?"
Israel followed the cloud also, but they were
a rebellious people left in the desert for
forty years instead of entering quickly into
the Promised Land. God led them in circles
until all but two died in the desert. In the Old
Testament God gave many "prophets" over to their
own delusions (Isaiah 28: 7,8; Ezekiel 13).

Those prone to sensuality measure the success
of their meetings by how much is stirred up,
and often measure their degree of spirituality by
whether they have "been there and done that."
Are we measuring things as spiritual because those
around us see them as "spiritual'? or are we judging
with righteous judgments according to the Word of
God? God is a Spirit: when we are in His Presence
supernatural things will happen for He is supernatural.
But He is a Holy Spirit. A Holy Spirit. A Holy
Are you catching my drift?

Jonathan Edwards lamented writing his "Narrative of
the Surprising Work of God, Northampton,
Massachusetts, 1737
" in the manner he did. He said
that he made a grave mistake focusing on the the
more sensational manifestations rather than waiting
a few years and measuring the revival by its lasting

No doubt, the work of God is always surprising, yet
any work of God is birthed by His holiness, and
bears holy fruit. We as humans may react to
that work in odd ways, with odd reactions, but that
is not a measure of our spirituality but a measure
of our weakness.

Many pagan religions wed sensuality and spirituality.
What should have marked Israel's relationship with
God was a spirit of holiness and purity, but she was
sorely judged for trying to approach God with the
same unbridled sensuality as her pagan neighbors
did with their gods. God smacked it down, as God should.
I am just worried that we don't see the smack coming.
God forbid that He give us over to our flesh.

Above I suggested that, of the ten virgins waiting
for Jesus, five were not invited in. What worries me
on this side of things is that Jesus said that many
people who performed miracles, cast out demons,
worked wonders would also be cast away. He called
them "lawless" (Matthew 7:22,23). Lawless: unbridled,
unable to be led, without discipline, not yoked to
Christ, given over to the flesh and not the Spirit
of God.

"Of whom I tell you weeping, that they are the
enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is
destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose
glory is in their shame..." Philippians 3:18.

I write this not to alarm you, but to provoke
you to examine yourselves to see whether you be
in the faith, for the enemy of our souls would,
as we near the end of all things, seek to deceive
the very elect of God (Matt. 24:24).

There is the old adage, "better safe than sorry":
this is human wisdom, I'm afraid. The only safety
we have is clinging completely to Christ Jesus.
On the one hand we can try to find a safe port,
according to human reason, and miss the boat headed
to the City of God. On the other hand we can mistake
human passions and sensuality for the Spirit of God,
and in so doing, be led far from the holiness
without which no man will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

One glance at the holiness of God will, as Isaiah
found out, put an end to both a "safe" gospel and
the fleshly carousings of the human heart. Isaiah
was stopped in his tracks at the sight of a holy
God. May we see Him and be likewise transformed
by a coal from His altar. This is our only hope.

Pray for the Church.

Devotions From the Heart: Clinging to God

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

"But you that did cleave unto the Lord your
God are alive every one of you this day" (Deuteronomy 4:4)

At the end of Deuteronomy the 30th chapter
and verse 20, Moses instructs Israel to cleave
unto the Lord, for “He is thy life and the
length of thy days, that you may dwell in the
land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers,
to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give
them.” A cleaving heart is a clinging heart.
It is a love word which speaks of one desiring
to be with the one it loves. How forceful a
phrase this is!

The Bible includes a book in it called Ruth.
It is a wonderful story of a daughter-in-law(Ruth)
who after the loss of her husband, her
sister-in-laws husband and mother-in-laws husband
decides to stay with her mother-in- law rather
than remain in her own country. She is a Moabitess,
Naomi is an Israelite. The Book of Ruth is replete
with wonderful detail and caring love for her
mother-in-law. The dedication of Ruth and her
utter selflessness, speak so powerfully in the
story, and her ultimate union with Boaz, a rich
and wealthy landowner who is after the lineage of
King David. Because of her bonding to Naomi, her
cleaving, her utmost dedication, all that follows
in the story is a result of this one act.

How true it is when saints of the Lord cleave
unto Him that things are like still waters
within us. You are alive this day because you
cleave unto the Lord. In Joshua, the great battle
book, more victories are recorded here in the
25-year period of Israel’s life than anywhere
else in Israel’s history. At the end of Joshua’s
life he tells them to cleave unto the Lord if
they want the victories to continue. Joshua 23:8
“Cleave unto the Lord, as you have done this day.”
There cleaving to the Lord was the reason for their
victories. Hang on tight, dear saint, never let
Him out of your sight by prayer or fellowship
for herein lies the secret of success.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Daniel 2: Daniel & Dreams: Hearing God at Night

Daniel & Dreams: Hearing God at Night

The Book of Daniel has several important
dreams in it. It shows us that God speaks
to us by means of dreams. Although dream
interpretation has found its way into the
occult and into psychology,God has always
spoken to His People by means of dreams
in both the Old and New Testaments. Christians
would do well to pay attention to their dreams
and to inquire of the Lord as to their meaning.

In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar was shaken
by a disturbing dream. His spirit was so
troubled that he was unable to sleep,
The Hebrew words here suggest that it was
like he was struck with a jolt that left his
heart pounding. Have you ever had such a
dream? He knew the dream was important but
he could not even recall all of it (2:5&8,KJV).
Even this pagan king knew that something
significant was being told to him by means of
a dream.

On the king's staff was a large group of
dream interpreters, and those who gave the
king spiritual advice. They were "magicians,
astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans." There
was also Daniel, who spoke for the God of Israel!

The magicians,etc were summoned to interpret
the king's dream, but the king did not only
want the interpretation, he wanted them to
tell him what he had dreamed. The interpreters
told him that this was impossible, that the
"gods did not dwell with man", and that
this kind of information could not be gotten (2:11).

Unfortunately, this meant that the king was
going to kill all the interpreters by cutting
them to pieces! The panicked interpreters could
not help him. They were simply telling the king
of the limits of what they felt they could do
as dream interpreters. They did not have a direct
relationship with the Living God, with Daniel's
God, they did not expect to communicate
directly with God. The "gods" they knew
communicated indirectly, in the dark, through
obscure means, by means of divination, and
portents and signs, but never directly,
never "face to face."

Daniel, however, knew the Living God. When the
king's guard came to Daniel to round him up
to be killed, Daniel stepped forward to save
his life and all the lives of the interpreters.
Daniel knew that his God could reveal the
knowledge of the dream, that nothing was hidden
from Him. and that if he asked of God, God
would tell him.

Notice the heart of Daniel, also. He did not
just seek to save his own life, but looked
out for the other dream interpreters and
divines, even though they were pagan and did
not know the Lord. They could fairly be
called "occult practitioners" and yet Daniel
did not seek their demise.

Daniel simply got down to prayer. He asked
his three friends to pray with him for God to
impart wisdom. The Lord gave Daniel both
what the king had dreamed and what it meant
in a "night vision." So the answer came to him
also at night in this prophetic variation of
a dream. Daniel "sees" what Nebuchadnezzar
had dreamed and also "sees" what it means.
When he tells the king, and the king recognizes
it to be true, their lives are spared.

The bible is surprisingly full of dreams, and
below is a very partial list of significant
passages regarding dreams.

Jacob's dream: Genesis 28: 10-22(the ladder
to heaven), and Genesis 31:10-29 (the cattle dream);
Joseph's dreams : (Genesis 37) the sheaves
of wheat and the sun, moon, and stars;
The dreams of the butler and baker in Egypt
(Genesis 40);
Pharoah's dream (Genesis 41);
Gideon and the dream he overhears (Judges 7:9-18);
Solomon's dream (1 Kings 3:5-15);

Joseph's dream regarding Jesus(Matthew 1: 19,20);
Joseph warned to go to Egypt(Matthew 2: 12, 13);
Pilate's wife (Matthew 27:19);
The Spirit's outpouring and dreams:Joel 2:28/Acts 2:17.

God promises to give us interpretations to
dreams when we seek Him. (Gen 40:8: Do
not interpretations belong to God?) and
(Gen 41:16: God shall give Pharaoh an
answer of peace). Psalm 16:7 tells us that
God instructs us in the night seasons.
Job 33:14-18 shows that God reveals things
to us at night.

Daniel knew that he could go to God and
receive the wisdom, guidance, and understanding
that he needed. He knew that God speaks to us
and that we simply need to inquire of Him.
How God chooses to speak to us is up to Him:
that He speaks to us by means of dreams is
clearly revealed in the Scriptures.

What is God saying to you at night?

(this bible study is a continuation
of a Bible Study on the book of Daniel,
further installments are archived in
this blog under "Daniel Bible Study"
and "Bible"

Saturday, March 15, 2008

And Not After Christ

"Beware lest any man spoil you through
philosophy and vain deceit, after the
tradition of men, after the rudiments of
the world, and not after Christ." Colossians 2:8

At the foundation of our faith, at the heart
of Christianity, at the headwaters of our
spiritual life, lays relationship with Christ.

There are so many ideas in the world: good
ideas; bad ideas; crazy ideas; human ideas,
some well thought out and some hopelessly
twisted; ideas of darkness and doctrines of
demons. How shall we find our way through
them to Christ alone?

I love wisdom. I love seeking God. I love
"searching out matters," looking for the
pearl of great price, and let me tell you
that that takes you down some dark corridors.
It causes you to squeeze through some tight
places, to scrape along in the dust and
mud and pick up the dirt of the road
and the debris of the journey. But unless
all this leads me to Christ I shall just
be dirty, and tired, and in a dark space,
and so shall you.

I've amassed quite the library of knowledge,
and quite the collection of wisdom, and,
again and again, I am absolutely convinced
that we must be brought back to the simplicity
that is relationship with Jesus Christ.

When the apostle Paul, in his last few
days as Saul, lay blinded by the Damascus
Road encounter, Ananias was sent to pray
for him It was then that "something like
scales" fell from his eyes and he could
see. He was then baptized and filled with
the Holy Spirit (Acts 9;17,18). Suddenly
he could see clearly the difference
between human wisdom and genuine,
unfettered relationship with Christ.

From then on, Paul was "after Christ."
From then on he preached against anything
and everything that was not "after Christ."
Paul moved from the Law to be "after Christ";
from a system to be "after Christ"; from
legalism to be "after Christ"; from religion
to be "after Christ." Christ, and Christ
alone: extravagantly pursued "in tribulation, in
stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in
labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings, by
purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering,
by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere
love, by the word of truth, by the power
of God, by the armor of righteousness
on the right and on the left, by honor
and dishonor, by evil report and good
, etc. (2 Cor. 6:4-8).

Each of these difficulties spoken of here,
and each of these virtues and graces, could
be an end in themselves, something to boast in,
but resting in them alone would not be
"after Christ." They were means to an end,
they were by-products of being "after Him."

Beloved, there are so many things that can
sidetrack us, that can capture our attention,
that can cause us to camp far from the
campfire of Christ (Hebrews 13:13), but
we must go after Him outside the camp,
bearing His reproach, forsaking all to
be with Him.

Every lesser thing will call to us.

"And not after Christ."

Every human scheme will try to allure us.

"And not after Christ."

Every doctrine of demons will seek to beguile us.

"And not after Christ."

Every lesser place will try and tempt us.

"And not after Christ."

Every fear will relentlessly assail us.

"And not after Christ."

Every temptation will hope to enthrall us.

"And not after Christ."

Human wisdom will try and convince us.

"And not after Christ."

Human weakness will seek to break us.

"And not after Christ."

Human suffering will press down to harden us.

"And not after Christ."

Our work is cut out for us. We must lose
all to gain Him. We must forsake all
to follow Him. We must abandon all to be
found of Him.

Lesser things, human wisdom wrapped up
as something spiritual, imbedded in our
very underpinnings: clouds at our love
feasts, snakes in our churches, sin in
our minds, lust in our thoughts, jealousy
in our hearts, will hatch their dark
strategies, but we must CAST THEM
ALL DOWN, lest we find ourselves
to be "not after Christ."

Put nothing before Him so that you
will be found to be absolutely
"after Him."

Be after Christ.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Devotions from the Heart: Under His Wings Shalt Thou Trust

by Pastor Derek Gitsham

Under His Wings Shalt Thou Trust

He shall cover thee with His feathers
and under His wings shall thou trust. Psalm 91:4

Psalm 91 is a continuation of Psalm 90,
a Psalm of Moses, probably the most famous
of all his psalms and the most precious.
If anyone knew about the secret place of
the most High, literally, it was Moses.
Having spent 40 days and 40 nights in
the mountain of God’s glory twice,
living without bread and water, he
truly lived on God.

His opening remarks in Psalm 91 are,
“He that dwelleth (lives) in the secret
place of the Most High shall abide
(lodge, live, stay) under the shadow
of the Almighty. Moses knew that there
was a place in God where one could live
continuously in the secret place and
thereby abide under the Shadow of the
Almighty. He is more emphatic in the
90th Psalm, verse one, when he says,
“Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling
place in all generations.” God is not
our special times that we spend with
Him, He is our whole life! Paul says
Christ is our life not the moments we
spend in our devotions with Him.

Because of this, verse four says,
“under His wings shalt thou trust.”
Faith suffers such attacks while we
live here, suffers such tribulation,
that at times we are tempted to
believe we cannot trust or believe.
But Moses says clearly here that
“under His wings shall thou trust.”
How clear is that! In the place of
intimacy and relationship faith and
trust, grow and increase.

There is no stopping faith when our
souls are all aflame with love for
Jesus. By a passionate devotion to Jesus,
faith increases—it does not recede or
decline, because it is fed by the
loving Presence of our God. Truly
Paul says, “Faith worketh by love.”
There will be ample faith where
there is ample love for Jesus.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Follow Christ

Only God is right.
We are a mixture at best.
Let events pummel you and
sweep you to where God intends,
to who God intends,
to what God intends.

Do not speak too quickly
of what you do not know,
of matters too great for
you to fully comprehend.

Speak instead, only of Christ,
Speak of obeying Him,
and then obey Him.
Speak of loving Him,
and then love Him.

Let your life match your words,
and your words match your life.

Follow Christ.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Are You Choosing? Heaven or Hell?

Every time you make a choice, you are turning the
central part of you, the part of you that chooses,
into something a little different from what it was
before. And, taking your life as a whole, with all
your innumerable choices, all your life long you
are slowly turning this central thing either
into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature--
either into a creature that is in harmony with God,
and with other creatures, and with itself, or else
into one that is in a state of war and hatred with
God, and with its fellow creatures and with itself.

To be the one kind of creature is Heaven: that is,
it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power.
To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage,
impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at
each moment is progressing to the one state or
the other.
-- C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), Mere Christianity [1952]

photo taken near Moreton-in-Marsh, England

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What is Your Samuel?

1 Samuel 1:20
..."after Hannah conceived she bore
a son, and called his name, Samuel,
saying, "Because I have asked him
of the Lord."

The story of Hannah is a poignant one
for in some way it is our story. In
all of our hearts God has put something
that is waiting to be born, something
that we long for, because He has put
that longing there.

In Hannah's case, she wanted a son.
She wanted a son very badly and so the
inevitable and pressing process of want
rose up in her soul and she proceeded
to the house of the Lord.

There are things that we want and
things that God wants for us. Some
things are our desires, born of the
flesh, and some things are God's desire
for us, born of the Spirit. Somewhere
amidst the things that we want, there
are the golden ones that God also
wants for us. We must have the boldness
of Hannah to ask for those things
that lay deep in our hearts trusting
that God will bring us "bread and
not a stone". The more we
allow God to purify our hearts,
the more likely we will ask for
something that He is favorably
able to give us.

We must learn to ask wisely,
and to ask according
to God's own heart for us. This
is not easily discerned but it
should not put off our asking.
The more we spend time with the
Lord, the more we come to know
what He wills for us.

The desires that God puts in our hearts
define us. They are what make us who
we are. They are part of God's design
for us. They are the seeds that,
if watered with faith and trust
in God, will grow and bring us into
the plan and destiny God has for us.

These desires, these seeds, can lay
dormant for years, and can come to
life when they are meant to. Some of
these desires may be born of the
flesh, and some of the desires,
if we belong to God, are born of
His Spirit.

How shall we discern the difference?
I think that many times we do not
ask of God because we are unsure
if it is "God's will." Hannah was
willing to come to God with the
desire for a son that burned in
her heart. She could not give
herself a son, God had to do it.
Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be
given to you, Seek and you shall
find, knock and the door shall
be opened
" (Matthew 7:7).

Samuel's name means "asked of the
Lord." He was the answer to her
asking, the fulfillment of her
desire. Hannah gets what she wants,
God answers her prayer, and then
she consecrates back to God what she has
received. When we have a desire
born of the flesh, it is for ourselves,
and we are usually unwilling to
give it to God. The desire is for
our ends, even if we do not recognize
that in our asking.

God knows us and He knows our needs.
We can and should come to Him boldly
to ask for what lays in our deepest
hearts. In the asking we build
relationship with God, and
come to know both God and ourselves.

We should not be afraid of either
God's "no's" or His "yes's." We can
be so self-focused that we are not
willing to hear His "no" and so
unaware of God's goodness that we
are reticent to accept His "yes."
We can be so caught up in trying to
figure out whether something is
of flesh or of spirit that we
never actually get to asking God
about it.

Hannah was not afraid. She went to God
and asked. She poured out her soul
to God. She did not care what it
looked like, even if it made her
look foolish, or in this case,
drunken. There is the old adage,
"There is no harm in asking."
We must be open to be taught of
God, to receive from His Hand that
which He chooses to give to us,
or withhold from us. It is never
wrong to inquire of Him.

Inside of your heart is a Samuel,
perhaps there are many Samuels!
Which are sons of the covenant and
which are sons of the flesh?
That is for you to wrestle out
with God: inquire of Him,
seek His face continually.
Make haste to the temple of
the Lord to be before
Him. May your Samuel be
born to you as God wills.

What is your Samuel?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Zoe's Gone: On the Death of a Pet

Zoe is gone. Gone to heaven I hope, I trust.
Although thank God that He lets dogs into
heaven "carte blanche" or I would worry.
Many times, exasperated by her behaviour,
I would tell her that she needed to become
a Christian. :) I always felt that
she looked back and told me the same thing.
The way things are, what life is, and why we
are here, were, most likely, self-evident to her,
hardwired into her DNA, and she had made her
peace with them long before I.

She was the most amazing dog: Wild.
Stubborn. Self-determined. People would
often ask me if I was walking a
hyena. I often wondered that myself.
She came into my life because she was
destined to: I wouldn't have chosen her, and
yet, she shared the formation and
journey of a good part of my adult years.
Truly a gift from God, I shall never
forget her.

For years our wills collided on every
issue: from where she would sleep to
how much room she would take up on
the couch, and who would make the
final decisions in matters of everyday
life. Several years ago she finally granted
much of that power to me and I felt I
had received an incredible compliment.

Today, I made the final decision for
her: the hardest one a pet owner can
make, to send her on her journey to
whatever comes next. She was tired
and worn out, with a great hump on her
back, a hump that came because of her
wildness, and rivaled that of the Hunchback of
Notre Dame.

It is a cold, windy, day, sunny with
the hint of spring. Zoe made it through
the cold, hard, icy winter. She hung
on while I was away all of last month.
I watched, helplessly, as the life
left her body. Wondered, as we all
do in these moments, about God and
life and all that is, and all
that is not.

I trust she is happily in a better
place: without pain, and with the
energy and enthusiasm of a young
pup. I trust she is obeying the
Lord. ;)

These tough moments strip life bare,
down to their most basic elements:
why are we here? what is life?
is there a God? does life continue
after we die?

Our faith, as Christians, tells
us many things and at these tough
moments of loss we are forced to
make decisions about life, for
that is what is left to us: choices.

Zoe's philosophy of life was
"Be who you are and carry on
in the face of adversity."
She has been an inspiration.
I would, however, add something to
her philosophy. "Be who you are,
live unto God, live each moment
with an eternal view, even when
adversity continually pounds.
Let life soften you and not
harden you."

For life will pound each of us relent-
lessly, probably to see what will
come out! We have no choice but
to make hard decisions about life and God.
Something deep in our hearts tells
us that all is well, that God
exists and runs the universe
by His Goodness, despite the
ravages of sin and death that
have wrought deep havoc upon
the earth and all its inhabitants.

When life deals us its hard
blows then we can and must decide
to live as if there is a good God:
to pour out compassion; to love freely;
to give abundantly; to hope;
to dance in the face of pain;
to push back the dastardly blows
of loss and death with faith, hope,
peace, love and kindness.

Any other response will harden
us and eventually kill us with
a fate worse than physical death.

Crossing the thin line between
life and death will reveal
the final answer to the
mystery of life. It is a moment
of truth that we all will face.
There is only one good way to
prepare for that moment: I ask you to
think about, to pray about
who you will be when that
moment comes. I believe there is a God
and that all our choices matter.
Choose wisely.

Devotions from the Heart: Distracted


by Pastor Derek Gitsham

Martha, Martha, thou art careful and
troubled about many things: But one
thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen
that good part, which shall not be
taken away from her.” Luke 10:41,42

Life is beset with hindrances and obstacles
to our relationship with Jesus. We are
besieged on every hand by the cares of this
life. Excuses run out of us why we cannot
give ourselves to the Word of God and prayer.

The lovely words to Martha concerning her
sister Mary are straight to the point. One
thing is needful, and Mary has chosen the
good part. Martha was anxious and troubled.
So often fear and anxieties enter in because
we have not made the decision to give
ourselves to the Lord in an ongoing relationship
with Him.

Giving ourselves to the Lord is a choice. We
must make that choice to want Him, desire Him,
and get close to Him, not only for our own
selves, but for His sake, also. The Moffatt
translation reads in the last part of verse 42,
“Mary has chosen the best dish, and she is
not to be dragged away from it.”

In our busy days we are consumed by many
tasks and responsibilities. All are necessary
to a point, but Jesus says, “one thing is needful.”
That means it is essential, a must, lest we be
consumed with things that we cannot shake off.
His Presence in our lives is the only power on
earth that can eradicate the clinging nature of
the world that seeks to latch itself to us and
hinder us in our walk with Him.

Choose life, as Deuteronomy says, choose to be
with Him now.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bible Study:Book of Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar's Dream & Hearing God

Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar's Dream & Hearing God

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that shook him
to the bone. Daniel 2:1 said, "his spirit
was troubled and his sleep brake from him."
This was no ordinary dream, this was a sit
bolt upright, heart beating, sweat
pouring off your body, kind of dream.

Nebuchadnezzar, for all his great position
in life, did not have the wisdom to
know what the dream meant. The text suggests
that he could not even remember the
dream, much less interpret it. Twice
he says of the dream, "the thing is
gone from me" (vs 5 & 8). Although
Nebuchadnezzar was surrounded with
dream interpreters, the only one
who knew the Living God was Daniel.

Dream interpretation was commonly
accepted, just as it is today.
God speaks to man through dreams.
He even speaks to people who
do not have a relationship with
Him through dreams. At night, part
of our rational faculties are at
rest. These rational faculties can
sometimes block us from hearing
from God, so when they are "asleep"
God is able to reach us.

Consider the modern day accounts
of Jesus appearing to Muslims
in dreams. Their mindset would
not allow Him entrance during
their waking moments but when
God sees that a heart will
respond to Him, He jumps over
the barriers that keep us from

Are your loved ones mindy thinkers
or do they have heavily set thought
patterns that might block God out?

Pray that He will begin to speak
to them in dreams. God so worked
with Nebuchadnezzar, He can also
work with your loved ones!

Nebuchadnezzar is so disturbed
by this dream and so sure that
it is important that he not only
demands that the interpreters
give him the meaning of the dream,
but tell him what it was he dreamed
since he could not completely recall it.

This sets up a problem for all
but Daniel. The dream interpreters
tell the king, "there is no one who
can show it before the king,
except the gods whose dwelling
is not with flesh"
(vs 11).

The pagan dream interpreters
do not know the Living God who
speaks to His people, they
feel that the gods speak mysteriously
through dreams, signs and portents,
and that at best, we can only hope
to guess at their meaning. They
can only grasp in the dark.

Daniel knows otherwise. He knows that
God is not a mysterious force, or
a smoky mist, or an unknowable entity,
but Someone who can and will give
guidance and Someone who wants relationship
with His people. Daniel alone has the boldness
to go and pray and EXPECT God to answer.

He enlists the help of his friends to pray,
for the situation is dire: He and all the
dream interpreters in the kingdom will be
killed if the correct dream and its
interpretation is not forthcoming.

Daniel prays and the secret of the dream
is revealed to Daniel in a night
vision (vs. 19) (see a further study
on Daniel 2 on dreams and interpretation).
There are moments when we have to hear
God clearly or we will perish. Perhaps
not as drastically as in this story,
but there are times when we MUST hear
from God.

What was it about Daniel that put him
in a position to hear from God in his
hour of need?

First, he belonged to God. He was under
God's authority. For those of us who are
Christians, we must be born of the Spirit.
John 4:21 tells us that we must worship the
Father in Spirit and in truth. Our spirits
must be made alive unto God, our faith cannot
be a matter of mental assent or mere
doctrinal correctness--we must be born of
God (John 3:16). God is Spirit and those
who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit.
Nothing of our human selves has the capacity
to fellowship with Him but only a spirit made
alive through regeneration.

We must make sure that we are truly
born of the Spirit. Do not take this
for granted. You may think that you
are a Christian, but you must KNOW
that you are a Christian and your
spirit must bear witness to this

2) Daniel had clean hands and a pure
heart (Ps. 24:4). Daniel was set apart
to God, he continually tried to walk
in the ways of God. Throughout the
book of Daniel we never see Daniel
being inconsistent to his relationship
with God. He took special precautions
that he would not defile himself.
He walked in integrity. To hear God
clearly, so must we.

3)Daniel was uncompromising (Daniel 1:8).
He purposed in his heart that he
would always remain true to God.
When called upon to worship the
king, he worshipped God, even when
it put his life in peril. He lived in
Babylon, but Babylon did not live in
him. He was able to hear God because
there were not two conflicting
streams in him. He was one-tracked
for God alone! May we be, likewise.
one-tracked for God alone!
All of Babylon was routed out of Daniel,
he was set apart unto God.

4) Daniel made use of spiritual disciplines
to prepare himself in advance. He
fasted and prayed. He sought God
continually. If we think that we
will stand the hour of testing without
laying lots of spiritual groundwork
we are sadly mistaken. We will fold
like a pack of cards unless we
put in the hour-to-hour, day-to-day,
month-to-month, year-to-year work
of being with God, giving God our
attention, our time, our focus,
continual first place in our hearts.
We don't just suddenly decide for God in the
heat of battle. Our decision for God
must be made way before that.

Consider the parable of the ten
virgins (Matthew 25). Ten virgins
are waiting for the bridegroom, they
know it is an important event, even
their wedding, and yet, some go
down to the wire unprepared. They
think they can borrow off those
they wait with. But some things cannot
be borrowed. One of those things
is the time we put in with God.
No one can give you that, you must
do it yourself or suffer the
consequences. Make sure that you
take this seriously or you will
fail in the hour of testing.
When the dark hour comes, those things
of God which are stored deep within
you will come up and aid you, even
save your life. If they are not
there inside of you, you will

5) Daniel continually did that
which was right. He served, he
looked out for others, he walked
in integrity, he had fellowship with
those that shared his faith in
God. He not only fasted food, he
fasted the Lord's fast: loosing
the bonds of wickedness,
undoing the heavy burdens,
letting the oppressed go free,
and breaking the yoke, dealing
bread to the hungry, covering the
naked. This is the fast of God
(Isaiah 58:6-9). God promises
to answer when from this heart
and life we call unto Him.
God will be near to and answer
those whose heart is set toward
Him in holiness. There was no
iniquity that stood in the way
of God answering Daniel when he
called upon His God. Oh, for the
freedom to know that God will
hear us because our hearts
are pure! That is a priceless
gift and the strength of our

May God make us like Daniel:
set apart to Him in every way
so that we may be instruments
of blessing unto the saving
of many lives. Hear God and

(this bible study is a continuation
of a Bible Study on the book of Daniel,
further installments are archived in
this blog under "Daniel Bible Study"
and "Bible"

Ministering to the Lord

Nothing of value can be taken, nor withheld
from you. Love that is loosed cannot be
jailed, held back, denied. It overcomes
all, flows through and to all, flys above
all, drenches all, untangles all.

Love soars. The freedom I give you cannot
be chained by man. Love rises. Love leaps.
Love conquers. Love hangs on. Love lets go.

You are free. Your occupation is to love
Me, to live with Me, to minister to Me.
Nothing can touch that priesthood. No
one can deny you entrance to Me, or
thwart My plan for you.

Come be with Me. Live in the Holy Place.
Come worship. Come minister. Come play.
Leave everyone and everything behind.
We will venture out as we need to. Right
now, just send your love out, on the
wings of prayer. But you, stay here
with Me. Stand and minister to
Me. Sit at My feet.

Staying Home with Me is priceless, no?

Be Still and Know That I Am God (Ps. 46:10)

God's silence is more than man's
speech. God's negative is better
than the world's affirmative.
Have thy prayers been followed by a
calm stillness? Well! Is not that
God's voice - a voice that will
suffice thee in the meantime till
the full disclosure comes? Has He
moved not from His place to help
thee? Well, but His stillness
makes thee still, and He has
something better than help to
give thee.
- George Matheson

photograph taken near the River Wye
in England near the Welsh border

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Getting Through the Barbed Wire to Jesus

"Enter by the narrow gate; for
wide is the gate and broad is the
way that leads to destruction, and
there are many who go in by it.
Because narrow is the gate and
difficult is the way which leads
to life and there are few who find
it." (Matthew 7:14)

Anyone who tells you that entering
in by the narrow gate is easy is
lying to you. Salvation is absolutely
free but it will cost you EVERYTHING
to enter into it fully. There is no
easy way. "The kingdom of God suffers
violence to this day, and the violent
take it by force" (Matthew 11:12
). You
are going to have to give yourself
completely to God in order to
enter into a complete salvation.
Of course you can be just barely
saved, but who wants that?

Let me tell you what I know so far.

Early in my experience with the Lord
I saw people apparently taking
"shortcuts" to God while I tried to
plod on in obedience to what God
had told me to do. Mine seemed like
a relatively slow but incredibly
intense go of things, while others
seemed to race past me unimpeded.
A bit distressed, because of the
way human nature tends toward
jealousy, (that being MY human nature),
I asked God about this.

He very kindly told me there were
no shortcuts. I was to keep on
with that same "long obedience in
the same direction" and that others
were simply mistaken or deceived if
they thought they could enter quickly
by means of a shortcut. There are
no shortcuts to knowing God.

Fast forward about thirty years
and I am learning all of this all
over again. Let me tell you more
of what I know so far. Let me
say to you in no uncertain terms:
it will cost you EVERYTHING to
enter into a full, no-holds barred,
nothing held back, relationship with
Jesus. Salvation is free, but it
is not for the faint hearted. You
have to violently take the kingdom
by force, and then, that not being
enough, the King and the kingdom
will violently have to take you
by force!

For some reason God puts Himself,
and the choicest gems of knowledge
about Himself, in the most hidden
and costly places: covered with
proverbial barbed wire. After all,
would you put your valuables in
plain unguarded view? Would you throw
your diamonds into a pig pen?

Jesus tells the parable about the
man who finds a treasure in a field
and for the joy of knowing that
the treasure is there, buys the
whole field (Matthew 13:44). Of course
the whole field cost a lot of
money... Oh, but to know that you
own the treasure is so worth it!

Christ next tells us that the kingdom
of heaven is like a pearl of great
price, a pearl so great and lovely
that it is worth selling everything
that you have to get it (Matthew
13:45, 46).

Indeed. Selling everything that you
have to get it. Oh, yes. Did you know
that every counterfeit in the world
has its genuine counterpart? So for
all of you who do not understand how
a junkie can be so low that he would
sell his first-born to buy drugs,the
ultimate spiritual counterfeit, I
ask you to look at that fleshly desire
gone rabidly bad and apply it in a
positive way to the pursuit of God.

Do you want Jesus so badly that you
would sell everything to get Him?
forsake all others to have Him?
leave family, friends, money,
security, fame, and fortune to
know Him?

In order to get God, and really, for
God to get all of you, you are going
to have to sell everything you have.
Make no bones about it. Have no
doubts about it. Everything. No
stone will be left unturned,
no closet left unransacked, no
cache of the "precious" left intact.
You will be a besieged city and
God will overtake you.

As it should be! As I have gone on
with God I discover and rediscover
that when I see a glimpse of
"more of Jesus" it is covered in
yards of razor wire, booby-trapped
like a suicide bomber, and there
ain't no getting near it unless
I am willing to risk life and
limb to get it.

What's up with that? If God wants
us to have Himself, why does He
make getting Himself such a
challenge? Well, let me tell
you what I know so far.

We cannot simply trade ourselves
in and get Him. He died for us, and
we have to die for Him. I know this
sounds harsh, and not what you are
used to hearing, but I speak to
you the truth. God does not want
our flesh (our carnal nature that
opposes the spiritual). It has to die.
He will not give us more of Himself
unless we make room for Him and the only
way to make that room is for part
of us to go, dead-dog-in-the-road
go. What goes is our flesh,
and that is a costly, and potentially
gruesome process.

We are going to have to climb
through a lot of barbed wire to
get to Jesus, my beloved comrades.
And where is this barbed wire you
may ask? It is in difficult relation-
ships with others, it is in
misunderstanding, in loneliness,
in human ignorance of the ways of
God, in entanglement with the
barbed wire inside our own hearts.

We are going to have to belly crawl
to enter into the narrow gate.
We are going to have to sell
everything to buy that pearl of
great price. We are going to have
to sell all that we have
and give up all rights to ourselves, to
follow Jesus.

That last statement makes me
cringe. Someone came to me
several years ago and said
"Jesus told me twice to sell
all that I have. Do you think
I should sell ALL that I have?"

The person was in a vulnerable
place and I basically gave them
the counsel that they should give
everything that stood between
them and Jesus away. Do business
with it, get rid of it. Sell out
to God. I didn't think that they
were supposed to sell every last
thing down to their underwear.

I've worried about that advice
every since. Who am I to say that
Jesus didn't want even their
underwear? Consider what God
asked of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13).
Who am I to make reasonable
what God wants us to surrender?
I didn't tell them to compromise
but I wonder if I didn't urge
them far enough.

Our common sense and our sense
of who God is can get us in
big trouble. We think that God
is never going to ask us to
slay our firstborn on the altar,
but consider Abraham. We think
that God is never going to
ask us to go to our deaths
for His Sake, but consider
every martyr and prophet
who ever died for the kingdom
of God. We think that God
is not going to allow to be
destroyed all that we have built
for Him, but consider Solomon's
temple. We think that God is
not the kind of God who is going
to ask His Son to die for the sins
of the world. Consider Jesus.

Dear ones, we do not know God
as we should. Trust me, you are going
to have to crawl through a lot
of barbed wire to get to Jesus.
You may even be surprised that it
is God that puts the barbed wire
there and not the devil.

Have you ever seen those coiled
loops of razor wire that are meant
to keep people out, huge barbed loops,
now available in fluorescent colors,
with razor sharp edges every few inches
that will slice you to pieces if you
hit against them. They separate, without
fanfare, the men from the boys, and
the women from the girls. They test
whether you talk about going on
with the Lord or ACTUALLY are going to
go all the way through them
to get more of the Lord. They surround
the fine things of God. And if you've
never been up close and personal with the
barbed wire then you've never been near
gaining hold of the deeper things of God.

"Woman, why are you writing this?"
you may be asking. Is this supposed
to make us feel better? Well, I am fresh
from a month, yea, even a year,
of crawling over, crawling under,
crawling through barbed wire to
get to Jesus. I am sliced to bits,
but I have gotten through to Him:
gotten to Jesus I most certainly have.

Paul said it this way,"in
journeyings often, in perils
of robbers, in perils by mine
own countrymen, in perils by
the heathen, in perils in the
city, in the wilderness, in
the sea, among false brethren,
in weariness and painfulness,
in watchings often, in hunger
and thirst, in fastings often,
in cold and nakedness..."(
2 Cor.
11: 26-27). Barbed wire all.

What I am trying to do is
tell you not to be surprised
when you see the barbed wire
and not to be stopped from
getting the prize of the
high calling in Christ Jesus.

Dear Ones, He came a long way
for us, He shed His blood for
us, He was so sliced to pieces
in His pursuit of obedience to
God that His face was marred
more than any man's and his
body was torn beyond
belief. Jesus knows what "costly"
means. Don't be afraid to find out
for yourself. There is nothing
in the universe more worth
selling everything and dying
for than your Lord.

Be a man. Be a woman. Go through
the barbed wire straight into
the arms of your Lord. Win the pearl
of great price.