Archives For Devotional

uturnEvery man feels like he’s a good driver. But there is one maneuver that is challenging to perform, even for the most skilled driver: the U-turn. Most men will avoid this humiliating admission of fallibility at all costs, leading to some lengthy and circuitous routes as we choose providence over cartography to guide us to the elusive destination.

The help-meet God gave male drivers is the GPS navigation system. It’s a cool gadget which tricks our egos into believing it’s manly to listen to a British woman tell us when and where we need to turn.

I was once driving from Napa to the San Fernando Valley, which is a straight shot on a major freeway. But I dutifully activated my GPS, just to be safe. The lady’s voice confirmed that I was getting on the correct freeway; then she kept quiet for six hours, lulling me into a false sense of security. Suddenly she piped up that it was time to take the next exit. But what GPS lady did not realize was that by now I was in a part of the city which I recognized, so her services were no longer necessary. I turned the volume off and kept driving, as captain of my car.

After about 15 minutes I no longer knew where I was. I sheepishly turned the volume back up. The lady was calmly telling me to make a U-turn. I detected a twinge of smugness in her serene imperative. I figured she was still trying to get me back to that exit, but that was way behind me now, so she obviously didn’t know what she was talking about. I ignored her and looked for the next exit, which never came. Eventually I looked carefully at the digital map and realized that the only way back was the humiliating U-turn. I obeyed every following instruction right until I heard her self-satisfied words “Arriving at destination.”

In the third chapter of Jonah 600,000 gentiles do what I should have done: the moment they are told to, they make an instant U-turn.

We can tweeze out of this narrative four examples on which we can model our repentance.

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April 25, 2016

Prizing Peace

by Clint Archer

Nobel PrizeSwedish industrialist, Alfred Nobel, rocketed to fame and fortune by inventing dynamite. He envisioned its use as a boon for mining and construction, not as a gruesome weapon of war. Nevertheless, it was his military clientele that made him incredibly rich, a serendipity which he serenely accepted.

But in 1888 Alfred Nobel had an experience that would change his life. Thumbing through a French newspaper he came across his own obituary.

It was the day after his brother had died, and the journalist had evidently been a sloppy fact-checker. The obituary declared: ‘Le marchand de la mort est mort’ (The merchant of death is dead).

It went on to state coldly: ‘Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’

You can imagine the mix of emotion Nobel must have felt—distress that the world viewed him this way, but relief that he was still alive to change how his real obituary would read.

That very day he decided to start a trust that would reward and honor those who strove to end war and promote peace, and for those who would ameliorate life on earth by striving for excellence in science, chemistry, economics, and literature. His misreported death was the birth of the iconic Nobel prize.

Of these prizes, awarded annually in Oslo, the most controversial and incendiary is the peace prize.

It differs from the other prizes in that it is never awarded posthumously, has no objective criteria, and can be awarded to those who haven’t yet attained what they are striving for. For example, Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, and Yitzhak Rabin all received the prize without achieving their goal of peace in the Middle East.

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It was around 3:20 in the morning on a cold night in March of 1964, when Kitty Genovese returned from her regular shift at a bar in New York. She parked her car, and began her walk to her apartment complex like every weeknight for the past year.

This time though, Kitty noticed a man following her, so nervously, she headed up an adjacent street hoping to get away from the man. To no avail. The man grabbed her and stabbed her.

She screamed in pain, “He stabbed me! He stabbed me!” A man looking down from his apartment complex yelled “Let that girl alone” so the assailant, taking his time, walked away. But as soon as the lights went out in the apartments, he quickly returned and stabbed her again. This time more people seemed to notice as she cried, “I’m dying! I’m dying!” This time more lights went on as more people took notice, so the attacker drove away.

Finally the assailant returned and found her in anguish as she desperately tried to crawl up the stairs to her apartment and stabbed her for a third and final time. The police were finally called at 3:50 am. In less than 2 minutes they were on the scene. A man and an elderly lady came forward to speak with police and no one else.

The New York Times reported that there were almost 40 people who heard or saw the attack that night and did not call the police. “A simple phone call and she would still be alive,” sighed a detective.

As the story gained interest many of the neighbors were interviewed and asked why they didn’t call the police. All kinds of excuses were given. Some of the most memorable were:

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April 18, 2016

Holy Genes

by Clint Archer

Cheaper by the Dozen is the charming biographical story of the efficiency expert and father of twelve, Frank Gilbreth, who lived in the early 1900s. His contribution to modern life includes fungible scaffolding, the touch typing system, and improving efficiency in countless procedures such as extracting tonsils, laying bricks, and language learning.dna

But he’s most famous for his energetic brood of six boys and six girls, who from an early age were all tonsil-free prodigious polyglots, who could touch type, communicate in Morse code, and lay bricks with alacrity.

Many people wondered how he kept control of such a lively litter. The answer lay in the remarkable obedience of his children. The kids loved, trusted, and respected their parents, and never wanted to let them down. Being disobedient to their father was considered unthinkable. If you asked any of them why they were so efficient in their use of resources, so dedicated to self-improvement, and why they enjoyed being part of a large family, their answer would be simple: Because I’m my father’s child.

Efficiency was in their genes. They were born into a family culture in which waste was deplored, economy was prized, and synergy was expected. These were the mores embodied and modeled by Mr Gilbreth himself. The children imbibed their dad’s nature, his methods, and his values, much the way we do when we become children of God.

Christians long for holiness and strive for sanctification. And we do it because we are offspring of a holy Father. The longing for holiness is due to our new nature and our new Father.

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Car-insurance-Savings_31345647

save.ca

Insurance companies amaze me sometimes. Something like one little speeding ticket or a minor fender-bender, and everything changes. Your monthly payment sky-rockets. They no longer trust you. Simply for doing the human thing of making a mistake, you henceforth are placed on insurance detention. They not only record the minor mishap, but your previously good relationship with them goes sour from merely one mistake. One little blunder results in a tarnished relationship.

Too often we can be the same way in our relationships with one another. Someone commits a few small sins against us and look out; like the graceless insurance company, the relationship gutters. We place them on our spiritual detention list for relational prosecution. We are no longer trusting, but suspecting. We are no longer caring, but gossiping. We are no longer inviting, but ignoring. We are no longer loving, but judging. And we are sinning.

“Love…does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5).

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I’m sure you’ve encountered the quirky literary technique sometimes employed to drive plots in some novels and serials known as the doppelgänger. A doppelgänger is the look alike of another character. In popular fiction the doppelgänger is usually a foil for the protagonist, often as an evil twin or as a deliberate double. Examples are Twelfth Night, Tale of Two Cities, The Man in the Iron Mask, Dave, and Superman III.kirk doppelganger

At the climax of the story, a third character is often called upon to authenticate one of the two. This resolves tension in the denouement. A classic technique is to quiz both with personal questions that would stump the evil twin. Other traps include luring the doppelgänger into eating food the real character is allergic to, or challenging the doppelgänger to a task only the good guy can do.

But my favorite unveiling is in Star Trek: The Original Series in the 1969 episode “Whom Gods Destroy.” Spock encounters Captain Kirk being imitated by a shapeshifter. They get into a fight and the one Kirk orders Spock to shoot them both to prevent the imposter from escaping. Knowing that only the real Kirk would sacrifice himself for the safety of the Enterprise, Spock stuns the other one.

Psalm 1 supplies us with a tried and tested technique to discern between the righteous and the unrighteous.

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March 30, 2016

The Healthy Soul

by Eric Davis

Planting Edible Quail Foliage 1In a recent effort to diversify my smoothie recipes (I currently know of two), I accidentally made one that was actually good and healthy (so I thought). When I shared it with a good friend, they suggested that it was, unfortunately, sub-par on the “healthy” scale. If I would have added things like collagen and other forgotten-phrases from ninth-grade, Oregonian biology, then it might have passed the healthy test.

But it was a reminder that we live in a time of perhaps unprecedented fixation with being healthy. It’s no longer enough to eat fruit and veggies. Now, you have to eat organic, sustainable, raw, uncooked, not-in-the-dirty-dozen fruits and veggies. It’s no longer enough to eat a balanced diet. You have to eat a gluten-free, paleo, superfood diet. It’s not enough to eat eggs. You have to eat eggs from a free-range quail, with a name, fed on organic wheat grass in a gentle-noise barnyard. And it’s no longer enough to moderately exercise a few times a week. You have to do HIT, P90X, or Crossfit. And I’m sure people could find something wrong even with the things I’ve mentioned. It’s nearly become a form of salvation. In many circles, various views of healthy eating become a form of imposed righteousness.

o-SMOOTHIE-INGREDIENTS1-900Now, those things are not necessarily bad, in and of themselves. It’s good to put in effort to steward our earthly tents. But, none of them will deliver physiological utopia. That will only come through a spiritual upgrade. Bodily discipline is only of some profit (1 Tim. 4:8). And “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).

Spiritual health, on the other hand, is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and the one to come (1 Tim. 4:8). So, simple math indicates that one ought to give the most effort to that which pays the highest dividends. With that, here are a few signs of spiritual health in our lives.

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“Easter Sunday is the Super Bowl of church attendance!”

regular sundayThat’s a statement I’m sure you’ve heard before. Just like the Super Bowl attracts people who don’t normally watch football, Easter Sunday brings in so many who usually don’t have any interest in the Bible or church, but feel like they should attend because it’s what you’re supposed to do on Easter Sunday. And while it is true that the world has a fascination with Easter and with attending church on Easter, what is equally true is that the world misunderstands Easter in significant ways.

The more I hear straw men arguments against the resurrection, the more I realize that the world has many misconceptions about the resurrection. Here are five of the most common ones I hear:

Jesus did not know he was going to die

One of the biggest misconceptions is that Jesus did not know he was going to die. It is fascinating to note that throughout his ministry, Jesus knew that it would end in death. In fact, although he could have prevented it, he made sure that it would happen.

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March 27, 2016

That’s My King

by Mike Riccardi

This just never gets old.

Rejoice with us this day in the resurrection and the life of our King, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, King Jesus the Christ, the Name above all names.

Being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
For this reason also God highly exalted Him

and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue will confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father
– Philippians 2:9-11 –

Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
– John 11:25-26 –

Isa 53;5Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve found that around Easter time it’s very easy for our thoughts to be occupied with the events of Resurrection Sunday—sometimes even to the exclusion of the events of Good Friday. That may be for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s because the church’s time together on Good Friday is usually an abbreviated service at the end of a busy workday, while Resurrection Sunday is a special holiday spent with family. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s more pleasant and encouraging to meditate on the triumph and the victory of Christ’s resurrection than the injustice, suffering, and agony of His death.

But truly, you can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday. You can’t have the resurrection of Christ without the atonement of Christ. Each is vitally essential to the Gospel. And of all days, Good Friday is a day to give ourselves to the contemplation of and reflection upon the nature of Christ’s atonement on our behalf. Something that has stirred me to worship, supplemental to Scripture’s accounts of and commentary on the atonement, is a 19th-century hymn called “O Christ! What Burdens Bowed Thy Head.” It may be the best non-inspired worship song that I know of that captures the depth of the theology of penal substitutionary atonement. And it not only purveys the soundest of theology, but it’s also one of the most beautiful pieces of poetry I’ve ever read. Consider the words of these six verses, Christian, and worship the Lamb who has borne the wrath of God in your place.

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