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Daily devotional

April 1 – Introduction to the month of April

Our calendars tell us that Easter is this month. There is much debate on the accuracy of the date and if Christians should participate in Lent and how to celebrate Easter, but we should never take lightly nor forget what occurred and what it means that Jesus let Himself be betrayed, arrested, placed on trial and crucified. And then we need to think about what it means that Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. The identity of the Christian is found in the death and resurrection of Christ.

This month we will spend time looking at and learning from the events leading up to the death of Christ and then we will look at how the ministry of Christ is carried out after His resurrection. We will pay close attention to Peter, who is famous for denying Christ and then later leading the church. As we look at Peter, the point is not to learn from and be like Peter, but to see ourselves in Peter as an example of one who is nothing without the Lord, but who in the Lord is able to live a life to the glory of God and service of His kingdom.

I pray that this month you grow in your awareness of your sin and weakness and as you do so, grow in your amazement at the great love of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. As you grow in your grasp of who Christ is and are filled with Christ, I pray that your life will show a more humble faith and more eagerness to live a life to the glory of God.

A national holiday

“Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death, for they feared the people.” – Luke 22:1-2

Scripture reading: Luke 22:1-6

On April 1st, many families like to play jokes on each other. One April fools morning I hid all of our bowls and then asked the kids to set the table. They were baffled to discover the bowls were nowhere to be found. We might laugh at a joke about breakfast, but one thing that no Israelite would find funny would be a joke about the Passover feast. This was their national holiday and it celebrated the victory and identity God gave them when they were rescued from Egypt so many years ago. In the days of Jesus, the Israelites were once again under foreign oppression. The glory and the freedom of the former kingdom had long since faded. They only held onto hope.

But this Passover would be different. On this night, Jesus is the Passover Lamb Who will soon be slain to deliver His people from bondage, to free them from their sin and from the oppression of Satan. At Passover, the Jews celebrated the angel of death passing over them because the blood of the lamb was on their doorposts. They were celebrating salvation. But now Jesus will show them how He has come that whoever believes in Him may have life and salvation. This is still a matter of life and death - not something to joke about, but instead, something we need to ponder and learn about. See what Jesus would do and endure in order to be our Passover Lamb.

Suggestions for prayer

We are so easily distracted. Pray that God will help you to ponder what Christ has done. Ask God to help you grasp the love of Christ in coming to set His people free.

Rev. Simon Lievaart is a pastor for Bethel United Reformed Church of Smithers BC. He and his wife Jodi have four children.

Assorted

"Yes, Virginia, there was a Santa Claus"

In 1897, The Sun newspaper was asked a doozy of a question. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wanted to know: “is there a Santa Claus?” The little girl had first asked her papa and he, like a skilled matador, neatly sidestepped the question, telling her to write a letter to the editor. “If you see it in The Sun,” he told her, “it’s so.” You can imagine the tension that must have enveloped the newsroom when this letter arrived. On the one hand, the journalistic integrity of the paper was at stake; how could they do anything but tell the truth? And on the other... well, only a grinch would want to kill Santa Claus, so how could they possibly tell her the truth? Here, in part, is what editorialist Francis Pharcellus wrote:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.... Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

Thanks to Pharcellus, Santa lived on for this little girl. At least for another year. Today it seems like we have the same two options facing us: to share the fun of Santa with our children, or to tell the truth about Him. We can either be liars or killjoys. Honest killjoys? The strength of the killjoy option is readily apparent. God loves truth, and hates lies. We teach our children to love truth and hate lies. So we as parents should be truthful and not tell lies. More worrisome is how similar the mythical Santa is to the real God. Both can’t be seen, both know when we’ve been bad or good, and both administer justice. So when we tell our kids that both are real, but later admit that, yes, that Santa guy actually isn’t, we’ve given our kids good reason to doubt what we’ve told them about God. That’s big. That’s huge! Fun So does that mean we have to give up on the fun of Santa? Nope. There is a third option that Francis Pharcellus knew nothing about. In our family photo album one of the pictures is of a kid, 5 or 6, who has just been given a Sesame Street Ernie puppet. In the photo we can see Ernie talking, and the expression on this boy’s face is of wide-eyed, mouth gaping, jumping up on his tiptoes, kind of joy – he could not be more excited! And yet, this is no dumb kid. He can surely tell that where Ernie’s legs should have been, there was his brother’s arm instead. And the voice he was hearing couldn’t have sounded much like Ernie’s. The boy knew this wasn’t really Ernie... but it sure was fun to pretend! The third option is telling our kids the truth, and then playing make-believe. Keeping the good If our kids know this Santa guy is just a story, then we can keep what’s good, and ditch whatever we don’t like. We can reimagine the story, skip the crass commercialization, and keep the generosity. We can pick the Saint over the Santa, and connect the Saint to his Savior. We can pick the 5th of December, or do our Dutch heritage proud and exchange gifts after Boxing Day when everything can be had for 50% off. Zwarte Piet can make an appearance, or not... but if he does show up, he’s going to be less scary, and a lot more fun because the kids will be in on the joke. We can put out the glass of milk, and make sure that whatever cookies we place on the plate are dad’s favorites. Children can still get their pictures taken with Santa, or skip it if the line is too long – no stress, no worries, because, hey, he’s just a guy playing dress-up after all. And if the line is too long, maybe dad will have to get out the ol’ beard and pillow for some photos at home. Because it sure is fun to pretend. Pretending is awesome. But lying to little Victoria? Ho, ho ho, well, that is sure to land you on Santa’s naughty list!

This article first appeared in the December 2013 issue. The author is worried he might not need the pillow.

News

Saturday Selections - March 28, 2020

John MacArthur on the coronavirus crisis (17 minutes) While the coronavirus quarantine led to the canceling of the Ligonier conference, it freed up some time for one of the featured speakers to address how Christians can respond to this crisis and use it as an opportunity to witness to how the Gospel is good news to us, as well as to any who respond to Christ in faith. Tips for talking to your kids about sex I once heard a pastor share what he called "The Law of First Explanations" – that one reason parents have to be the first to talk about sex with their kids (and be the first to talk with them about any other important topics) is because our kids will sift all subsequent information they get on that topic through the filter of the first explanation they get. Parents will often notice the impact of this law when they come in second (or third, or fourth...) because now, whatever we have to say, is going to be tested against the filter of "But my teacher said..." or "But my friends all think..." But it works in our favor too, when we act early. Or, as the article author puts it, "Better a year too early than five minutes too late.” In addition to the article above, a helpful book series – one you can read along with your daughter or son, with different books for different ages – is the "Learning about sex for the Christian family" series put about by Concordia Publishing House. Getting creative... When government restrictions made it impossible to gather inside our church buildings, one congregation came up with a creative way of still meeting together at their usual time. This past Sunday, the Christ Community Church in Blaine, WA met outside, singing and listening to the sermon from inside their cars, assembled in their parking lot. Teaching our kids how to manage their devices Tim Challies titled this article "When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time" because, when it comes to helping out kids figure out how to use their phones, tablets, and computers to best effect, we know we aren't doing it right. There's plenty of reasons for it, not the least of which is as trailblazers in this area (this is not something our parents could teach us how to teach our kids) we are bound to get it wrong. But that also means there is plenty of ways to improve. So, for the love of our kids, let's be the parents and take that leadership role. And Challies has some wonderful help to offer. How the coronavirus has revealed what's core to Roman Catholicism An Italian pastor explains how the Catholic Church's response to the coronavirus is revealing what's core (and consequently what's deficient) in their doctrine. In related news, the Pope has said that, due to the crisis, Catholics can confess their sins directly to God...at least until they can reach a priest once again. Choice42 with another tool for the pro-life toolbox (1 minute) There is a truth about the unborn that needs to be shared – that they are every bit as valuable as you and I because, just like you and I, they are made in the very Image of God (Gen 1:26-27, 9:6). And there are also lies that need to be knocked down – many, many lies. And as she shows here once again, Laura Klassen, and her crew down at Choice42, are among the very best at knocking down those lies.

Church history

Jenny Geddes: the Reformer who let fly…

You can download or listen to the podcast version (5 minutes) here.

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Our story is about what should have been a small thing. It wasn’t such an unusual thing. You hear about it from time to time. Someone got upset and threw their stool. Someone got excited, got a little rowdy, and that was the end of it, right? Not quite. The stool thrower was a certain Jenny Geddes, She wasn’t a notable woman, merely running a fruit stall just outside the Tron Kirk, the main church in Edinburgh. Her stall was the 1600s equivalent of a hot dog stand. She wasn’t the sort of person that you would expect to appear in the history books. She was average. Not unusual. Much like you or me. But maybe that goes to show you that if the cause is important enough, the small can rise to do big things. In 1635, Charles I, king of England and Scotland, had declared himself to be the head of the Scottish church. Not all the Scots were terribly happy about this. In the spirit of the Reformation, the Scottish church had gone a good ways toward removing Catholic influences and developing its own, distinctive, Protestant style of worshipping. There was quite a bit of fear that Charles would change all that. Charles wanted the Scottish church to be more like the English one, uniting religion in his kingdom. Catholic subterfuge? Charles and the unpopular English Archbishop of Canterbury, William Laud, appointed a committee of, admittedly, Scottish bishops to develop a prayer book for use in the Scottish church. The Scots saw this prayer book as a way to make the Scottish church Catholic again by subterfuge. A lot of the more conservative Scots, the more Puritan leaning members of the church, were not impressed. So when it came time to debut the new Book of Common Prayer in an actual worship service, tensions were running high. Sunday, July 23, 1637 saw Deacon John Hanna nervously ascend the pulpit at St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. Sitting in the back of the cathedral was Jenny Geddes. Interestingly, the women were required to sit at the back, and bring their own stools to sit on which undoubtedly has a fascinating story behind it. For our purposes, it’s enough to realize that any stool light enough to be brought from home is also light enough to be thrown across the room. At some point Geddes had had enough. She rose and colorfully accused Hanna of being a Catholic priest in disguise. She yelled “Devil cause you severe pain and flatulent distension of your abdomen, false thief: dare you say the Mass in my ear?” and then flung her stool across the room and at Hanna’s head. Cursing flatulence on someone and flinging your stool seems to have been the trigger for chaos. A riot started in the church – possibly involving more flying stools – with the service ending up more like a barroom brawl than a place of worship.  One worshipper who dutifully used the appropriate responses from the new Prayer Book was soundly thumped with Bibles. The riot spread out onto the street, even the city council chambers were besieged, and in time the authorities were called in to break up the chaos. The ruling authorities in Edinburgh appealed to the capital in London to withdraw the new Book of Common Prayer, but the government of Charles I refused. The Scots responded by signing a National Covenant in February 1638, to make the Scottish church more Presbyterian and less Anglican, and later that same year tossed out the Scottish bishops who had written the new Prayer Book. King Charles treated this as rebellion, and in 1639 launched the First Bishops War, the first in a series of wars with the Scots known as the Wars of the Covenant. These wars would tax his treasury, and, ultimately, lead to the confrontations with Parliament which would eventually cost him his head. Conclusion All this came about because one woman threw a stool. The funny part is that historians aren’t even sure if Jenny Geddes was a real person, or just a wonderful element to throw into a pretty crazy story about religious and political reform. Whatever the case, the riot was real, and it goes a long way towards showing that at the right moment, real, average, even boring, people can make a spectacular difference. Sometimes it’s not where you take your stand that matters, but where you take your seat.

This article is taken from an episode of James Dykstra’s History.icu podcast, where history is never boring. You can check out other episodes at History.icu or on Spotify, Google podcasts, or wherever you find your podcasts.

For some further digging… Wikipedia on "Jenny Geddes" Undiscovered Scotland on "Jenny Geddes" Reformation History on "Jenny Geddes" Scot Clans on "Jenny Geddes" InAmidst.com on "Lo and Behold"

AA
Assorted
Tagged: featured, Jeremiah, Philippians, Psalms

What does God’s “favorite” Bible verse tell us?

We all have our own favorite books, chapters, and verses in the Bible. I love the last 5 chapters of Job, where God answers Job and his friends. In a confusing world, I find this such a comforting passage – I may not understand why things are happening, but God does, He is in control, and I can trust to leave things with Him. My grandfather loved Ps. 23 for similar reasons – reading through it was a source of comfort for him.

Other passages are favorites for different reasons. When it comes to the verse we most often share with the world, it must be John 3:16, written up large on poster board and displayed at football, baseball and soccer stadiums around the globe. In 2009 this was the most read verse on BibleGateway.com.

The world’s favorite verse has to be Matthew 7:1a: “Do not judge.” They don’t want it in context – half a verse is more than enough Bible for them.

God’s favorite verses?

But what is God’s favorite Bible verse? In the last couple of months two Reformed authors have shared their thoughts. Dr. Joel McDurmon noted that, according to the number of times it is quoted in the New Testament, the clear second-place finisher is the latter part of Leviticus 19:18:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

McDrumon writes: “This shows up in seven different places in the NT [while] the vast majority of other verses quoted appear a couple times, or only once.” Of course, it may not be quite right to think of this as God’s favorite – it might be better to think of this as a passage He knows we really need to hear over and over again.

So if that’s second, what’s first? Reformed Baptist pastor Jeff Durbin suggests it must be Psalm 110:1:

“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”

This passage is cited or referenced nearly two dozen times in the New Testament, or three times as often as Leviticus 19:18.

An instructive contrast

What we read here is a proclamation of Jesus’ sovereignty – the focus is on His reign.

But when you google “favorite verses” the passages that often come up have a different focus. Spots 2 through 4 on the BibleGateway.com 2009 most-read-verses list had these familiar passages:

Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

Like my grandfather’s favorite, and my own, these passages are a source of comfort to many (though the Jeremiah and Philippians passages are often misapplied). While they do speak of God, the focus isn’t so much on Him as what He can do for us – the focus is largely on us.

Our loving Father knows what we we need, and so provides us with text after text that assure us of his goodness and power and love. It’s no wonder these are among our favorites – they are a gift from Him. But the difference between our favorites and God’s “favorite” is instructive. God wants us to understand that Jesus has triumphed. He wants us to realize that Jesus has won every battle, beaten every enemy, and rules over all. This is so important for us to understand, that God tells it to us again and again and again.

Are we listening? And do we believe it?

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism explains, our purpose here on earth is to glorify God, but we are so often scared and too timid to even mention His name. How can we glorify Someone we don’t dare name?

God wants to embolden us, telling us that Jesus already reigns. When we are intimidated by our professors, boss, coworkers, classmates, or political caucus, we can be assured that Jesus is king. He is Lord of our university classroom. He rules the business world and our job site too. And while government might seem to be spirally ever downward we can rest secure in the knowledge that God appoints both Prime Ministers and opposition leaders. His domain extends to everywhere and everything.

“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’”

Whether we’re looking for comfort or courage, can it get any better than that?

 


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