The Grace Of Self Denial

“If anyone would come after me,
he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24 (NIV)

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When we look at humanity we can easily see that many people have a spirit of self protection that seems to border on the area of personal greed. Little children are a good example of how young this tendency can emerge in our behaviour.

When Billy wants a toy his younger sister is happily playing with he will try to grab it from her. If she resists he may take what is in his hand and hit her on the head to make her drop the desired toy. He is blissfully unaware of her cries of pain as he then starts to enjoy the toy she dropped to clutch her aching head.

Billy will be playing merrily with something when a sibling enters the room and picks up a toy that belongs to him. Although he was not playing with the toy his sense of territory rises to the surface and he insists his little sister leave the toy alone. The fact he does not want to play with it is irrelevant.

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Hand In Hand

“…your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:10 (NIV)

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I well recall as a child of 5-6 years old walking down the street hand in hand with my father. My Dad was not a tall man but his strides were still much longer than mine. I vividly recall trying to match his strides and how difficult it was. I jumped as far as I could with each step but fell short of the distance he covered.

Then 30 years later we again held hands as I baptised him on his confession of faith in the resurrected Saviour, when he confessed his faith in Jesus, the resurrected One. It had been a wonderful moment as the two of us stood together before the congregation as father and son doing what the Lord commanded us.

Finally ten years after his baptism I again held my Dad’s hand. The cancer had ravaged his tired old body. He lay quietly in bed and tears rolled down his cheeks as he sought to endure the pain. There was little to say as I quietly watched him slip away from us.

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We Do Not Need Your Help

“From this time many of his disciples turned back
and no longer followed him.”
John 6:66 (NIV)

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During the years I worked in criminal court as a volunteer chaplain, I spoke to hundreds of prisoners. I found them to be a very polite lot of people and witnessed various displays of compassion this one or that one had on a fellow prisoner. I went to court on Wednesdays because prisoners from surrounding jails would be brought to a central court to appear before a judge. I visited in the morning before court convened and spoke through the bars to the various men in a central cell.

I well recall one tough repeat offender who spoke to me urgently one morning, asking that I find some way to help a young fellow who had been put in jail the night before for the first time. Several prisoners had brutally handled the 18 year old and he was terrified for his life.

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When 911 Puts You On Hold

“Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.”
Isaiah 65:24 (NIV)

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I well recall an incident some years ago when I came upon an accident on a major highway in Toronto. I called 911, the emergency call number on our telephones, and someone answered fairly quickly. I explained the location on the highway, and the apparent injuries to the people involved in the collision.

The operator I spoke to told me to hold the line while they transferred me to the correct department for highway accidents. I was surprised that the emergency number would actually put me on hold. They were supposed to dispatch help quickly to the scene, especially as I had reported there were personal injuries involved.

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Help When It Hurts

“God sits on His holy throne”
Psalm 47:8

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Having studied theology for many years, I recognize that biblical words such as election or predestination have caused great rifts in the church of Jesus Christ. When we are well and have what we need in life it is easy to argue about these truths. However, when life is rough and we are confused about what is happening to us, we often seek comfort from the idea that God is still on the throne.

I recall a parent of several small children who lay in the hospital knowing he would never return home. As I listened to this man speaking of his very frustrating situation one wonderful comment I heard was, “I am confident that the Lord knew me in my mother’s womb.”

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