Malachi 2

Wow!  What a very articulate and piercing chapter this morning!  There were parts of this chapter that put a smile on my face, because it seemed almost funny…

Cows spend month roaming in newly built house and riddle it with poo

Manure always seems just a little bit funny!

Then there was the part of the chapter that just seemed to take a swipe at our own culture and our inability to accept that sin is still sin…and sin still separates us from God!  God accuses the Israelites of watering down His holiness and elevating their sinfulness!  

17 You have wearied the Lord with your words. “How have we wearied him?” you ask.

You have wearied Him by saying that all who do evil are good in the Lord’s sight, and He is pleased with them…”

But the most powerful part of this chapter for me personally was the first section, where God  called out the leadership and held them to account!

Admittedly, my pastor colleagues around the country and I are not Old Testament Israelite priests, but it would seem that the charge God gives is applicable to us pastors!

“The words of a priest’s lips should preserve knowledge of God, and people should go to him for instruction, for the priest is the messenger of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. But you priests have left God’s paths. Your instructions have caused many to stumble into sin. You have corrupted the covenant I made with the Levites,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.“So I have made you despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people. For you have not obeyed me but have shown favouritism in the way you carry out my instructions.”

In a world that seems to have too many celebrity pastors gone wild, pastor-scandals and pastors who succumb to moral failures, these three verses ring especially loud.  But consider how many more pastors there are who ‘have left God’s path’ that never hit the news or blogosphere.  Add to this the main-line-church scandals, the numbers of priests charged with sexual abuse of children, the clergy’s involvement in the Canadian residential schools and what used to be a revered position is now “despised and humiliated in the eyes of all the people.”

This chapter is a clarion call for those of us in leadership to check our character and 1“Listen, you priests—this command is for you! Listen to Me and make up your minds to honour My name,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies!

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

Malachi 1

Welcome to day 909 and our 54TH book of the Bible, the last book of the Old Testament, the short Book of Malachi! 

So, let’s start by watching a quick Bible Project summary-video on the book, then we dive into reading our chapter-a-day!

So, this weekend we’ll be wrapping up our ‘Character is…’ series and the focus will be entirely on this short, four-chapter long book!

Now, as you read your way through, you’re probably going to be thinking…”Hold it!  What can possibly be said about ‘character’ from this book?’

Great question!

In fact, after going ahead an reading my way through this book, I’ve chosen to entitle this weekend’s message ‘Character isn’t…: What we learn about lacking character from the Book of Malachi’!

Someone has concluded…

That’s pretty good!…but the Israelites in this book are going to give us a whole bunch more ‘Character isn’t…’ traits!

From my reading of chapter one this morning, I’d have to conclude that ‘Character isn’t…out of touch with it’s faults!’  Six times in this short book God is going to challenge and confront Israel and each time Israel deflects, dismisses and prove themselves to be totally out of touch with their faults.

Instead, true character gives room for the voices that hold us accountable and even critique us!  True character invites feedback!  True character stops and think, ‘Hum.  I wonder what part of this criticism I need to own?’  True character, isn’t reactionary and defensives!

So, what other examples of what ‘Character isn’t…’ are you finding in this chapter?

What else jumped out of this chapter for you?

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

Joel 3

Interestingly, Acts 2:17 is a nearly-direct quote from Joel 2:28…

17 ‘In the last days,’ God says,    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy.
    Your young men will see visions,    and your old men will dream dreams.

Now, Joel doesn’t actually say the words, “in the last days”, but here in Acts, the phrase “last days” is connected!  So, it begs the question…

‘The Last Days’ phrase sounds so ominous and mysterious and specific to a few years, however, is that a right impression?

Pastor David Guzik, in his commentary on Joel, says “Many have the wrong idea of the “last days,” thinking only in terms of the final years or months immediately before the return of Jesus in glory to this earth, or the rapture of the Church. Scripturally, we can think of the last days as an era, one that began with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost. Since that time, the Church has not been rushing towards a distant edge that represents the consummation of all things. Instead, at the Day of Pentecost the Church came to the edge – and has run parallel to the brink for some 2,000 years.”

David Mathis, the executive editor of Pastor John Piper’s Desiring God website adds this clarity, “Unlike many other major systems of belief around the world, Jews and Christians view history as linear. History is God’s story, and it is going somewhere. It had a beginning, and it will have an end. There were first days, there were the days of the patriarchs and the many seasons (so many ups and downs!) in the history of Israel, and there were four hundred years of prophetic silence, and then the days Jesus walked the earth. 

And since then, we have been living in the last days. We don’t know how long this present season of history will last. It has been almost two thousand years so far. But we do know that this present season of history, which began with the early church, is the last one until Jesus comes. The next major, literally epoch-making event to come is not some especially great persecution (as if Christians haven’t been persecuted for the last two thousand years and aren’t being persecuted in horrible ways around the world today); and it’s not God intervening to rapture Christians from being persecuted. God has better plans than to keep his people from hard times! 

The next big step is that Jesus is coming back. That’s what the New Testament means when it says his return is “near” or “at hand.” It’s not about shortness of time as we conceive of it, but about nearness in history as God crafts it. And it should make us a people who anticipate it, pray for it, and live in light of it.

The coming of Christ is near. This is what we teach our children, and remind ourselves. We are living in the last days.”

So, what Joel was prophesying has a lot to do with the season of history we are living in right now!…the last days!

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

Joel 2

I’m not sure what leapt off the page of our chapter for you this morning, but for me, it was…this chapter is such a great example of why we call what we have with God a ‘relationship’!

V 1-11 is a continuation of chapter 1 and the devastation of the locusts as judgement and punishment!  The people had turned from God.  They had wandered.  They had turned God into an object to be worshipped, but then to be ignored.  The people had sinned and there was a price to pay and consequences to bear.

V 12-17 is a decisive shifting of gears!  

12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”

13 Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.

This is a glimpse into the heart of God!  It’s an invitation to come back to God.  To repent and return to God.  It’s a way to avoid the locust and reconnect with what matters!

I especially love the call to ‘rend your heart, not your garments’!  

This section is full of emotion, passion and pulsating hope!

V 18-27 is an explosion of promise and blessing!

Sin lead to judgement.  However, repentance on the part of God’s people sparked chain reaction of avalanching hope, provision, promise and blessing!

V 28-32 is a brilliantly projected future!

28 “And afterward,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
29 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
30 I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth…32 And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved…

A chapter that started with unbelievable devastation and dark judgement ends with the unthinkable:  God saving people and pouring His very own Spirit on them in order to fuel and energize their lives from within!

To me, everything about this chapter speaks of the relationships with God that is possible!

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

Joel 1

Welcome to day 906 and our 53rd book of the Bible, the short Book of Joel! 

So, let’s start by watching a quick Bible Project summary-video on the book, then we dive into reading our chapter-a-day!

The year was 1915 and the experience was nothing like anyone had ever heard of before, except perhaps in the old testament prophetic book of Joel!  It was the 1915 Locust Plague!

It occurred in Israel and Syria with an estimated 12 trillion locusts eating everything in their path.

To deal with the onslaught, officials appointed a commander who enacted a law which required every male ages 15-60 to collect 20 kgs (44 lbs) of locust eggs or pay a fine and risk having your business closed!

It was a horrible time as the world was in the grips of the first world war, starvation and famines were rampant and now locusts!

Joel warns of a similar judgement that was coming to Judah.

As has already been noted, Joel doesn’t reference other prophets, kings or significant events, making it extremely difficult to nail down an actual time-of-writing, but many believe it was pre-exilic and about 835 BC.

However, my little blog experience is not meant to provide analysis of the whole chapter but simply to share one verse, sentence or concept that struck me as I personally make my way through the chapter.  For me, this morning, it’s this thought:  we have no idea, but I wonder if more like this is coming?

The last 18 months has been tough on everyone!

Currently, the news is full of COVID 19 and the pandemic that has claimed 4.14 million people world wide and 26,500 in Canada!  Additionally, we are absorbing news of wildfires around the world that are devouring entire towns in some cases!  Additionally, we’re living through what might be our second ‘twice-in-a-century drought event’ where livestock are withering and crops are stunted!  Additionally, over 200 people died in a sudden and unanticipated European flood event!   Additionally, all of this is having a dramatic economic impact!…and it’s believed climate change will only make it worse in the coming years…yet, I wonder how much worse it might all get?  I still have food on the table and a bit of money in the bank.  Although I might be suffering from a tinge of ‘survivor guilt’, me and my family have been pretty much untouched in a personal and devastating way.  Yet our chapter this morning has me wondering…

Q: Might God bring similar judgement on a world that increasingly is self-dependent and dismissive of His existence and power?

Q: What would such a judgement look like and would we recognize it if it came?

Q: Would people turn to God and repent, or stick in their heels and shake their fists at Him?

Reading Joel 1 this morning, I simply felt like I could identify just slightly more with this chapter than if I had read it 18 months ago!

19 Lord, help us!
The fire has consumed the wilderness pastures,
    and flames have burned up all the trees.
20 Even the wild animals cry out to you
    because the streams have dried up,
    and fire has consumed the wilderness pastures.

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

2 Samuel 24

Our chapter this morning begins with a bit of a head-scratcher!

1 Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

We would naturally assume the ‘he’ in this sentence is ‘God’, especially because the NKJV Bible capitalizes it, however, from 1 Chronicles 21:1 we discover, “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.”

However, personally, the point I’m walking away with from this chapter is, ‘you can never let your guard down’!  Because, when you do, bad stuff happens!

OK!  That little comic strip was just silly.  Sorry.  But the point still stands:  regardless how long you have been in the game, no matter how experienced or seasoned you are, relaxing your scrutiny and getting lazy with discernment and integrity will cost you dearly!

It is actually a bit sad and sobering that the book of 2nd Samuel ends with this story.  However, maybe that was the precise intent of the author.  Instead of ending on a high, celebratory and congratulating note, end with a reminder: never let your guard down!  If you do, your own heart or maybe even Satan himself will deceive you into sin!

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

2 Samuel 23

Verses 8-39 in today’s chapter might be one of those sections that you just sort of skim over.  After all, it’s pretty much just a roster or list of names.  However, it was this verse section that impacted me most this morning!

David was nothing without his mighty men!  That was probably pretty obvious to most.  However, what is so wonderful about this passage is that King David knew and acknowledged that he was nothing without them!

Boisterous preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon of England (1834-1892) said, “These men came to David when his fortunes were at the lowest ebb, and he himself was regarded as a rebel and an outlaw, and they remained faithful to him throughout their lives. Happy are they who can follow a good cause in its worst estate, for theirs is true glory.”

Having been in ministry 33 years now, I too have been privileged to work with, lead and partner with some remarkably mighty men and women!  As King David, I would be nothing without them!  I have quite literally served in the trenches with some of these people for more than three decades.  Others, not quite so long, but they have become trusted and loyal partners in ministry.

This morning my mind is flipping through the photo album in my mind and I find myself incredibly humbled and grateful for those I get to link arms with everyday!  I know they have my back, and I have theirs.  Does it get any better than that?

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

2 Samuel 22

When Carolyn and I were in Banff last week, we were walking the main street and came across an outdoor store that had a big poster and a sentence that said something like, ‘Views from a breathtaking vista need to be earned’…or something like that!

The point was, in order to have the rare opportunity to see a truly marvellous and breathtaking view, you’re going to have to work at it and hike a difficult trail.

Carolyn and I actually experienced that ad slogan for real!  On day we did ‘The Tea House Challenge’ a gruelling 14.6 km, 510 m vertical hike that took us to the Lake Agnes Tea House and then on to The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House and back to Lake Louise.

We marvelled at the views and vistas and glaciers and waterfalls and rock-fields we would have never seen if we hadn’t put in the hard work!

Well, our chapter this morning sort of reminded me of our hike.

After doing the hard work of following God and living for God, it’s almost like King David rests for a few moments looking over the grandeur of God!   

“TheLordis my rock,my fortressand my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour—
    from violent people you save me.

“I called to theLord, who is worthyof praise,
    and have been saved from my enemies.

What a grand vista David finds himself on!  However, in this song and chapter, we also see the foundation of David’s own character.

British evangelist and Bible teacher, Rev. Doctor George Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) said, “Such convictions – of the absolute sovereignty of Jehovah, of His omnipotent power to deliver, of the necessity for obedience to His law, and of assurance that in the case of such obedience He ever acts for His people – constituted the underlying strength of David’s character.”

David had worked hard to live for God!


David had done everything in his power to stay faithful to God!


David had bent his ear to listen to God’s voice and direction!

David had battled valiantly, not only the enemies with sword and spear, but his own temptations, failures and demons!


David had made tough decisions!


David had suffered devastating losses!


David had experienced sleepless nights, experienced poverty and fear, and knew what it was for people to love you…and then hate you!

…yet through it all, we see in this song and chapter, the firm foundation on which his life was built: 

Lordis my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my saviour!

What a view!

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

2 Samuel 21

Wow!  Did you hear the echo of character?  Did you feel the vibrations of character as they shoot the ground in the first half of this chapter? 

A famine had fallen upon Israel and God revealed it was because King Saul had dishonoured a promise to the Gibeonites.  David found out and knew he needed to find a solution.  So, he goes and speaks with the Gibeonites.  He takes the role as listening-servant rather than powerful-king.  He asks the Gibeonites what they would like him to do.  What will restore peace and justice.  The Gibeonites make a suggestion and King David makes it happen.

14 …After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land.

As I read verses 1-14 this morning, I once again came face-to-face with King David’s character.  It was full of humility.  It was bent on asking good questions and listening.  It was willing to risk and boldly keep promises.  It was full of honour.

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.

2 Samuel 20

I’m still marked by one line in the mini-series called ‘American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson’.   

Johnnie Cochrane, one of the defense lawyers says something like, “The truth and evidence doesn’t matter…it’s the team that tells the best story that wins!”

Wow!

We want to believe that the justice system is fair, unbiased and impartial.  That a verdict is reached based on the weight of evidence.  However, you could see in the storytelling of O.J.’s trail, that it was the ‘best story’, not the weight of evidence, that won the day!

At the beginning of today’s chapter, we see something of the same scenario playing out.  Sheba takes advantage of King David’s vulnerabilities and begins to fashion his slogans or his ‘story’ if you will…

Sheba blew a ram’s horn and began to chant: “Down with the dynasty of David! We have no interest in the son of Jesse. Come on, you men of Israel, back to your homes!” So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri.

  • “I have the clarity to see through David and I do not support his authority!”
  • “Look where David came from!  He’s the son of a humble farmer, not royalty!”
  • “Don’t follow this fake!  Come and follow me and I will lead you back to your home!” (…and who doesn’t want to go home?)

British evangelist and Bible teacher, Rev. Doctor George Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) said, 

“The story should teach us that popular and plausible catchwords ought to be received and acted upon with great caution.”

With the explosion of online information, social media and mass media, we need to be equally discerning of the ‘plausible catchwords’ and ‘the better stories that are spun’ that may, in fact, have little to do with truth and reality!

HIT ‘COMMENT’ BELOW to share your reflections!  You don’t have to complete personal fields to participate!  Note that the comments are not monitored and don’t necessarily reflect Riverwood’s teachings.