Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sunday Devotional - Picking Blackberries in Scotland

Audio version here

2 Corinthians 12:7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. (NIV)

Years ago, I used to go bramble picking with my brothers, usually during the Fall. I think that you call brambles ‘blackberries’ over here. They look like dark colored raspberries and they grow wild in Scotland. They have a bitter sweet taste to them, but you can make a delicious jelly with them, which our mum used to do when we brought them home.

To get to the biggest and sweetest brambles, you have to be willing to fight your way through some really nasty thorns. In order to pick the brambles off the thorns, you cannot use gloves. Inevitably, my brothers and I would all come home with painful thorns stuck in the palm of our hands. So as well as making jelly and sewing our ripped clothes, mum had to be our nurse by removing the thorns with tweezers. In the end it was worth all of the discomfort, trouble, and pain. The jelly she made was delicious, especially on buttered slices of toast.

Paul writes about a ‘thorn in the flesh’ that he experienced in his life. As a preacher, he could easily have become conceited by the amount of power and esteem he was given by his listeners. But God gave him some sort of impediment, which caused him a great deal of discomfort. He does not mention what this thorn was precisely, but it was enough of a problem for Paul to ask God to remove it. God, however, says “no” to Paul’s prayer and so he has to learn to live with it.

Sometimes as Christians, we think that we’re entitled to live our lives free from worries, stress, or attack. We think that just because we follow Christ then our lives should be free from trouble. The advocates of the heretical prosperity Gospel have caused Christians throughout the world to believe that God is a great genie in the sky that supplies all of our wants and removes all of our burdens. But this is not the case. God gives us the ability to cope with our problems and to adapt our lives accordingly. He never promises to remove them, otherwise saints like Paul would never have had to live with their thorns in the flesh.

If you’re carrying a burden in your heart or mind, and it seems like a thorn in your flesh which is always troubling you, take it to God. He may not remove it from you, but He will give you his strength to enable you to cope.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all have thorns in our sides and troubles in our lives. Sometimes we just want them to go away, so that we can live our lives peace and prosperity. Remind us that we have faith in You to help us through those times when we struggle. Grant us the courage to face our fears and enable to cope with the pressures we experience. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway

Monday, October 22, 2007

Malibu Presbyterian Church Building Destroyed

A PCUSA congregation, Malibu Presbyterian Church, has lost its building to the wild fires raging in California this weekend.

The second half of this article provides considerable information about the church and its activities.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Devotional: Tertullian: A Braveheart Warrior in Heretical Times

Romans 2:8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (NIV)

For a long time, I have wanted to read the works of an ancient presbyter called Tertullian. He lived during the second century AD and spent most of his life fighting the heresies that were prevalent in the Early Church. His writings laid the foundation of much that we believe in the church today. He was a warrior for the faith and he influenced a whole new generation of church leaders, who went on to strengthen Christianity and protect it from the false teachings of the Gnostics.

In my heart, I feel that there is something gravely wrong with the Western Church today. We have gone down a path that leads to a dead end. For decades, I have heard people say that the church needs to be more inclusive, politically correct, and tolerant of other people’s life styles in order to be accepted by the world. But if this is the case, then why is Western Christianity dying?

Even in our own denomination, the PCUSA, diversity is worshipped and glorified as the best way to keep us relevant in society. But if this is true, then why has our denomination declined by over 15% in the last ten years? If embracing the new culture is meant to be the panacea to keep us strong, then why are PCUSA congregations diminishing in size, influence, and relevance?

This is why I am reading Tertullian. He was a man of his times who confronted the heretical threats to the church. In reading his works, I personally hope to find a way to counter our Christless culture and find the right path for the church to grow, be more influential, and make a positive impact in society.

I am working on an online study series of Tertullian’s works, as well as a parallel 21st century apologetic to confront the new heresies in the church today. If you would like to sign up for the online study, then send me an email at . Write "Tertullian" in the subject line and I will get you signed up via the church’s webmail. If you would like to see what the apologetic looks like, then please visit my wordpress blog at

Prayer: Lord Jesus, these are confusing and conflicting days for Your Church. We are being crushed by society and ignored by our culture. We are trying to please everybody, forgetting that we should only please You. Forgive us for taking the wrong path and help us to return to Your Highway. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional "Heaven's Highway", as well as illustrating the political cartoon on "Pushing the Envelope."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Review . . . The Divorce Wars

There is an interesting article on Christianity Today interpreting the New Testament verses on divorce in light of first century practice and custom. I don't know enough to know how accurate or well researched it is. Hopefully, someone here does. I did think it might be helpful in providing suggestions to difficult questions.

The article is called, What God Has Joined by David Instone-Brewer.


Monday, October 08, 2007

Columbus Day Stained Glass Window

Stained Glass window commemorating Columbus Day...

Columbus Day

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Devotion for Sunday: When God says "No."

Isaiah 46:10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (NIV)

For a while, I’ve been praying hard about something that I think is important and I’ve been trying to convince God of the same. My prayers have been carefully spoken and well thought out. I’ve been looking to God to do what I want and I’ve been disappointed that he hasn’t acted sooner.

A couple of days ago, I stopped praying and started to accept that this wasn’t what God wanted. It was hard to let go, but it was important for me to understand that God decides, not me. Instead of being agitated, I have a great peace. Instead of being disappointed, I am content. God’s purposes stand and he chooses to do as He pleases. His sovereignty is supreme. His decisions are final.

It may be that you’ve praying hard for something, too. Perhaps you want God to do you a favor, get rid of an obstacle, or give you a sign. Maybe you’re tired of asking and frustrated by God’s inaction. I know I was until I realized that God was saying “No.” Perhaps it’s time you also surrendered to His will and let God be God. He decides; we serve Him, not the other way around.

I personally know that it can be hard to yield to God’s sovereignty, but this message may be the vehicle that God is using to tell you, “No; not now, never.” Think about it and when you’re ready, take a leap of faith – let it go.

Prayer: Father God, sometimes we want things to work out in ways that are pleasing to us and for our own personal reasons. Sometimes we try to bend Your will and make You serve us with Your power. Forgive us for being focused on things that will never happen. Pardon us for using our faith to fulfill our own needs. Be with us and comfort us as we let go. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the weekday devotional blog "Heaven's Highway", as well as the weekly Sunday liturgy blog "Aaron's Beard."