Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Love You Too Dad

As of this writing, my youngest son, Riley, is 3 ½ years old. Like his older brother David, Riley is kind, thoughtful of other’s needs, gentle and loving. From time to time, when I tell Riley that I love him, he says, "I love you too dad." But sometimes, without my saying anything, he's looked up from what he's doing and said, "I love you too dad." I smile thinking that he simply has not learned sentence structure yet. Until yesterday. Yesterday is when I noticed that he says "I love you too," when we go for a walk; just Riley and I. He says it when I put my arm around him. When I watch him swing or watch him play in the sandbox, it’s then that Riley, hearing my actions as loud as words, replies to my undivided attention with, "I love you too dad." Isn’t that just the most awesome thing? And isn’t that how we should respond to Jesus as we remember that we have His undivided attention? "I love you too Lord."

Better Than I Ever Dreamed Possible

I am so tremendously blessed by God. Not only has He revealed Himself to me, not only has he given to me salvation through my faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has given to me, in enormous amounts, the Fruit of abiding in His Holy Spirit. It is sooo good to be a Christian. It is so good to be able to enjoy who I’m becoming, and to know that I am loved by my Creator.
Before I was a Christian, I thought I was a pretty great individual. In reality, I was filled with rage, bitterness, resentments, selfishness, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, unfaithfulness and so on. Now, with no credit going to myself, I am experiencing huge amounts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Since becoming a Christian, 25 years ago, every year has been better than the year before, and this is in the midst of difficulties. In fact I've probably had far more difficulties in my life since becoming a Christian than before I made that change. Yet God, in His grace and mercy has granted me enough faith to actually live by verses that tell me to "not be anxious about anything," and "don’t worry," and "in all things be thankful," and "rejoice always, I say it again, rejoice." Here's what really makes that wonderful.
I’m sick day in and day out. I've lived with arthritis for 45 of my 55 years and I have huge amounts of pain all day every day. I’m on disability, probably for the rest of my life. And yet I experience God as being so incredibly good. I experience Jesus as being so close that my every pore is infused with His presence. His creation is so awesome. His mercies truly are new every morning.
I am free to enjoy my Lord, my Saviour, my Creator because I know for a fact that I can trust Him. He has never left me nor will He ever leave me. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. I can have more and more of His blessings and more and more of the Fruit of His Spirit. Thank you so much Heavenly Father for helping me to focus just on us.

Wealth Beyond Imagination

It is so good to be richer than the wealthiest people people in the world. While, at first glance I might not appear wealthier than they are, I must be because I have enough, and they don’t.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why Jesus and not Buddha?

Why Jesus and not Buddha?
Some people say that all religious leaders are the same. They say that all paths lead to the same God. They say that all religions worship the same God and so on. I would like to begin with the thought that ‘All religious leaders are roughly the same’. Let’s compare just two of them - Jesus and Siddhartha Gautama a.k.a. Buddha.
. Jesus - When a person asked Jesus where he lived Jesus answered, "Even foxes have holes, but I the Son of God have no place to live." Jesus was born into poverty and spent his entire life on earth ministering to and serving the impoverished, the downtrodden and those on the fringes of society like prostitutes and criminals (both wealthy and street criminals). He made a point of associating with the kinds of people that the rest of us would rather ignore.
. Buddha was born into a rich family. He spent his youth living in luxury in the palace of his father, the warrior prince Suddhodhana.
. Jesus upheld the family unit, but he gave up many opportunities to marry so that he could more fully devote himself to his ministry of serving others. Jesus emphasised the importance of staying in a marriage and working out one’s issues. In no uncertain terms, Jesus stated, "I hate divorce." Jesus sacrificed his desires for intimacy to better provide for the good of others.
. Buddha - When Gautama was about 20 years old, he married the princess Yasodhara. He later abandoned his wife and infant son to seek personal spiritual enlightenment. His focus was on bringing himself a sense of peace.
. Jesus’ message of peace is totally radical when compared to any other religious leader. For example, he says, "Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who persecute you. If you only love those who love you, what good is that? Even the pagans do that much. If someone demands your shirt, give him your coat as well. If someone demands that you carry a load one mile, carry it two."
. Buddha, like all other religious leaders promoted peace, ‘where it makes sense to do so’.
. Jesus - The list of radical differences between what Jesus teaches (Christianity) and all other religions go on and on. One great difference occurs over the issue of choice and how that affects our after death experience. If Jesus is right in what He taught, the choices involved with rejecting or accepting Him will result, at the end of this life, in something either beautiful beyond description or catastrophic beyond imagination. Beyond eternal consequences, Jesus teaches that if we accept him and his message he will provide for us, during this one life on earth, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, value and worth, security and belonging, fulfilment, direction, meaning and purpose.
. Buddha’s followers, for thousands of years have correctly interpreted his life-view to promote a stoic attitude during "an endless cycle of rebirth and suffering." This is because bad karma reproduces much faster than good karma. Only in the west with our arrogant and corrupted self-love, do we believe that we are always progressing to a higher state.
. Jesus teaches that as God, he is worthy of worship, yet most people do not worship him.
. Buddha, being only a man, begged people to not worship him, yet many do.
. Jesus teaches his followers to go into the world to create peace among people.
. Buddha taught that people need to withdraw from the world to find peace in one’s self.-
. Jesus - Details of his life, from the town he would be born in, to the race he would be born into, to the type of ministry he would have, to the type of death he would suffer were described before he was even born. His birth, life and death were intricately documented by those who lived with him during his thirty years on earth.
. Buddha - Almost no authentic information exists about the details of Buddha's life. What we do know is not very flattering.
. Jesus was steeped in the religion of his forefathers from and early age. He was intimately associated with the poor, sick and spiritually needy. He didn’t seek enlightenment, he brought enlightenment. He did not, like a monk, withdraw from the world. Rather, he entered deeply into the world to minister to it. Jesus was a model of emotional, spiritual, social and mental stability.
. Buddha abandoned his family and walked away from the needy people of the world to become a monk. For six years, he sought enlightenment by practising extreme forms of self_denial and self_torture. He lived in filth and many days ate only a grain of rice. At one point he pulled out all the hairs of his beard, one by one. Today his family probably would have had him committed to a psychiatric unit in a desperate attempt to get help for him.
. Jesus teaches that there is nothing that we can DO to earn salvation. Rather, through pure grace he provides freedom and salvation for us by counting us as righteous since we cannot make ourselves righteous. He tells us in Romans 3:22 - "This righteousness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, for there is no difference. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Jesus promised us an assurance of salvation based on faith in what he has done for us.
. Buddha taught that to achieve nothingness (that’s the best that he could envision), people had to free themselves of all desires and worldly things. He is quoted as saying on his deathbed, "continue to work for salvation." All man-made religions are based on working for salvation. Those who follow their teachings can never be sure if they are doing enough.
. Jesus teaches that he came so that on earth we might have life and have it abundantly. He teaches that when we are in a healed, forgiven relationship with him, everything that we experience has meaning and context and purpose. When this life is over, for those who believe, Jesus promises to bring us to full awareness of ourselves spiritually, to bring us into absolute perfect peace in the presence of our Creator.
. Buddha’s vision of paradise is to one day achieve nothingness, emptiness, non existence. . Jesus allowed himself to be killed for our sins, and rose again from the dead. After His resurrection, Jesus was seen by at least five hundred different people on one occasion. On other occasions, over a period of forty days, he laughed, ate, and talked with his followers. This proved His victory over death.
.The grave of Abraham (Judaism) contains the body of Abraham.
.The grave of Mohamad (Islam) contains the body of Mohamad.
.The grave of Siddhartha Gautama, a.k.a. Buddha (Buddhism) contains his ashes.
.The grave of Jesus (Christianity) is empty. The proofs that Jesus has risen are indisputable to anyone who is honestly searching. The evidence of Jesus’ resurrection demands a decision of acceptance or rejection of the facts. It’s that simple.
. Buddha became ill and died. His ashes lie in a jar.
. Jesus teaches that the condition of your life now is based on the choices you make, including the choice to believe in him or to reject him.
. Buddha taught that the condition of your life now is determined by how someone lived in a life before you. You are rewarded for their good behaviour, and punished for their bad or selfish behaviour.
. Jesus teaches that we can find complete and total freedom in the midst of pain and suffering.
. Buddha taught that individuals can only be completely free from pain and suffering upon achieving nothingness after millions of, not years of living, but after millions of reincarnations and working and working and working towards being a better human being or whatever creature or thing that you are in the next life.
. Jesus teaches that there is an absolute code of right and wrong, based on the nature and character of God. He taught that life is very real and needs to be taken seriously.
. Buddha said that right and wrong are relative to the situation and all that we encounter in life is an illusion. Not to be too sarcastic, I suspect that if someone were to have poured boiling water on Buddha’s hand, or if someone cleaned out the bank account of one of his followers today, a concept of right and wrong would quickly emerge and what was once thought to be an illusion would take on brilliant reality.
Now, there is no doubt that Buddha presented a message with many good points. But as for me, if I’m going to ‘follow’ someone as my spiritual leader, I want someone with the character, integrity and solid history of Jesus.

Forgive? Ya right!

Father forgive them.
I was thinking today about the comment, "Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing." The identifier "Father" is easy to understand. It means our Heavenly Father. "Forgive them," while difficult to do is also easy to understand. We then have the comment, "They don’t know what they are doing?" Jesus said this in response to those who were killing Him. Stephen said this as people were in the process of killing him. Countless martyrs have said this as they were being burned at the stake or otherwise killed for their belief in Jesus.
The questions I have are these:
What is it that people don’t know that they are doing? and
Are there occasions when we should be saying, or at least thinking the same thing, while ‘bad’ things are being done to us?
A clue to the answer for the first question is found when Jesus said to Paul, shortly before Paul’s conversion, "Paul why are you persecuting me?" Persecuting Jesus? Jesus had already been tortured to death by the time Paul heard that voice. Paul was focussed on torturing and killing followers of Jesus. He didn’t care about Jesus the person. So what did Jesus mean that Paul was doing something to Him? Well, Jesus was not and is not dead. He is risen. He is alive! What’s more, Jesus has said emphatically that what we do to others, we are doing to Him. Jesus said that when we do something as ‘small’ as giving a glass of water to a little child, we are being kind to Him. When we withhold kindness from someone we are withholding kindness from Him. When we look down on others, we are looking down on Jesus.
The answer to the first question then, is that very few people are aware of what they are doing to Jesus as they berate a small child, refuse to forgive others, cheat on their spouses, lie to their friends, steal from their employers, view others as though they were nothing more than a sexual object etc..
The answer to the second question would be yes, indeed, on all occasions we need to be forgiving people who harm us. We should do this not only because were commanded to, but because they really don’t know what they are doing or to whom they are doing it when they hurt us.

Monday, November 27, 2006

You're Missing The Show

Our DNA, our cells, our bodies, our earth, our solar system, the surrounding cosmos, presents to us a show of stupendous quality, meaning and awe inspiring spirituality. In the meantime, most of the audience spends it’s time scouring the bottom of the popcorn box searching for a kernel with just the right amount of butter on it.

Oh NO! I Killed Him!

"They will look on Me whom they have pierced." Those are the words of Jesus, describing His second coming. I find it interesting first of all that Jesus took ‘home’ with Him something memorable from His trip to earth. And second, it’s significant that what He took home with Him are the wounds inflicted upon Him during His death on the cross. From a human standpoint, being tortured to death is something He hasn’t forgotten. When He comes back, Jesus says that He’s going to remind us of the terrible price that He paid.
Can you imagine the difference there will be in the reaction between those who have followed Jesus as their Lord and Saviour and those who have rejected and cursed Jesus throughout their lives.
Picture it. Jesus says He is going to return in such a manner that the whole world will see Him in an instant. It will be like He is coming back for each person on an individual basis. Imagine Him coming back for you so that you may answer for the life you’ve lived during your time on earth. He’s returning with His wounds on display. No words will be needed.
To His followers His wounds will say, Here is what I did for you, because I loved you more than I love myself. To those who hate Him or deny His divinity / existence His wounds will say, Here is what you did to Me. Here is what you did to the most Holy God, the Creator of Heaven and earth. Here is what you did to the One who loved you with perfect love.
For everyone, it will drive us to our knees in a confession that Jesus truly is the Lord of Lords and the King of kings. For disciples / followers of Jesus, the sight of His wounds will bring overwhelming humility and joy, gladness and relief, amazement and gratefulness and praise. For those who have rejected Jesus and taught others to despise and blaspheme Him, there will be terror and grief, overwhelming terror and grief.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Freedom - Glorious Freedom!

Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have the freedom to have wonderful, deep and abiding peace. I have the freedom to have peace in the thick of adversity, peace in the midst of conflict, peace in the face of opposition, peace beneath the weight of every burden. I have the freedom to lie down and sleep in peace knowing that the Creator of the Universe provides for my safety.
Besides all that, I have freedom to experience joy. I have found that, no matter what the circumstance, no matter how filled with gloom the prospect, no matter how discouraging or disconcerting the difficulty - I can nevertheless tap that reservoir of joy which God has placed into every human heart that has come to Him through Christ. The assurance of His pardon, His power, His presence in every scene of life, has emptied my life of gloom and sadness and filled it with a high and holy gladness. Jesus came to earth to proclaim, in part, a religion of joy. Wherever He went, throughout His earthly life, He brought joy to the sorrowing, cheer to the downcast, and gladness to those who were sitting in the shadow of death. His earthly ministry restored joy to human hearts which had been languishing in the shackles of sin and sadness. He came to do that for me! Jesus says to His followers, "These things I have spoken to you that My joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full." Jesus has given me a joy that is so deep, so firm, so sure that the trials of life are but as the ripples on the surface of the sea.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom from worry. I have freedom to be filled with passion for the most worthy cause on earth, that of furthering the kingdom of God. I have freedom from slavery to sin, freedom to obey my Creator, freedom to have patience in the face of frustration, freedom to know the will of God, and freedom from guilt.
Besides all that, I have freedom to become more spiritual than any seeker of worldly spirituality, for my soul, encased in this earthly shell is now the residence of God’s Holy Spirit. He uplifts my troubled soul. He is my unfailing comforter. He corrects me. He counsels me. He is my teacher who sanctifies me. I thank the Spirit of the Living God for the assurance He brings me on a daily basis. He brings me blessed and holy quietness. He revives me with life and with power. He cleanses and renews me. He bends me and remakes me. He gives me faith and I live an abundant life because of that faith. I am so very thankful for the Holy Spirit, for He has kindled a flame of sacred love in this once cold, cold heart of mine.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to know that God is pleased with me, freedom to sacrifice for others without feeling used, freedom to have a clear conscience, freedom to actually become a good person in the eyes of God, freedom from bitterness, freedom to be gentle toward those who are hostile toward me. I have freedom to submit to others from a position of inner strength and confidence, and I have the freedom to not only experience grace from God, but the freedom to extend that grace to others.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to love others, freedom to take a one-down position and not lose one iota of value or worth, freedom from anxiety, freedom from the fear of death, freedom from the fear of other people, freedom from the fear of anything that life wants to bring my way. I have the freedom to serve Jesus, freedom to be kind toward those who are not kind toward me, and freedom to do the right thing even when I’m strongly tempted to do the wrong thing.
Besides all that, I have freedom to have an inexhaustible Source of spiritual and moral power. By simply trusting Jesus, He has promised me pardon for my sin, peace for my soul, strength in the hour of trouble, courage in the face of difficulty, power in the moment of temptation - and I receive this pardon, peace, and power simply by trusting that He will keep His promise.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom from resentments, freedom to look forward to eternity, freedom to become a man of integrity, freedom from self-centeredness, and freedom to be thankful, wonderfully, wonderfully thankful. I have the freedom to admit that everything that I have is from God and from Him alone, freedom from the need to be rich, freedom to be wronged without it becoming a big deal and I have found the freedom to learn and to grow into Christ-likeness in every single situation.
Besides all that, I have the freedom to hope. The New Testament is filled with messages of hope. I have "the hope of the gospel," "the hope of the promise," "the hope of His calling," "the hope which is laid up for me in heaven," "our hope of glory," "hope in our Lord Jesus Christ," "that blessed hope," "the hope of eternal life," "the full assurance of hope," "the hope we have as an anchor," "a lively hope" and on and on it goes. This is not some pious wish, but a hope in the sense of a sure confidence. The Christian’s hope, since it is rooted in the person of Jesus Christ is a hope of which I am not ashamed, a hope that is as sure as Jesus Christ Himself is sure. The future holds for me more good that I cold ever hope for.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom from my past, freedom from anger, freedom from seeking self-worth in possessions, freedom from the need for popularity, and freedom to love and to be loved without reservation or self-protection.
Besides all that, I have freedom to experience new mercies from God every single day. They are countless, constant, and sure. They greet me in the morning and gladden my heart at noon. They follow me into the shades of night. Because of God’s mercies, there is never a sorrow that I experience that Jesus does not come into with His presence, power and comfort. Neither is there a burden that He doesn’t bear. Jesus’ mercies shall follow me all the days of my life; they endure forever and ever.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to admit that I need to change, freedom to revel in the new song of righteousness, freedom from the need for power, freedom from spiritual darkness, freedom to first identify and then to have healthy, kind, generous, and loving friends. I have freedom from shame, freedom from having to be ‘right,’ and the freedom to trade the lessor and unstable god of self-esteem, for the glorious and solid provision of Christ-esteem. Besides all that, I have genuine happiness. Not happiness as the world understands it, based on one pleasure inducing event after another. No, I have the real deal, because there is only one place where we find real happiness, and that is down at the feet of the crucified Saviour, because only there can we be freed from our sins.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to know the difference between life-giving and life-destroying behaviours, freedom from insecurity, freedom to not feel constrained by the rules of our society, freedom to have a life of meaning and context and purpose, freedom to know the difference between right and wrong, freedom to rejoice in being alive, freedom from the trap of bigotry, freedom from greed, freedom from envy and freedom to come to God with boldness and confidence because I’m shielded by His mercy and grace.
Besides all that, I have been given the freedom to know, to really know the person of Truth. He has revealed to me truth about God, truth about man, truth about life, truth about death, truth about myself, truth about heaven and the truth about hell. Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to know what it’s like to have enough no matter the circumstance, freedom to find pure rest for my soul, freedom to know with certainty that because of my faith, every morning I can put on the breast-plate of God’s approval and to know that God will never leave me or give up on me.
Besides all that, I have freedom to have God either lighten my burden to match my strength, or increase my strength to match the burden. And without fail I have received His strength: strength to stand in the midst of the storm, strength to outlast the bombardment of pain, strength to bear the burden of the cross, strength to resist the onslaught of sin - or having fallen, to tread the path of the prodigal back to the Father’s house and to be assured of full and free forgiveness. These victories are by no means mine. Left to myself, to my own puny powers of resistance or endurance, I will fall short every single time. "Not that I am sufficient in myself, but my sufficiency is of God."
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom from making huge life-decision mistakes, freedom to have a good marriage, freedom from confusion and second guessing, freedom from pride, freedom to give justice, but not to seek it, and I have the freedom to understand that all the good that happens in my life is like a stream that is leading me directly back to the Source. Besides all that, I have freedom to be a brand new creation. His power has displaced hate with love, sorrow with joy, relational war with peace. His power took this man who was morally rotten and transformed me into a trophy of grace. Halleluiah - God be praised!
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom from condemnation, freedom to have mercy lavished upon me, freedom from fake and shallow friendships, freedom to NOT say, "Lord, come into my life and change my pain," but, "Lord, come into my pain and change me." I have freedom to suffer with and for Jesus, and freedom to forgive.
Besides all that, I have freedom from judgment. He has blotted out my wrongs. He has cleansed me from sin. He is only interested in my broken and contrite heart and today I can praise God because Calvary covers all my sins, past, present, and future. How amazing! How incredible! How wonderful!
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom from the need to achieve, freedom to look forward to tomorrow, freedom from God’s wrath, freedom from putting me first, freedom from the need for position, freedom from the feeling of alienation, freedom to be bathed in the soothing warmth of God’s enormous Love, freedom from dependence on false gods, freedom to have patience in the midst of suffering, and I have the freedom to become more than a conqueror.
Besides all that, I have the freedom to know Who to thank when I’m grateful, for every good and perfect gift is from God. He is the righteous One. I celebrate His glory. I acknowledge His sovereignty. I rejoice and sing the wonders of His grace. How great is my Lord and my Saviour!
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to inherit all of God’s riches, freedom to understand the Gospel message, freedom to know that I’m a disciple that Jesus loves. Great God of wonders, I proclaim your majesty! I exalt your deity! Your eyes are upon the righteous. Your ears are open to their cry. You are near to those whose hearts are breaking. You save those who have a contrite spirit. You are perfect in power, in love, and in purity. May You alone be exalted!
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have freedom to have total assurance in God’s promises for forgiveness, for strength and for eternity. Is faith in this God, as the world sees it, a crutch? Yes, and more than that. Jesus is my stretcher, my chariot, my sole support in each and every circumstance. After all, to what would we look to for help if not to that which is stronger than ourselves? Jesus has tested me and I now know that in every scene of life - in joy and sorrow, in success and failure, in health and in sickness, in moments of crisis when all lesser gods give way, I have trusted Jesus and have found that He is able to carry both me and my burden and bring me safely to the other side. With Paul and with believers of all ages I can say: "I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him until the Day when He returns." I and all other Christians have the Divine assurance of comfort in sorrow, strength in sickness, solace in bereavement, help in distress, and ultimate triumph in the midst of dire calamity. And this assurance is signed and sealed in the blood of the Son of God Himself. The world has known no higher guarantee.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have the freedom to do something valuable until my dying breath, freedom to not only accept, but to enjoy my weaknesses, and I have the freedom to give away my time, my money and my self.
Because of my relationship with Jesus, I have the freedom to counter my culture, and the freedom to find contentment in every single situation. This contentment comes from knowing beyond any doubt that, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" "My God will supply ALL my needs."
Finally, because of my relationship with Jesus, I have the freedom to say to life,
"Rain on, I will not drown, for I am standing on higher ground!"
None of these freedoms were mine prior to my healed relationship with Jesus. I was like a ship in the middle of the ocean with no navigational system. I could go any direction I chose, but I had no idea how to find a safe harbour for my soul. Do I experience all of these freedoms at all times with perfect regularity? No. But this I know. While I’m not who I should be. And I’m not who I’m going to be. Thanks to God alone, I’m not who I used to be. I adapted this from a book I found at a rummage sale. I can't find the book and I can't remember the Title or the Author.

All that I was, my sin, my guilt,
My death, was all mine own;
All that I am, I owe to Thee,
My gracious God, alone.
The evil of my former state
Was mine, and only mine;
The good in which I now rejoice
Is Thine, and only Thine.
The darkness of my former state,
The bondage, all was mine;
The light of life in which I walk,
The liberty, is Thine.
Thy Word first made me feel my sin,
It taught me to believe;
Then, in believing, peace I found,
And now I Live! I Live!!
Horatius Bonar

Tolerate You?

I Love You Too Much To Simply Tolerate You
True to form the worldly wise are promoting the latest offering, in a long list of failed attempts to bring peace to our communities and serenity for our tortured souls. Past examples are too numerous to mention in total, but some classic blunders include:
- "Only the advance of science can save our species!" It’s been so long since that lie was first promoted that most people don’t even remember the original sermon. However, the belief still influences our thinking. For example, we have enough resources to supply food, clothing and shelter for everyone in the whole world, but we’d rather spend trillions to finance a mission to Mars and beyond to look for evidence that life spontaneously came from non life. And while we’re doing that, just in North America we’ll spend 5 billion a year on anti-aging creams, 10 billion on Mother’s day flowers and gifts, 30 billion on pornography, and 50 billion a year on lotteries. Perhaps our problems lie a bit deeper than what advances in science can address.
- We were told that the combination of wide-spread, higher education and stupendous wealth, would bring us emotional health and relational well-being. Skyrocketing depression and rampant anxiety among the educated and wealthy have proven the lie in that claim as well.
- Then it was sex without the perceived confinement of marriage. Remember the freedom that was promised with that lie? Only the perpetually gullible see bliss on the other side of this looming disaster. Two main consequences have come with the coerced celebration of the sexually disoriented. 1. The first consequence is an outright delusion regarding the epidemic of STD’s including HIV. One educated but misled columnist actually wrote that it’s not screwing around with strangers, or taking part in the death culture of IV drug use that’s spreading AIDS, it’s "ignorance and poverty." That comment is an insult to the informationally and financially impoverished! 2. The second consequence, is that everyone, even those who are opposed to it, are forced to financially support the extermination of the most defenceless people in our society, all in an attempt to hide the guilt, fear and corrupt self-love of the more powerful segment. Don’t get me wrong. I’m strongly pro-choice. Dear God how I wish that other people would exercise, not their right, but their obligation to choose, before conception, not after. But, being responsible would kill the romance of the affair, or the drunken sexual encounter, so we kill the babies instead.
- Or how about easy divorce? That too hasn’t been the miracle cure that the worldly wise and famous promised that it would be. There has however been one benefit of mass divorce. The benefit has been to show the hypocrisy in our claims that we love our children. We love ourselves, PERIOD! Let the kids fend for themselves.
- Oh, and don’t forget the pursuit of everything. Do you remember when you first believed that the busier you were the more value you’d have? Try standing in front of the mirror and then brag about how busy you are. It doesn’t have quite the same appeal as when you’re getting approving nods from your equally deceived friends, does it?
- No list of failures would be complete without disorganised religion - aka - individual spirituality. Not much needs to be said here since the only change is that some people now feel more self-righteous while still remaining impossible to live with.
Sadly, none of these things have brought us any closer to peace and contentment. In fact the level of anger in society seems to be greater than ever, with outright hatred seething just below the surface. The kids are indeed learning to fend for themselves. This brings us to the latest instalment of failure-by-design.
The latest solution is to indoctrinate us with the condescending attitude of tolerance.
"I will tolerate you." Doesn’t that make you feel all warm, and fuzzy inside? Sophisticates brag, "I tolerate everyone, no matter how diseased, dysfunctional and damaging to themselves and to society their behaviours may be." What they’re really saying is, "I have so little genuine love for you, that you can go straight to hell for all I care." So there you sit, surrounded by your sophisticated friends, yet utterly alone in the very dim awareness that others care as little about you as you care about them. Oh sure, you cluck your tongue at the famine in Africa and worry about the whale on the beach. But loving the next door neighbour or your partner is another matter altogether.
All of the above failures have sounded wise to the worldly, but this kind of thinking is repugnant in the extreme to those of us who know the love of Jesus. Why? Jesus loves us too much to just tolerate our miserable state. He refuses to tolerate the fact that the path we are following is leading to a disaster of eternal proportions. Rather than sitting back in smug tolerance, Jesus left His throne in paradise to venture into our slum-living, futile, enslaving, squalor. He did this to show us the way to victory and to freedom. This is a freedom from real guilt, freedom from slavery to self-destructive behaviours, freedom to make choices that will bring contentment into our lives despite circumstance. For Jesus’ love is a love that pursues relentlessly. It’s a love that continues, even when it’s called judgmental. Jesus’ love doesn’t just tolerate one’s acquaintances or even one’s enemies. Jesus’ love looks past the ugliness of your hidden thoughts, and the sanctimonious posturing about your tolerance. Jesus flat out rejects human plans that are destined for failure and says, ‘Come to me, all of you who are loaded down with life’s cares, and I will give you rest for your weary souls. I will give you peace beyond comprehension. I will guard your hearts and your minds and I will liberate you from anxiety’. And so, followers of Jesus are able to say, "I love you too much to merely tolerate you. You’re far too important to God, for me to just accept your sin in the hope that you will extend the same degree of cold-hearted, self-serving hypocrisy to me."
Jesus’ love stands up to the bullying playground tactics of fear that says, "If you don’t think exactly like ‘us’, then we’ll encircle you and exclude you and ridicule you." Jesus’ love doesn’t paste on a phony smile in the hope that you’ll stay at a tolerable distance. It invites you to come in from the cold. In response to jeering and mocking, Jesus’ love says, "I will go beyond tolerance. I will be good to you. I will passionately seek the best for you even if you see me as your enemy and hate me, simply because you don’t like to hear what I’m saying." The best part about all this is that unlike those who are wise in their own eyes, Jesus is able to deliver on His promise to bring to you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Isn’t it time that you find the courage to counter your culture and get on board with your Lord and Creator? Accept His offer of love and forgiveness, so that you might then extend His authentic love and kindness to others.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Prayers of Millions

Prayers of Millions
I used to "throw my prayers up toward heaven" hoping that somehow, in due time they would wiggle their way to my desired destination. It might take time to get there because they would have to wiggle through billions of other prayers being sent at the same time. Impossible and ridiculous are only two words that would come to mind after such immature thoughts. Well, that isn’t a problem any more. It isn’t a problem because I realised that God isn’t listening to billions of prayers, or even thousands of prayers at the same time. When I’m praying, there is only one prayer commanding God’s attention, mine. When you are praying, there is only one prayer being offered to God at that particular time, yours. The only prayer that God is listening to at any given time is that of your child’s, or the person about to be martyred, or the mother grieving the loss of her child, or the father asking that his child return to the Lord. God only hears one prayer at a time even as millions of people are praying to Him. You see, God is a deeply personal God. Because He operates outside of time, He can love you on an individual basis. As adoring parents study every line and curve of their newborn child, God loves you so intensely that the very hairs on your head are numbered. Like the parent of an only child, God is watching you and only you as you play, work, worship and yes, even as you pray. He loves you with an enduring and everlasting love, and when you pray to Him you have His undivided attention. So enjoy His love. Relax. Don’t rush. He’s got all the time in the world, so you aren't interrupting anything. He wants to hear what you have to say throughout the day. He wants to hear what you’ve just learned. He wants to watch as you grow. And guess what? When you come to Him with your praise and concerns, He's smiling 'cause He loves you.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Is God Insane?

Why Has God Created Hundreds of
Millions of People
Who Are Destined for Eternal

Separation From Him?
. I Am God.
. I Am before anything else.
. I Am above and beyond anything else.
. I Am perfectly Pure, Holy and Righteous. There is nothing imperfect or "wrong" in Me.
. Anything that is in rebellion to My perfect Purity, Holiness and Righteousness can never come into My presence.
. I Am completely and utterly just.
. I Am slow to anger; filled with great patience. I Am merciful and filled with grace.
. I Am Love.
. Just as there cannot be the perception of up without a down, in without an out, hot without cold and light without darkness, there cannot be Love without evil. This is a spiritual reality or law.
. Because I Am Love, there is evil rebellion against My love.
. This evil has been allowed to exist first in the presence of rebellious angels.
. I Am One and I Am plural with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
. In My Spirit, I love My Son.
. Love is the greatest entity to ever exist. As a gift and a blessing, I want something special for My Son to love and I want that special something to love My Son.
. That something, like the angels, must be created by Me.
. It is My right to declare and uphold the terms and conditions of My creation.
. The special part of My creation will be human beings. They will be made in My image, possessing portions and degrees of My attributes and My characteristics.
. I will make My justice and mercy known in and through human beings.
. I want humans to love (Obey) My Son because in doing so, humans will enjoy their highest state of being.
. I want to reward that love with eternity in paradise, ie. eternity in My presence.
. For their love to be real, I know that humans must have the choice to not love My Son.
. For their love to be real, I must allow humans to rebel against My love.
. If the first humans that I create love and obey Me, that love will be passed on to their offspring. That love will be inherited. It will not be a choice. ‘love’ will be robotic.
. If the first humans that I create, rebel against My love by disobeying Me, then that spirit of rebellion will be passed on to their offspring.
. In order for any humans to find fulfilment in truly loving Me, I must accept that all humans must first refuse to love Me.
. No one will be able to love My Son without the help of My grace and mercy.
. I will provide those of my choosing with an opportunity to love Me and to obey Me.
. Through this plan I will demonstrate that I Am Love and that I Am Just.
. Because of who I Am, I cannot create in humans a spirit of Love and then draw them to evil to create real choice. I can only allow rebellion / evil to enter the human race in order to create real choice, and then save those who wish to be delivered from evil.
. I will draw back my hand of protection and allow this course of history to unfold.
. It is My right to declare and uphold the terms and conditions of My creation.
. Love causes growth. Evil and rebellion cause death and destruction.
. Because I love humans, I hate the rebellion that causes their destruction.
. Those who continue in a spirit of rebellion will be objects of My anger.
. Objects of My anger cannot and will not be tolerated in My presence.
. For the very survival of the gift to My Son, My justice, mercy, grace, love and patience, MUST be clearly displayed to humans (a) So they will know that they should repent of their rebellion and (b) To show them that they have a place to turn to for rescue from their rebellion.
- Humans will know My Justice because they know in their hearts that rebellion against Me is wrong. Those who continue in their rebellion will die spiritually and eternally.
- Because all will be born into a state of rebellion, it is only My Grace that will ensure that some humans get what they don’t deserve (life in eternal paradise) while My Mercy will ensure that those same humans don’t get what they do deserve (eternal separation from Me).
- They will know My Patience because I will persist in blessing those who continue in evil, until all those who are going to receive My merciful salvation have turned from their rebellion.
- They will know My Love in that I, in the form of My Son, will forgive evil by taking my own punishment and suffering my own wrath for the horrible act of continued rebellion against a Creator God who is perfectly pure, holy, righteous, just, merciful, slow to anger, filled with great patience, filled with grace and abounding in Love.
. I will rescue those who are not looking for Me, love those who hate Me, and make peace with those who are My enemies.
. The rebellious cannot complain because they are in fact guilty of rebellion. The saved cannot boast because they have done nothing to deserve salvation.
. It is My right to declare and uphold the terms and conditions of My creation.
The real question then is not, "Why did God create hundreds of millions of people who are destined to be eternally separated from Him?" The real question to be asked is:
Why Did God Create and Then Save For Eternity in Paradise,
Hundreds of Millions of People
Who Should Have Been Eternally Separated From Him.

Jesus' Love

Jesus loves with such an incredibly aggressive love. He steps right through our spittle on his face, and our curses and our smash face punches and our kicks to his groin. He walks up to us through our hatred and rejection. He comes to us through our doubts and unneeded fears. He shows mercy and grace despite our desertion. While we are still His enemies He wraps His arms around us and loves us. He says, "Come home to where you'll be safe and warm and cared for. Come home."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

So I Let Him

God says He wants to love me, so I let Him.
God says He wants to forgive my sins, so I let Him.
God says He wants to give me very important work to do, so I let Him.
God says He wants to provide for me, everything that I need, so I let Him.
God says He wants me to let Him carry my worries and anxieties, so I let Him.
God says He wants to make me be thankful in all circumstances, so I let Him.
God says He wants to give me a deep sense of peace and joy, so I let Him.
God says He wants to change my character for the better, so I let Him.
God says He wants to reveal Himself to me, so I let Him.
God says He wants to be my guide, so I let Him.
It’s not hard to be happy when you let God do what He wants.

Ted Haggard

Well, another very visible Christian leader has fallen. What’s disturbing and puzzling, for me at least, is the reaction from the Christian community. It’s puzzling because people seem shocked. But who of us, if we are honest with ourselves, can expect to not find sin in a brother or sister in Christ? Sure, it’s sad to find the kind of sin that is profoundly hypocritical; the kind that is preached against while at the same time being acted out by the preacher. And it’s sad because that is exactly what non Christians expect from us. Actually they seem more realistic about our fallibility than we are. But it’s especially sad because we ourselves seem to think that it shouldn’t have happened. Yet, if you and I are prone to sin every day of our lives, why not other people, even if they’re leaders?
It’s like we pretend that our future perfection is our present reality. It’s like we confuse how far God has brought us with how far we have yet to go. I know that if someone was to examine my own life, particularly my thoughts and motives they’d say, "Why would anyone waste their time with Christianity?" However, if they compared the today me with the me that existed before Jesus got a hold of me, they’d say, "I want Jesus in my life now!" It feels good to see positive improvement, but it should never detract me from how precarious my walk is today. "If you think you stand, be careful lest you fall."
Without frequent confession and accountability we wind up pretending to self and to others that we’re OK. We’re not OK! We’re desperate sinners. Without being honest with each other we’re not honest with God either; rationalizing, excusing and trying to hide our motives. How stupid is that?
For the love of Jesus and for the love of his kingdom we need to be especially honest before non believers about our present reality. We need to face the fact that sin corrupts every effort we make to follow Jesus. Should Christians be guilty of doing things like what this pastor has done? Never, never, never. Should it surprise us when it happens? No. Sadly, no.
Like flying a plane in a strong crosswind, even with the proper tack, regular course correction is necessary. Nevertheless, every trajectory we attempt, even the one’s directed by God and by his power will fall short of our target. For the sake of our witness, we need to quit pretending that we aren’t always prone to wander off target.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One of the reasons that Christianity appeals to me is that it is a message of humility in an age of arrogance and self-righteous judgmentalism. What I mean by that, is that every other religion’s strategy for the hereafter is based on our good-enough-ness.
. Ask people if they think that they’re going to heaven and most would answer "yes."
. Ask "why" and most would reply something like, "I’m a pretty good person. I haven’t killed anyone. I try to be kind. I’m more honest than most people," etc.
. Ask people if they believe that some people deserve to go to hell and I’m sure that you’d get an answer like, "Ya, Hitler, terrorists, child rapists - people like that."
What these people are really saying, is that they think they’re better than those who they believe deserve to go to hell. And that is where we run into the problem. If there is going to be some kind of standard, determining who is good enough and who isn’t good enough, just whose standard should we use? Yours? Mine? Hitler’s?
I did prison visits for 10 years, and not once did I ever meet a criminal who thought he was a bad person. Not the drug dealers, not the murderers, not the rapists - no one saw himself as evil. In fact, each prisoner would point to someone who in his mind was worse. So who do we go to, to establish a salvation based upon some degree of goodness?
Here is where the beauty and the humility of Christianity comes in. Jesus pointed out with perfect clarity, something that we all know if we’re honest with ourselves. When held up to the light of God’s absolute Holiness, none of us are good enough to be in His presence. The Bible says as much, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." When it comes to being good enough, I’m just as lost as any terrorist or murderer.
Logic demands that there must be some other qualifying factor for entrance to Heaven. The Bible says that the qualifying factor is faith in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. Only an attitude of honesty and humility will lead anyone to repent of their sins and throw themselves on the mercy of God through faith in Jesus Christ