Sunday, November 25, 2007

Yikes! Another Health and Wealth Preacher.

I was in Christian book store the other day. I almost bought the e-bay atheist book but then thought better of it. I’ve already bought too many books this month. I went around the corner of the isle and saw a book by this good looking preacher dude. I’ve seen him on Larry King and couldn’t stop from flipping the pages.

Sigh, another huckster making millions off gullible, desperate people. And he’s doing it by corrupting the message of Jesus, no less. Of course he has to corrupt God’s message because no where in the Bible does God say that Christians will be exempt from the normal pain and suffering of life.

Not this guy. With great enthusiasm he tells folks, ‘Now is when God wants us to be rich.’ ‘Now is when God wants us to be free from sickness.’ ‘Now is when we can eliminate all troubles and concerns in our lives.’ ‘Forget about heaven. You deserve to have everything you want now, and you can get all that stuff by giving me huge chunks of your hard earned savings.’

He and others like him call this offering “seed money.” Give me your money and God will give you back more than you gave me. He’s just as big a liar as those shysters who operate out of Nigeria.

Christianity has always, always, always taught that the Crown, never precedes the Cross.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

High Fashion

I have never seen a woman so beautiful that a jewel in her nose doesn’t move her several steps towards ugly.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I Am Worthy!!!

I was sitting in the Case Conference room waiting for a few stragglers to arrive. The Rec. Tech. was ranting (as he usually did) about religion. I didn’t catch his whole conversation but it ended with loud, “I am worthy and no fuckin Priest is going to tell me that I’m not!!!!

Hmm. He is worthy. Worthy of what? Heaven? Salvation? I should have asked, but we were just about ready to start and I was still getting my files in order. And if it was salvation or heaven, what was it that he’d done or not done, thought or not thought, said or not said that made him believe that he was worthy of these things? How does one become worthy of heaven? How does one deserve salvation?

I know almost nothing about the Catholic faith but I do know this. It would have to be a pretty lax system of religion for J. to be worthy of anything, if the requirement was possessing a good enough character. Back then I used J. as a reference point to justify the acceptability of my own indiscretions. Sheesh. I’m worthy. Ya, right. I wonder what he meant? Too bad he’s dead now. In a drunken state he drove his car into a pole. Well, I guess by now he knows if he was worthy or not.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is God Naive?

I’m heading to check my bags, as my plane is due to take off in about an hour. In the departure lounge I approach several dozen people who I’ve learned will be deplaning at the same destination as me. My proposition to them is this.

“I have several hundred thousand dollars that I want to take home with me. The money is all legit, but as you know, I can’t take that much through customs without having to go into a long song and dance about how I got it. So here is my address in Ourtown. Within a week or two after we all get home, I’d like you bring the money back to me and I’ll give you a gift for doing me this favour.” Oddly, no one declines my offer. They all pocket $20,000 and go back to their seats.

Am I being profoundly gullible, naive, stupid? Of course. I’ll be lucky if even one of those people bring my money back to me. Yet, isn’t this what God does for us?

. He gives us hands that work perfectly, touching, soothing, caressing, clutching. He’s given us these hands even though we might use them steal, or to physically harm another human being.

. He gives us eyes that are able to behold the wonders of the universe, express emotion, examine the beauty of a newborn child. God has given us these eyes, free of charge, yet we might use them to watch another person as though s/he was nothing but a sexual object. We might use them to help us plan to steal something that belongs to someone else.

. God gives us tongues that can sensitively taste, feel, explore. Or we might use them to form the sounds to curse our fellow man.

. God gives us minds that are able to search the available evidence and find Him, or we can use our minds to formulate reasons to deny our Creator’s existence.

. God gives us food beyond our imagination, and we are free to enjoy it, horde it, gorge ourselves with it, or give it away to those in need.

God is generous beyond imagination. He allows us to use His gifts for good or for evil.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Luuuuv Trouble!

“Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face many trials.”

These are the words of one of Jesus’ brothers. His name was James. At the start of Jesus’ ministry, James thought that his older brother Jesus was nuts. In fact, there is one instance that was recorded where James, his mother and other siblings went to get Jesus and bring Him home because He was an embarrassment to the family. Later however, the risen Jesus appeared to James and the rest, as they say, is history.

What an incredible change took place in this man’s personality. After Jesus had proven to James and hundreds of others that He really had risen from the dead, James stopped being ashamed of Jesus. He went from being a sceptic to telling us, based on his experience in serving Jesus, that we can consider it pure joy when we are persecuted and run into many trials because of our faith in our risen Lord and Saviour. The fact that Jesus had risen from the dead and that He had appeared to His brother James made such an impression upon him, that James not only became a leader in the early Church, he also died for his belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.

So, what would could James mean by considering it joyful to endure difficulties? Was he sadistic, masochistic, or just plain weird? Or is there something about having a relationship with the risen Jesus that changes the very nature of sorrow and trouble?

The message of allowing Jesus to change the nature of suffering, weaves its way throughout the New Testament. From Jesus personal teaching to what his followers themselves have told us, Jesus changes suffering from something to be avoided at all cost, to something through which Jesus can change us into men and women of courage. Travelling upon the Christian road takes away the ability of pain to hurt us. In one place, the apostle Paul describes our trials as, “light and momentary troubles . . .” This is coming from a man who had been repeatedly beaten. He’d been jailed. He’d received the “forty lashes.” He’d gone hungry. He been shipwrecked. He’d been abandoned by “friends.” Ultimately he was martyred for his faith in the risen Jesus. Hmm - Light and momentary troubles.

And then Paul adds, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness. For Christ’s sake I DELIGHT in my infirmities, in insults, in hardships, in persecution, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

As Paul and all other believers have found, God’s strength is sufficient for us. His power is made manifest in our weakness. The Christian walk involves a letting go of control. It’s quitting the fight. Instead of being an active participant in the solving of our problems, journeying with Jesus means stepping into the position of observer. No longer controlling the direction of our lives but merely obeying, in faith the direction that God takes you, creates peace and joy. And that is the secret to personal strength in the Lord. Obedience in faith that is built upon years of trusting, testing, and verifying brings us to a point where we realise that ‘Ya, He really does take care of me.’

After awhile, difficulties are no longer something to avoid with dread. Instead, they become challenges that are made all the more exciting because, regardless of the degree of hardship, victory over our trials is assured.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

From Where Do You Draw Your Strength?

“I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” 2nd Timothy 1:12

There was a time when I needed evidence to believe that Jesus was real and that the message that He preached was genuine. Now, because I know Him so well, I would believe in Jesus even if no other evidence existed. In fact there isn’t any evidence that could make it so I wouldn’t believe in Jesus. He is as certain to me as the coming of the morning star.
.I know that when I have failed, He will forgive me.
.I know that when I need direction, He will guide me.
.I know that when I’ve taken a wrong turn, He will correct me.
.I know that when life turns difficult, He will never leave my side.
.I know that when fear begins to creep under the door, Jesus reminds me that I can lie down and sleep in peace for He alone provides for my safety.
.I know that when life becomes stormy, He will see me through the storm.
.I know that Jesus has yesterday, did today and will tomorrow bring peace to my heart, joy to my soul, confidence and courage to my mind.
.I know that my redeemer lives.

While I am far from perfect, I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it out until it’s complete.

“Now faith is being convinced of things hoped for, being certain of things not yet seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

If my mommy was raped, do I still have value?

Of our three girls and four boys, our one daughter was conceived as a result of her mother being raped. Many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

What a precious child. She loves to learn. She’s funny. She’s kind. She has enough spunk to scare off the neighbourhood bully. She loves Jesus. Many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

She loves drawing and wants to be an artist and/or a teacher. We go for bike rides and she talks and talks and talks and talks. She’s in kindergarten and she’s learning to read. Her favourite book is “Up Up Down.” Many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

Our daughter can do tricks on the trampoline and swing so high that the chain just drops straight down at the end of the up stroke. Our daughter takes care of her little sister. They sleep in the same bed and sometimes they’re on opposite sides of bed in the morning, and sometimes they’re upside down and many times the blanket is on the floor. Our daughter loves music. She sings and dances and twirls around the room. Many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

Our daughter pretends that she is a famous figure skater as she creeps with baby steps across the ice. She loves to swim and play basketball. Our daughter once ended a bedtime prayer with, “And please help me to not be afraid of chickens.” Our daughter helps me to fix on the vehicles and tells me that she's going to drive a Monster Truck when she grows up. She loves to cook but not to clean up. Many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

Our daughter would love to have a dog. Because we are of a different opinion she says that she’s going to make sure that her kids get to have lots of dogs. Our daughter puts on the most ridiculous dress-up clothes and will pretend that she’s a Princess with rubber boots, work gloves and a crown. When she’s angry, our daughter folds her arms, sticks out her bottom lip and puts her chin on her chest. Sometimes she stamps a foot. Many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

We got this little girl when she was two days old. I’ve wiped the poop off her bum. I’ve cleaned up her puke. I’ve tried to soothe her when her chicken pox were driving her crazy. I’ve bandaged cuts and kissed bruises. I’ve bent down to look at ants and when she was little I had to tell her to not eat dirt. I stroke her hair when her asthma keeps her awake. Our daughter sometimes puts five or six pony tails in her hair. She’ll put on pink socks, purple pants and a red shirt. Her mom makes her change. She made a snow man yesterday with a head the size of a baseball. She put an Edmonton Oilers cap on it. We talk about how much longer she will need the corner on her blanket. When our daughter sits on my lap, lays her head on my shoulder and tells me that she loves me, it makes me wonder how it is that many people would have said that our daughter should have been killed because of how she was conceived.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Why I Worship Creator God:

Robert Webber has said - “Worship is the response of the people to God’s saving initiative. The inner person receives God’s act of salvation with humility and in reverence, service and devotion.”

God has given me something that I never before had, never wanted and could not produce in myself even if I had wanted it. God has produced a desire to worship Him. He has changed me from one type of person into a completely different type of person. If there was only one miracle that proved the existence of God, this changed personality would be it.

This change has not been through effort on my part. This change is something that has been done to me, it has been brought about in me, it is supernatural. This longing to worship, can happen anywhere and at anytime. Listening to a comment by one of my children can bring forth a desire to thank my Heavenly Father for the family that He has given to me. A recognition that I can ride my bike instigates praise for the body that I have. Support from my wife reminds me that I would not have had these past 34 years of good, good companionship if God had not brought her into my life. Without the reality of God in my life, it would have never occurred to me to even consider the role of God in my life. Without the reality of God, like most people, I would view my accomplishments as being due to my skills and my failures as being due to the fault of others or circumstances beyond my control.

My worship of God comes to the surface when I have once again needed to ask for forgiveness for a lie, or lust, or judging or an act of harshness with my children. I worship God because even though I have done something wrong, He will never ask me to leave His family. Even though I remain a person who sins against God, I will never have to experience the wrath of God. This is because I have placed my faith in the saving power of Jesus. While I may have temporarily harmed my relationship with my Lord and my Saviour, I have not and will never be disowned by Him.

That’s the kind of relationship that brings freedom from anxiety. No matter the circumstance, I can lean back into the warmth of my Creator’s loving arms. I am forgiven. And because of that, God is able to change me, little by little into someone who will someday resemble Jesus the Christ. Impossible on my own - Inevitable with God.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Faith is too hard!

What a struggle it was for me to have “faith” in the forgiveness of Jesus. There must be some catch, some loop-hole, some part of His message that I just wasn’t getting. In reality, the reason that I found faith in Jesus’ forgiveness too hard to figure out was because it’s so easy.

If Jesus required of us all kinds of ritual behaviour, or had us travel to a religious destination every five years or pay a certain amount of money to the Church or, and especially this one, had us obey a certain set of rules in order to be saved, then I would have gotten it. That I can figure out. That is the kind of stuff that makes sense.

To ask nothing of me except to admit that I can’t save myself, well, how can that be enough?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Good News of God’s Grace

“Are you saying that I won’t go to heaven because of what I believe or don’t believe but someone who has just raped and murdered a little girl will get to go to heaven if he says he’s sorry? Is that what you’re saying?”

A friend of mine had just been asked that question by her sister. Her sister was a good woman, at least as good as the next person. Sure she'd told some lies and stolen a little bit of stuff, but who hasn't. Sure she'd been too harsh with her children but she was tired. Sure she'd cheated on her husband but it was just with one man and only a couple times. And besides, she’d never killed anyone.

Neither had she accepted Jesus as her Saviour and Lord. The concept of forgiveness and grace being given freely to the undeserving was galling and unacceptable to her. In her mind, Grace, as it is dispensed by Jesus is just plain wrong. It’s unfair. It let’s the guilty go free.

By worldly standards she is right on the money. By God’s standards she is guilty of lacking in mercy, something at which our Creator God excels. By God's standards she is guilty as sin, a situation that she by herself cannot remedy, a situation that, left as is, will keep her separated from God for eternity.

Grace is why I love God. Mercy is why I long to be in His presence. Forgiveness is why I’m allowed to spend eternity in paradise. Grace and mercy and forgiveness are all things that I need in abundance. God’s Grace is the good news that Jesus came to earth to demonstrate and to give to the human race.

If God can save a wretch like me, He can and will save a sinner like you. Will you let Him do that for you?

Monday, November 5, 2007

So, tell me about Jesus.

I had a dream one night. I was standing before God’s Throne of Judgement. All around me was every person who had ever been born. Those that I had known, specifically those with whom I had worked as a Counsellor were highlighted so that they stood out from the rest. My unsaved neighbours, the people at the Grocery Store, the mechanic and dentist, all the people that I’d seen on a regular and semi regular basis who didn't know Jesus as Lord and Saviour were facing me and pointing toward me.

As they were being separated for eternity in Hell, they were saying to me, almost in unison, and with passion, “You new about this and you said nothing about it to me. Why didn’t you warn me? Why didn’t you love me enough to tell me about Jesus and forgiveness and salvation? What’s wrong with you that you’d treat me like that? I thought you were my friend.”

What IS wrong with me? If I knew for a fact that Jesus was returning tomorrow, could I even say for sure that I’d spend the rest of today telling people about what’s at stake? Would it make any difference to anyone? Would anyone listen? Those of course are the questions that stop me before I’m even off the couch and the answer that I always come up with is “No.” What a coward I am. How can I claim to love others yet keep from them the most important information that they’ll ever hear?

Jesus may not come back tomorrow, but by the end of today any number of those that I know may be in eternity. What am I going to do about that?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Jesus said, "Who do you say that I Am?"

Until he died of cancer, my Father-in-law and I used to have a running debate re: Christianity. I was pretty new to the faith, while over the decades he had perfected his arguments against the Church and God etc. One of the things that bothered him quite a bit was, ‘If Jesus is the only way to God, what is God going to do about those who have never heard about Jesus?” He seemed to think that question was somehow an insurmountable hurdle for Christians to answer.

I suppose that if someone doesn’t have anything better to think about it might be a good question to ponder for a minute or two. Most of us, however do have other things to do, and getting worked up about questions to which there will never be any clear answer seems to me to be a waste of time.

At any rate, this is what I know and this is what I said to Jake. “God loves people who haven’t heard of Jesus more than you and I ever will. Jesus died for them. That makes me confident that whatever happens as a result of their not hearing about Jesus, it will be absolutely fair. A question that is far more relevant and far more important is, “What will God do about everyone who has heard about Jesus and still insists on rejecting His teaching that “I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.””

Jake’s only response was, “Yes, that’s a better question.”