Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2 Secure Sources of Joy

I comment from time to time about the incredible amount of joy and peace that Jesus pours into my life. Despite the death of a child, despite the challenges, joys and sorrows of raising brain damaged children, despite almost five decades of crippling arthritis, childhood sexual abuse and on and on, the presence of my Redeemer and Saviour causes me to feel as though I’ve lived a charmed life. Peace and contentment are simply part of the package that Jesus has delivered to me along with His salvation. The Holy Spirit, His assurance of my standing with my Creator, His comfort, counsel, discipline and guidance has provided for me the greatest source of joy and peace available to a human being.

John 14:27 - Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The second source of joy for me and for all other Christians who have cast in their lot with Creator God is that our lives have congruence. We are not forced to live under constant contradiction of circumstance as are those who believe there is no God. Our feelings match our beliefs. We have hope. We have a future. We have protection and wisdom and insight. Living with the knowledge of a Creator God brings to one’s life meaning and context and purpose.

This is simply impossible for atheists. For them, all of life is logically and reasonably absurd, ludicrous, preposterous. Their belief system must of necessity lead to the conclusion that life is a farcical tragedy because they are an accident and so is the universe. As atheists must admit they are nothing but a mass of firing neurons and chemical exchanges. The only logical conclusion to atheist beliefs regarding their existence is that their lives possess no inherent meaning or purpose, no intrinsic value or worth. If atheists experience joy and hope in this life it is only because they are fraudulently stealing these things from a reality they don’t believe in. For atheists to experience meaning and purpose in this life, they must either pretend to have or they must believe in a delusional manner that something in this accidental life can have and/or give meaning and purpose to them.

John 8:32 “Then you will know the Truth and the Truth will set your free.”

Just Goofin Till Tomorrow.

“Hey! Whacha doing?”

“Packing. I’m getting ready to go.”

“Oh ya. I heard about that. Someone said you’re leaving for Bejing this afternoon. You got chosen to cover the Olympics?”

“No. I’m not packing for that. I’m going to the movies. I’ve got a couple bars to sneak in and I’ve got this jacket which is just the right size and weight to smuggle in the popcorn that I made this morning. They never catch me bringing in my own stuff.”

“But where’s your suitcases, and your passport? I thought you were to catch the plane at 2:00pm? That’s in less than half and hour.”

“Oh, I’ve got lots of time to prepare for that. This movie is way more important. Besides there no guarantee that the Olympics are even going to happen.”

“Well, dude, your boss is sending you there to cover the event. There’s no doubt that you’re going. Shouldn’t you be preparing for that instead of going to a movie?”

“Mmm, nope. I don’t think so. People who are always thinking about and planning for what might happen in the future are the ones who do the worst job of enjoying today.”

“But dude . . .”

“Look! Now you’re starting to irritate me. I’ll live my life the way that I want to live my life. I’m not going to spend every day focussed on something that might not even happen.”

“But it’s GOING to happen. You’ve got a ticket. Your plane is leaving whether you’re ready or not.”

“You know what? You’re starting to sound like some kind of a fundamentalist. I’m out of here. Kung Fu Panda here I come.”

Stupid right? Who’d be so short sighted? Well, nearly everyone, that’s who. Every single one of us is headed into eternity whether we’re prepared or not. This is a certainty. And yet, most people give tomorrow as little thought as the person in the above example. Their focus is on this moment of today instead of the most important part of their journey, their eternal tomorrow.

Rather than just taking advice from the goof next door, you need to give this some serious thought. If you should die today, where will you spend your eternal tomorrow, and what evidence do you have for supporting your answer?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

“Slavery? 2 Thumbs Up” - God

When a member of the government, who happens to be a vegetarian votes to improve living conditions for cattle on the nation’s farms, does it mean that person is in favour of eating meat?

When city officials decide that it would be better for prostitutes to work within a controlled, supervised (safer) environment, does that mean those officials support prostitution? (Ok maybe that’s a bad example but bear with me).

When city officials provide clean needles to drug addicts are they saying that IV drug use is great?

When an animal rights person supports limits on hunting, does it mean that person is in favour of hunting?

The answer to all of these, of course, is a resounding “No.” These people are working with what they have available. They are working within a culture that is already established.

It's the same when God lays out specific guidelines for the treatment of slaves:
. Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair because you know that you also have a Master in heaven. Col. 4:1

. Do not rule over [your slaves] ruthlessly but fear your God - Lev.25:43

. [Your slave] is to be treated as a man hired from year to year, you must see to it that his owner does not rule over him ruthlessly - Lev. 25:53

. Masters treat your slaves in the same way you want them to treat you. Do not threaten them, since you know that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favouritism with Him. Eph. 6:9

. In another place Paul encourages slaves to take freedom if they can. As well God has laid out specific punishment to come for “Slave Traders.”

God / Bible is NOT supporting slavery anymore than city officials are promoting IV drug use by establishing safe places for addicts to inject their drugs. God was working within an established culture. Why didn’t God forbid slavery among the Jews like He did with idol worship or child sacrifice? God allowed slavery to operate under His guidelines for at least two reasons. One was to establish Israel as a nation which probably couldn’t have been done without extra help. Two, was that slavery or servanthood served as a social safety net. It was that or starve.

Have people abused the concept of slavery? Of course. Each of us abuses other people virtually on a daily basis in all manner of ways. They did it back then and we still do it today. However, we can only abuse our fellow man, be it within the confines of slavery or elsewhere by disobeying the guidelines of our Lord and our Creator.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hardwired for God

I’ve often written about the unique ability of the human mind to comprehend the universe and it’s workings. Some would say this is an accident, a coincidence. I say hog wash. This is as purposefully designed as anything could be.

The fact is, we are built for relationship and we are most of all built for relationship with our Creator. Many if not most people spend their whole lives virtually consumed with developing intimate relationships. Many people become emotionally incapacitated when important relationships go awry. Because the most dysfunctional among us are also the most visible and therefore carry the most influence, their inability to function intimately has come to be the standard or model by which the young and inexperienced humans attempt to develop their intimacy. Ergo, many people never get beyond a physical connection to another human being.
Nevertheless, this obsession with the many facets of relationship (getting, losing, betrayal, death etc.) consume most people from birth till death. This is especially true for those who do not have the most important relationship of all; an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with Creator God. Without our Creator as our singular source of all that we need to function as emotionally and spiritually healthy individuals, all other relationships will suffer to one degree or another. Only Jesus can teach us love. Only Jesus can bring about in us patience and mercy. Only Jesus’ Spirit can communicate clearly to our spirit the direction that God wants us to take in our lives. We can hear this direction. We can know God’s will for our lives. We are hardwired to communicate with our Creator.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Citizen of Heaven

God’s kingdom is part of my life - right now. I am a citizen of heaven. I am an ambassador of heaven. I am a representative of heaven informing others of opportunities that await them, opportunities so grand that they cannot imagine the possibilities. Must one wait until heaven to get a glimpse of what the kingdom is like? Absolutely not. For those in a right relationship with Jesus, we can experience in the here and now, peace, hope, joy, security and belonging - all despite circumstance and all within the context of the suffering that we experience during our life on earth. We can know what it is like to experience a presence of love so powerful that at times I’m tempted to holler “Stop Father! It’s too wonderful. Let me catch my breath.”

Being part of God’s kingdom now entails the knowledge that we are already in an eternal relationship with our Creator. This is not something for which we must wait. His kingdom power supplies all my needs and fulfills all my dreams. For those who are now part of God’s kingdom, satisfaction, excitement, expectation and longing are expanded to their fullest meaning possible. My life, right now is “hidden with Christ in God” “What can mere man do to me.” Because I am a son and an heir with Christ Jesus in spite of all the tragedy that has befallen me, I am more than a conqueror unbowed by the circumstances of life. I have worth and I have value because I am a child of God, a citizen of His kingdom and an heir to His eternal riches. I am blessed beyond my most extravagant dreams. Never did I ever thing that my life would be this good.

Thank you Heavenly Father, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Faith and Folly

As I age, learn and grow in my relationship with God I seem to be coming to some sort of resolution. My journey began with Denial and roughly followed to > Rebellion > Awareness > Acceptance > Desire > Fulfillment > Joyful Resignation > Contemplation.

In hindsight the temporary folly in my journey was an obsession with and an over emphasis on the importance of reason in one’s relationship with God. Contrary to all that Jesus taught (eg. John 6:44) I allowed myself to be distracted by forays into evidence, proving, justifying and convincing others and myself that what I believed, was in fact true. Notice, it wasn’t what Jesus said that was my emphasis. It wasn’t His gospel of salvation that I wanted to communicate. Rather, what I believed and why I believed it took on a importance that again, in hindsight was not only distracting but probably destructive to those with whom I was interacting.

It was like, Now that I know this is true, now that I have a solid, vibrant, exciting relationship with my Lord and Saviour, Jesus the Christ, I need to lay out the evidence for what I already know to be true. For some reason I needed to justify to myself my relationship with Jesus. It was like I was convincing myself all over again. In truth, out of fear that others might think less of me, I had this need to justify my relationship with Jesus to non believers, especially to those who seem condemned to live within a very narrow band of awareness. Yes we are to be able to give an explanation for why we believe, but we must not confuse that explanation with the work that the Holy Spirit does in a yet-to-be-believer's soul in bringing that person to salvation. People are not saved by evidence. They are saved by hearing the Word of God in general and being exposed to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Those that demand further proof are simply not at a place where any decision for redemption can be made. God may bring them to that point some day but for now, simply laying out God's plan of salvation through Jesus is all that can be done.

I now see that an emphasis on reason, while interesting in it’s own right, is superfluous to, unnecessary for and theoretically at least contrary to the initiation and development of faith. It is God who calls, God who grows, God who saves and sanctifies. Anything that we are or ever will be is from God and God alone. Knowing Him, really knowing Him is a purely spiritual affair, devoid of any need for proof save that of God Himself and His stirring in our souls.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Has there been even one miracle?

“I don’t believe in miracles.”
“You mean you believe miracles don’t happen or that miracles can’t happen.”
“Don’t happen. Can’t happen. Both. There’s no such thing as a miracle.”
“Like Jesus rising from the dead.”
“Right. Can’t happen. Didn’t happen. Either He didn’t die and somehow escaped from the guarded tomb without being noticed, which itself is impossible, or the people who wrote the Bible were lying about what they claim to have seen.”
“Which doesn’t seem likely either. I mean, people don’t allow themselves to be tortured to death for a lie that they themselves invented.”
“True, er, whatever.”
“So what is a miracle? What’s your definition of a miracle?”
“I told you. There’s no such thing as a miracle. If something has happened then it has a natural explanation.”
“Meaning, it’s happened according to natural laws, scientific laws, the laws of physics.”
“So if something happened outside of those laws . .”
“That can’t happen.”
“Ya, but for the sake of argument, if something did happen outside the laws of physics, like Jesus turning water into wine . .”
“Jesus didn’t turn any water into wine, and he didn’t command diseases to leave people and he didn’t . . .”
“Let me finish. If He did turn water into wine or if He did walk on water, that would have been something that was outside of the laws of physics and therefore it could / would fit the definition of a miracle. ”
“Yes, but miracles don’t happen and Jesus didn’t do any of the stuff that are called miracles.”
“No miracles - ever.”
“That’s right.”
“But if there could be miracles, no wait, if there could be one miracle, if it was possible for even one miracle to take place then there might very well be bzillions of miracles.”
“I suppose but miracles are understood as out of the ordinary events so a bzillion of anything would make it ordinary, therefore it wouldn’t be a miracle.”
“Good point. Let me try again. If there could be one miracle then there is no reason why there couldn’t be two miracles or three miracles or whatever.”
“I guess. If there’s been one miracle then any number of miracles are possible but there hasn’t been nor will there ever be even one miracle.”
“Nothing outside the laws of physics has or ever will take place.”
“You got it. Can we talk about something interesting?”
“So what was there before the laws of physics?”
“What do you mean?”
“The laws of physics came into being with the Big Bang. What was there before the Big Bang that caused the Big Bang and the laws of physics to come into being?”
“There wasn’t anything there before the Big Bang. It just happened.”
“Matter just created itself.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“I think you did.”
“ I . .:”
“Look, whatever caused the universe and the laws of physics and time for that matter existed outside of time and the universe and outside of and above or over the laws of physics. Whatever created the laws of physics, whatever controlled the laws of physics whatever brought the laws of physics into being has to be greater than the laws of physics. Therefore the bringing into being or the Creating of the universe or the Creating of the Big Bang is a working definition of a miracle. And, you yourself just said, if there can be one miracle there can be any number of miracles. If Something from outside the laws of physics can make and manipulate energy and matter once, there is no reason It can’t do it any number of times. If we call the Cause of the universe, if we call the Cause of the Big Bang God, then God is the only one who is capable of causing a miracle.
“Yes but we don’t . . .”
“Wait! Just let me finish this thought and then you can reply. Jesus said to the people that were checking Him out, “You don’t have to believe Me when I say that I Am God just because that’s what I tell you. But your should believe that I Am God because of what I do.” Why would He say that?”
“I don’t know. Why are you asking me? I don’t even read the stupid Bible. Why do you think He said it?”
“I think that Jesus made that statement because He was doing things that were clearly outside of or contrary to the laws of physics as they/we understand them. Those people knew that a disease doesn’t respond to someone talking to it. Those people knew that water doesn’t just turn into wine at someone’s command. Those people knew beyond a shadow of doubt that normal people don’t calm a storm or forgive those who are unjustly killing them and those people for sure knew that dead people don’t come to life again.

Neither could they just toss these events aside. People were healed. The wine was real. Storms were calmed, people were forgiven, the blind were made to see, the lame were walking, people's lives were renewed and changed and Jesus was seen to be alive in ways that disallowed the idea of hallucinations. Those are things that only a God can do. Jesus was saying that He was doing these things in real space and real time and He was doing it for their benefit. And as it turns out He was doing it for our benefit as well. He did those things so that we could know that He was and is the real deal.

A guy named John, who was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus describes Jesus’ manipulations of matter and energy as “signs.” They were signs that Jesus has mastery over the natural elements of our universe. That kind of manipulation that kind of power is only possible in the Being who brought into reality the elements and laws that govern those elements in the first place. Those demonstrations by Jesus were signs that He used to show that something from another dimension had physically and visibly entered into our dimension. Something totally “other” happened when Jesus walked the earth and the Christian faith, the body of believers the Church, even with all it's faults, is an ongoing evidentiary miracle in it’s own right. There is no reason for the Christian faith to exist let alone be the driving force beyond virtually all we know as good for the human race if Jesus was and is not God incarnate. Sorry, I’ve talked too much. It’s your turn.
“Um, well, let me think about this.”
“Fair enough. Just one more point. All I know is that there is no basis upon which a person can unequivocally claim that miracles can’t or haven’t happened. Jesus, who is the Logos, the Word, the Mind, the First Cause, the Creator of the universe has proved that miracles can and do happen.”
“Well, maybe.”

Does My Attitude Declare Jesus Is My Lord?

Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, Do Not Worry about your life...”

1st Thessalonians 5:16,17 “Be Joyful Always; pray continually;

1st Peter 5:6,7 - “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast All Your Anxiety On Him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:4 - “Rejoice In The Lord Always. I will say it again: Rejoice! “

Philippians 4:6 - 9 “Do Not Be Anxious About Anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And (if you do this) the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Romans 5:3 - 5 - “. . . we also Rejoice In Our Sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; character produces hope and hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”

The people who wrote these things were speaking from experience. Jesus of course gave His followers the command to not worry as the pagans do. And Paul, who had given His life completely to the service of Jesus knew the benefits of that relationship. I too can tell you from experience, You do not need to live as the pagans live; you "do not need to fear what they fear." If you are in a healed relationship with Jesus, then everything, EVERYTHING that happens in your life WILL be used for your good, God's glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. All you have to do is stop resisting, stop fighting, stop worrying.

Besides - A little pain never hurt anybody.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Big Bang

"Back before the Big Bang . . . there was the "egg" of the universe where all places were one place, all things were one thing"
Barbara Brown Taylor.

Isn't it ever cool to contemplate such things? I am absolutely fascinated by Quantum Physics, and Theoretical Physics and Supersymetrical String Theory and E and Gravitational Loop Theory and all that. I read what's going on in those fields every chance I get. I wish I was smart enough to understand what they're talking about.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Very Un Natural Selection

As most Canadians know, the Butcher of Canada, atheist abortionist Henry Morgentaler, has been awarded the country’s highest civilian medal. He was recognised for making it easier for women to slaughter their daughters and sons, tearing them limb from limb in an attempt to eliminate the inconvenience of having to nurture another human life. Survivors of this process are tossed into the trash along with the rest of the entrails.

For some reason, a reason that prominent atheists have yet to explain, the drive, the determination, the obsession to ensure the continuation of our genes, to propagate our offspring, an obsession that according to evolutionary theory should be present in every single species on earth is conspicuously absent in our species. This frenzied killing of our children is not based on weeding out the weak from the strong. It’s not based on a lack of food or loss of natural habitat. In fact, those with the most abundant food supply, the most secure housing, the most wealth and incomparable health seem to be those who are most determined to kill those of their own genetic makeup. The hoarding of personal wealth takes precedent over the preservation of one’s genetic code.

If this isn’t natural selection gone awry I don’t know what is. Is there an explanation for this? No. Is there an admission that this is a dilemma for proponents of this theory? No. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead.

The human animal is also unique in that it is the only animal that intentionally endangers and even harms itself when angry. Whether it’s drinking too much, driving too fast, taking part in dangerous social activities, abusing food, obsessing on cutting or slashing, the rage that is present in and demonstrated by humans once again seems to go completely against what one would expect of a species that is evolving to higher and higher states of being.

Are people concerned about this schizophrenic, sociopathological, chronically delusional course of action that has been part of human nature since we first, as we are told, dropped out of the trees? Apparently not. Instead we award our highest honours, the most money and unbelievable adoration and worship to the instigators and promoters of such strange and self-destructive ways of living.

My leg fell off!

“I know the plans that I have for you; plans to bring you peace and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I’m always taken aback when people leave Jesus and go their own way. I relate so strongly with what Peter said after many of Jesus’ followers had turned away, that it almost sucks the wind out of me to hear that someone has decided that they know more than their Creator as to what's best for their lives. In the case referred to, Jesus had just asked His disciples, “Are you going to leave me too?” and Peter replied, “Lord to whom would we go? You alone have the words of eternal life?"

What in the world do these people think they’ll find apart from Jesus when He alone has - well - the words of life? The main complaint that I hear goes something like, “What I read in the Bible just doesn’t comport with the reality that I experience. I don’t have peace. I don’t have joy. I don’t feel God’s love and concern for me.”

I understand how that would be troubling. But what if their decisions or conclusions are based on misinformation? What if they are leaving the fight too soon in the game? One of the benefits of being a mature believer, both in age and experience is that it’s given me a chance to see the fulfilment of God’s promises in my life. Right from infancy, we as humans are absolutely hardwired for stimulus / response living. And with our need / desire to make our lives run as smoothly as possible we have very little patience with results that take a long time to be realised.

Problem: God doesn’t work that way. You see, none of the people with whom I’ve worked, who have been struggling in their faith, have been brought THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death. In fact they are right in the middle of it. For that reason they can’t related to verses like, “Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand and at just the right time He will lift you up.”
1st Peter 5:7. Nor can they comprehend the first part of the verse that says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” In the journey to follow Jesus, the call to abandon ship is always driven by pride. This pride is calling out to those who struggle, just as it did with Adam and Eve. Their pride is repeating the lie that God does not have their best interests at heart. They are made to believe that they have to take charge of their own lives.

Problem: That’s a lie. So what does it mean when:
. God says, “I have plans to give you peace and not to harm you,” yet your child dies?
. God says, “I have plans to give you hope,” and you lose your house because you can’t make the payments?
. God says, “I have plans to give you a future,” and you’re denied entrance to a training program for the only career that you’ve ever wanted?

Here is the mistake that I think most people make. Most people, who incidentally are not followers of Jesus, can only envision a good life as one that does not entail pain, suffering and difficulty. Most people spend a great deal of their time arranging their lives so as to avoid pain, suffering and difficulty. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact we have psychiatric labels for people who seem to enjoy pain and suffering. However, life as we know it entails tragedy and suffering. These things are a normal part of our existence. Because of that:
. Much of the suffering that we experience today comes to us from circumstances well beyond our control.
. Much of the suffering that we experience today comes to us as residue from a lifestyle that we rejected long ago.
. Much of the suffering that we experience today comes directly from our current dysfunctional behaviours but, and here’s the really weird part,
. Much of the time people blame God because their lives are in such a mess. Or they assume that because their prayers for rescue seem to go unheeded, God has long since left the building and no one is taking their messages to pass on to Him when or if He gets back. Tack on the conclusion that the only life worth living is a life that is free of pain and suffering and you have just given away all your power and hope.

Fact: God is not absent from our lives. God is involved in every single detail of our lives and to say that He isn’t involved in the misery that comes our way is to say that God is absent, at least for some people, from most of their lives. He is not absent. If you believe that He’s turned His back on you, it’s because you lack the maturity, and patience that it takes to graduate from His school. I’ve been there. I been through decades of suffering, and tragedy and pain. True, there have been times when I’ve questioned God’s way of doing things, but I can tell you this, everything, every single thing that God has promised me before and during the difficulties that have taken place have been fulfilled to overflowing. He has used every single setback for my good, His glory and the furthering of His Kingdom. “Our God is an awesome God and He reigns from Heaven above, with wisdom power and love - Our God is an awesome God.”

Take His promises to heart. Believe them. Trust them. Count on them. “Cast all your anxieties on the Lord because He cares about you.” If you love God, if you are intent on serving Him, and if it doesn’t seem like He is bringing good out of your current difficulty, or even if it seems as though things are getting worse, just wait. It’s too soon. Watch and wait and you will see that leaving a healed relationship with Jesus would have been the absolute worst thing that you could have done.

So what has this got to do with my leg falling off? Well, that’s a bit of a problem. When I started this post there was supposed to be a tie-in to the betting pools that were going on when Paul McCartney’s ex was in “Dancing with the Stars.” People were taking odds on her prostheses flying off. For the life of me I can’t remember what the connection was supposed to have been. Good title though.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

1st Cor. 10:13 doesn’t say that!

Grrr, I heard it again today. A mature Christian, someone with pretty good Biblical knowledge said, “God won’t give me more than I can handle. It’s says so right there in 1st Corinthians 10:13.” Grrrrrr.

1st Corinthians 10:13 does NOT say that!!! Those verses are saying that God won’t allow us to be tempted to do wrong beyond what we are able to handle. He will always give us a way out. That is far different than saying He won’t allow in my life more trouble, grief, sadness, tragedy etc. than I can handle.

In fact, God frequently allows more loss and despair than we can handle. He does it on purpose because that is when we call out to Him. That is what drives us to Him. The very fact that we are calling out to Him proves that we are, in fact, in over our heads.

Now, in reality, two things need to be noted. Those who are mature in faith are in constant communication with their Creator; in good times AND in bad; coping well or in desperate straights. And for those who are growing in their relationship with their Creator, He does in fact give them victory over anything that He may allow to come into their lives. In all things, “We are more than conquerors.” Those things are true - within that context He doesn't give us more than we can handle with HIs help. But the verses describing our relationship with God and our victory over life are talking about something other than what 1st Cor. 10:13 is taking about.

Monday, July 21, 2008

God does Not say “No”

I work with so many Christians who seem to be hobbled in their prayer lives. And what I think is happening in many cases is this. When people pray, it’s like they are simply saying words to the air and then going out and living as they would have lived, had they not talked AT their Creator at all. Part of the problem, is a habit that’s been formed in the absence of what they would call “results.” That kind of thinking leads to comments like, “God sometimes says “Yes,” “No” or “Not Yet.”

Well, I suppose if a person is praying regarding non essentials like, “Please heal me (or someone else),” “Please give me a new job (relationship, get me out of trouble)” “Please get me this parking spot (just the right dress, help my kid make friends in school, make my husband have sex with me more often)” well, yes, then you will get a variety of answers.

However if you are praying God’s essentials He will never, ever say “No.” There may be many, many things that are God’s will, and yes, there may indeed be extraneous things for which we need to be coming to Him in prayer. Bottom line however, the single bottom line about which we can be guaranteed to get an immediate positive response from God is found in Romans 8:28 and esp. 29. You already know this passage but let me write it down anyway.
“WE KNOW that in all things, God works for the good of those who
(a) love Him and
(b) who have been called according to His purpose.
For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son.”

This is really the only essential thing that we need to be praying for. Become like Jesus and all the rest will take care of itself. There is nothing more important for Christians than to be conformed to and transformed into the likeness of Jesus. The world desperately needs our diligent attention in this area of our lives. Our countries, our communities and our families desperately need our diligent attention in this area of our lives. The Church, the Bride of Christ needs us to make drastic changes in this area.

The good news is that when your prayers are regarding changes in this area, God will not say “No.” But what about that habit of saying some words and then going on with the day as per usual? What about the habit of thinking that God is ignoring you? Of course that needs to change, and the fastest way to change your perspective on your relationship with God is to begin praying “In His will.” For example:
“Lord please cause me to become gentle with my children.”
“Father cause me to be faithful to my spouse in my actions and in my mind.”
“Lord I need to show mercy and kindness and grace toward those who are trying to make my life more difficult.”

To these and other prayers like them God will take action. “But,” you say, “It doesn’t seem like God is doing anything. I’ve asked for help to quit yelling at the kids for years and I still get too angry.” Umm, here’s the thing. When you pray in God’s Will, when you’re asking for something that God already wants for you, when you’re asking to be conformed and transformed to the likeness of Jesus’ character, the first thing to do after ending your prayer is to be on the lookout for what God IS doing to bring that request into reality. If you haven’t seen what He’s doing, if you haven’t noticed opportunities for change, it’s not His fault. It’s probably been that old habit that’s caused you to miss the opportunities that God has placed right before your very eyes. Looking for what He is about to do to bring change into your life is the right thing to do because that is what God will do.

For what it’s worth, the most common place in which we miss God’s working is in difficulties. That seems to be where we are most prone to feel ignored by God. Yet to feel far from God in the midst of difficulties is to assume that God is absent from large portions of our lives. That is simply not true. So accustomed have we become to the way pagans and atheists run their lives that we’ve grown to think that it’s a right, or normal or healthy way to encounter life. It isn’t. The good and abundant life that Jesus has promised us is not to be found in the absence of pain and suffering. As the saying goes, Happiness is not freedom from the storm but peace within the storm. God's answers to our prayers for Christlikeness almost always come from within life’s difficulties. For example, if I pray for patience, then God is going to allow / bring into my life circumstances in which I will be able to practice patience. If I pray for kindness, I shouldn’t be surprised when I encounter situations where I must exercise kindness. If I pray for faith, well, you can be assured where that one is going. And yet, and yet faith and the fruit of the Spirit is where life at it’s best is found. We humans spend so much time trying to squirm out of our problems that we completely miss the learning that can only take place in the midst of our problems.

1st Corinthians 10:13 comes into play here. God will always, always, always, give you a way out when tempted to do something that is out of character for Jesus. The “out” of course is quite subtle, always subtle, but it will always be there. In keeping with the example of treating your children better, let’s say that carelessness has caused a child to spill the cereal onto the floor. You are ready to swat the kid on the head or to say something unkind or demeaning. However, if you have prayed for help to stop this behaviour, just as you are about to do the usual, there will be some type of interruption in what is about to happen. Another child will say something precious. The phone will ring. Or perhaps you will become aware of the thought, “This is not right.” You WILL have the opportunity for victory, but you will miss that opportunity if you aren’t looking for it. And you won’t look for it if you don’t understand that God is working in every moment of your life. If you don’t understand that reality you will lose the chance to change behaviours. And, if you fail to look for the help that you’ve asked for from God, or if you ignore the opportunity to change behaviours when it’s given to you, it’s hardly God’s fault if you go ahead and harm your child. In a case like that, God is trying to bring about a “Yes” to your prayer but it’s you who is turning it into yet another failure.

One final thought. Regarding prayer:
Jesus said, “Don’t keep babbling like the pagans do when they pray.”
And Paul says to “always pray with thanksgiving.”

The babbling may mean several things but one thing it doesn’t mean is, ‘When you pray, pray with intention. Pray with the expectation that God is going to do something.’ In Romans 8, Paul begins, WE KNOW that in all things God works for the good . . . These men of God KNEW from experience. We can KNOW from their experience and one day you will KNOW from your own experience. We can pray with thanksgiving when we are praying “In God’s Will” We can pray with thanks giving when we are praying in the knowledge of what God has already told us what He wants for our lives. And when we pray with that knowledge it is virtually impossible to not pray with thanksgiving for we can KNOW that what we request is what God will in fact, do.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It’s so unfair!

A little child is raped and tortured.
Crystal Meth causes the death of a four-year-old.
A “good” family is killed by a drunk driver.
A young man suffers permanent brain damage.
A mother of four young children drowns in the lake

It’s all so unfair!

That sounds right, but is it unfair? Sure it’s sad, tragic, unfortunate, devastating, too bad, and sometimes criminal. These events are all difficult for the families involved - but unfair? On what basis is the rape of a child unfair? Certainly it’s wrong, infuriating, terrible and yes criminal. But from the perspective of life as life goes, is it really unfair? Who says that one family’s house shouldn’t collapse on top of them while their neighbour’s house remains standing? Why is falling or being shot or having a virus destroy one’s heart unjust? By whose rules are we saying these things shouldn’t happen? Who has declared that bad things, even criminal things shouldn’t happen to us? Who has declared that my life should be free of tragedy? Saying that life is unfair implies that when bad things happen, it Someone's fault. If one goes by the law of averages as that law applies to the six billion or so individuals on planet earth it would seem to me that what’s unusual, out of character, unfair if you will, is when GOOD things happen to anyone. And certainly those who have been whacked by tragedy are prone to say things like, “Why not him? Why didn’t he lose his house? Why didn’t his kid die along with mine?” Some people’s lives seem to entail no suffering at all. Do they cry “foul” “no fair” “stop - please stop?” Do I complain that I throw away more food than some people eat? Do I complain because I can walk, while many don’t have legs at all? Whose fault is it when good things happen to me, because really, it isn’t fair?

The problem with calling life unfair isn’t too difficult to understand. Take games for instance. We know what the rules are. We know when someone breaks the rules and when they’re caught we protest, “That’s not fair.” In politics, education, commerce, even in relationships we have a pretty good idea how these things should work and we know very well when they don’t work in our favour. But when it comes to life in general, things aren’t so clear.

A growing number of people boldly state, “there’s no such thing as right or wrong behaviours.” These people observe the seemingly impartial workings of the universe and try to extrapolate that to the workings of their own lives. Most people in the world still have enough sense to see the silliness in that claim but, like I say, as atheism and apatheism gain ground, relational stupidity increases it’s grip on society. I mean, if I were to clean out the moral subjectivist’s bank account or steal her child, odds are pretty good that she’d soon change her opinion about there not being any wrong behaviours. On the other hand, in the absence of wrong being done to them, the moral subjectivist is quite able to deceive h/herself into thinking that s/he is not capable of doing wrong to others. What these people are really trying to create is a world in which there won’t be any rules of right and wrong regarding how they run their lives.

There are amusing variations on this theme. For example, just two weeks ago I saw a T-shirt that said, “My Life - My Rules.” Apparently this person has admitted that there might actually be some rules to life but he and he alone will determine what those rules aught to be. Another T-shirt, this one on a thirteen-year-old girl declared that she was “Lawless.” Again, she acknowledged that rules exist. However, according to her shirt, she was determined to break them or at least not be bound by them. I’ve heard some say that everything is an illusion. To these people there might SEEM to be rules but whatever rules we see, they’re all pretend.

My point is, for all those who say life isn’t fair - well, says who? Is that an admission that there is a Supreme Rule Giver and that things aren't going according to His plan? Because if there isn't a Supreme Rule Giver then you might think A but your neighbour might think B and low and behold, your neighbour is just as right as you are. In a world without a Supreme Rule Giver, Might really is Right. In a world without a Supreme Rule Giver, what's right is determined by the Party voted into power with the most votes. So where is it written that life should be this way but not that way? Where are you getting your idea that your child shouldn't be abducted and killed while your neighbour's child sleeps safely through the night? If this life is all there is, then what we see is what we get and it’s no body’s business to complain about anything. Life happens.

On the other hand, Jesus said that life is entirely fair. He said that God is just and fair and merciful and compassionate and full of grace and abounding in love. But how could that be? Look at all the injustice and corruption! Well, notice that Jesus says, “life” is fair. He means all of life - not just life on earth. You see, this portion of our lives is minuscule compared to the infinitely larger portion yet to come. Like three or four-year-old children, we adults seem incapable of focusing on anymore than the “moment” of this existence on earth. Like small children, we can’t see the big picture. And for many, it seems impossible that it will all turn out alright. God assures us that no one is going to get away with anything. God's love is just and His justice is loving. In the end it will all work out.

My advice is that if you don’t believe in God, shut your pie hole when it comes to complaining about how unfair life is. If there is no God then there’s no rules save your own. If there’s no God then rules or concepts like fair or unfair truly are an illusion.

On the other hand, if Jesus is correct, and He would know, those of us who are His followers can also remain silent because all is well. Life will work out. Life is fair.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Why Doesn’t God Show Himself

I think it was Pascal or Plato who voiced dismay that there was too much evidence to deny God’s existence but not enough evidence to totally affirm His existence. The apostle Paul disagreed and claimed with confidence that all Creation provides enough evidence to justly pronounce people guilty of rejecting God.

Of course there are those among us who propose that there isn’t ANY evidence of God. They frequently emit the plaintive cry, “If God wants me to believe in Him, then He should just show Himself to me?” In a strange twist of logic, this group, atheists to a person demand of God (the God they don’t believe in - remember) that He force them to their knees in intellectual and spiritual submission. They claim to want God to take away the very thing they hold most dear, intellectual / scientific exploration.

Of course that isn’t what they really want. If that is what they really wanted then:
. Jesus’ miracles wouldn’t be casually explained away.
. Jesus’ post resurrection sightings wouldn’t be considered hallucinations.
. Eye witness accounts wouldn’t be called lies or a vast conspiracy.
. The fact of our existence wouldn’t be explained in ever increasingly complicated suppositions.
. Portions of history wouldn’t be arbitrarily and capriciously declared to be non history.

Before you protest too loudly remember this. These same people accept that whatever brought time and the laws of physics into being operated from outside the laws of physics. That is a working definition of a miracle and if that miracle happened then all bets are off regarding the signs that Jesus performed while He was on earth.

All this evidence happens before their very eyes and then they say “I want irrefutable proof.” Ya - Right. Despite the atheist’s crocodile tears, God has actually stooped to cater to those who hate Him the most. God has presented to atheists, at least to the intelligent ones, evidence that plays to their strong suit. God HAS shown Himself in a way we can’t ignore. The questions we are forced to ask are:
. Why is the universe designed with mathematical precision?
. Why are we designed to comprehend, propose and predict cosmological events; events that CAN be comprehended, predicted and propose based on that mathematical certainty?

If there is a God who exists and who created us, it stands to reason that He would want to make Himself known to us. Only a certain type of mind would be able to discern this connection. Monkeys can't. Cows can't. Dolphins can't. We can. This connection, this coincidence, this ability of our mind to perceive and deduce God’s glory goes way beyond our survival needs. Could the reason be so that, as Paul says in Romans that the existence of God (The Creator of both the universe and us) is crystal clear to all but the most obstinate and rebellious?

The type of God that atheists claim to hate is also the type of God they demand; one who shows Himself. Well He has shown Himself on multiple levels. The ball is indeed in our court. I guess the old adage applies - Be careful what you wish for.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Abortion - Good News / Bad News

When it comes to abortion, especially for Christians, there’s good news and bad news.

First the bad news:
Jerimiah 1:5 - God says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

Psalms 139:13-16 -For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

There can be no doubt, from a Biblical perspective, that our humanity begins at conception. Our soul is intact from the moment the sperm penetrates the egg. Not a single one of us is an accident. Not a single one of us deserves to be torn limb from limb. When we have an abortion we kill a living human being whose gift of life was endorsed by God.

Now the good news:
. God understands the struggles that our reckless and self-centred choices cause for ourselves.
. God understands the terror of an unplanned pregnancy.
. God understands the fear of contemplating a parent finding out what we’ve done.
. God understands the lengths we’ll go to in order to feel loved.
. God understands that if we were really pro choice, our choice to have sex would be based on the knowledge that we are choosing a behaviour for which one of the main and normal results - a biologically and evolutionally normal result - is the creation of another human life. The connection of sex to creating life is so powerful that even in the face of the best birth control available, pregnacy can still happen.
. God understands that we are weak and pitiful and ready, willing and able to deceive ourselves, to lie to ourselves that the life we have created is not a child.
. God understands how lost and alone we can feel when we are in that position.

That is why there is good news. God understands.

John 8:10,11 - “Has no one condemned you?” “No one sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

God is a God of forgiveness. If we are willing to change our life style, He is willing to let us try again.

1st John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, God will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

All we need to do is admit to ourselves and to God that the abortion did in fact kill the child that we created. All we need to do is quit lying to God, to ourselves and to others that what we did wasn’t wrong. All we need to do is to genuinely ask for forgiveness. And if we do those things Creator God, our gracious and merciful God will forgive us for what we’ve done. We can be declared “Not Guilty” based on our desire to confess our sins to Him. We can be freed from real guilt. We can be freed from our past mistakes. Unlike humans who love to remind us of our past failings, God is willing to remove them from existence.

Psalm 32:1-5 - The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.

We all say that we love honesty, often in the same breath as we lie to ourselves. There is nothing that we can do, including having an abortion, to make God stop loving us. There is nothing that we can do, except reject His love, that can separate us from His love.

If you are involved in a lifestyle that is likely going to set you up for a needed abortion, now is the time to change that lifestyle. If you are living a life that is full of anxiety and apprehension every 28 days, now is the time to turn things around. If you are secretly hoping to create a totally independent life with the expectation that that new person, the baby, will love you, you are sadly and tragically mistaken. If you are secretly expecting that creating a new life will make your boyfriend stay with you or somehow heal your marriage you are sadly and tragically mistaken. If you are living in any of the ways just mentioned, well, that is just a lousy way to live. All these abuses of the gift of sexual love is why God doesn’t want us to separate sexual pleasure from the safety of a monogamous marriage. He doesn’t want us to use “love” to get sex or use sex to get what you want to believe is love. Sexual love is meant to be part of a profound, deep and loving bond within a committed relationship, both to our spouse and to our Creator.

Isaiah 40:31 - Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will rise up on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.

Living in violation of God’s wishes is mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausting. Abortion takes a tremendous toll on our psyche. Please, from the position of a pro choice individual, make the choice of whether or not to have a child BEFORE engaging in sex. If your girlfriend or boyfriend won’t stay with you in the absence of sex, tell that person to get lost. You deserve better than what that person is able and willing to give you.

If you are ready and prepared for all that raising a child entails. If you are able to provide a long-term stable home environment in which that child can grow up. If you are able to provide that child with a loving mom and dad who are themselves mature enough to raise up and train and prepare another individual for life and all that means, then enjoy responsible sex. If you aren’t ready for any of that, then:
Choose maturity over selfishness.
Choose integrity over lies, deception and manipulation.
Choose responsibility over having to cover up one error in judgement with more and more and more errors in judgement.

God loves you. He loves you enough to lay out a way of life that will protect you from using others and from being used and abused by others.

Choose God. Choose real love. Choose life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Can’t Love

For a portion of my life, a portion that is still the majority of my life, I didn’t care about loving others. In fact I was seething with anger and hatred. I hurt people - physically and emotionally. I remember one guy that I worked with commenting to me, “You don’t give a f*** about anybody do you?” Ouch. I winced at that but not enough to make any changes.

Oh sure, there was a time where I wanted to be loved. And I could manage lust which I mistook for real love. Anybody can do that. But love? - For others? - Other love? Nope. Selfishness reigned. Annoyance when others weren’t thinking about my happiness was front and centre. People who cut in front of me; people who were late for appointments; people who were too loud, too ugly, too stupid; people whose mistakes or laziness cost me money just drove me crazy angry. I felt confined and smothered by society’s rules. And don’t even get me started on my attitude back then as it applied to God.

And then something weird happened. Not only did I become aware of Jesus’ 24/7 love for me, I decided to follow Jesus. I hung out with Him every day. I read about Him. I talked with Him. I learned from Him and I learned about Him. Slowly but surely my behaviours and thoughts began to change. I grew patient with others. I actually experienced happiness that wasn’t derived from some mood-altering chemical. I began to give of my time, my money, myself. I no longer cared if people purposely jerked me around. Rules no longer bothered me. I was free - really, really free.

And then it dawned on me. I was loving other people. I had compassion and kindness and caring and peace and goodness - actual goodness. If I had looked at someone else whose behaviours were like mine I would have to say, “That person seems to love others.”

So what’s the big deal? Why bother to write down what sounds like bragging? Well first of all it isn’t bragging. It isn’t bragging because I did nothing to bring about this change. I’ve made no effort to improve. No effort was expended on my part to change my character. Watching all this happen to me is kinda like an out-of-body-experience. All I’ve done is hang out with Jesus. I’ve trusted Him. I’ve followed His instructions. I’ve given Him my heart and soul. From my perspective I still can’t love others. It seems to be a fact that nothing good is inherent in me. But Jesus, His love, His mercy, His grace is slowly but surely infusing my every pore with His character. I am possessed by the Holy Spirit of the living God.

And that is what Jesus’ brother James meant when he wrote, “I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” It is Jesus and our relationship with Him that changes our soul which then changes our behaviours. What we do proves or demonstrates what we believe.

Worldly love, the type of love demonstrated for our children by those in the entertainment industry is obsessive, possessive, manipulative and controlling. It’s about what can YOU do for me. What can you do to make ME feel good, look good, help me, support me. Worldly love is about what can you do to make ME happy. If you make me feel good then I’m drawn to you and I call it love. Even when people’s behaviours seem altruistic, their comments show that at least part of what they’re doing is because doing good to others makes them feel good about themselves. Of course that's better than nothing, but still . . .

God’s love, on the other hand, is totally self giving. It gives without any thought of return or recognition or duty or even an awareness that something out of the ordinary is taking place. Good people naturally do good things. God’s love gives.

Does this mean that I’m better than other people? Absolutely not! Many people, even many non believers might be “better” people than I am. At best all I am is better than I was before Jesus came into my life. The thing is, that improvement was so very, very necessary. Until I became a follower of Jesus, I was making the world a worse place in which to live. It was bad for my kids, my wife, my employees, my community. I needed God to change me because I am weak and selfish and self-absorbed.

Has any improvement in my character been by my effort or power? Again, absolutely not. All that I am, all that I’m to be and all that is good in me is from Jesus. Like a poster that I used to have in my office says, “I’m not who I should be. And I’m not who I’m going to be. But thanks to God alone, I’m not who I used to be.”

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

He's An Interesting Guy

I met a guy this last week who, along with his wife (a nurse) have been medical missionaries in Africa for, um, I forget how long - years and years. I'm not going to name the country he's in because to be openly Christian in that country is a good way to get killed. Regardless, many years ago he and a couple other guys started a hospital. There is very little medical equipment and medicines, even basic medicines are in very short supply. Nevertheless, this hospital now treats on average 250 patients per day. His family’s income and that of the other doctors is based on donations as is the funding of the hospital. Just a few facts that he shared.
This country is 95% Muslim
There is one doctor for every 37,000 people.
There are only 15 dentists for a population of nearly 15 million.
Life expectancy is 44 years
63% of the population live on less than $1.00/day.
Close to 50% of this country's annual budget is foreign aid.
25% of the children die before the age of 5.
95% of the schools don’t have electricity or a library, and
Only 1% of the kids who go to school graduate grade 13.

He and his partners have also started a reforestation project that is slowly but surely pushing back a desert that now dominates this once lush area of Africa. Where they live is hot and dusty. There are very few amenities and very little time off. Physical comfort is hard to come by and the lack of money leaves them with nothing extra to be putting away for retirement. Why does he do it when he could be living in North America making loads of money and living in ease?

“God’s love for us causes us to love others. We can’t not do it.”

Jesus in India? Ya, right.

Matthew 2:20-23 - The angel said to Joseph, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel . . . So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel . . . and he went to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

Jesus wasn’t known as an Indian or an Egyptian or Man from the East. Jesus was known as a Nazarene.

Matthew 13:53-57 - When Jesus had finished these parables he moved on from there. Coming to his HOMETOWN, he began teaching the people in their synagogue and they were amazed. “Where did this man get the wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honour.”

These people knew that Jesus hadn’t made any pilgrimage to India. He hadn’t been on any spiritual quest or journey. They didn’t say, “Wow, Jesus really learned some neat stuff in India.” If He had they wouldn't have been offended by His knowledge. Jesus didn’t try to find enlightenment in India. Jesus brought enlightenment to any and all who chose to know Him.

Mark 1:9 - At that time Jesus came from Nazareth [where he’d grown up] in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan.

Jesus was raised and educated in the Jewish traditions. He held to and obeyed the traditions and laws of the Jewish faith. In fact He told His followers that “I have not come to do away with the law [by adding something new, like teachings of the East] but to fulfill the law.”

Mark 6:1 - Jesus left there and went to his home town accompanied by his disciples. Isn’t this the carpenter?

Carpentry was Jesus’ trade, a trade that He’d learned from His father while growing up in Nazareth. It was a trade that He used to support His family after His father's death until the time He began His earthly ministry.

Luke 2:39,40,51 - When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him. [At 12 years old] Jesus went down to Nazareth with [his parents] and was obedient to them. Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men.

Jesus was filled with wisdom from God, NOT from followers of Buddha. He was obedient to His parents by being educated in the Jewish faith, by learning the trade of carpentry and by helping to raise his siblings after His father died.

Luke 4:16 - He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.

John 1:45 - We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph,” “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

Nathanael didn’t say, “Can anything come from India?" He didn’t say, “Can a Buddhist have anything of value to teach us?”

It is ludicrous to purport that Jesus, God as Son would seek out advice from those who deny the existence of God - Buddhist or from those idol worshippers who have developed thousands of gods - those in India.

Silverman and Kimmel split?

I don't understand. If it can happen between two people with such loving, giving, caring souls, what chance is there for the rest of us?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Seen in Church

I saw a good blurb in Church:
When our foundations are shaken, we turn to God only to find that it's God who is doing the shaking. Very true.

Grand Canyon

Just back from a holiday to the Grand Canyon. For some reason I'd thought it would be bigger.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Where’s your heart?

I can’t remember if it was Plato or C.S. Lewis who said something like, “I believe in Jesus for the same reason that I believe in the Sun. Not because I can see it but, because of the Son I can see everything else clearly.”

Jesus said that it’s the same for the lives we attempt to live. Many people, most people in fact, are blinded by the glitter of bling. They believe in it’s ability to transfer to us value and worth and security and belonging. And because people believe those lies, bling or power or relationship etc. is where their heart is; it’s where their focus is fixed, it’s where their efforts are directed. Because they are handicapped by spiritual darkness they cannot see the true nature of worldly “things.”

So powerful is the draw of these lies that Jesus tells us that we cannot worship, or follow or centre our concentration or give our hearts to both Him and to the things of this world at the same time. In fact, we are told in, I think it’s 1st John that love for the things of the world is the same as hatred toward God. We are told in part to love God with ALL our hearts. With little or no effort on our part our hearts will be where our treasure is. It is a spiritual reality or fact that we cannot obey God and go after worldly riches or fame. The two will always be in constant conflict. Now, we MAY gain those things while putting God first in our lives. He may, for His purposes bring power or wealth into our lives. However, if we put worldly priorities first, we will most certainly lose our relationship with God.

If I treasure Jesus. If I treasure His glory and the furthering of His kingdom then that is where the majority of my thoughts will be directed. That is where my wisdom and insights and “aha’s” and “now I get it,” and the most thrilling parts of my life will find their source. When my Lord and my Saviour is the primary source of my life, all other life events will revolve around Him and His plans for my life.

For someone who has experienced life ignoring God, and then experienced life with God, I don’t understand why that person would still try to live in both worlds. I really don't. When Jesus came into my life, I have never once looked back to my old life with envy or longing. Life in a healed relationship with my Creator is so superior to what I had before. And I thought I had a pretty good life - until God revealed Jesus to me. The New Testament is rife with examples of the same confusion.
.Paul would ask with amazement, “What are you still doing living a life of sin?” Or, in Galatians, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you.”
. God asks, “Why are you still trying to draw water from a broken cistern?”
. Jesus asks “Where’s the focus of your heart?” If it isn’t on the wonders of God’s kingdom, why not?

Love the Lord with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength and let the pagans go after all that is worthless. Do this an your life will become adventure after adventure; exiting, amazing, thrilling and fulfilling.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Even if you kill me, you can’t hurt me.

I hear over and over again, something like, “But if I don’t retaliate or if I don’t resist when people wrong me, then I’m just a doormat.” The very fact that such a person is aware of the choice of retaliating or not retaliating shows that s/he is not a doormat, for a doormat does not have a choice.

Consider this example. Judas was an aggressor against Jesus. Judas' betrayal played a key role in the torture and death of Jesus. And yet Jesus willingly washed the feet of the man He knew was about to betray Him. Jesus voluntarily took the lowest position in that society to show His followers the attitude that He wants us to take with those who are doing wrong to us. Jesus was no doormat.

When people balk at the command to love their enemies, they experience mental dissonance because they are trying to envision doing so from within the context of their present character. And of course they’re right. In our natural state it can’t be done without being personally wounded to varying degrees. To keep a spiritual law when you yourself are an unspiritual person, or to keep God’s law when you yourself are an un Godly person, it is simply impossible.

In fact, attempting to keep laws of love, without possessing God’s loving “character” turns us into hateful individuals.

However, once our character has been possessed by the Spirit of Love, keeping those “laws” of love is done without our even being aware we’re doing it. Love then is not something we do, but who we become when we are in a right relationship with the author of love, Jesus the Christ. Because of that, my well-being is not caught up in you loving me or treating me properly. Nor is my well-being damaged in any way when you don’t love me or when you treat me improperly. I don’t need your approval, nor do I need health or wealth for the reason of trying to win your approval; or the approval of myself for that matter. My well-being, to the degree that I possess well-being is something intrinsic due to my relationship with my Creator. “By this they will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Yes actually. God is Just.

“God is not just; not as we commonly understand justice.”

That is a fairly common line of thought among those who don’t understand the Good News of salvation that Jesus brought to earth. I think their logic is pretty wobbly and here’s why.

When addressing this issue, both I and those who accuse God of being unjust are talking about the God of the Bible as though He is real. This is a bit odd since those who say God is unjust are usually the same people who say that God doesn’t exist. In fact many of those people spend their entire lives thinking about, talking about and blogging about this God that they say they don’t believe in. Ya. I know. It’s weird, but so is their way of thinking. Anyhow, if we’re talking about the God of the Bible as though He is real then, at least as it pertains to this subject, we are also accepting that the Bible that explains the reality of Creator God to us is also the real deal. So -
. According to the Bible we, all of us are guilty of sin, of rebelling against our Creator, and of murdering God the Son who is Jesus.
. According to our Creator, because of those crimes, all of us deserve to be banished from the presence of Love for eternity. Existing in the complete absence of Love is the worst kind of hell possible. It's a degree of horror that is beyond our imagination (I describe it in "Hell isn't real. Honest!).
. Regardless, Punishment for murdering our Creator, the only perfect and innocent human who has ever lived, is an act of Justice.
. Pagans, atheists and apatheists may not agree with the severity of the punishment but that is really none of our business.

Only God knows who will and who will not accept His offer of salvation.
. For those who will accept His invitation, God draws them into an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with Jesus.
. For those who will not accept His invitation, God hardens their souls to seal their fate.
. God provides just enough evidence of His existence so that those who are going to accept His offer of forgiveness will be able to find Him.
. God provides just enough evidence of His existence so that those who scoff at the very concept of needing forgiveness will not be able to find Him accidentally.
. Those who choose to continue on their murderous, rebellious path cannot complain because they are in fact guilty of murder and rebellion.

That Is Just because God is Just.

Some people today complain, like people did 2,000 years ago, “Why then does God blame us? For who can resist His will?”(Romans 9:19). Well, as Paul says, “Who are you to talk back to God? Does the pot say to the Potter, "Why did you make me like this?”

Besides, between now and the day we die, ALL people have a freewill choice to repent and change our allegiance from Ourselves to Creator God. God’s knowing in advance who will and will not change their allegiance is not the same as Him causing some to change and causing others to not change.

In fact, if you are not yet a follower of Jesus, YOU can make that change right now. You can accept God’s offer of salvation, repent of your sins and ask Jesus to become Lord and Saviour of your life. You can do that right this very moment. If you refuse to do this, how can you possibly blame God for your eternal demise?

You are justly guilty, and as you self-righteously demand - God is in fact a God of justice. You've gotten your wish. Good luck with that.

But what about love? Isn’t God called a God of love as well?
. We can know God’s love in that we Christians cannot boast of our salvation because we have done nothing to deserve salvation. Not a single one of us deserves to have been forgiven. All of us are guilty. All of us deserve to be eternally separated from God.

“All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32).

“We can come boldly to the throne of Grace where we can receive mercy and find grace in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16).

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.” (1st John 1:9).

. We can know God’s Justice because we know in our hearts that rebellion against God is wrong. That is why those who are still God’s enemies spend their lives defending their stance. It's like they can't leave it alone. Of course they don’t do this with Santa, or Zeus or Krishna etc., only with Creator God as He is revealed in Nature and in the Bible. We know that our rebellion against God is wrong because the Bible tells us so (Remember, to declare God unjust is speaking about Him as though both God and the Bible exist as presented). Therefore, according to the Bible, those who continue in their rebellion until the day they die will be forever separated from God who is Love. It’s a spiritual reality. It’s justice.

. We can know God’s Grace and Mercy because it is only God’s Grace that will ensure that some humans get what they don’t deserve (life in eternal paradise) while His Mercy will ensure that those same humans don’t get what they do deserve (eternal separation from God).

. We can know God’s Patience because He persists in blessing those who continue in evil. He will continue to bless the unrighteous along with the righteous until all those who are going to receive His merciful salvation have turned from their rebellion.

. We can know God’s Love in that God, in the form of His Son has provided a means of forgiving evil by taking His own punishment. He suffered His own wrath for our 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. God rescues those who are not looking for Him. He loves those who hate Him. And He makes peace with those who are His enemies, IF they let Him. Literally billions of people have accepted God’s offer of peace.

Yes, God is Love but He is also Just.

“You self-righteous C***!”

I saw it again on a Christian’s blog. A woman was writing about being blown away by her salvation; by her incredible relationship with Jesus. True to form, an atheist who was cruzin through her site responded with “You self-righteous C***! What makes you think you’re so good? What makes you better than me?”

Why is it so impossible for atheists to understand salvation in any terms other than goodness? Simple. Being “good enough” is their reference point. It’s their insurance policy just in case there really is a Creator God. The concept of Grace is totally beyond an atheist’s ability to comprehend. In perfect fulfilment of Biblical prophecy atheists are tripped up by “that great stumbling stone, Jesus the Christ.”

Because of that, if a Christian talks about salvation, forgiveness of sins, God’s love for them etc., in the atheist’s mind that forgiveness can only be based on some degree of goodness. AND since in any given atheist’s mind s/he is as good as any person can possibly be, the fact that one person is saved and the atheist is not infuriates the atheist. It infuriates the atheist because the direct implication of this salvation is that the Christian must think she is better than the atheist.

Sucks to be an atheist.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Hell isn’t real - Honest!

That’s the line that I’m seeing more and more often from people calling themselves Christians. For someone claiming to be a follower of Jesus, calling Him a liar is no small thing. So what is causing this shift? As it turns out it's the reality of, or the horrors of hell that is causing some people to declare - Hell can’t be real.

Well there is no doubt that hell is unspeakably the worst scenario anyone could conceive of. That's probably why Jesus spoke more often about hell than He spoke about heaven. Who wouldn't warn people about such an end?

It's pretty easy to predict the human response to overwhelmingly bad news.
It can’t be.
It’s not real.
That’s not possible.

Just like when people began to hear about the horrors taking place in what we now call the Holocaust, people’s first reaction was to deny that anything like that could possibly be taking place.

While I’ve never had a very refined concept of hell, I’ve known enough to be embarrassed for those who have said profoundly stupid things like, "I’d rather be in hell than heaven ‘cause hell is where all the parties will be." Ya right. On the other hand, I’ve usually thought of hell ‘simply’ as a place where people are forever separated from the presence of God for eternity. And the Bible says that is a true statement. However, hell is so much more than that. Jesus taught "If you do not believe that I am who I say that I am, you will die in your sins." He taught that someday very soon, all of those who have refused to acknowledge Jesus as Lord during their life-time on earth will live in:
. The unrelieved absence of Love
. The complete absence of Good
. The total, all pervasive presence of evil

People who have chosen Hell over Heaven will spend eternity in:
. Absolute fear
. Unmitigated hatred
. Total darkness
. Unrelieved sorrow
. Unequivocal alone-ness
. Absolute shame
. Unbounded regret
. Undiluted violence. Sheer panic
. Unrelenting dissatisfaction
. All encompassing meanness
. Overwhelming stench
. Total betrayal
. There will be no freedom from pain, only total, all consuming, overwhelming pain.
The worst conditions on earth don’t come close.

Hell is for people who have not kept the first and greatest commandment to Love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and mind.
Hell is for people who have finally come to the end of a journey, the main focus of which has been to live a life without humbling themselves before Creator God.

Right now, even as I write this, millions of people, including George Carlin are suffering a special kind of torment as they are in a hell that they refused to believe in. Their special torment is that they convinced spouses, children, friends, students and other ‘open-minded’ people that hell didn’t exist. And now there is no way to turn back the clock. There is no way to warn their loved-ones about the horrendous consequences of following that error. On the other hand, Jesus himself said, that even the evidence of Him rising from the dead would not be enough to convince most people to stop living as though God and eternity did not exist.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

God listens to you and you alone!

. When you pray are you talking AT God instead of to Him?
. When you pray are you delivering an essay to God or are you communicating with Him?
. When you pray are you concentrating on saying just the right words or are you discussing your relationship with God?
. When you pray are you talking to God in a reality equal to talking to your best friend or neighbour?

When Jesus was teaching about prayer, He wasn’t giving advice on some theoretical, philosophical or “spiritual” practice. When Jesus spoke to His followers about talking to “Our Father in Heaven” He was as serious as one can be. He was speaking to a Being as real as the next person who comes into your home.

Do you pray within that reality? Are your words focussed toward Someone or do your words just kind of drift out of your mouth and into the atmosphere where they dissipate on the air currents? Is the reality of God reflected in how you talk to Him? Is the reality of your relationship with God reflected in how you talk to Him?

In Matthew 7 and Luke 11 Jesus is shown to explain praying in the most realistic of terms. He used examples of a child asking a father for food. He told of a man asking a friend for help. Jesus was telling His followers that our heavenly Father is not JUST as real as our earthly fathers. Jesus was explaining that our heavenly Father is closer and more understanding and more compassionate that our earthly fathers can or will ever be.

.God knows we are needy.
.He knows we are helpless.
.He knows that we are strangers on earth and that we don’t know our way.
.God sees our desperate situation and feels compassion for us.
.God sees our efforts to act as His children and smiles.
.God loves us and longs for us to come to Him, to search for Him to seek Him and to ask Him for what we need. If necessary we are to ask repeatedly, earnestly with the knowledge and expectation that a loving Father is listening.

When you pray, do you talk to God in a way that shows you understand that He is right there with you intently listening to you? When you pray do you understand that you are the only person to whom God is listen? Do you know that you have His full attention; that yours is not just one of billions of prayers to which He is listening? Because God is omnipresent He is everywhere present in equal portion and power. He is only listening to your prayers, just as He is only listening to my prayers and just as He is listening to each individual’s prayers individually.

When you talk to your Creator, do you express yourself to Him in a way that shows that you know that He is near?