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Only One risen Saviuor

Only One risen Saviuor
There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Jesus

Friday, 31 October 2014

Love? What's That?

Hebrews 13:1-3
"Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also."

Though hard to define love is one of those things you immediately recognize when you experience it. The same is true of hate. Love is particularly easy to identify when it manifests itself in ways that are totally uncalled for, unexpected, and way outside the norm.
Jesus was known for this kind of love. Allow me to explain:
Religion sees love as a duty. Love is of course anything but a duty. It is the natural action that flows from a heart that wouldn't do anything less. In the culture of Jesus' day the 'duty' was defined as 'you must love your neighbour as yourself'. This left people trying to determine how obligated to their fellow man they were by the term 'neighbour'. One day a man came to Jesus with the question "Who is my neighbour?" What he was really asking was "How far does my care for others have to extend?"
Rather than answer the question using a definition Jesus told the following story:
Luke 10:30-37 "Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.”


My point today is not to define who our neighbour is. The point is clear. Any man, woman, or child regardless of race, colour, language, or beliefs is our neighbour.
My point is quite different. I will never forget as a university student walking down a street in Edmonton with a friend. As we walked we past by a man who was clearly in bad shape and I immediately felt impressed to give him some money. In my pocket was a loonie ($1) and a $10 bill. I gave the man the loonie and wished him well. My friend later remarked that he was touched by how I treated the man. The truth is I only felt regret because I felt impressed to give him the $10 also but resisted.
Contrast that with Jesus. I was put on the spot by coming upon on man in need by chance. His very presence was an unexpected interruption in my plans. However in John 5 we find Jesus helping a sick man, a complete stranger. The crazy part of the story though is that the man didn't seek out Jesus, nor did Jesus and he cross paths by chance like I did with the man in Edmonton. Jesus went into the midst of people in need on purpose. He went out of His way to go to them. In the story He told three men by chance came upon the robbery victim. One showed love by helping him but Jesus went out if His way to find people who needed love.
Genuine love is not an obligation or a duty. That kind of "love" is actually selfish. Love is a force inside a man that be restrained in the face of human need. Where does such compassion begin? It begins by considering Him. Do it Today.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Consuming Fire

"Our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 12:29


Sounds frightening but it is not...

The last few verses of chapter 12 talk about God shaking the earth and that during that shaking some things can be shaken and some can't.
In the world as we know it there are two kinds of things. Those things which God made and those things which came about as a result of sin. True science, sometimes called hard science, is the study of observable facts, things we can touch and measure. We can touch and work with, observe and measure our material world as it is today. We can't see or touch what it used to be or what it will be when God recreates it.
We do know from studying Genesis that flowers were created by God but things like the thorns on roses never existed until after sin. It requires faith to believe the earth and everything on it began in perfect harmony. That every plant and animal was perfect and nothing caused harm to anything else. We can only imagine a world like that.
For those who believe that dream will one day be our reality "For God has prepared a city for them".
What is my point? Anything that sin has marred will be shaken and ultimately burned. Only what is of God will remain. Fire may seem frightening but fire is just as able to save as it is to destroy. Fire fighters use fire to fight fire. On the prairies when grass fires would sweep across the plains people would burn a circle in the grass around their buildings and/or themselves and that burnt area would keep them from being burned alive by the raging fire. I read of one such instance where a man was out in his field with his son too far to get both of them home so he burned a circle in the grass and told his son to remain in the center while the fire passed by around him. If he were to leave he would die. Then the father raced home on his horse to do the same at home and save his family.
When he returned for his son he was not alone in that circle. Animals had come, rabbits, a fox, deer, birds, all recognizing it was a place of refuge from certain death.
Our God will not allow sin and suffering to go on forever. He will shake out every trace and taint of sin and burn it up but just as he sheltered Moses in the cleft of the rock He will preserve all those who desire nothing but His glory and are finished with sin. When the fire has completed it's work they will stand with Him refined as gold and silver. Only perfection will remain as it was in the beginning?
Sound far fetched? Sure it does. But if you had told your great grandpa in 1920 that the day would come when you could hold a device in your hand that wasn't visibly attached to anything and that device could connect you to anyone anywhere in the world with sound and picture what would he have said?
Technology may be cool but it hasn't solved the sin problem and suffering rages on. Our God is a consuming fire and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Some Things Just Aren't Compatible

I can respect atheists. I do not obviously believe as they do but at least they don't profess to be one thing while believing something else like the pope and millions, maybe billions of other professed Christians.
What am I referring to? The now in vogue belief that evolution and Christianity can coexist. I'm not here to argue against evolution. Clearly it is a theory I do not believe. What I am here to do is make it clear that you can't believe both the theory of evolution and Christianity. Here is why:
The Bible says two things very boldly and unapologetically. One is that God can do anything. According to the pope's statement today God is limited. Here is the problem. If God can't create he can't recreate. This means when you're dead you are dead. Atheists understand this. They admit that the theory of evolution begins in chance and ends in nothingness.
The second thing the Bible declares boldly is that death is a byproduct of sin and before death existed sin arose bringing death with it. The whole Bible narrative called the Gospel (good news) centers around our fall into sin and our rescue by Jesus. Jesus became human and defeated Satan's attempts to get him to sin. He succeeded where Adam and Eve failed and then He, the sinless One, died in our place, He - the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He then rose again conquering death and promised all those who believe in Him would rise to live forever with Him. That's the Gospel story. If death existed before sin and even before mankind for millions of years then death is not caused by sin and the whole Gospel story becomes nonsense.

So in essence if you try to marry evolution with the God of the Bible you end up with a God who is dependent on the forces of nature to do anything which makes Him little more than us. It makes every miracle in the Bible null and void including the birth and resurrection of Jesus. I guess that doesn't matter though because the mission He came for is also a non issue when death is just part of the natural cycle, has nothing to do with sin, and has no cure.
Speaking of null and void, that is what the whole Bible becomes in this evolution + God theory. Why? Because nearly every book of the Bible boldly and plainly refers to God creating the world just as Genesis 1,2 says He did. Even the last book - Revelation, in the context of the last era of this world as we know it says "Worship Him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of waters.
Question: If God isn't very powerful, was wrong about what causes death, sent His Son here to suffer and die for nothing, and has no cure for death and the mess we are in why exactly would any thinking person believe in Him?
We are all free to believe whatever we choose but when it comes to God, it is truly all or nothing. He either is the Almighty or the biggest lie of all time.
My last question is this: When I walked away from bladder cancer in 2005, when even my surgeon called it a miracle in front of a nurse and an intern I wonder what caused that miracle? When I was called into the ICU on the weekend to be with a family while they unplugged their son from life support who answered our prayer so quickly and dramatically that he was able to be air lifted to Edmonton shocking the medical staff?
God is not dead. God is not impotent. God is not confused. God does not need His Book edited or rewritten and certainly He did not send His Son for nothing.
We are free to believe as we wish but I have decided to follow Jesus and I'm not turning back.

Idealizing The Past Is Not 20/20

Hebrews 12:18-29

It is commonly said that hindsight is 20/20. I don't believe this is always the case. In simple matters like guessing if an unborn baby is going to be a boy or a girl clearly hindsight is 20/20. Pretty easy to know what your guess should have been after the fact.
However sometimes our view of the past is very skewed. Sometimes we romance past memories and make them better than they actually were. We call this nostalgia. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt they cried out in their suffering for deliverance.
When a person trapped in an abusive relationship can't take it any more they cry out seeking deliverance.
When a person feels trapped in a dead end job and they realize they can be and do more they seek a way out.
When the Israelites were finally free and faced new challenges in their journey to the Promised Land they cried out again only this time their cry was to return to Egypt...
I've sat with abuse victims who have finally broke free from the toxic relationship that held them and they are crying to return. Why? Why would people who have been through "hell" and made it out alive want to go back? Cry to go back?
It's quite simple really. We romanticize the past. We develop amnesia about all the the bad parts and exaggerate the good. For the Israelites they forgot the whips and the work and remembered the food. For the abuse victim they forgot the manipulation, the blows, the degrading words and instead remembered only the good moments even if they were few and far between.
The Jewish nation romanticized their history to the extreme. They forgot the fact that the generation that left Egypt never made it to the Promised Land because of their stubborn unbelief. They forgot that Moses was constantly criticized by the people and rejected by many. They forgot that most of their history was marked by rebellious unbelief. They forgot that they killed more prophets than they ever listened to. They forgot so much...
Now at the end of chapter 12 of Hebrews two realities are being contrasted. One is the old covenant of symbols that began at Sinai and the other is the reality of faith in Jesus brought to full view by His spotless life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection.
What has been opened to them and made plain is that from the very beginning it was all about faith in the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
One system is dead end slavery and the other is a wide open door to a Living Hope.
The tragic reality though is that because of present difficulties they are seriously considering going back to the old way, to the bondage of Egypt, the abusive relationship, the dead end job etc etc...
How about us? Are we moving forward even on the hard days when it feels like believing and trusting and waiting is just too hard?
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints, who hold on to the promises of God and the person of Jesus.
If it feels like you have to let go think about what and where you will return to. Hold on Today. Consider Him that held on the cross for you...

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Living In The Moment?

"Live in the moment" they say. Really?

Hebrews 12:16,17 "...see that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears."

Yesterday stung a little and this may sting a little also...

Jesus is often described in the Bible this way: "The One who is, who was, and who is to come."
If you are a nerd like me you immediately notice it is out of order. Rather than past, present, future it is present, past, future. Why? Because we exist in the present. It is always Today. Yesterday is a Today already spent and tomorrow is a Today you may or may not see. Jesus is present Today, He was also present for every Today in the past and every Today in the future will be found to have Him there also.
So what about living in the moment? Good or bad? In Latin we find this common expression - Carpe Diem! Seize the day!
Like most questions there is not an absolute answer. If God is speaking to you Today to make a change, or reach out to someone, or offer an apology, or seek peace with someone, or give generously, or take stock of your life or whatever else He may be asking you to do than certainly Carpe diem! Don't hesitate. Don't put it off. Today if you hear His voice trust what He is saying and move forward.
However there is another kind of living in the moment that is a complete counterfeit and leave you with a tainted past that will affect all your future Todays.
Sexual immorality and Esau are cited as two examples of seizing the day in all the wrong ways.
Let's take a look at Esau since real stories of real people are the best ways to discover truth. Esau was the firstborn and as such the customs of the day made him the inheritor, not only of the family business/wealth, but the one to carry on the family faith and legacy. In Esau's case this was no small thing. He was the grandson of Abraham. The promises made to Abraham were to become his. Had Esau embraced his calling God would have been known to us as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Esau. What happened?
One day Esau went on a hunting trip which was neither wrong nor unusual for him. Gone a few days he caught nothing and returned home hungry. When he arrived the house was filled with the delicious aroma of stew cooking on the fire. Esau had to have it! The only problem is that his twin brother Jacob was cooking the stew and their ongoing rivalry prevented Jacob from just giving him some. Instead he asked "what will you give me in exchange for my stew?"
Esau could have paid in all kinds of ways or he could have just made his own. What he did do was give Jacob his birthright, his inheritance, his position in the family and all the blessings from God promised him through Abraham. All that for a bowl of stew. Seems pretty stupid eh?
Yet how many marriages have been either marred or completely destroyed because the new receptionist or the blonde across the bar was just too irresistible?
Living in the moment can create severe "morning after" issues. Next time you are about to be swept away by a tsunami of "I have to have this right now at any cost!!!" remember that right now is only a tiny piece of your story... is it worth it?
What would Jesus do in a moment like Esau's? Well in Gethsemane He had the choice between aborting the mission and going Home or facing all the things He faced at Calvary. Esau would have bailed on us. Jesus did not.
"Come follow Me..." - Today, right now. In the moment. Carpe Diem!

Don't Let Bitterness Stain Your Soul

Hebrews 12:14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled."

I won't lie. It's very possible that this is going to sting or worse because it cuts across the grain of our emotions.
I knew this lady very well who lived within travelling distance of 3 churches. In other words every Sabbath morning she woke up she had 3 choices of where she could go to church. For a time she went to one of them until something happened between her and another person. Rather than heal the issue she transferred her membership to one of the other churches. She stayed there for some time but eventually another incident occurred that drove a wedge between her and another member. Again rather than work at removing the wedge she removed herself and joined the last of the three churches. You can guess what happened next... eventually she spent her Sabbaths alone.
Some time later a new minister came to care for two of the three churches. In going over the membership list he came to her name but had no idea who she was. He spoke to his churches inquiring about her. Some of the members took him aside and explained the history. He was not discouraged. He determined he would visit her and see if she could be persuaded to return. The members were skeptical to say the least...
He made an appointment and came to her home. She was quick, almost eager to recount blow by blow all the wrongs done to her and all the faults these two churches had done to her that he was now the minister of. Realizing he was unlikely to convince her to come to either of his churches he asked if she had considered going to the 3rd which was close enough but not part of his responsibilities. She rolled her eyes and with renewed passion explained her history of hurts at that church also.
Reeling from onslaught of negativity he asked her one question when she ran out of stories to recount. "Mrs. ________, how will you get along with God's children in heaven if you can't find a way to make peace with them here?"
Her answer was quick as though she'd already considered the dilemma and solved it long before. "Pastor, heaven is going to be a big place."
The earth is tiny compared to heaven but large compared to one individual yet isn't it true that the earth is not large enough to escape our own issues? As an ancient proverb states: Wherever we go, there we are.
That word defiled at the end of verse 15 literally refers to a stain or dye. In working with wood I can assure you that the stain applied in the surface does not stay there. It sinks deep and is virtually impossible to remove. When you dye your hair you are basically left only with the option of growing it out or dying it again if you want to change it.
Bitterness is like cancer. If allowed to remain it never stays in one place, it spreads and spreads until your whole body is affected, stained, defiled.
There is no greater danger to the health of your whole being than a broken relationship. Everything within your power should be done to forgive and heal whatever the wrong was. That is why Jesus said "If you come to worship God and remember on the way that your brother has something against you, stop what you are doing and go first and heal the hurts between you and him and then return to worship God."
It is true that heaven will be a big place but there will be no bitterness in any corner of it. If you refuse to let your bitterness go you will be refused entrance because nothing can enter there that defiles and nothing defiles the soul, destroys relationships, and robs peace like the cancer of bitterness...
Consider His counsel... Today.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Everything Happens For A Reason

Up for consideration today is Hebrews 12:3-13

Everything happens for a reason. The fact we can't trace from cause to effect or determine the purpose does not negate this fact. When those who chose to believe and entered His rest walk into His city with Abraham and Isaac, Moses and Rahab and the vast innumerable company of the saved we will discover "the rest of the story".
Last night I was called to the ICU by a family going through a crisis. For the sake of their privacy I can say no more but a miracle to...ok place. However it was only a partial miracle. God could have completely remedied the situation in an instant but instead He did enough to reveal Himself and prevent loss of life yet there is still more healing yet to occur. Why? I do not know but I know it is perfect.
One day Jesus and His disciples were travelling past a blind man that they knew had been blind from birth. This was confusing for the Jewish mind of that time because they were taught that diseases etc... were a punishment from God for sin. How could an unborn child sin so badly to deserve a life without sight? So they asked Jesus "Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?"
In their minds someone was to blame and the blindness was deserved.
"Neither" said Jesus "But it was permitted so the works of God could be revealed in him".
Jesus then healed him and a chain of events followed that made the power of God widely known and people who may never have believed otherwise believed because of what happened that day. You can read all about it in John 9.
What does this have to do with Hebrews 12:3-13 and the discipline of God?
To receive discipline requires humility. I have to admit wrong and accept a different way to receive discipline. This requires humility. When things go "wrong" and I can't understand and can't see how any good could ever possibly come from the situation it requires humility to trust and believe.
Had the blind man been healed sooner or later or never or had he been born seeing, the events of John 9 would never have transpired. God knew what He was doing. The disciples couldn't see it.
Last night I was part of a miracle, part of a story that is yet incomplete. All I know for certain is that there will be at least one person in the City who would not have been there otherwise if last night had never happened.
The next time you find yourself struggling under a weight of discouragement that seems too hard to bear and you can't see how it can possibly lead to anything good... rest. Rest in the knowledge that you serve a God who endured the worst kinds of discouragements and injustices "for the joy that was set before Him". You don't need to worry if He sees or knows or cares. You can trust that whatever is happening has been permitted so the works of God can be revealed in and through your life. Consider Him humbly. His ways and thoughts and purposes are higher than ours...

Friday, 24 October 2014

Why?


Why did he do it? As the news broke that a gunman was on Parliament Hill this week and had shot a soldier my first thought was why? It was the same thought I had on 9/11, the same thought when Sandy Hook Elementary School was attacked my a lone young man. Why? The truth is I may never understand the answers to those or a myriad of other seemingly senseless acts.
Why is a question we seem to know how to ask from the start. Our first three words as little humans seem to be 'momma', 'dadda', and 'why?'. We seem to have a built in need for things to make sense yet we live in a world where they don't.
Last night a friend sent me a video to watch. In Coquitlam BC there is a ministry called 'Home Team'. Once a year they choose a needy family and completely repair/restore their home all for free.

I am sure that when the family gets back into their "new" home and the reality starts to sink in they must ask themselves "why?" Why of all people did they choose us and why do they do this anyway?
While Jesus was dying on the cross at the hands of people for whom He had done nothing but bring healing and help He must have been tempted to ask Himself "Why am I doing this?" Men and women in the crowd like His own mother and others who loved Him must have been asking "Why is this happening?" Still others who believed Jesus had the power to save Himself from this humiliating, grotesque, and painful death must have been asking "Why isn't He doing something?!"
So many "Why" questions.
12:2,3 Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
There are many why questions we may never know the answers to like: Why a young man from a seemingly good stable family in Moncton NB lure police into a quiet neighbourhood just to shoot them?
However when it comes to the question of why Jesus permitted Himself to be caught and beaten and spit on and mocked and nailed to wood and hung to die we know the answer to why. He did it, He endured it, for love. He did it because when everything including the sun went dark that day in His mind a picture burned brightly. It was the scene when the gates of His Father's house would swing wide open and undeserving families (like that family in Coquitlam) would walk through. It was the scene where His nail scarred hands would reach out and embrace long lost children who have finally made it home. He did it for the joy that was yet before Him just as mother's go through labour for the joy that is to be theirs, only better. Eternally better. Consider Him. Consider a love that staggers the mind and melts the heart. Consider Him today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter...

Here is the video from Coquitlam: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PlUm9_WQLbM&feature=em-upload_owner

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Lessons from the Body Shop

 
 It has been and continues to be a huge revelation to me that the Sabbath is not only a memorial of the fact God created us, but a testament to His ability to deliver us from the bondage of sin and recreate us in His image once again! As I hammer and grind on a helpless old car and watch the gradual transformation I picture Jesus in the carpenter s...hop slowly molding rough wood into something purposeful and beautiful, knowing that some day he would be transforming rough fishermen into fishers of men. It is so restful to know that I am the car, helpless, yet brimming with potential if left in the Master's care. Hammer blows are painful (trust me!) and the restoration process is not for the faint of heart, but the results are stunning. The rest that comes from knowing I am in Good Hands, and that He will faithfully complete what He has started is a rest I can enjoy all day every day. It is the rest that Hebrews 4 speaks of. It is joyous rest! "There remains therefore a rest for the people of God!"

Rest everyone, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!

Truth is Simple - We are not

It never ceases to amaze me how I can wrestle with a question for hours, days, even weeks or months and sometimes years. Yet when the answer comes it's so obvious and simple.

Truth is so simply beautiful yet we find ways of making it seem so elusive and complicated.

Example: I've been chewing on the question of fear and what role it plays in our lives for some time now. I wanted to know what role it plays in our perception of God and how we relate to Him. On the one hand I knew that in Him there is no fear; that fear is an emotion that was never designed to be part of the human experience when we were created.

I also knew that when God makes the universe sin, pain and anguish free again, that fear will be gone forever.

Yet we are told in the Bible to fear Him. We are told that fear has a role to play. All those that ever had a personal encounter with God were extremely afraid.

It all seemed so confusing and complicated.

Then the truth came to me. The simply beautiful truth. It is not God we fear. It is our sense of guilt and shame before a Holy, Perfect God that causes us to fear. It is similar to the fear we experience when we've been caught in a wrong act, or when we find ourselves on the wrong side of the boys in blue. God is Holy, and we are not, and so we fear.

Yet the Bible says that perfect love (God is love) casts out all fear. God through Jesus has put away our shame. We need not fear our condition for Jesus has taken our condition upon Him and nailed it to the cross. He took our shame and fear so that we need not fear.

What role does fear play in between now and eternity? It lets us know we are sinners in need of a Saviour. It tells us to run to the Strong Tower so we can be safe! :)

Next time you get a glimpse of His Holiness and your own unworthiness, and fear creeps into your heart and seizes you, relax, smile, and rest in the arms of His grace... :) His love for you is stronger than your sins.