Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

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Love Is …

Do you remember these old cartoons by Kim Casali?  A perennial favourite of starry-eyed romantics since 1970, they were for me growing up a tragic waste of very valuable comic space.  I just didn’t get it (but then I suppose very few boys would admit to it even if they did!)  Similarly, the “Love Is” passage from 1 Corinthians 13, another perennial favourite of love-struck couples on their marriage day was a passage I just didn’t appreciate the way I should.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.   Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1Corinthians 13:4-7

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against love …  and as a grown man I feel free to admit this …  just the way people tend to sanitize or “cutecify”  it. (If you put something in quotation marks that makes it a real word right?)  I never cared much for this passage in wedding services, because I usually had the feeling that the couple was looking to it as a description of what their love was or would be like.  Today I pledge that my love will be patient and so on.  But is it true?

Here is a simple test to get to the real meaning of what love is.  Try it yourself.  Substitute the word “love” with yourself.  Then read it again.  I am patient and kind; I do not envy or boast; I am not arrogant or rude. I do not insist on my own way; I am not irritable or resentful; I do not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoice with the truth. I bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.

Could you do it with a straight face?  Me either.  But if you still think you can, do it again, only this time in front of an audience of your closest family and friends.  They will, I’m sure, gently help you see the truth of the matter.  Love is … not something any of us are very good at.  Love is beyond me, above me, greater than me.  I am not very good at any of those things.  I am downright pathetic in others.  Love is not me.

So if love is not found in me, where is it found?  CAN it be found?  Yes, but only in Christ Jesus our Saviour!  And here we get to the “heart” of what Love truly is.  Love is Christ!  Try this passage again, but this time substituting Christ for “love.”  Christ is patient and kind; Christ does not envy or boast; He is not arrogant or rude. He does not insist on His own way; He is not irritable or resentful; He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Christ bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Now that rings true!  This passage finally begins to sound right!  Christ did indeed bear all things, endure all things upon the cross of Calvary.  And He did it for we the unloving, and the unlovable.   Love that is sanitized is vapid and meaningless, but a love that is tested by the brokenness of this world and the weight of human sin … that is a love truly worthy!  Love has no power if it is “cutecified” but it has power over life and death itself  if it is crucified!  Seeing it this way, through the lens of Jesus, I guess I could come to love this wonderful passage of Scripture once again!

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Warning lights

So there I was driving along between calls yesterday and the brake light warning came on.  Unlike others I know, I do generally give some credence to such indicators on my dashboard.  (Some) … I made a quick test and the brakes seemed to work fine.  No jerking, sliding, grinding, smoking, or screeching.  They felt OK, they worked just fine, but that light wouldn’t go away.

I arrived at my next destination (giving more attention to all stops etc…) and still the light was there.  Coming out again an hour or so later I hopped into the car and behold – the warning lights were gone.  “Aha” I thought, “Just as I suspected … a faulty sensor.”  The driving continued, and except for an odd look down to the dash, little more thought was given to it.  Out of the car, and  back in again, and guess what had come back?  Yup.

So what did I do?  Nothing.  I just kept on driving.  I had errands to run, a job to do, a schedule to keep.  I suppose I will have to get it checked … but not right away as family scheduling over the next week will make it impossible.  Sound familiar?  Come on … you can tell me!  You’ve done it too haven’t you?

Maybe some of you are not as foolish as me, and would never ignore the warning lights in your car, but you have ignored other indicators.  We all have.

There you are going through life and all of a sudden that little voice in your head (or heart) gives a ping or a thump or a skip, and you know that something isn’t quite right.  There’s that niggling little doubt, or shame, or sadness that wasn’t there before.  Your conscience is one of Gods ways of warning us when we are putting ourselves in spiritual danger.  It is there to let us know it’s time to put on the brakes.

So what do you do?  You put yourself through a few quick tests to make sure everything is still working all right.  Am I getting enough sleep?  Have I eaten enough (or too much)? Did I see/read/hear something that might have upset me?  No?  Then It’s probably nothing!  A faulty sensor, a mistaken reading.  There was most likely nothing wrong and you’re just getting upset over nothing.

Oh sure, for the next few hours or days you may approach your life with a little more caution, (don’t do this particular thing again … try not to think about that so much … watch what you say a little better), but it won’t really change what you do.  Very quickly that attack of conscience has retreated to the odd glance around to make sure nothing more drastic has happened, and then, it is just plain ignored.  You learn to live with it, like it is normal.  Like it was always there.  Warnings can be ignored until they can’t even be seen or felt anymore.  Then what?

That is the question we must all consider.

If we choose to ignore the warning I suppose we must either hope that it isn’t true, or that the consequences won’t be so bad.  And even if you are willing to do that with your car are you willing to do it with your life?  Maybe I should go and call the mechanic …

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He who laughs …

While reading an article on the trends in book publishing over the past decade, I came across the following section on the popularity of the latest wave of outspoken Atheist literature.  There certainly seemed to be enough of it over the last few years.  Every time you turned on the TV or picked up a newspaper lately it seemed that Richard Dawkins was there with some new and witty argument for how God was stupid, useless, and/or dangerous (which is truly amazing for someone who is not supposed to be real!) Or how evolution has all the answers, even if we don’t know what they are just yet.

Yes over the past decade or so, a growing number of outspoken critics of God, have been having a good laugh at His expense.  Laughing all the way to the bank, as the old saying goes.

For a time, I will admit, I was angered and frustrated by all the play these gentlemen were getting.  This wasn’t funny at all, I thought.  Call it a moment of doubt – fueled by angst and anxiety for the damage all their lashing out could cause.   I should have known better.  Follow me, through some of the key sections of the relevant articles and see why I’m smiling:

The God debate

God was front and centre in a handful of books this decade. A clutch of atheist writers denied his existence: there was Sam Harris’s The End of Faith (2005), Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007) and Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (2006). (The latter sparked a mini-industry of angry rebuttals that included titles like The Deluded Atheist: A Response to Richard Dawkins and Dawkins’ Dilemmas: Deluded Or Not Deluded?) Two of the decade’s most rigorous, thoughtful books on spirituality came courtesy of noted theologian Karen Armstrong (The Case for God) and Giller Prize-winning author David Adams Richards (God Is). There is no clear winner in this religious debate, only an unshakable sense that everyone in the 2000s was having a crisis of faith. Even so, sales of the Bible skyrocketed. (emphasis added)

There is no clear winner in this debate claims the article (perhaps following the convention of journalism that tries to be fair and impartial to both sides).  But look what I found when I followed the tantalizing little link “skyrocketed.”  This is in part what I read:

Believe it or not: the skeptics beat God in bestseller battle

Struggling authors should keep the faith – literally. Sales of books that explore religion or spirituality have grown by more than 50 per cent in the past three years, according to online retailer Amazon … But the statistics may not make uplifting reading for believers. The most popular ‘religious’ book, says Amazon, is The God Delusion, an anti-faith polemic by Richard Dawkins, the academic who has been dubbed ‘Darwin’s rottweiler’. Second is God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, another broadside at holy citadels, by the journalist Christopher Hitchens …

But it is The God Delusion that has driven the growth of the category. Between April and June it was the fourth-bestselling book of all, beaten only by the two editions (children and adult) of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s latest offering. However, the publication of The God Delusion last year also prompted a 120 per cent increase in sales of the Bible. (emphasis added).

Here, the author goes so far as to declare that the skeptics are beating God in the bestseller battle … but read that last sentence again. While Mr. Dawkins and his fellow atheists continue to debate God’s merits and sell their books, all they have done is to push up the sales of the Bible by 120%.  Now THAT is funny!

And so once again we see who is really in control.  Now we see who is truly great and who is deluded.  For not with pomp and ridicule, but with humility and gentleness, God takes even the attacks of the outspoken, witty, and media-savvy atheists, and answers them all soundly.  This is how He works.  Turning even the assaults of those who stand against Him into a tool that serves His never ending compassion to reach the lost and the hurting, the fearful and the doubting, with His Word of Life, His Good News of Salvation in Christ Jesus.  Yes, God may be mocked for a time, but it will be He who has the last laugh.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.  – Psalm 2:1-4