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


Marked Men (and Women)

toleranceI will admit it freely … the book of Revelation is one of my favourites in the Bible. Who doesn’t like seven-headed, ten-horned beasts and buckets full of plagues pouring out death and destruction over the face of the globe? It is the stuff of big budget Hollywood blockbusters.

But it is also the stuff of everyday life here in this sin-broken world. It is a profound and deep commentary of not only how things are, but where they are going. Take, for instance, the part about the mark of the beast from Rev. 13: “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.”

Now many might look at such a thing and launch into grand conspiracy theories of world governments, secret economic cabals, the world-wide-web, and microchip technology; but I think there is a much simpler way to understand the mark of the beast … Tolerance.

Let me explain. Tolerance is a counterfeit virtue. It is the pale shadow of the real virtue of compassion. Just as God has marked His own (with compassion and for compassion), so too will the devil mark those he seeks to claim. And he will do it with tolerance. For tolerance is that which sweeps all sin under the rug. “I’m OK you are OK we are all OK and everyone should be OK with that.” Tolerance is a breeding ground for every dark and perverted affront to humanity. Tolerance is today’s open door to tomorrows moral atrocities. Tolerance accepts anything. Tolerance celebrates everything … except not being tolerant. Tolerance is completely intolerant of such exclusiveness as right and wrong, good and bad, hurtful and helpful.

And just like the prophecy from Revelation, unless you are marked by Tolerance there is no longer any room for you in our culture. Unless you are fully supporting of everything, and refuse to stand against anything there is no place for you anymore. The recent news has been awash in one story after another showing this is no joke. Entrepreneurs run out of business, employees are losing their jobs because they believe in traditional marriage. [Link Link Link] Religious communities told they must pay for things they find morally reprehensible. [Link] Christian schools facing open hostility for wanting to train lawyers who might also be Christian and hold to Christian ideals. [Link] Christians (and to a lesser degree other religions) told there is no place for them in the public square … you can be a Christian in your own home, so long as you never talk about it, show pride in it, or live your life according to its principles). [Link] But then again, Christians being told they are not allowed to teach their faith even in their own homes. [Link Link]

There is no tolerance in today’s public square for the person who does not firmly and publicly bear the devilish mark of Tolerance. No place for their beliefs, no place for their participation in public debate, no place for their livelihood. No place for them.

But the beast will not have his way. The world, though awash in death and destruction and the trampling of so much in the name of tolerance, will be saved … is being saved. For Revelation shows us that no matter how strong or pervasive this counterfeit mark becomes in the hands of the devil and his beast, it is still only a counterfeit and will never come close to the true mark with which God has sealed His own … The mark of compassion. For compassion is a true virtue. One that does not cover over sin, but still cares for the sinner. Compassion values all human life, defends all human beings … even those who are different, belligerent, or out-rightly opposed. Unlike Tolerance which can ONLY demand, threaten and make claims against others, Compassion never demands but rather it offers, it pays, it sacrifices.

For God in His great Compassion, sent His Son into the world, because He could not tolerate sin and its consequences any longer. And in that great compassion He offered Himself up for those who were not like Him. He payed for their sins and did not love them any less for all that it cost Him. He sacrificed His own life for those who cannot tolerate anything He has to say. In that life-changing compassion He marked us with the sign of all compassion – the cross – and promised to be with us to the bitter end. Defending us from the tyranny of tolerance, protecting us from the evils of this world, and bringing us safely to His heavenly home … not because He tolerates us … but because He has compassion for us.

(Rev 7:3-4) “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Rev 14:1) Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

We are marked by compassion and we are marked for compassion. And so we, in turn, seek not to be more tolerant but more compassionate. Gently holding our ground, praying for our friends and neighbours and ideological opponents. Opposing those things which are hurtful, no matter how many people want to do them. Holding out the truths of right and wrong, good and evil … especially for those who are not like ourselves. Because, not even we intolerant Christians want to see anyone left for the seven-headed, ten-horned beast and his bitter death and destruction (no matter how cool a movie it might make).


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Out of the Darkness

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” [Psalm 119:105]

light pathWe’ve all been there … stumbling through the middle-of-the-night darkness. Reaching, grasping, feeling tentatively with our outstretched hands only to bang our shins, stub a toe, step on something sharp and painful, or worse,  squishy and unpleasant. As we stumble and bumble our way around the kitchen or to the bathroom we curse the darkness and all its subtle dangers which weren’t there in the daylight.

Have you ever stopped in the inky blackness, toe throbbing or shin aching, and considered that only moments before the darkness was not the least bit of a problem. In fact, most sleepers welcome the darkness. For those laying safely in bed the dark is rarely a fearful or dangerous thing (if you’re over six years old). But when you’ve got somewhere to be or something to do … well that’s when the darkness becomes something very different.

It is an equally interesting thought when applied to the light of God’s Word in this sin-darkened world around us. If we are not going anywhere, not doing anything, we can easily put up with the dark. If you want an acid test, just try listening to your favourite music, watching your favourite TV shows, or movies with that same six-year-old.  If the thought makes you hesitate, perhaps you have gotten too comfortable in the dark. No, the dark is not always scary. Indeed, we can often welcome it! But if, in our lives, we’re going somewhere important or doing something worthwhile, well then, light is what we desperately need.

Luther notes in his commentary on this very well-known passage from the Psalms that the Word’s light is not for our eyes and our seeing but for our feet and path. God’s Light – God’s Word – is there for walking in!  We read God’s Word so that God’s promises in Christ may have their way in our hearts, and in our lives.  Not just so that we would see, or know, but so that believing we would walk and do!

As Luther went on to say, our feet cannot be lit and our paths cannot see.  So this verse describes the Word’s work of faith.  “It guides the feet and the heart, and faith does not require understanding … Thus faith does not enlighten the understanding, indeed, it blinds it, but rather the heart.  Faith leads it where it will be saved, and it does so through the hearing of the Word” (AE 11:485)

What this means in a practical sort of way is that if you find yourself stumbling around in the dark of this world, there is a light that can keep you from hurting yourself.  A light to shine into those dark corners and illuminate those sharp edges just waiting to trip you up.  A light that shows the dangers of this world for what they are, and brings them down to size. That light is God’s Word.  That Light is Christ. And what’s more, just like you don’t have to know exactly how an LED bulb works to appreciate the safe passage your light gives … you don’t always have to understand every “why” behind God’s Word for your life for it to lead you to better things. You just have to follow where He leads.

May the continued daily reading of God’s Bright Word lead you in faith through paths as yet unseen, and dangers as yet unknown … down the path, and through the life that He would have you live in His Word, and as His beloved child.

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Reading The Good Book


For many books do not make men learned, nor does much reading. But reading something good, and reading it frequently, however little it may be, is the practice that makes men learned in the Scripture and makes them pious besides. – Martin Luther.

Read any good books lately? How about THE Good Book?

We all have good intentions, don’t we? I know I should read more … Read more widely … Read more authors, more subjects, current events, sociology, science, history. You probably do to.  But it doesn’t always happen. That new book you know you “should” read sits there gathering dust, while that book you’ve already read calls to be picked up again.

I may never get around to reading that new book on the history of Islam, or the politics of relativism. But I know I will read “The Lord of the Rings” again.  Just as I have nearly every year since I was 10. Your book may be different, but the reasons for going back to it again and again are not. Each time you pick it up again you are delighted with something different, suprised by something new. The more you read it the more you find in it. The more it takes root all the way down into your heart and mind and imagination. It is a book that has grown with you (or rather you have grown in it!) and you are a better person for it.

Such is the Bible … but even more so. It may be that book you have long known you “should” read. It may be the book you have tried to read more than once, but maybe found too hard, or dull, or unsettling to finish.

It can be all those things. It is after all a book of many books. Some parts will be easier for you and some not so much. But if you read it, you will find it begins to take root in your heart and mind and imagination. It will begin to shape your life and your outlook. It will grow every time you read it … or rather your understanding of it will. And with it so will you!

It’s never too late to begin. Here at my congregation we have begun reading through the whole Bible together. If you have been following my tweets (see “Here’s a Thought” to the right) you will see that we have just finished the book of Genesis.  But it is never to late to begin!  Join me in making time for the Bible everyday. Let’s work together through the long, or dull, or difficult parts, and see where it takes us! Let it become the one book we keep going back to over and over again. The one Book, with more to find, more to apply, more to rejoice in. The one book that truly makes us learned!