HOPE for the HAPLESS

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


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Buzzwords … or the “Love” Word?

Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. [1 John 3:18]

Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness are the buzzwords of our modern age. They are the words our culture has decided to use to show their understanding of love. Don’t believe me? Show yourself to be intolerant, or divisive in any way, and people will quickly tell you how unloving you are. The problem is not whether you are living up to these ideals, but that they really have nothing to do with true, real, or genuine love at all.

Tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness are just words. Words, which sound loving on the surface, but in reality promote attitudes and actions that are anything but. They are the very words that excuse inaction in the quest to simply “live and let live”. They are words that gloss over problems, sin, and real differences by saying “you have yours and I have mine”.

They are words that are designed to make it easy to feel like you are loving when in fact you are only being selfish. Most who champion such wordy ideals do so because they are happy to let you have what you want as long as they then get what they want.  That’s not love, it’s quid pro quo.

Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness are finely crafted words that allow us to protect grand hypothetical ideas … all the while ignoring real people in real need. Lowly people who are different from us. Dirty and dangerous people who are disagreeable to us. Angry and offensive people who might never think twice about helping us in return.

We are not called to love in word or in talk, but in deed and in truth. Real love is hard. Real love means doing, giving, and sometimes even suffering, for people we don’t always like very much. Love finds its value in people, not buzzwords. Love is lived out not in blazing emotions but in well-reasoned choices. Love does not ask us to give up and give in but to make difficult (and often unpopular) stands. Love never seeks out excuses or the easy way out, it fights for what it good and right and beneficial, not for the self nor some hypothetical, but for the other.

Love led Jesus not to tolerate our sin, but to pay for it with His own blood. Love moved Jesus to give up His life for those who would never accept Him. Being the recipients of that love in action we are now moved not to tolerate or accept or include, but to love. And love guides us to uphold everyone in our thoughts, prayers, and actions … not because it is easy (it is the hardest thing to do in truth) … but because God loved us first in Christ.


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My (Our) New Reality

Yesterday the province of Ontario (where I live) revealed a new curriculum for health and sex education to be implemented in the fall. Supporters of the material hailed it as long overdue because it hadn’t been updated since 1998. And since then, as we all know, sex has changed drastically. We now have cell phones … and Facebook … and science. It’s not your grandparents world of two single beds in a bedroom and night clothes that were bulkier than your snow-suit. We can’t leave our kids in the dark about sex any longer. Knowledge is power, and we want our children empowered.

And while I still had reservations about teaching the graphic ins and outs of sexual gratification to children young enough that they would be charged with statutory rape if they tried to do with their classmates what they were being taught, what bothered me the most was the underlying concept of gender identification and fluidity. I thought boys were boys and girls were girls no matter what kind of boy or girl they might be … but then I’m just a man and I get confused by such things.

But it’s hard to argue with knowledge being power, because who doesn’t like being empowered. I’ll take some of that any day. And if science says that you can be something you are not just because you feel like you are, who am I to argue? I mean it’s science right. At least that’s what I’m being told.

So I admit defeat. The experts were right and grandma and grandpa were confused and wrong. (And most likely very repressed too, I guess.) But I’m afraid it is too late for me. I have been indoctrinated for far too long to think that my “Y” chromosome, facial hair, and dangly bits make me a male, and I’m comfortable with that, even if I will never be good at sports or enjoy talking about cars. But while my gender identity is a lost cause, I still want some of that science based empowerment.

So now, I’m happy to say,  I believe in stature identity and fluidity. I will thank you all right now to stop thinking of me as morally archaic man of 5′ 7″. I am now a morally archaic man who is 6′ 2″ tall. Don’t look at me strangely when I tell you this … that’s being staturist. Just accept me for the towering specimen of masculinity (told you it was too late for me) that I am! I haven’t tried driving my Hyundai since I self-identified as such a tall person, but I’m sure I will have to adjust the seats and mirrors. Oh, and watch out for doorways! I’ve always wanted to have to duck on my way in or out of some room.

And we are teaching our children this too. Knowledge is power remember. We have begun with our kitchen doorway in which we mark all the children’s heights every six months. We now let them put the mark anywhere they want … anywhere they feel represents their true height. My oldest two looked at me a little strange, but with enough teaching I think they will come around. The youngest one caught on right away, and I’m glad to say that she is so tall now that I had to lift her up to make her mark on the wall. You should see how proud she is about being 8′ 6″ tall at only just two years old! The middle one can’t wait to go on all the rollercoaster rides this summer. And I just dare anyone to tell her she isn’t really taller than the line that cartoon character is holding! She will cry discrimination faster than you can unlock that little gate!

And that’s just the beginning. Can’t you see it now? If you don’t have to be constrained by the reality of DNA or anatomy, or reality, then not only do you get to choose your own gender and height, but also your weight and your ethnicity, and your age.  No longer do you have to be shackled by any stereotype whether sexist, staturist, ageist, massist, or racist. Oh the empowerment just staggers the mind! I can’t wait to pay the child-priced fare to go see an R-rated movie and then claim my senior’s discount on top of that. Or of  finally realizing my now life-long dream of being nominated for a black business award at the same time as I proudly share my secret to losing 30 pounds just by identifying it away. (For only one low payment of $19.95 I will share that secret with you too my friends!)

Do you think this is all a joke? You shouldn’t.

If, as proponents of this new curriculum insist, misinformation and ignorance are the best way precipitate sexual misconduct and irresponsible behaviour, then I agree. But the danger is not in what you might be tricked into doing with your cell phone or Facebook account. (Why aren’t parents monitoring these anyway?) The danger is in what you might be tricked into believing about your very soul and identity … and whether or not it has any basis in reality. Not all knowledge is power, some of it is just plain nonsense. And it has no place being taught to children or anyone else.

 


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Standing on Guard

Canadian Soldiers“which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”  [2 Timothy 1:12-14]

This month brings with it the annual day of remembrance. Poppies and solemn services, Reverie and Last Post. These will all be a little more poignant this year for us Canadians. In the past couple of weeks we have been shocked and saddened by the death of not one but two members of our armed forces, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, right here on our own Canadian soil. Murdered simply because of their uniform. One can’t help but also think of the three  fallen RCMP officers from Moncton in this regard either.

Without making light of the pain their families and communities now bear, it is a powerful reminder that freedom always comes at a cost. A cost every soldier proudly says they are willing to pay when they take up the uniform. Make no mistake, this is not just about conflicting ideologies. At least, not because of any nationalistic or social/political/religious identity. (Although it is very obvious that  NOT all such identities are morally equivalent or “good” by any stretch of any definition!) It is a question of Good and Evil. The sanctity of life and the disregard for life. Evil is real, and evil never rests. It will not stop until all is enslaved once again. Eternal vigilance is not just the stuff of rhetoric and political speeches. It is the price that must sometimes be paid in blood. Thank God we have those brave souls who are willing to pay it!

But before our country remembers it’s fallen soldiers, the church has already done the same. All Saints day (November 1)  is our reminder (in part) of the lives lived and died under Christ as the price of that eternal freedom of God’s Kingdom.

Many of these soldiers of the cross never once picked up a gun, or marched off into battle (though many did), but all sacrificed, in their own way, for the sake of country, neighbour, family, and God. When they took up the uniform of the faith, Christ’s robes of righteousness, each confessed their willingness to pay the cost. All were willing to meet evil head on, in their communities, their homes, the lives of their friends and neighbours. Many fought for those they had never met, and likely never would this side of eternity – sending money and missionaries, providing aid and prayers for any and all affected by the high cost of evil in this world.

And facing that evil, they paid for it. They paid from their own comfort, their livelihoods, their reputations, the support of their friends and family. Some even paid with their lives. And more and more pay every year. It is open season on Christians in vast parts of our world … but just you watch … that won’t stop them from standing up and paying the price to love their friends and family, communities and countries, strangers and enemies. They know it is the cost of freedom.

Canadians have been entrusted with a freedom and openness that makes life for her citizens the envy of much of the world. It is the good deposit we are called to defend. Christians have an even greater deposit entrusted to them … the very Gospel of God … the Good News of free salvation in Christ for anyone and everyone regardless of nationality. So remember the sacrifices that allow you to be here today. Remember and stand guard for those who will come tomorrow. To live in service to freedom and to die in service to that freedom are always worthwhile. Just ask the families of our faithful men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, and all first responders (Firefighters, Police, and EMT’s) who gladly do the same for us everyday. Just ask your Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

saints


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The Cross Marks the Spot

ImageIn Dealey Plaza, Dallas, there painted in the middle of Elm street is an unassuming “x”. If you were not acquainted with American history you might be forgiven for walking past it not knowing what it means. But if you were passingly familiar with November 22 1963, the Texas School Book Depository, or Lee Harvey Oswald then you might stop and ponder for a moment the terrible significance of those two crossed lines of paint. They mark the exact spot where 50 years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated before horrified spectators and a stunned world.

Scholars and pundits have argued at great length as to the significance of that tragic event. While he was not the first leader assassinated in office, nor will he, sadly, be the last; for 50 years his death has been seen by many as something different. What might have been if only he hadn’t died so young, so untimely? How would our world be different today? Would it have changed US relations with Russia or China? Would Vietnam have played out differently? Would there be less division and distrust between government and her people, due in large part, some argue, to those who followed in his office? Putting aside all the lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s death, most people do agree that on that November day 50 years ago the United States lost their innocence. Lost, in a very palpable way, their idealism that everything would only ever get better as time went on.

It is a pall that many people still struggle under today … and for good reason. I’m not sure that anyone still holds to the idea that things are only getting better. We just seem to go from one bad thing to another. One tragedy to another. Once disaster to another. One weak or corrupt leader to another. But then again, not even JFK was without his certain public shortcomings. And so, even if he had avoided that spot marked to this day on the pavement in Dealey Plaza, I don’t think it would have changed the world we live in. At least not significantly. The world was broken 50 years ago, and it is broken now, and not even a man like JFK can change it.

But there is one man who saved it. On another fateful day long long ago in an event equally profound and seemingly tragic, a popular young leader was killed in his prime. Witnessed again, by horrified spectators and a stunned world. If you were not acquainted with Biblical history you might be forgiven for walking past the signs of that cross not fully knowing what it means.

cross SilhouetteYet in those ubiquitous symbols of the Christian faith, looming large at the front and on the top of every church, etched and embossed in book upon book, wrought in silver and gold and hung on bedroom walls, and countless necks … in that unassuming cross rests the memory of an event (THE event) of world-changing significance. Scholars and pundits have argued at great length as to the significance of that event. And there are of course, all kinds of lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the events. But in that death of Jesus Christ on a cross outside of Jerusalem the world forever changed. Not through innocence lost, rather innocence restored. Paid for in the innocent blood and willing sacrifice of a great leader for His beloved people. The world changed, yet not for the death of idealism, but in the birth of hope, and faith, and love.

Jesus our king made his way through the streets of Jerusalem that fateful day, but not as an unwitting victim. He did it knowing full well what lay ahead. And He went up anyway, to deliver us from darkness to His own kingdom. He redeemed this world from death and destruction. Defeated the ancient enemies of mankind – sin, death and the devil. He gave us a future that will not only be better, but the very best. And the cross, marks the spot where it all happened. It is tragic when a leader is stolen from his people. And so we grieve with those who still grieve the events of November 22, 1963. But it is glorious when the rightful king lays down His life that His people might live in peace and security after Him. And in that everlasting promise we rejoice, in the face of all that this world may yet take from us.


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Greater Love Has No Man Than This

PoppyLet me begin by stating at the beginning that I love my children very much. I love seeing what they are doing at school. I love being able to take some time to be present at their assemblies, such as I was on Monday.  As far as Remembrance Day ceremonies go it was your pretty standard affair. The teachers doing their best (but generally failing) to file the children in neatly and get them sitting in respectful silence. The welcomes and introductions. A poem spoken (barely) by the older children, the presentations of a wreath from each home room class. The presence of veteran to play the traditional bugle parts. And then my son and his class got up to sing. They sang beautifully. They sang with gusto. They sang clearly (and for the most part on key). I could make out my son’s voice and he is a credit to both his mother and his father. But what they sang was like nails on a chalkboard …

Put a Little Love in Your Heart.

Perhaps you know it. Here are just a few of the grating phrases i had to sit through: “If you want the world to know we won’t let hatred grow put a little love in your heart. And the world will be a better place …” “I hope when you decide kindness will be your guide put a little love in  your heart. And the world will be a better place …” I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea, or worse yet who agreed with them and signed off on it. But I do understand the thought behind it. It comes from a deep-seated misunderstanding that many people in our culture have regarding love and what it is. One that is intimately tied into their misunderstanding of Tolerance and Compassion.

For many people these days (people who for the most part have never really and truly had to face real war) love is often confused with appeasement. If you love someone you need to let them be. If we really loved, there would be no more need for war. If we really loved, we could all just get along. If we really loved, not one veteran would ever need to waste their life on something so foolish ever again.

It all stems from the idea that everyone is basically good and that no one really wants to hurt anyone else (or if they do it is only because they don’t know better, and a little kindness will show them the error of their ways). Perhaps we all watched a few too many after-school specials growing up. It is the kind of thinking that summarized in the recent (but certainly not new)  “white poppy” debate.

It is also, unfortunately, a thinking that simply doesn’t work in our world. And it doesn’t work because it refuses to acknowledge both sin and evil.  You see, no one in this world is basically good. We are all sinners, every one of  us. There are times when even the best of us has no qualms whatsoever with sticking it to someone else.   And there are some who genuinely enjoy hurting others, killing others, and subjecting others to all kinds of  suffering. And no amount of kindness is going to teach them otherwise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but one might ask the former British Prime Minister Chamberlain, how well his loving approach to appeasing Hitler’s Germany worked. Better yet, ask the Austrians.

This world is broken by sin. This world is pock-marked by evil. And no amount of school assemblies, children’s choirs, or after school specials (no matter how good they are) is going to fix it.  Somethimes the only loving thing to be done is to confront the evil head on, and not allow it to do any more harm.  This is the kind of love that God showed for us. No appeasement to the way things were. No, “I’m OK, you’re OK.” No desire to get along by letting things slide. Instead He took it upon himself to come down to this battleground in the flesh and stand in the breach. In love He choose the path of love that led Him to pay the ultimate price in defeating evil. In love He chose to give up His life in the battle that would set us free from sin, grant us victory over death and evil. In love He waged a war. In love He fought and He died and He rose again so that He might lead His people to do the same.

John 15:12-14a  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends”

And this, I think, is what is missing in so many people’s stundted understanding of war and peace, and the remembering of our veterans. They did not do it (most of them) to glory in war. They didn’t do it out of hatred … but out of love. Love for you and me and all who were (or are) oppressed. Love for Canada.  Those blessed men and women loved enough to lay their life upon the line. They loved enough to say “enough is enough” in the face of evil. They loved … and for so many of them they lost … all so that you and I might gain the freedom and security we now take for granted. And I can think of no greater love to put in my heart, as I remember their sacrifice for me, than a love like theirs … a love like our saviour’s … A love that is willing to lay down my life for someone else.


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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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When the right to choose, is chosen wrongly …

There was a brief splash in the Canadian news here recently when it was reported that in certain cultural communities the data seems to indicate that abortions are being used as a tool for gender selection. To put it bluntly, certain people are inclined to abort pre-born daughters in favour of having male children. And so, it was reported by the CBC, an editorial in the Canadian Medical Journal called for preventative intervention.

A fetus’s gender should not be revealed until after 30 weeks of pregnancy, says an editorial in the Canadian Medical Journal. This change in procedure for a fetal ultrasound, where the sex is usually disclosed to parents at 20 weeks, would help prevent female feticide, says Rajendra Kale, editor-in-chief of the CMAJ. [Read the rest of the story HERE]

As you can well imagine this raised concerns over stereotyping and/or invoking discrimination against certain people groups. It raised the question of whether information is a right or not. It raised the concern of whether or not there should be limits on freedom of choice. All of these are indeed, important questions to be discussed in their own right, but at best this particular discussion was frustrating to witness, and at times downright confusing to follow. Why?

Because all of these (rightful) concerns begin from an assumption that simply isn’t allowed to be assumed by those who hold to the right to free abortions.

Consider the following: How can a class of people (women/girls) be targeted by selectively terminating a non-person? Many calm their consciences by referring to the subject of the procedure as simply a mass of tissue (or use clinical terms like fetus to distance emotions), but in this case it is painfully obvious that what is being terminated simply isn’t anything of the sort. Why is it OK (even good some will argue) to kill both equally, but not one more or less than the other? The sex is medically irrelevant, unless it is being used to select out certain individuals? People should be free to choose – unless they choose wrongly?

The only moral conundrum here is why any of this news should be morally repulsive … unless of course what we are talking about aborting is NOT some lump of tissue, but an actual human person …  a son or (in increasing numbers) a daughter.It is only an issue if they are really people!

Abortion has always stereotyped against certain people groups – unborn humans.  Abortion discriminates against those who cannot speak for themselves. Abortion limits the freedom (to life liberty and happiness) of those conceived to others who simply choose not to give it to them. Why should we be the least bit surprised when this begins to spill over into unintended victims? Why should we be surprised when the wrong choice is then chosen wrongly?

Withholding information will not change anything. It will just cause there to be more late-term abortions (which are not normally practiced – but are certainly allowed here in Canada). Trying to foist some sort of ill-conceived, reactionary, and baseless morality upon the situation will not change people’s hearts or their desires for a male child. Trying to protect one class of human beings cannot be done while not recognizing the humanity of another. The only thing that will change such terrible situations and sad choices is a new-found respect for all human life, wherever you may find it. Spreading the knowledge that a person is a person whether in the womb, in the cradle, in school, in the hospital, or the senior’s center. Giving the freedom you and I enjoy to all who are part of this human race, whether they are boys or girls, born or not!