HOPE for the HAPLESS

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


Leave a comment

Listen …

ListenI will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. [Deuteronomy 18:18-19]

Who do you listen to? Is it the politician in the nice suit and fancy tie? The person in the official looking white lab coat? The trusted friend? The identified “expert” on the evening news?

Who do you listen to? And more to the point … why? Do you listen to the politician because he says what you want to hear? Do you listen to the doctor or scientist because they are obviously smart? Do you listen to your friend because they like you? What makes anyone an expert worth listening to?

We all listen to someone. Many someones. But the question remains, why?

Why are we quick to listen to some, but not to others? We all know that what a politician says before the election and what he says after the election are not usually the same. You don’t even have to go so far as to say they lie, to know that you can’t always count on good intentions. Smart people still make some pretty foolish mistakes. Doctors make poor life decisions. Scientists can be just as prone to superstition as anyone else. And no matter how smart a person is in certain things, no one is smart about everything. Just because someone likes you doesn’t mean you can trust them or that they will agree with you on important matters.

So who should you trust enough to listen to? Who has the power, the authority, the knowledge, the first-hand experience and the desire to do right by us? Who is worthy enough to be listened to in all things?

Jesus.

God and man together in one flesh. All the knowledge of heaven and all the experience of life in this world. Having been through it all, He didn’t change His tune when the polls turned against Him. Knowing the cross that lay before Him He went there for us anyway. Jesus, the only one truly smart about everything, for He is a first-hand witness of all history, and the holder of the future itself. But Jesus is also the friend of each and every sinner, trapped in good intentions and hollow words, puffed up in knowledge and disdaining those lesser, lover of self to the exclusion of others. Jesus is a true friend to all these and more, even to the point of being willing to lay down His life for them.

When He speaks, He speaks with all compassion, authority, and truth. He speaks only what He is willing to back up with His own life, death, and resurrection.

Give all the other voices their proper place and due, but give this voice your trust and your ears. Why wouldn’t you listen to Him? What He speaks is worth listening to!

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Back to School

Back-to-SchoolAssemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

[Deuteronomy 31:12-13]

The supplies are laid in, the backpacks stuffed and hanging by the door. The children may not like it, but they are ready to go back to school. Yet even as I write this I know that despite all the protestations and excuses, once they are back even the most dead-set against it, will change their mind and enjoy being there.

Learning is fun! Think about how it felt to learn something new. Like when you figured out that new kind of stitch, or finally mastered that tricky chord progression. Like when you learned how to prepare that dish you only thought you could get in restaurants, or fixed the plumbing in your bathroom by yourself. Remember? It felt great didn’t it!

So, when did we change from being learn-it-all’s (with all the joy of new discoveries and new accomplishments) to know-it-all’s full of only scorn and world-weariness? Why especially with the Word of God? Why all the excuses for not learning? Why continue to miss out on all the joy that could be had? Just think of all the treasures waiting to be discovered. Just think of all the life-changing wisdom to be gained. Imagine the surprises God has in store for you … if you are willing to gather before Him and learn.

Don’t be a know-it-all. It’s no fun. This fall, as the children go back to the joys of learning, make an effort to do the same. In private devotions and Bible reading. In Bible Study. In being more intentional in connecting to the sermon (your pastor has resources to help you with all of these!) Open your ears and eyes to Jesus, and see what He has to teach you. Open your heart to learning and see where He leads you. Once you get past all the excuses I know you will enjoy it!


Leave a comment

Reading The Good Book

Image

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!


1 Comment

Solid Foundations

Several times over the past few weeks I’ve been reminded of the necessity for solid foundations.  During my holiday I spent many hours slaving over a patch of dirt that would eventually be my “new” patio.  I can’t begin to tell you how many buckets of sweat I poured out trying to make that space level and workable.  And even now you wouldn’t know it to see it.  Once I got through with all that work you will never see the rest of the project practically finished itself.  But that’s what good foundations are all about.

Think about how much time and care it takes to pour a basement foundation and how quickly the rest of the house can be framed in once that’s all set. Think of how much time goes into preparing a canvas or researching a paper compared to the time spent painting or writing.  If you don’t do it right, if you don’t take the time, if you aren’t exacting in your work of laying a solid foundation then everything that gets put on top of it is weakened and in danger of crashing down. The patio stones will trip you up, or the walls will sag and crack. Your finished project will be short-lived, lopsided and unsightly.

And the same holds true for our own personal lives and our family life even more so than for our houses and patios.  Solid foundations are important. I was reminded of that only a few days ago when talking to the family of a beloved saint who was called to her heavenly glory. She was (still is) a woman who knew the importance of laying a solid foundation for herself and her family.  A foundation that rested on the rock solid Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Going to church, hearing the word, praying for and with her children and grandchildren were the bedrock of her quiet life.  Most of what she did to lay that foundation no one outside of her family would likely ever have noticed or appreciated.  But her family did … and still does.  And it shows in the faith they have, and the love they share especially in their time of grief.

Faith is that foundation. Faith is what we build all the works of our lives upon. Do not short-change the work you put into making it solid. Doing it right should make you sweat more than a little.  Read the scriptures, pray, study your catechism, sing the hymns of the faith. Do it every day. Do it with those you love. Do it until you can recite it by heart and then do it again.  You must never underestimate the importance – not just to you but all whose lives interact with your own.

The time and effort you put into laying a good foundation will never impress anyone, but it is absolutely vital … both to you and those you love. Faith is not fancy or showy – it never says look at me.  It is content to go unnoticed, and sometimes even unappreciated. If you do it right no one will ever see all the work you put into it.  But one day they will see all that is built upon its rock solid foundations and they will thank you for it!


Leave a comment

The Book that was Never Meant to Be Read?

The picture above is one of the smallest of the Bibles I have in my office. It is also one of the most difficult to read. Not just because it is so small (2″ X 2.5″) but because it is written in Hebrew. I guess you could say that this Bible wouldn’t be worth much to most people. They simply couldn’t use it.

What a shame.

Do you want to know something even more sad than that? This Bible was never meant to be read!

I picked it up at the Jewish pavilion in Edmonton’s “Heritage Days” Festival. The woman I bought it from was very kind and answered many of my questions such as “Why do you make portions of the Bible that are so small?” [There was another version there less than half the size of this one!] The answer she gave me was very enlightening.

In Deut. 6:6-9 it is written: “And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates”

When those words were first spoken they were meant to show just how vital it is to keep God’s Word before us every day of our lives … at home in our families, at work … everywhere! Unfortunately, over time this came to be seen by many people as little more than a superstition. Keep a portion of God’s Word with you wherever you are and “good luck” will follow you. Thus the little Bible that was never really meant to be read … just kept.

But when you think about it, isn’t that the way we so often treat the Word of God. Little more than a good luck charm. Something to fall back on just in case life starts to get rough. Until then, it’s just nice to know it’s there if needed.

How many homes have Bibles in them that are never read? How many different excuses have you come up with for not reading yours? (Not enough time, too hard to understand, don’t know where to start, I did it once already …)

The Bible is the most precious gift God has given us outside of Christ Jesus Himself. The Bible has the power to change your life. (Just as it has changed millions of lives before you.) It is His love letter to you. An unchanging message of peace, hope, love, and forgiveness in the midst of a world and a life that changes by the minute. It is the one absolute Truth in a world gone crazy with shades of gray. The truth of God’s love for you in Jesus.

Our God is not a tame God, C.S. Lewis once wrote. He’s not happy to merely be kept. So don’t let your Bible turn into a lucky charm. Forget your old excuses, look instead to God’s promises in His Word! It will change your life for the better and forever!


Leave a comment

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


1 Comment

No doubt …

The following is reprinted from a thought-provoking post over at Pyromaniacs.  I’m not sure that I would go so far as to say “everyone”, but certainly enough that most of this rings mournfully true.  I know that even in my few short years of ministering I have had more than a few of the charges laid against someone who holds to the Scriptures as the authoritative Word leveled against me personally.  What do you think?  Is this on the mark? Does it go too far? Not far enough?  Have you faced this kind of thinking yourself?

doubt

Have you ever noticed…

  1. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as heroic?
  2. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as tragic?
  3. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints his doubt as different doubt from every other doubter who has ever doubted and come to a bad end from it?
  4. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine insists that his path won’t end up where every other doubter’s path ended? Which is to say…
  5. …everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine hates it when the historical and logical progression of doubt is pointed out?
  6. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as smarter, deeper, less lazy, and more honest than people who don’t share his doubt?
  7. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as humble, while those who point him back to the Word are arrogant?
  8. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as nice, while those who point him back to the Word are mean?
  9. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as academically sophisticated, carefully nuanced, and wonderfully insightful, while those who point him back to the Word are unenlightened hacks and drooling theological troglodytes?
  10. everyone who tries to back away from an unpopular Biblical doctrine paints himself as courageous, while those who point him back to the Word are bullies and ruffians?