Archive by Author

Making all things beautiful; starting with your home

5 Feb

I’ve probably referenced Edith Schaefer more than once here on the blog. You’re probably familiar with her admonitions to try your hand at homemade furniture using old leather saddles or to craft candles from your own bees wax taken from the hive you’ve been caring for, and other such outlandish ideas. Georgie and I were talking about her this past week, saying that she really is from another time! But, along with all her ideas that I may never use, comes the heart of what she wants to convey about the Christian life in relation to the family and homemaking. She has so much wisdom that needs to be shared and in spite of the fact that some of her examples might seem far removed from our context, the essential points behind her arguments are well worth listening to. Continue reading

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Put on your clothes… and other kinds of death to self

24 Dec

Do you ever feel like not putting on your shirt? What about your pants? Has your husband/parent/friend ever knocked on your bedroom door and told you to get dressed and hurry up while you’re at it? Then, did you shout and refuse and pull out a pair of pajamas and loudly shout “Nooooooo!” so that everyone in the house could hear you? Ok maybe you’ve never been in this exact situation but haven’t you ever felt like not doing what you are supposed to do in exchange for what’s comfortable and convenient? Rather than get up and face the day with all its troubles, it’s much less of a hassle to just refuse to put on your clothes and crawl back into your warm bed with your warm pj’s and just do nothing. Continue reading

Remembering Lola

28 Nov

“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”- Psalm 116:15

If you’ve ever had a loved one who’s left home for a long time, you can identify with the joy and excitement experienced at their return. The anticipation, preparation, maybe even plans for a special meal or night out are all part of receiving them home. Well, the reception received in heaven of God’s saints is much greater and more wonderful than any earthly one. One week ago today, my Lola (grandmother) went home to be with the Lord!

In the sadness of loosing her here, I still have such a fullness of joy and peace because I know that she has gone home, and in going home she has finally experienced her faith becoming sight. She is with her heavenly father and He is rejoicing over her. The hope for those of us who know the Lord is that even though we are separated from one another at death, it is only temporary. We will see each other one day, and that day is a day I will look forward to.

I’m so thankful for her life and thankful for the Godly influence she was on all those around her. I probably said it before but I will never forget the way that my Lola prayed. She knew the Lord as her close friend and you could hear it in her prayers. If you ever happened upon her during one of her quiet times, you knew that she was engaged in a solemn conversation, speaking with God, interceding daily on behalf of those around her. If you ever asked her to pray for you about something, you could count on her taking that request very seriously and labouring on your behalf with her prayers. I hope that I will grow to having the same kind of prayer life as her!

I posted this piece about her a little while ago, and I’ll put it up again for anyone interested in reading a little about her life and who she has been to my family and I.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:56

The Christian Life & Work: Working It Out

15 Oct

If you’ve ever tried to get in to some sort of exercise after a long season of being stagnant, then you’re probably familiar with all the aches and pains that accompany a new routine. Sore muscles, thirst and hunger after a workout as your body sweats out the fluids and needs more fuel to burn, the temptation to give up after just a few days, and all the mental warfare that goes on in one’s mind about whether or not it’s worth it to keep on going or to just quit since it’s easier to eat what you want and sit on your couch instead of hauling yourself to the gym or giving up a precious hour for a run or workout, are some of the difficulties you’ll face.

At the same time, if you are really determined to reach a goal, whether it is weight loss or just overall fitness, those challenges, although they may be hindrances at times, will not ultimately set you back. I’ve seen it at times in my own “athletic” life and in the lives of others around me who’ve wanted to get in shape and have shown incredible determination and perseverance in order to get where they want to be. Sacrifice of time and of favorite foods and meals, the prioritizing of plans in order to make sure that every day involves some form of exercise, beating the body into submission in order to make it accomplish what it needs to. It’s hard work and it takes an incredible amount of commitment. No one looses 50 pounds overnight, nor can they increase their stamina after a few 5 km runs. Sometimes it takes months, even years to get where you want to be.

Then there are others who at the first sighting of a McDonalds are off the track and back to their old ways. Getting up early and going out for a run or heading to the gym are not easy things in the dead of winter when it’s -10 degrees and your warm bed is calling you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to be there too.

Maybe we all fit into one category or maybe some of use fit into both at different times. Some of us have the ability to look at a task head on and just dive into it without looking back. For most people though, I suspect that tackling difficult challenges doesn’t come without the desire to quit and give up at any sign of difficulty or challenge. In the Christian life, work can feel the same way. Last week, I was sharing about the difficulty of Christian athleticism when it comes to carrying out the jobs we’ve been called to do, and how often we look at the responsibilities we’ve been given and rather than taking them on, we want to pass them off to someone else who’s better and more able than we are. But if we’ve reached the point where we see areas where we want to grow and we have a goal in mind, whether it be a mom who wants to learn how to better plan meals and cook good food for her family, or a dad who wants to learn how to lead his children with Scripture, or a student who’s trying to get a handle on the whole university thing, we can’t get where we’re going without a game plan.

Being real with ourselves and our weaknesses is, I think, the first place to start. If you decided that you wanted to run a marathon but hadn’t put on running shoes since Terry Fox in 8th grade, then it wouldn’t be a good idea to set out on day one expecting yourself to go much further than a kilometer. Thinking that you can accomplish a huge feat after a day or two of exercise is not only unrealistic but it sets you up for failure and disappointment. The same goes for any type of work or responsibility we’ve been given that we want to learn to do better at. Taking a gourmet-cooking magazine that calls for ingredients you’ve never heard of and requires hours of time may not be the first place to start when setting out to try to conquer the kitchen. This doesn’t by any means mean you can’t get there, it just means you have to work it out so that in time, you’ll be able to do what you set out to do, once you’ve built up the skills and abilities you need.

To use a personal example, one area I’ve struggled in is my personal devotions. It’s something that for years I’ve wanted to be more consistent with, and each time I’ve tried a new Bible reading plan or set a time to wake up every morning, I’ve gone on for a while and then some life change or new set of circumstances comes along and I find that I’m once again struggling to maintain consistency. I get discouraged and then give up for a while.

Recently, my husband and I decided to start reading just one chapter of the Bible each day together. My mom and dad had just been telling us that they’d really been enjoying their time together in the Word every morning and that it was really encouraging and helping them because it was an opportunity for them to come together and focus on a small portion of Scripture, as well as giving them enough time to pray together. They’ve been reading a chapter a day and are all the way to Ruth! Serge and I have never done devotions together. Here and there, we’ve read and prayed and we will sometimes listen to a sermon together, but it hasn’t been something that we have done consistently as a couple. When my parents shared their idea, we thought to ourselves, “Why don’t we try that?”. We’ve both struggled to find ways to read the Bible consistently, and we’ve both found it challenging to tackle plans that tell you to read even four chapters a day, finding that skipping from one part to another often left both of us forgetting the majority of what we read. So, two weeks ago on an early Monday morning, the alarm rang at 6:00 am. I’d like to say we got up then, but we didn’t. It wasn’t till around 7:00 that we hurriedly hauled ourselves out of bed and tried to quietly make our way to the kitchen so as not to wake up Emma, and then we spent about 30 minutes reading and praying. It was great. And the days that have followed have been equally encouraging. Some days we’ve gotten up on time, others have been more rushed, but one thing we both have said to one another is that this is something that is working and helping us both. It hasn’t been as hard to get up with a partner, as it was to get up alone. Rather than dose off mid-sentence while reading, I have someone else to listen to and someone else to keep me awake. And reading one chapter has been more than manageable. It sounds like nothing, but when you start making yourself feel like reading the Bible is a competition or chore, or you begin comparing yourself to others who are able to read ten chapters a day, every day, then you can easily feel like you’re a failure when it comes to being a student of the Word. But that’s not what God has called of us. He desires that we come know Him, enjoy Him, and abide in His word. One chapter mediated on and prayed over, is better than trying to check off a list of several just for the sake of saying you’ve read a lot.

My point is this. Tackling a new task, or trying to grow in any area of our Christian life and work is going to bring us face to face with reasons to feel like failures and make us want to give up. Rather than looking at the mountains we are trying to conquer, I think that wisdom would have us begin where we’re at and build our stamina, one small step at a time. We need to work things out. Concert pianists don’t get there overnight. They spend years in private practicing before ever making it out on stage. An excellent cook doesn’t learn kitchen skills by watching the Food Network. She puts her head to the plow and slowly, one meal at a time, works on building her arsenal of abilities. Christians who want to be better students of Scripture don’t need to feel inadequate because they aren’t able to understand Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. They need to ask God to help them understand His word, one verse at a time, one chapter at a time, using resources that are helpful to them in the place they are at, rather than looking at all the things they don’t know and feeling discouraged because of that.

How about leaving off with a word of encouragement right from the Lord? Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” Isn’t that a comfort today, that in committing to Him whatever work He’s given us to do, He will strengthen and enable us to do it? If our plans are His plans, meaning we are seeking to glorify Him and do all things as unto Him according to His word, then we have nothing to fear. We can begin, knowing very little or even nothing, and God will give us wisdom as we seek it, and enable us to do all the good works that He’s called us to do. That is one of the best things about our Heavenly Father; He never requires of us anything that He will not by His own strength working in us, enable us to do.

The Christian Life & Work: Passing it off

1 Oct

Last week I was supply teaching a gym class of grade 10 girls. I love gym and I love teaching girls. After all, I was just like them only 12 years ago! Yikes. Actually, I wasn’t exactly like all of the girls in your typical gym class. I enjoyed (still enjoy) sports and looked forward to gym more than any of my other classes. But I still remember that 95% of the girls in all my gym classes didn’t feel the same way. Since gym was mandatory up till grade 11, most of the ladies were unenthusiastically forced to run, dribble, kick, and “compete” in all sorts of sports that they would by no means be drawn to naturally. I loved laughing with and at girls who thought sports were just times to braid hair and catch up on the latest high school gossip. Most of my classmates were good-natured and didn’t mind that they looked ridiculous when they would take aim at a soccer ball and send it flying about five feet in front of them, or when they’d try to play floor hockey and end up looking like they were flailing about with an out-of-control stick. It was all in good fun!

Not much has changed. Gym for girls still looks about the same. I was standing by trying to “coach” them as much as a supply teacher can, by giving them pointers like “Bend your knees when you’re standing at home plate”, or “No one is running, you need to come back and help your goalie!”, or “You’re going the wrong way, turn around and shoot in the other direction!”. The funny thing I noticed is that even without much desire or skill, there’s one thing that most of the girls still did. They’d look to the one or two players who were clearly more talented, and try to pass off the ball (or responsibility) to them. As soon as a girl who wasn’t that talented found a ball had come her way, rather than try to do something with it herself like control it and move up the field, she’d quickly look for someone else with more confidence and talent, and do her best to pass it off. It was a funny thing to watch. I couldn’t help but be amused at how natural it was to not want to take responsibility for the job that was given to them in the moment, but to look to someone else to take over for them.

Without turning this into an overly-analyzed metaphor, I was reminded of how many of us can default into the same response when it comes to our relationship to work as Christians. Paul uses the farmer, athlete, and soldier metaphors to paint a clear picture of Christians as workers. All three connote a commitment to a job, a disciplining of the body and mind, and hard work. Just taking a look at the idea of being an athlete, we can see that there’s a lot that doesn’t come naturally but needs to be worked at in order for real accomplishments to be reached. Yes, there are obviously naturally talented people who don’t have to work as hard to see results in athletics, but regardless, in order to be considered a professional in any sport, a lot of work needs to go into achieving that goal. Hours of practice, tryouts for teams, a disciplined diet and workout regimen, rejection, passing up of other lucrative opportunities, suffering and recovering through painful injuries. Athletics are not for the faint-hearted. Its no wonder that in grade 10 girls’ gym, there’s not much of a desire to have your body pummelled by balls when at the end of the day you don’t really view yourself as much of an athlete at all.

But as a Christian, we don’t have that option. We can’t “pass off” our work to someone else or just decide that we’re not really athletes. Maybe we feel like we’d rather be fans, cheering on the sidelines, or the water girl/boy that goes along with the team, but never really makes it onto the playing field. This isn’t saying that those jobs of cheering and water-girling aren’t important, but it is to say that no Christian is called to be anything less than athletic when it comes to how we run our race of faith.

We don’t all have the same jobs and responsibilities but this doesn’t change how we are to perform. Some of us are moms and wives; others are husbands, workers, pastors, children in school etc. Each one of us has jobs to do and carry out that require us to flex our muscles and develop our skills, learn more about our jobs, and do them well. We are not given the option of passing off our duties to someone who’s better, or more interested in doing them than we are.

Take for example being a mom with small children: If you didn’t grow up in a home where your mom cooked meals for you every day, or played creative games and sewed your own clothes, you might look out on your own situation and at times feel intimidated and overwhelmed by Pinterest pressure and the incessant updates of what everyone else is doing with their kids on Facebook. Someone else’s two-year old just learned the entire alphabet, and another lady has knit six sweaters and matching blankets for all her kids, for Christmas, in August! You are a failure. Or at least that’s what it may feel like when you think about whether or not you’re doing a good job at your job. In fact, maybe you feel like you weren’t cut out for this work. Maybe you just see a sea of talented people out there, doing tons of talented things and you can’t seem to make Kraft dinner without it tasting soggy and bland. Or, maybe you don’t even feel like a failure, so much as you’re not even interested in doing any of those things! You’d rather be lounging on the sofa with a good book, or hanging out with friends at the local Starbucks. Here are several possible responses, depending on how you look at your job and responsibilities. One: wallow in false guilt over an uninformed understanding of what your job is and how you are supposed to fulfill it. Two: decide that you’ll never be better at cooking, house-keeping, caring for your children, and just find ways to avoid doing those jobs by buying pre-made food and sitting your kids in front of the TV for long periods of time so that you can soothe your guilt with some online aversions. Three: Keep on doing what you like most, not bothering to ask yourself whether or not you’re being disobedient, lazy, or indifferent to the job you’ve been called to do. Four: Stop, repent from ungodly attitudes, seek God’s word for wisdom and clarity about what you are to be doing, and then learn how to do it well.

I’ve been guilty of numbers one to three many times. But I also know that number four is the only right answer, and when I do that, things change. I’m not a natural at many things. In fact, when I started out cooking for my husband when we first got married, we’d laugh after I’d made dinner, because it had taken me about four hours and I’d dirtied almost every dish in the kitchen. I’ve still got lots to learn, but things have gotten better and cleaner. I know that when I read the Bible, I’m called as Christian to work hard at all I do, and to do it well as unto the Lord. I know that I’m a wife and a mom. I’m also a member of my local church. I’m a daughter and daughter-in-law. I’m a friend. In all these categories, there are things that I need to learn more about and do better in. Even if I’ve failed or don’t have much talent, I need to learn more and do whatever it takes to become “athletic” in those areas. I forget who it was but I think Edith Schaefer (the infamous encourager of making your own furniture out of things like a used leather saddle- seriously who does that?? I love Edith) said that when you don’t know how to do something like sew, pick up some books, read a lot, take a class, and learn. Her advice is true to all of us in any station or situation in the Christian life. We are not allowed to panic and pass our ball off to the next person who’s better at doing what we’re called to do, or just pass our ball off to no one. We can’t say to ourselves, “Well, no one ever showed me how to work hard at school and develop good study habits, so I just won’t try very hard.” or “I don’t know how to lead my family with Scripture since no one did that for me growing up.” or “I just don’t like working at a job, I’d rather spend my time relaxing at home.”. Our weaknesses and struggles with sin are all opportunities for God to show His strength working in us. In 1 Corinthians Paul reminds his readers that not many of them were wise by the world’s standards when they were called to the Lord. We are those same people- not many of us have knowledge and understanding, but by God’s grace we can and will grow. He will enable us, but we also must exert ourselves and learn to flex our muscles and see areas of weakness, lack of talent, and failure, as opportunities for God to do good things through us. Thank God we’re not trying out for a team, and thank God we don’t have to win His approval. All the hard work will be worth it, for the opportunity to show others a testimony of faithfulness in this lifetime. We work because He’s already approved of us because of His Son, and we do it because we love Him and know that in running our race faithfully, we’ll one day receive a crown, a real prize that we can lay at His feet.

Call it what it is. Part 2

24 Sep

 

 

 

 

 

 

*This photo was taken from the article  “Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex With Children” mentioned below. The purpose in using it was to point to the confusion surrounding issues pertaining to morality and how we understand them, not as a summary of three categories that all behaviours can be compartmentalized into.* (updated on September 27)

Do words matter all that much? You say “pot-A-to”, I say “po-TA-to”, right? In our postmodern, post-Christian culture, words and their meanings are relative. Truth, if there is such a thing, can be found from within yourself. If you believe it to be true, then it is. Before postmodernism, was the modern age, the result of 18th century Enlightenment thinkers who believed truth was made known on the basis of rational, scientific, and empirical inquiry. For many centuries prior to this, faith was the main means of coming to know the truth. Postmodernism is therefore a fairly recent historical shift in the way that people think. Without a grasp on the significance of postmodernism and its influence on how people perceive truth, Christians will be unable to defend against the tide of anti-biblical thinking, and once again, I want to make the case that it very much does matter what we say, and how we say it.

One of the most current and discussed examples of relativistic postmodern thinking is shown in the way our culture addresses sexuality. The biblical definition of marriage is the union of one man to one woman, for life. The point here is not to outline and defend the Biblical view of the marriage relationship, but simply to state that that is what God ordained as the one union where sexuality was to be expressed and enjoyed. Whether it be through sexual acts outside of marriage or through homosexual unions, the Bible is clear that sinful sexual behaviour is not only harmful and destructive to those engaged, but to others as well. This is not a popular view in the world, where promiscuity and personal fulfillment by whatever means is applauded as the highest good.

For many centuries, conservative views of sexuality were the norm, which is not to say that homosexuality and other types of unbiblical sexual behaviour did not occur, but that the dominant view supported the union of one man to one woman. For the past five decades since the sexual revolution, we have seen the traditional view crumble, relatively quickly, and be replaced with a very different morality. Albert Mohler recently wrote an article in The Atlantic about the sexual revolution where he states that prior to the 1960s when it began to occur, “Divorce was difficult, if not impossible to obtain, and it came with a taint of scandal that could doom professional prospects and personal reputation. Premarital sex happened, but it was discouraged. Homosexuality dared not speak its name, and lifestyles pressing for moral legitimacy today were virtually unknown to most Americans. Adultery was not only censured, but often penalized by both law and public condemnation.” The new morality that replaced old views of sexuality has had and will continue to have devastating personal, familial and social affects.

Here is where the need for Christian courage and clarity comes in to play. With the sexual revolution and postmodern thinking, there comes a strong argument against any absolute views of morality. Since the postmodern world believes that truth is relative, and people must determine for themselves what is good and right, and the only thing that is unacceptable would be to condemn or disagree with anyone’s personal views, Christians must have even more courage to stand for biblical truth even in the face of great pressure to accept and applaud all forms of sexual behavior. What Mohler mentions about the pre-1960s view of homosexuality is clearly not the case anymore. In fact, homosexuality is now applauded and encouraged in the most public forums possible. Parades, political platforms, advocacy groups, television and social media, all participate in promoting and praising the homosexual lifestyle as not only an alternative form of sexuality, but a good and desirable way of life. For example, how should Christians, when discussing the issue of so-called same-sex marriage, use their words to make it clear that they have a biblical perspective on sexuality? By doing just that. John Piper gets the credit for clarifying to me that even though there is a debate that is ongoing about legalizing the union of homosexuals, calling it marriage essentially identifies it as a legitimate union. His purposeful addition of “so-called” is not meant to be inflammatory but to be truthful. I’m not suggesting that we all must use this phrasing, so much as I am calling for Christians to be clear in their thinking and discussions. This may sound like a minor issue of wording but it’s not. Marriage is a union that was ordained by God, and since He created and determined its nature, we must hold to that view regardless of the shifting sands of cultural opinion that are giving way under our feet.

What could this mean for Christians? Will it really matter that Christians refer to it as “so-called same-sex marriage”? Will it matter that pastors preach sermons on texts that call homosexuality a sin? Will it matter that Christian children quietly refuse to participate in events that promote unbiblical sexuality at school? I think that the day is approaching (if not already here), when many Christians will be punished in various ways for their beliefs. Take a look at this short article from Desiring God regarding a case in New Mexico where a Christian photography business would not photograph a same-sex wedding and was brought to court as a result. Just Google Chic-fil-A and see what kind of slanderous things are being said about the company and their position on marriage. Or read the comments of many Torontonians who are enraged that Christian parents (along with other concerned parents) are asking the TDSB to opt their children out of classes where teachers are teaching on subjects such as homosexuality. What about this piece called “Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex With Children” (*warning- some graphic content) written recently on a prominent online site that argues that pedophilia may simply be an illness, one that we must not condemn pedophiles for since it may be beyond their control? Take a look at this article on a film that was shown at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival that celebrates incest. Now that we have seen the normalization and institutionalization of homosexuality, and sadly the increasing charge to normalize other types of sinful sexual behaviour like pedophilia and incest, we are going to face the challenge of holding on to our beliefs, and the necessity of acting in accordance to conscience, against much pressure and potential punishment and ostracization.

We need to ask ourselves these questions. Are we willing to first and foremost be people of the book, no matter what it costs us? Do we have confidence that God’s word is the source of Truth and that His word and all it contains is written for our good, and for the good of the entire unbelieving world. Do we believe that biblical truth is not transient but absolute, and therefore what was written four thousand years ago is still relevant to us today? If we believe this, then we need to live and speak accordingly and as Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We need to be transformed by the renewing of the word so that we may be able to test and approve what is good and acceptable to God. We will be for the good of all people, if and only if our minds and hearts are fixed on Biblical truths and we learn to articulate them in a way that confronts, convicts, and comforts people with the hope of the Gospel. And most of all, we will be seeking after what is acceptable to God, the only one who we must aim to please.

Call it what it is.

5 Sep

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!”- Isaiah 5:20

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” – Romans 1:18

 

I can’t help but be even more heartbroken than usual at the enthusiastic support for abortion that is making rounds through every media avenue. For those of you who are following the news, the upcoming American election is what’s highlighting the divide between those who are pro-life, and those who are pro-choice. That tweet I shared at the top from an American comedian, Sarah Silverman, reveals a lot about the way that people view this issue, and sheds even more light on the use of language to distort the truth. According to most liberals, if you’re not on the pro-choice side of the abortion debate and supportive of this arm of the women’s liberation movement, then you are in opposition to freedom, to true humanity, to justice. It’s not about the babies; it’s about the women who are having (or not having) them. And it’s not about murder, it’s about RIGHTS.

Doesn’t that term “reproductive rights” sound so persuasive? Pro-choice. The women’s liberation movement. I mean, all of these words sound so positive, so humane, so at the core of all that our society holds to as pillars of progress and forward movement. These are just examples of the kinds of things that we hear from people who take this position:

  • Women should be free to do whatever they want with their own bodies. Who are you to tell me what I can or can’t do with my body?
  • I have rights. I don’t know who gave them to me but I have them and I demand to see them respected and upheld by everyone.
  • Women need to be freed from oppression. For too long society has held them down, subjugating them to the role of wife and mother. Free them!

Here are a few things that Margret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, today’s premier purveyor of abortions in America, had to say about the issue.

“The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” – Women and the New Race 
(Eugenics Publ. Co., 1920, 1923)

 “I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world – that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin – that people can – can commit.”

Wow. So it is an act of “mercy” to kill an infant? It is “the greatest sin” to bring diseased children into the world since they have no chance to be human beings? This coming from the mouth of the woman who is responsible for advocating birth control to prevent the world from having unwanted children, and to getting rid of those that were already in the womb but were undesirable. According to Sanger, and sadly to many others today, her definition of sin would be allowing a child to live.

Ok, what about that word sin? I guess that’s what this all comes down to. Not that word alone, but what it represents, as a statement of truth that describes one’s actions as right or wrong, good or evil, righteous or unrighteous, in opposition to God. The thing that people find most offensive about the Bible is not that it lacks clarity and is hard to understand, but that it is perspicuous, never mincing words, always speaking the truth. Every page is filled with those truths that describe clearly what sin is. It tells us who is guilty of sin (everyone). We learn many stories of the consequences of disobedience while looking at the lives of the men and women that fill its pages. Never is there an unclear word or passage where anyone would have trouble determining whether or not killing babies, or committing adultery, are wrong. No sinful action is painted in a positive light to make it seem more acceptable; no words are distorted and twisted to “call good evil and evil good”. It’s blindingly clear, and ultimately, this is what makes it so good. This is the light to our path, and sight to blind eyes. Without God’s kind revealing of what sin is, whom it is we have sinned against, and the remedy for our sin, we would have no hope. As it says in John 8:32, we are only set free once we know what is true. As long as we believe in lies, we are dead, in bondage to sin, under the power of the prince of the age.

This is where I believe Christians need to really become attuned, if they’re not already, to the power of language and the danger of succumbing to our culture’s rhetoric. If we remain ignorant and acquiesce to the climate of the day, then we risk loosing our witness to the watching (and reading or listening) world. We of all people must be clear about what is true and what’s not, and accordingly, we need our words to be shaped by that truth. It is no small thing to fall into the trap of using words such as “reproductive rights” or “women’s liberation” to discuss issues like abortion and feminism. There is a subtle and dangerous agenda that lies behind all of the positive-sounding verbiage that originates from the one who ultimately desires to deceive and destroy. By masking the truth about what people are doing, Satan effectively keeps people from seeing their sin and their need for the Savior. When we use words like “alcoholism” to describe someone who is addicted to alcohol, we can be participating in a very subtle form of transference. A word like “alcoholism” gives the impression that  “It’s not me; it’s a disease that is genetic. I’m predisposed to strong drink; therefore I’m not in control over what I do.” This is a grave danger! For all of us, we must be willing to face, and to help others face the fact that according to Scripture, addiction to alcohol is a result of the fact that we are sinners, not that we inherited a genetic problem or disease for which we then have no accountability. As another example, what about that word “affair”?  It sounds so mysterious, so attractive even. We would be more inclined to hide the truth in a word like “affair” that connotes something much less than what it is, rather than call it adultery or describe the act of illicit sex outside of marriage as a vile, destructive, life-ruining sin.

And back to the abortion issue. What’s at hand is not “women’s rights” or “freedom”, but rather the murder of human life, plain and simple. I’m not suggesting that Christians who understand the issue and realize that abortion is murder are afraid to call it that, but rather, when we refuse to engage people who do believe that the debate centres on rights and the freedom to chose, we are running away from a battle that we must engage in. I am a person who hates to run into a debate. Contrary to what some of you who know me might think, they make me nervous, nauseous even to the point that I’d rather spend the next hour breathing into a paper bag in the privacy of my bathroom than going head on with someone who I know from the outset is bound to disagree, maybe even hate me because of what I believe and what I will say.

In teacher’s college, I had this experience every day. I would get up and walk into a minefield. Thankfully I had a few likeminded friends who kept me from feeling like I was getting completely annihilated, but nonetheless it was exhausting. I knew that each day, some new social issue, moral topic, or political position would be on the table for discussion (or rather a loud shouting match with some of the shouters foaming at the mouth). And each day, I knew that I was going to in some way have to give an answer for the hope that I had. I didn’t end up having many direct discussions in my classroom about my faith, but it did matter what I said, and what I was willing to stand up for when it came to issues that I knew the Bible spoke clearly on. Silence in this case was not an option. Silence would have been a tacit acceptance of everything that was being portrayed as truth, and yet was wickedly false, especially because we were being asked to participate. It was not a lecture, it was interactive. I knew that even if I didn’t succeed in persuading one single person of the rightness of any of the positions I was taking, it didn’t matter. God uses our speaking the truth to bring conviction, and we may never see the result of that. Nonetheless, He requires of us that we not be afraid, but rather we be like Daniel, Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego, not bowing down to the idols of our age, but standing up before the one true God. That is our witness.

So language matters in that we firstly need to be clear about what the Bible says about sin. We need to have a clear understanding of how speaking the truth is part of our witness to those who don’t know Christ. We need to be convinced that there are lies that are being promoted as truth all around us. And we need to ask God for the courage to stand up, when necessary, and speak in love to those around us, not shirking back from difficult, uncomfortable conversations as they come along, but engaging people and being willing to call things what they are. By doing this, we will be salt and light, and by God’s grace, he will use the truth to bring many more people into the light. Only then will they be receivers of true freedom, not the counterfeit kind that is being peddled on every pedestal, political platform, and from within our own deceitful hearts.

What I’m Reading

27 Aug

Here are a few pieces I enjoyed this past week while perusing the web with a few lines to peak your interest!

When You Need – Rachel Jankovic

“It is incredibly easy to fall into the temptation of keeping a close watch on potential nice things other people could do for you. But do not define yourself as a needer. Define yourself as a giver…We can let go of our self absorption and start giving, every time we have an opportunity (which is many thousands of times in a day) with a thankful heart.  So if you are feeling low, think of what you can give. You can always give a smile, give a cheerful laugh, give a meal with no strings of desperation tied onto it.”

“I’m Tired of Hearing the “Gospel” (Warning: Mild Rant) – Thabiti Anyabwile

It doesn’t matter what the topic is.  Men and women struggling to get along in their marriages?  ”The gospel.”  Someone struggling to find work in this economy?  ”Believe ‘the gospel’.”  The mechanic just “fixed” your car–again–and charged you–again–for the same problem you noticed last week?  Think of “the gospel.”  The Russian high court sentencing a punk rock band to two years in prison for a flash mob performance in a Russian Orthodox cathedral?  ”They need the gospel.”  Want rock hard abs?  Try “gospel” aerobics.  I smashed my little toe against the dresser?  All together now, “the gospel.”

… Of course, I’m not tired of hearing the actual gospel.  Let us all determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  But let us also learn that the apostle taught a lot of things about Jesus Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection without lackadaisically tossing out a few cliched references to “the gospel”.

Ten Things About Church You Should Know (But No One Had the Guts to Tell You)– Kevin De Young

1. There are 150 psalms in the Bible. This collection is called the Psalter or simply The Psalms. Each chapter in the book is an individual psalm. So even though we call the book “The Psalms” you’ll want to say “Psalm 23″ instead of “Psalms 23.” As much as we love that chapter, it still only counts for one psalm.

“Feed My Lambs”– Charles Spurgeon

Children in grace have to grow, rising to greater capacity in knowing, being, doing, and feeling, and to greater power from God; therefore above all things they must be fed. They must be well fed or instructed, because they are in danger of having their cravings perversely satisfied with error. Youth is susceptible to evil doctrine. Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the devil will be sure to teach them error. They will hear of it somehow, even if they are watched by the most careful guardians. The only way to keep chaff out of the child’s little measure is to fill it brimful with good wheat. Oh, that the Spirit of God may help us to do this!

“Neil Armstrong”The Telegraph

Neil Armstrong, the American astronaut, who has died aged 82, cemented a unique place in the history of mankind by becoming the first person to walk on the Moon; though his personal achievement was a product of the Cold War’s bitter technological and political rivalry, the successful completion of his mission proved a transcendent moment that captured the imagination of the entire planet.

 

 

Why Being Progressive Isn’t Always a Good Thing

20 Aug

It’s very “au courant” to be progressive. When that word progressive is used today, it has the connotation, to most, of someone or something that is “with the times” and has left behind old, out-dated notions. If you’re a progressive, you’re modern, you’re interested in  reform, you hold to new, liberal ideas.

But being progressive isn’t always a good thing, especially when it comes to Scripture. There are and have always been shifts throughout Christian history, where a person or group began to advocate teaching that seemed to “progress” beyond orthodox Christian beliefs. By orthodox, I’m not referring to the Orthodox church, but rather, I mean truths that have been universally accepted by Christians since the time of Jesus. Diverging. Moving away. To diverge and move away would be good things, if the teaching that was being supported was untrue or harmful. But when moving away and diverging from the truth is what’s taking place, you’re in a dangerous place. Today, movements within Christianity such as the emergent church, and the prosperity gospel  are good examples of false teaching that has and continues to lead many people astray. Being led astray is no small thing, when the matter at hand is one of life and death.

In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus says “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Those who do not bear fruit, or do not display the marks of true disciples, will be proved in the end to be false. And those who are not true disciples, as the Bible says, will spend eternity apart from God, in hell. That is a grim reality for anyone who has believed a false teacher and who has followed their teaching. Therefore, leaving behind or straying from what is true and following what is false is of mortal danger to the soul.

Last week, I came across this powerful sermon from John Piper and wanted to share the link with you. He makes six points from 2 Timothy 3:14-17 on why we must continue on in the truth found in Scripture. Here is a short summary of the main points, but I hope you’ll be willing to take a listen (or 3- I had to in order to soak up as much as I could, and I’ll probably listen again!) and study this passage as a reminder, or introduction, on why we must not leave the Scriptures and “progress” to new, different, au courant teachings.

2 Timothy 3:14–17,

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work

1. The character of the people who taught you the truth (verse 14b).

– Don’t forget the testimony of those who taught you the truth. Part of our confidence in the faith is in the credibility of the witness of those who were influential in leading us to Christ.

2. The marks of divine holiness in the Scriptures (verse 15a).

– “Just as God’s holiness is his utter uniqueness, so the Scriptures share in that holiness and have their own self-authenticating unique traits. So, Timothy, stay in what you’ve learned, because these writings are holy, they bear the distinguishing marks of the one and only God. Don’t turn away from them. Ask God to give you eyes.”

3. The power of Scripture to save sinners (verse 15b).

– “The Scriptures are uniquely suited to subdue folly and impart wisdom which can then see reality and embrace saving truth.”

4. The Scriptures brought you to Christ  (verse 15c).

– “The Scriptures prepared your mind and heart to see Jesus for who he is and to believe in him. Don’t walk away from the writings that brought you to Christ.”

5. The Scriptures are God-breathed (verse 16).

– “God’s influence was not simply on the mind of the writers in general, but his attention to the process of Scripture creation was such that when their minds and hands  composed actual Scripture words, these words were so much God’s words that Paul says the writings themselves are God-breathed.”

6. Finally, the Scripture is profitable—inestimably profitable (verses 16–17).

– “The God-breathed Bible aims to make us godly. To make us doers of good in this world. Don’t miss that. The doctrines of the Bible are designed to produce deeds. Good deeds. And they do it by teaching, verse 16, and that teaching has three sequential effects: Reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.”

Mining for Gems

13 Aug

My dad was once describing the way that Charles Spurgeon’s writing had impacted him by saying that it was as if he (Spurgeon) were a miner that was always digging for and producing  beautiful jewels as he unfolded the word of God, and that Spurgeon had this way with words that could make a reader understand things from so many different angles and see different aspects of the beauty of a thing in the same way a diamond shines and reflects light from so many different views. I was intrigued and so, I began to peruse Spurgeon’s writing occasionally. A great resource my dad linked me to was Phil Johnson’s website www.spurgeon.org, where you can find what I think is the largest online collection of his works. One of my favourites has been his daily devotional called Morning and Evening. I use it almost every day and can’t bookmark enough of the sentences and truths he makes clear to my mind. What a gift- to be able to write with precision and clarity. That’s definitely a talent I haven’t honed, but one that I think is so valuable and worth cultivating, not for the writer’s sake, but for the sake of those who read. We swim in muddy waters every day, where ideas are presented to us at lightning speed, and persuasive but subtle arguments of all kinds are influencing our thoughts. How important for a Christian to be clear, to be pointed, to be persuasive in all the right ways! So much is at stake and it matters that the words we write (and speak for that matter), not be wasted. This is a lesson to self that I am and will for a long time be learning.

Enough said. I’ll point you to Spurgeon this morning to start off your day with his clear insight into Psalm 104:16. If you haven’t already become familiar with who Charles Spurgeon is, you need to head over to www.spurgeon.org and read some of his writings and sermons and take a look at his biography. He wasn’t called the Prince of Preachers for no reason!

“The cedars of Lebanon which He hath planted.”—Psalm 104:16.

EBANON’S cedars are emblematic of the Christian, in that they owe their planting entirely to the Lord. This is quite true of every child of God. He is not man-planted, nor self-planted, but God-planted. The mysterious hand of the divine Spirit dropped the living seed into a heart which He had Himself prepared for its reception. Every true heir of heaven owns the great Husbandman as his planter. Moreover, the cedars of Lebanon are not dependent upon man for their watering; they stand on the lofty rock, unmoistened by human irrigation; and yet our heavenly Father supplieth them. Thus it is with the Christian who has learned to live by faith. He is independent of man, even in temporal things; for his continued maintenance he looks to the Lord his God, and to Him alone. The dew of heaven is his portion, and the God of heaven is his fountain. Again, the cedars of Lebanon are not protected by any mortal power. They owe nothing to man for their preservation from stormy wind and tempest. They are God’s trees, kept and preserved by Him, and by Him alone. It is precisely the same with the Christian. He is not a hot-house plant, sheltered from temptation; he stands in the most exposed position; he has no shelter, no protection, except this, that the broad wings of the eternal God always cover the cedars which He Himself has planted. Like cedars, believers are full of sap having vitality enough to be ever green, even amid winter’s snows. Lastly, the flourishing and majestic condition of the cedar is to the praise of God only. The Lord, even the Lord alone hath been everything unto the cedars, and, therefore David very sweetly puts it in one of the psalms, “Praise ye the Lord, fruitful trees and all cedars.” In the believer there is nothing that can magnify man; he is planted, nourished, and protected by the Lord’s own hand, and to Him let all the glory be ascribed.