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Living in Tension

2 Oct

I came across a short but excellent Q and A with John MacArthur on how we are to live with some of the more difficult doctrines of the Christian faith. In particular he address our need to live with the tension caused by certain aspects of the Atonement. Have a listen, it will be well worth your time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mleum3jZ1E&feature=watch-vrec

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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.

A Family Resemblance

28 Sep

Now I’ve gone and pinned myself into a corner. I promised that this week you would be getting a really good post. The pressure feels very high, and I’m scared you’ll be disappointed. So, if you walk away feeling disappointed, please don’t tell me. Just carry on with your day as if nothing happened.

This past weekend I was in Buffalo visiting some family members and doing some shopping. While I was walking around the mall, I couldn’t help but feel like I was seeing doubles. Sometimes even triples. All around me were groups of teenagers…all of whom looked exactly the same! They were all wearing Hollister type track pants…Abercrombie sweatshirts…big brown Uggs…and had their hair pulled up in a “last minute” bun. Exact replicas.

The fashionable trend of the era may change, but the fact that, with time, friends begin to act and even dress like each other is nothing new. I know I was exactly the same way. The more I spent time with my friends, the more I became like them, talked like them, and yes, even dressed and wore my hair like them.

It even happens with married couples. Now, I have a theory. There’s no scientific knowledge to back this up, so if you google it, you won’t find anything. But I personally believe that as the years pass, a married couple begins to increasingly resemble each other…as in, they start to look like brother and sister! The next time you’re out, see it for yourself. Take a look at the married couples in the mall, sitting with each other in restaurants, walking down the street together. The older they are and the longer they’ve been married…the more they look like they are related.

Beyond the physical resemblance, have you ever noticed how similar husbands and wives become with time? They begin to finish each other’s sentences, tell the same stories, even fall into the same routine that becomes wholly theirs. I see it with my parents in such a clear way. It’s a common occurrence for my mother to tell me a story, only to find that my father is repeating the same one to me only a few hours later. Though I’ve only been married for four years, I can already see it happening with Shady. Lately some of the jokes he’s been telling have had a very “Dina” flavour about them. I look at him with those “I’m turning you into me” smile. But I know it works both ways…so many of his personality traits are rubbing off on me as well!

It’s inevitable I think…the more time we spend with someone, the more we will be molded into their image, and them into ours. We become like the company that we keep.

The Bible teaches us that when man and women were first created, we were made to bear HIS image. We were made to resemble God and be like Him. But sin entered the world, and we began to think and act in ways that are completely contrary to the image and character of God. That’s one of the reasons why I love the Holy Spirit! Because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of this sin, points us to the cross, and reconciles us to God. And then something amazing happens…the Holy Spirit begins the incredible work of restoring us to the image of Christ. We begin to bear a strong resemblance to the nature and character of Jesus Christ…we begin to resemble Him. More and more. Every day.

How does this happen? A little bit like the teenage girls who slowly become twins as they spend time together…a little like the husband and wife who grow in their resemblance to each other…so too with us, as we spend time with the Lord, in His Word, fellowshipping with Him throughout the day, speaking with Him in prayer…we too grow in our likeness of Him. But it’s not just that his character will “rub off” on us…no there is a greater power at work in us. The Holy Spirit, who dwells within the believer, will do the work, changing us, molding us day by day, into the image of Christ. And as He does this, we find the things He hates, we begin to hate. And the things He loves, we begin to love. And the character of Christ, it shines through ours.

We begin to bear a family resemblance to Christ, such that people know we belong to Him. And they learn more about Him by observing our characters.

That is our hope, and that is our aim. To be ever, increasingly more like Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

Stay Tuned

20 Sep

Don’t be mad…but I just can’t think of anything to write.

I really tried. I started writing a post about how we shouldn’t waste our lives wishing for the weekend. Every Monday we wish it were Friday. Every Friday we look forward to our Saturday morning sleep in. Every Sunday we dread Monday…only start over again. What a waste. If we only had one week to live, would we still be wishing for the weekend with such fervour?

But honestly, I couldn’t turn it into a whole post. It seemed like a good idea in my mind, but it just didn’t work out on paper.

Then I tried writing about how every new phase of my life requires me to learn how to live all over again. With marriage, comes learning how to be a wife and home keeper. With motherhood comes learning how to care for a child while still maintaining my sanity. And I anticipate that there will be several phases to come that will require me to once again learn how to live all over again. But as I wrote the post, I sounded like such a pessimist…and I sounded like I was stressing out over the future, even though that’s not really how I feel. It sounded like someone else speaking, and not me, so I decided to discard that idea too.

Then I got excited because I thought about writing some of my most bizarre childhood memories. Like the time that I had a dog walking business and the St. Bernard across the street attacked me. It was a lesson in obedience, since my mother had strictly warned me not to walk that particular dog. I didn’t listen, and I ended up in the hospital. And I also wanted to write about the time I was in grade four and some of the girls in my class decided they didn’t like me any more. This led to the formation of the “I hate Dina” club…a club that didn’t last long, and I was once again invited into the inner circle. The memory is a funny thing, and since I dont know which ones will be stored in Amanda’s mind, I want to make each interaction I have with her one that is worthy of being stored in her memory for life.

I really thought that post would work…but the words just weren’t coming.

I even considered writing about how much I wish I could relive my teenager years…only this time I would live like the only perspective that mattered was God’s….and I wouldn’t care so much what other people thought of me and how they perceived me. I wouldn’t be so self conscious thinking that everyone was watching my ever move. Who cares if I was seen alone? Who cares if people thought I had no one to talk to. In fact, if I did it over, I would walk into the cafeteria with a book, sit down at a table alone, and read. That’s exactly what I’d do.

But this one needs more thought. Living for an audience of only one…I really want to develop that one…and I’m way too tired for that right now.

So I’ll be honest. I don’t think I can write one tonight. I’m more sleepy than usual. I’m staring at my couch with deep longing. I’m waking up at 6:30 am tomorrow and the very thought makes me nauseous.

I hope you’ll forgive me. I promise…next week will be a good one.

Book List

20 Sep

So to kick off September, I decided to write myself a list of books I would like to get through by next year. Here is my list which as of yesterday became one book shorter!!

Loving The Little Years: Motherhood In The Trenches by Rachel Jankovic (this is the one I just finished…it’s a great book and should/must be read by all mothers of young children)

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

Let The Nations Be Glad by John Piper

Instruments In The Redeemer’s Hands: People In Need Of Change Helping People In Need Of Change by Paul David Tripp

This Momentary Marriage by John Piper

What do you think of my list? Any suggestions? Any takers for reading one of the books along with me?

Meet My Shadow

13 Sep

Amanda has entered a new phase of her life. I like to refer to it with the sophisticated and highly technical term…”clingy.” Yes, I believe clingy is the right term to describe what’s happening. Don’t get me wrong, I love her constant attention and need for affection (I honestly do). It’s just that having a permanent shadow can sometimes get a little tricky.

Take for example the other day when I was washing the dishes. She sat at my feet, clinging onto my pant legs, crying desperately for me to pick her up. I have to admit, the dishes probably didn’t pass a safety check under those conditions…for how can I resist her clear display of wanting to be close to me? Then there are the mornings when I’m trying to get ready. She will sit on the bathroom floor, looking up at me with those “I can’t wait for you to carry me” eyes…she’ll follow me from the bathroom, to the closet, and to the bathroom again. Her eyes don’t come off of me. I try to distract her with a basket of make up, toiletries, anything…and sometimes it will work. But once I leave the room, it’s over. She’s on my trail in seconds, desperate to ensure that I’m not out of reach.

I’d love to say it’s because of my good looks and my charming personality.. But I know that’s not the case. I know that what’s happening here is her growing sense of complete dependence on me. In fact, have you ever thought about how completely dependent young children are on their parents? Think about it. They could not be changed were it not for us. They can only eat what we offer them. They only wear what we provide. They have no say in where they go, when they’ll return and what they’ll be doiing while they’re there. They look to their parents for every single facet of their lives.

Utter dependence.

This morning I was listening to a sermon by Pastor John MacArthur on the pillars of Christian character. He referred to the story found in Matthew 18. Jesus’ disciples are arguing amongst each other over who of them would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. To teach them a lesson on humility Jesus takes a little child into His arms and instructs them with these words: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:3

The applications of this verse are many. Among them is the truth that we have much to learn from the total dependence a young child has on his parents. As he humbly looks to his parents for every aspect of life, so we too must we come to God in humility and be completely dependent on our heavenly Father. It would be ridiculous if a young infant were to declare that he no longer needed his mother or father. “I’ll be changing my own diaper from now on…thank you very much.”  Yet how many times do I go about my day, depending on my own strength, wisdom and will. God’s word reminds me that my dependence on God must be total and complete…looking to Him for every need, desire and want…trusting in His wisdom and providencial care.

It’s not just the dependence that Amanda has on me that causes her to  be glued to my feet at all times. For often times I’m not fulfillling a specific need or meeting one of her desires at that moment. In fact one of our favorite pass times together is when she is playing with her toys in her play room. I rest my head on the carpet and simply watch her play. I’m not doing anything particularly impressive at the the time. I’m not singing fun songs, playing creative games or even talking for that matter. I’m simply sitting and enjoying her company. Occassionally I’ll quickly leave the room to get something that I need…and that’s when it happens…panic. She’ll cry, follow me out of the room, devastated that I would even consider leaving for a brief moment. And that’s when I realize it…she just wants to be with me. She wants the safety and security of knowing that her mother is in the room.

Another lesson learned. For I can’t help but ask myself if I crave my God’s fellowship in this same way. Am I content with living my day completely cut off from any thoughts of God, any meditations on His word, any words of prayer? Or do I long to think more on His perfect character, reflect on the wonderful truths of His word, and seek to be in prayer as I go about my daily life? Do I seek after His presence the way Amanda seeks after mine?

True, we don’t look to God in the same way that a child looks to his parents. We do not use our physical eyes, nor do we outgrow our need of Him. Instead, with the spiritual eyes of faith, we grow in our dependence of Him daily. For the more we know of Him, the more we realize how much we are in need of Him and how completely satisfying He truly is.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.” Hebrews 12:2

Lessons from the Microwave

6 Sep

Think of all the things you could learn about yourself if you examine your behaviour while standing at the microwave. I know, it seems silly, but give me a chance.

“The Last Ten Seconds Test”

It’s incredible when you think of how quickly your meal can be prepared. 2.5 minutes is all you need to deliver a dinner plate that is piping hot. You’d think that would be satisfying enough, right? But have you ever been guilty of standing at the microwave, staring at the numbers as they make their way down to zero, and decide that you just can’t wait out the last ten seconds? I’ve done it several times. With only ten seconds left to go, I tell myself “I’m sure it’s hot enough. What’s another ten seconds going to do anyways?” And so I pull my food out of the microwave, prematurely of course, satisfied that I’ve saved myself ten seconds of my life!  If you think you’re a patient person, stand at the microwave and watch your meal being warmed. See if you pass the “Last 10 Seconds Test”.

Drifting Thoughts

As you stand at the microwave, see if you can pinpoint exactly what it is that you’re thinking about. You can tell a lot about someone by what they think about when there’s really nothing to think about. The microwave is not unique in offering us this window into our thoughts. Sitting in traffic, waiting in line, lying in bed trying to fall asleep. These are all moments when our thoughts tend to drift…and their final destination reveals much about the condition of our hearts and the cares on our minds. It’s been said that the average person spends 60 minutes a day just “waiting”. Okay fine, I made that statistic up…but the amount of time we spend waiting is probably close to that…What do we do with that time? What thoughts are we entertaining and what can we learn about our hearts as a result?

The All Important To Do List

Maybe you’ve read the last point and thought “Stand at the microwave?” There’s no time to just stand there…do you know how much I have to do? That’s 2.5 minutes that I can actually use to cross things off my list. Load the laundry, empty the dishwasher, take out the garbage…I could go on.” I have to admit, this is me. Sometimes I am so driven to cross each item off my to do list, that I’ll drive myself crazy using every minute of the day to get it all done. I need the reminder that if I can’t even afford a couple of minutes to stand and wait for my food to be prepared, then perhaps I’m placing unnecessary expectations on myself. God has given us 24 hours in a day, not so that we can whine about how there aren’t enough hours in our day, but because that is the sufficient amount of time we need to accomplish all that He would have us do. If we’re running ourselves dry, could it be that we need a lesson in simplifying our lives and reorganizing our priorities based on God’s principles?

What we Eat

I put a lot of  thought into my food. What should eat? When will I prepare it? When will I buy it? How can I make it more creative? All this just for physical food. But what about spiritual food? As we stand at the microwave waiting for our physical food, is this not an opportunity to reflect on our spiritual diet, so to speak, of God’s word.  Do I put the same effort into ensuring that I receive spiritual nourishment? Am I receiving my daily portion of God’s word? Am I drinking from the living water and feasting on Christ on a consistent basis? If not, what in my life needs to change so that the answer can be a resounding yes?

So….what do you learn about yourself if you examine your microwave habits? Are you as patient as you thought? What is the content of your thoughts? Have you filled your life with too many responsibilities that leave you running frantically through life with little time to slow down? Are you placing the right importance on your spiritual nutrition, rather than just your physical nourishment?

It’s only 2.5 minutes, but it can reveal so much.

 

My Peace I Give To You; Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

6 Sep

As a Christian, there is a kind of peace I experience that is far above and beyond what this world can offer. It is “a peace that passes understanding,” as the apostle Paul would say…and it is mine in Christ. It is the kind of peace that remains even when things aren’t going my way. Ironically, it’s the kind of peace that holds up in the most chaotic of circumstances. It’s a personal peace with God and others that I enjoy because of the Gospel, and I am eternally indebted to God for that.

But what bearing does my personal peace have for your life? Does it matter that I enjoy this very intimate and personal peace? Are there any consequences to not having this person peace?

Piper wrestled with this question in a sermon he recently preached on John 14: 25-31 entitled “My Peace I Give To You; Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled,” and touched on it again in this sermon. Essentially the answer is this, my personal peace with God affects your life. And so it follows that your personal peace with God affects my life and the lives of those around you.

We see numerous examples of this in Scripture. Think of the Thessalonians. News of their faith in Christ (which subsequently means peace with God) sounded forth and was an encouragement to an entire region of believers. Imagine that. An entire region of Christians simply heard about the faith these other Christians had, and they were encouraged. Even the apostle Paul himself was encouraged by the faith of these believers. And think about young Timothy and how the sincere faith of his mother and grandmother affected his life. Little did these two women know that their personal peace with God would affect generations of Christians to come!

Now, this means that the opposite must be true as well. If we lack personal peace with God we are still going to have an effect on the world around us, only it won’t encourage – rather it will tear down and destroy. You see this clearly in the world around us – terrorism, mass murders, broken families, immorality. All of it is rooted in hearts that do not know the peace of God. People like to pretend that what goes on in a person’s heart really doesn’t matter. But it does. Remember what Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19).

Our personal peace matters, and I would challenge you in particular Christian to strive to enjoy that personal peace with God on a daily basis. Think of how the Lord used the faith of the Thessalonians and of Timothy’s mother and grandmother and be encouraged. Be encouraged to think that God uses us in ways that we can’t even imagine. And at the same time be sobered by the reality of what our lack of peace can accomplish in the lives of those around us.

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.

Seated on His Throne

31 Aug

“Behold our God, seated on His throne, come let us adore Him”

Last Sunday we sang a song in church, and this line really resonated with me. So many amazing truths are packed in the one statement “God on His throne.” I hope to be able to look at just a few of them, though I definitely won’t be able to cover it all.

We don’t have to watch international news for long to see the effects of a country without a leader. Where some think this would be the ultimate freedom, the result is always widespread chaos, disorder, injustice and ultimately rampant fear. The truth that God is on His throne assures us that this world is never without a Sovereign King. What is more, unlike kings and leaders who are corrupt and not to be trusted, our Sovereign King is righteous, Holy and always good. “Say among the nations ‘The Lord reigns.’ The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.” Psalm 96:10

The fact that God is on His throne not only comforts me in knowing that He is sovereignly ruling the universe, but as a believer, it means that He holds sole responsibility of ordering and ruling my own personal life. It’s one thing for a leader to run a country…but an entirely different thing to invite this leader into your home, your life, your own soul to order its affairs and manage every detail. But this is what it means to be a Christian. Why is this a comfort? Because we have the promise that “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

If I were in charge of our nation (and thank God that I’m not), I’m pretty sure I’d live with a nagging fear. When will this all be over? How long will it take for people to discover that I’m not as good as I think I am? How long before they are disappointed with me, as they are with all other leaders in their past? In essence, how long before my seat in office come to its end? What’s incredible about the truth of “God on His throne” is thatHis throne will never be occupied by another, nor will His rule ever come to an end. In fact there has never been a time when God was not ruling in power.  For all of eternity past, and all eternity to come, He is firmly established as Sovereign ruler and King.   ”Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures all generations.” Psalm 145:13

When I think of a leader, ruling over the affairs of the country, I picture someone who is completely out of reach of the common people. He or she is tucked away at the end of a long hallway, protected by door after door, guarded by security of course, until finally you reach an inner office where only the few elite are allowed to inhabit. The regular folk, they just a get a view of the outside building from a tour bus. And if you want to talk to the ruler, I mean, I guess you could try calling his direct line. But really, good luck with that! But look at what God’s word says about the Christian’s relationship with our Sovereign King:

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” Hebrews 10:19-22

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

One more thing. It’s obvious that not everyone acknowledges, or even believes in the God of the Bible. Some dismiss Him as a fairy tale and disregard His very existence. But this does not thwart His plans, nor does it interfere with His Sovereign Rule. Unlike human rulers, God does not need to be elected. He sits on His throne because He is God, and nothing will ever change that. And there will come a day when all men will stand before this holy throne, and will be need to give an account for how they have responded to the person and work of Christ. Have they rejected Christ? Or have they turned to Him in faith?  This is the only basis by which all men will be judged.

Are we ready to stand before this throne?