Saturday, 21 April 2018

The Exchange: A Day of My Life for ...

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 14:1)

Every once in a while I discover a little nugget somewhere that ends up having a profound effect on me. It's not about whether the source has Christian origins or not. It's about a truth in a message, regardless who the messenger is.

Today was one such day when I discovered the following, said to have its origin with the Trappist Monks at Genesse Abbey. It goes something like this:

This is the beginning of a new day. I've been given this day to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do today is important because I'm exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, not loss; good, not evil; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.

Profound, isn't it? I thought so. For me it begged the question: "How do I spend my days?" Can I name even one positive thing that came out of today? Was someone's day a little brighter and more hopeful because my path crossed theirs today? Was I a blessing today?

Or did I essentially waste the day, once again, a day that I can never get back? Maybe I was more of a curse than a blessing. Maybe I once again dragged my sorry self through the day, complaining about who knows what, being a cantankerous old fool, and taking down those whose paths crossed mine, as opposed to blessing them. I hope not.

What did you exchange for this day of your life?

Something to think about. Peace.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Friday, 16 February 2018

What Are You Doing Here?

“… and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? … And behold, there came a voice to him and said, What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19: 9,13; Amplified)

My wife and I have both been reading though the Old Testament again lately, and as often seems to happen, a nugget comes to mind that makes us stop and reflect and fellowship around that nugget. Recently she shared with me the “what are you doing here?” nugget above from 1 Kings. For several days now, I have not stopped for long in meditating upon it. Is God trying to say something to me? Hmm, I wonder.

What are you doing here?

The context is an interesting story. There had been a three-year drought in the land, and food and water was scarce. Elijah goes to a destitute widow in Zarephath, to a poor woman who had nothing, who happened to be picking up two sticks for dinner for herself and her son. God miraculously provides for Elijah’s needs through her, and for the needs of the widow and her son as well (1 Kings 17).

A little while later Elijah finds himself alone in a showdown with a bunch of pagan prophets. Long story short, two bulls are sacrificed; one for all the prophets, and one for Elijah. Neither altar is given the customary fire. The prophets dance around their altar calling on the name of their deity, but nothing happens. Next it’s Elijah’s turn. He begins by increasing the odds against him by three times calling for four jars of water to be dumped on top of the bull and firewood. God shows up and burns up Elijah’s sacrifice, to the amazement of all. All the pagan prophets are killed, the rains return, and the drought was over (1 Kings 18). King Ahab tells his wife Jezebel what Elijah did to all her prophets, she gets ticked and threatens Elijah, and Elijah runs away scared for his life (1 Kings 19).

What are you doing here?

Every time I’ve read this account of Elijah in the past, I’ve always thought of the “here” that God speaks to him about in a geographical sense. “Why are you here?” (insert name of city or town where you currently are). Where is “here?” Of course, it’s a place. That’s what “here” is; it refers to a place. As you read 1 Kings 19, there are several places mentioned. Go to any one of them, and you could say, “I am ‘here’.” However, true as that may be, I’m starting to see another possible way to read the “here” that has nothing to do with a geographical location.

Could it be that maybe the “here” is also a state of mind or circumstance? How did I get myself “here” (teenage pregnancy)? How did I get myself “here” (addicted to alcohol or drugs)? How did I get myself “here” (obese)? How did I get myself “here” (divorced)? How did I get myself “here” (constantly stressed out)? Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Is that what God asked Elijah those two times in verses 9 and 13 of 1 Kings 19? “What are you doing here, Elijah” (running scared)?

What are you doing here?

I’ve never claimed to have this faith-walk thing all figured out; not by a long shot. Yes, I believe God has shown me some interesting things along this pilgrimage of mine, but time and again I’ve also made a royal mess of my spiritual walk. I too have seen God’s hand miraculously in my life on more than one occasion, and sometimes I too have still run scared. Why?

Oh, I know I’m not alone. The Bible is full of examples of people who have seen the miraculous hand of God, only to turn and run scared or do something incredibly stupid and unbelieving. As I’ve reflected on that a time or ten, both on some of the antics of biblical characters and my own stupidity, it seems fair to say that sometimes we Christians act more atheistic than the atheists themselves. At the very least, sometimes we seem more agnostic than Christian.

So when we see Elijah, one of the mighty men of God, fresh from back to back miracles, running scared, it makes me scratch my head in wonderment. Part of me wants to yell out, “What’s the matter with you, Elijah? God just worked in some pretty incredible ways in your life, and you’re running scared from some heathen queen, the very one whose prophets were just proved false?” Still, I’m not one to judge, because I’m no better. “What are you doing here, Will?” Hmm.

What are you doing here?

Is there an answer to the “here” problem? If so, I have yet to figure it out. All I think I know, is that the particular “here” that God asked Elijah about, and asks you and me about, is not really the place he desires us to be. I cannot believe that God desires us to run scared, or to experience teenage pregnancy, or to be addicted to drugs or alcohol. And I certainly cannot believe that God’s plan for us is to be constantly stressed out over all the junk this world has to offer and seems to demand of us. The good news is, God loves us too much to leave us alone in our “here,” and so He comes to us, as He did with Elijah, and wants to care for us and give us rest. The good news is, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3: 22-23; ESV)

Thomas ‘A Kempis once said, “Habit overcomes habit,” and I like that. Maybe the answer lies, at least in part, in the creation of some new habits. That’s not to say that everything about our particular “here” will suddenly change and get better. They could, and yet consequences for our previous actions can also still remain. The teenage pregnancy will still lead to an infant being born at an inconvenient time in life. An addiction can still yield irreparable damage to the body.

Maybe that is why God asked Elijah those two times, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” God is in the restoration business, and maybe before He can bring that restoration, He wants us to each come to grips with the question, “What are you doing here?” It is not about condemnation, for there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Rather it’s about a God who loves us enough to confront us with our “here” in an effort to heal and restore.

What are you doing here?

Photo Credit: Nina Matthews Photography; Flickr Creative Commons

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Government: The Other Church Member?

So it would seem that the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and his Liberal party have once again endeared themselves to Christian churches with their latest political left-wing agenda. Ah, the drama of this former drama teacher and his cronies would be amusing if it were not so sad. What is it this time?

This time the circus performance centres on new changes to the summer employment program, whereby organizations, including churches, can apply for subsidies to hire students for summer jobs. Unlike past years, part of the conditional application, apparently now requires applicants to take a pro-abortion stand on their applications. If I read this correctly, the bottom line is, anti-abortionists need not apply. The bottom line is, think like and agree with Trudeau, or stay home. Democracy? Hmm.

Still, I am not really pro or anti any political party. I'm actually seriously contemplating never voting again. The old adage that one should vote for the lessor of the evils doesn't work for me; it is still voting for evil. It's the world's governmental system; these Caesar's are here today and gone tomorrow when another Caesar comes along with his/her mouthful of manure to, oddly enough, endear the masses tired of chasing the south end of the previous northbound horse. Truth be known, and harsh as it sounds, all politics is little more than s**t, no matter what the title or the political party. None of it has anything to do with God, and personally, I'm tired of bowing the knee to Caesar.

"What harmony can there be between Christ and … " (2 Corinthians 6:15)

Though I'm a Christian, I really cannot join these churches in their quest to change the government's position. While I am a man of prayer, I won't be joining their call for the faithful to pray about this matter. Now this may shock you, but I say, "So what! Who cares?!" The creation of student summer jobs is an admirable one, no doubt. But I fail to see why church institutions should expect a secular government to contribute to their programs.

Personally I think that churches are too married to the Caesar's of the land already. They have charter numbers and indirectly through that are entitled to seek government charitable donation receipts. At the risk of further offending, maybe the government needs to scrap that too! I cannot help but wonder how many would continue contributing to the churches' coffers at the same level if there were no tax receipt attached. Hmm, but that's a topic for another day.

There are plenty of reasons why I think we all need to do some serious rethinking as to how we do church. Government interventions are but one of the many reasons why I dissolved my association with the institutional church over fifteen years ago. There are many more reasons, to be sure! However, as someone once said, "Oats come a little cheaper once they've already been through the horse." By linking ourselves to the state, have churches become lethargic and content with second-hand oats? Whatever happened to the purity of clean and unadulterated oats? Hmm.

In revising the abortion laws, it was Justin's father, Pierre Trudeau, who once said, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." I would like to suggest that there is also no place for the state in the churches of the nation. Churches would do well to stop abdicating their responsibility as a church by expecting handouts from the government to do what they alone were called to doing. Failure to do so simply means that the government can come along any time they want and essentially tell the church what to believe and what to do, as they seem to be attempting in this instance. Their financial contributions to the institutional church essentially makes them church members, and as such Big Brother has a vote in its operation.

I love the (non-institutional) church, and I love Jesus. But I'm gaging a bit on the thought of a State Church, one which, if we are not already there, we seem to be headed full steam towards.

That's the way I see it anyways. Peace.

Source: Summer Job Program Changes Anger Churches

Sunday, 7 January 2018

of Bumper Stickers and Tailgating Jesus

Well here we are, one week into yet another new year. A time to celebrate and share hopes and dreams for good things ahead. So let me ask, how has 2018 been for you thus far? Awesome? Maybe less than awesome? Perhaps ‘Meh’ describes it best? I confess that mine was pretty awesome … on day one. After that it’s been, well, rather, … meh.

I’ve never really been one too much for New Year’s resolutions; mostly I think they’re a waste of time and never last the first week anyways. If they do, there’s probably a pretty good chance that come February, they’ve already fizzled out. I’m not sure what the actual statistics are on New Year’s resolutions, or if anyone has actually studied them for that matter. However, I remember some years back when my wife and I were members at a local gym, we always saw a huge increase in traffic at the gym on January 1. By mid-month, you'd never know it; traffic patterns were pretty much back to pre-January norms. New Year’s resolutions are, well, … meh.

But I’m not pointing fingers; eventually my own lofty weight loss and fitness goals also fizzled out. I know that I should get back to it, but often something inside of me just seems to time and again say, … meh.

Having said that, there is one “resolution,” however, that I do desire to see succeed, though often I feel like I’m only batting 5% at best. Year after year, and often throughout the months in between, the regular desire of my heart, is a closer following of Jesus. This yearning is evidenced by this bumper sticker someone created and shipped to me recently.

Are you following JESUS this closely?

What a timely gift! I love the double entendre; it speaks loudly to my abhorrence with tailgaters (even though I have to confess that sometimes I’ve been one too). Perhaps more importantly, it asks the sobering question: How closely do we follow the Lord whom we claim to love and follow?

While in context referring to the end of the Babylonian captivity, I believe the Lord’s message through the prophet Jeremiah to the people of Israel rings just as true to you and me today. The Lord said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Yes, a different context, but the same divine expectation from the same God. Are we seeking God with all our hearts, or only with half (or less) of them? Remember, Jesus himself said that he wasn’t into lukewarm followers (Revelation 3: 15-16).

Are you following JESUS this closely?

I’m not there yet, not by a long shot! But as I pick myself up and dust myself off from my latest sad-excuse for a Christian walk, I resolve to move forward and strive to follow Jesus a little closer, and with a little less lukewarmness. Thankfully God is gracious, merciful and loving, and He does pick up the pieces of broken lives that seek after Him with all their hearts.

So here we are at the genesis of another new year. It is exciting to see what God may have in store for us. As we wait on Him, I'd like to challenge each of us to be tailgaters of JESUS. Yes, follow Him that closely. But please, let's refrain from tailgating the car in front of us; that might not end as well.

And, please, no more, … meh.

Peace.