Friday, 22 April 2011

A Good Friday Reflection

Photo Credit: Michelle Dyer
Flickr Creative Commons
In the stillness of this very early Good Friday morning, free from all the distractions of the typical day, I sit here in the quiet and reflect on just what it cost my God to give me my hope and my salvation. What words can adequately express the wonder, horror and joy of that cruel cross? What words can I say in response?

I am tearfully overcome with a strange mixture of both heart-wrenching grief for both His pain, and my sin which brought that pain, as well as a profound thankfulness for the love of God to me. There are no words that can come even close enough, except maybe this grand old Isaac Watts hymn.

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save on the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isn’t that a beautiful hymn? I haven’t looked a Hymnal in a while. I wonder why that is? Most modern songs don’t even come close to these theologically rich grand old hymns. If it’s been a while for you too, I would encourage you to reflect on a couple of these timeless classics again; they’re beautiful!

My hope and prayer for you, my friend, is that you might take a little time out of your busy schedule to simply prayerfully reflect on what God paid for you. Thank you, Jesus.

Have a very blessed Easter.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Priest Accused of Bestiality

"Bestiality Statue?"
Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
I think I’m going to be ill! A priest accused of bestiality? Please tell me it is not so! Yet so reads the article in the Lethbridge Herald on Saturday April 16, 2011. Here’s the article:
“Additional charges against a priest facing numerous sex abuse charges against Inuit children include one count of bestiality. Court documents say the charge, one of five new ones laid this week against Eric Dejaeger, allegedly involved a dog. The new accusations bring to 28 the number of charges against Dejaeger. Almost all the counts are sex offenses allegedly committed against boys and girls in the remote Nunavut community of Igloolik between 1979 and 1982. Dejaeger, who was expelled earlier this year on immigration violations, is being held in custody awaiting bail in Iqaluit. He received a five-year sentence in 1990 after pleading guilty to nine counts of sex crimes against boys and girls in Baker Lake in the 1980’s.”
Doesn’t that just turn your stomach? It sure does turn mine! I believe it turns God’s stomach too. God said in Leviticus 20:15, “If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he must be put to death, and you must kill the animal.” The priest in question should consider himself fortunate that the Old Testament laws like this one are no longer enforced. Then again, I suppose there are those who think that they probably should be.

It is one thing when such perversions happen in the world, but here is a man who “supposedly” represented God in His church, doing things even worse than many non-believers would do. How do we account for that? The Apostle Paul said that it is because of pseudo-Christians like this that “God’s name is blasphemed” (Romans 2:24) among the unbelieving world. When the world sees church leaders doing this sort of thing, what possible attraction does the church have for them? Why would they even consider Christianity? Perhaps that is why Paul also said that there are many who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18).

Sexual crimes against children are horrible enough in their own right, and in my opinion, the laws here are still far too lenient for this type of crime.  Have we become lethargic on the subject of pedophile priests? Has there been so much publicity in recent years on this subject that it no longer shocks or offends us? 

Do we now need to add the shock value of priestly bestiality to our list of religious perversions? And when we’ve become accustomed to the sounds of bestiality, then what? How low can we go as a society before God says enough is enough and brings on a societal judgment on us such as we've never seen before?

What should our response to this as believers be? What are your thoughts?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Is Gambling and Games of Chance Controlled by God?

Photo Credit: Mark Menzies, Flickr Creative Commons
I remember many years ago my father saying in jest, “I won a dollar in the lottery last night.” I asked him, “Dad, how could you win only a dollar?” He said, “I didn’t buy a ticket, so I figure I’m a dollar ahead.”

I’m not a gambler, and this is not intended as a judgment call on those who are gamblers. From time to time I’ve even bought the odd lottery ticket and I’ve had fun imagining what I might do with the winnings if “my numbers” were by chance to come up.  But, to use gambling terminology, I am the most “unlucky” person at games of chance. As the expression sometimes goes, I couldn’t win anything “if my life depended on it.” Oh well, I’m really quite OK with that.

In truth, though we often use words like “luck,” or “lucky,” is there really such a thing as that? Is one person more “lucky” than another person? Personally I really don’t believe so, even if I tend to sometimes use that word. This became very clear to me on my 2009 trip to Sturgis when I used the word “lucky” and was promptly chastised for it by a dear Christian sister that I only just met. (You can read about that in my Sturgis memoirs here).

I now prefer to use the word “providence.” Some might say it’s only semantics, but I don’t think so. For those not familiar with the word “providence,” I think it is best defined as God’s divine care and preservation of all creation, including mankind’s needs, according to His sovereign and intended purposes. Providence is a rich word that we don’t seem to use very often anymore. I wonder why that is?

The question for me is, where and how do I expect to get my needs met? Are they met through lotteries and other games of chance, or by the providence of God? It is true that God can meet all our needs in any number of different ways, and He often does. Probably for most of us our needs are met when we go to work and earn a paycheck. However, God isn’t limited by our working for our sustenance; He can use miraculous methods as well, such as the feeding of Elijah by the ravens (1 Kings 17:6). And if we use the same line of reasoning, I suppose that God could also use lottery winnings to provide for His children.

There is an interesting verse in Proverbs 16:33 which says, “But the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (NIV). The Amplified puts it this way, “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly of the Lord [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him].” Finally, notice how the Living Bible paraphrases this verse, “We toss the coin, but it is the Lord who controls its decision.”

What am I getting at? I see an important theological lesson here, namely that God is actively involved in every aspect of our lives, even the game of chance. Is it beyond the realm of possibility to assume that, just as the disciples cast lots to determine Judas' replacement (Acts 1:26), that God cannot determine the outcome of those lots they cast? The question is not so much one of my being “lucky” as it is one of God’s will for my life. Could it be that God allows or even wills a certain person’s “lucky numbers” to come up while at the same time disallowing it for the next person? I wonder.

And while I’m on that same train of thought, please allow me to digress a little. Could it not be that God is still so involved in the world even up to and including natural disasters and wars? Now there is a loaded question that is certain to get some people upset. Forgive me if I’ve stirred those emotions in you; I mean no harm or disrespect. I can only see one of two possible answers here. Either God is still fully 100% involved and in control of the world, or He is not at all involved any more and has simply let the world spin out of control on its own. I cannot imagine any other scenario in the middle somewhere. It’s all or nothing. I believe that God is fully in control, despite the fact that He has also given us a measure of dominion over His creation (Genesis 2: 19-20), and thereby, a measure of free will.

How then could we reconcile all those horrible events of history? Why would a God that is so infinitely in love with you and me permit (or cause to happen) some of those tragedies of human history? I don’t pretend to have an answer to that. Maybe that’s where faith comes in.  One thing is for certain, and that is that God does love us very, very much (see John 3:16).

As for reconciling all my “whys” of human tragedies, I am at peace with the question when I remind myself of what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (NIV).

Why do things happen as they do? Why do some people seem to have all the “luck” whereas others continue to decline in their poverty? Why are there massive tragedies and great losses of life around the world? Why? Why? Why? I don’t know. I wish I did know, but I don’t. But while I may not know what tomorrow holds, I do know who holds it – my Heavenly Father does.

Do we trust that He knows what is best, even if we cannot answer the “whys?”

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Wait on the Lord

Photo Credit: Roger Jones, Flickr Creative Commons

 “for you I wait all the day long” 
(Psalm 25:5)
wait for the Lord” 
(Psalm 27:14)
“to wait for His Son”
(1 Thessalonians 1:10)

I was thinking a little lately on how we “wait on the Lord.” How is that word “wait” to be understood? Well we could do an in depth word study into the Hebrew and Greek words, which I did not do this time. But if we did do that, what we would find is that the word pretty much means what we’ve come to understand it to mean. The way the Bible translators have typically translated this word, most of us would never think twice about. No surprises there.

The word “wait” as we have it in our Bibles means to expect, or to expect eagerly. It means to look for with a view to a favorable reception from God. It carries the idea of abiding in Him. It also sometimes refers to awaiting a specific event, such as the coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:4. To wait often suggests a continuous and steadfast action, such as being ready to board a boat in Mark 3:9. These are the common renderings of the word “wait,” and all of them are correct. This is what the biblical writers had in mind when God directed them to pen those words.

I would like to suggest another way that we could also use the word wait in “wait on the Lord.” No, I’m not proposing throwing out the commonly accepted interpretations of the word “wait,” and what I’m going to suggest is not used in this way in the Bible, at least I’ve not yet discovered it. Theologically, though, I believe it would also be correct. What am I getting at?

Suppose we started using “wait” in the context of what a waiter or waitress does. Suppose when we speak of “waiting on the Lord” we mean it more as serving our Lord, as if He were seated at a fancy dining room table and we were the waiter, waiting to bring Him whatever He desired, or doing for Him whatever He desired.

Certainly God doesn’t “need” anything, but He does desire something. What is it that God desires? The Ten Commandments come to mind (Exodus 20:1-17 & Deuteronomy 5:6-21), as does 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Likewise, one of my favorites, Micah 6:8, “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness and to walk humbly with your God.” Jesus’ Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40) also comes to mind.  Does God “need” anything? No, He already owns everything (Psalm 50:10).  As His “waiters,” all he desires “are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). To “wait upon the Lord” is to be a servant and to DO that which pleases Him.

I want to be a waiter. How about you?