Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Francis of Assisi Prayer: Goodbye 2013

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Could this prayer, attributed to Francis of Assisi, form the basis for a New Year's resolution for 2014? Wouldn't that be something if the church gave more than just cheap verbal assent to this and actually put it into practice? Selah (pause, and calmly think of that)!

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Just Another Day in the Boxing Ring Called Church?

“… until we all attain to
the unity of the faith …”

Pardon me for being a doubting Thomas, but lately I’m becoming more and more convinced that this side of Glory, we will never see that day described in this verse from Ephesians 4:13. I will spare you all the gory details and gracelessness (on my part) that led me to this conclusion, but let me simply say, God still has a lot of work to do in me. I do not wish to point fingers, but in truth, maybe He still has a lot of work to do in most of us before “we all attain to the unity of the faith.” Ugh!

This afternoon I turned once again to a favorite little devotional by Watchman Nee called, “A Table in the Wilderness.” Though I have quoted from it many times before, today’s selection was especially relevant. He wrote:
“To have constant close association with people whose interpretation of Scripture does not tally with ours is hard for the flesh, but good for the spirit. We may have right views, but God is giving us an opportunity to display a right attitude; we may believe aright, but He is testing to see if we love aright. It is easy to have a mind well stored with sound scriptural teaching, yet a heart devoid of true love. Oh, for Christian tolerance! Oh, for largeness of heart! Alas! that many of God’s children are so zealous for the light they have that they immediately label as outsiders, and treat as such, all whose interpretation of Scripture differs from theirs. God would have us walk in love towards all who hold views contrary to those so dear to us. Nothing so tests the spirituality of a teacher as opposition to his teaching.”
"Oh, for Christian tolerance! Oh, for largeness of heart!" For me, that Watchman Nee thought is a timely message. Truly, it is something to think about. May God help each of us to get to the point where we actually do, “attain to the unity of the faith.”

Or do we even want that? Hmm, sometimes I wonder.

Peace & Blessings.

Photo Source: Unknown

Thoughts on the Duck Dynasty Fiasco

“For the record, I'm sick to death of all this Duck Dynasty / Freedom of Speech / Gay / Christian / A&E / Persecution / Bull S**t. There, I've said my two cent's worth. That feels better.

Hmm, maybe these comments will get misconstrued too.”

So read my recent post on this blog’s Facebook page. Unfortunately it ruffled the feathers of a follower of the Facebook page to such an extent that she accused me of “cursing” and promptly unfollowed the page and then, on a subsequent comment, threatened to block me. One other commentator weighed in by saying that she “blew things way out of proportion,” and another said, “For the record, Will, I'm with you. And for the record, I think the orchestrator is something other than God. And I'm sick of people laying all this blind human mess on Him.

Was it something that I said? (Yes, I am being facetious) Apparently it was. Maybe we need to back this train up a bit and look at the bigger picture. What happened to bring us to this place?

Duck Dynasty’s patriarch, Phil Robertson, was allegedly asked his opinion about homosexuality, or some such thing. As a Christian, it’s not surprising that his alleged anti-gay response ruffled some feathers. What is surprising is that there was an apparent surprise at all to his answer. What did they think he was going to say? For a while it seemed that at every turn, social media had an opinion or ten (or a hundred) as to what actually happened and as to what was allegedly actually said and by whom. A&E allegedly got involved and suspended Phil from the TV program. Tempers flared as both left and right wing jumped head-long into the milieu, making all sorts of accusations against each other, including charging A&E with violating Robertson’s constitutional-given right to freedom of speech and even persecuting him for his faith, while all the while his opponents balked at such notions. One side blamed the fiasco on Satan, whereas the other saw the hand of God in the controversy.
"The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means that you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers." (1 Corinthians 6:7-8; NIV)
For the record, while I too am a Christian, I am not a huge fan of most things Hollywood, and at the end of the day, if truth be told, the outcome doesn’t much matter to me one way or another. Yes, I’ve watched a few early episodes of Duck Dynasty, but like most TV shows, I can easily take it or leave it. As a matter of fact, if it were only up to me, our cable box could go on the fritz and not work at all, and it could conceivably be weeks before I even noticed that the TV wasn’t working. But that’s just me.

However, I’ve digressed. What led up to my comment? Ultimately, it was all of the above. As one headline read, “Duck Dynasty Fans Are Losing Their Minds On Facebook.” Maybe I should have been quiet and kept my thoughts to myself, but that has never been my nature. At the end of the day, the whole subject simply began to nauseate me more and more, and I spewed out my two-cent’s worth. “Enough already,” I thought to myself, “Is there really nothing else to talk about?

I like how my friend Gibby put it when he posted:
I was going to remain quiet, but here goes nothing: So, everyone's in an uproar because their patriarch hero character on a pseudo-reality TV show that really isn't that good was rightfully asked by contract to stay home. This created drama for many who want to claim he and they are being persecuted. Something about freedom of speech. 
Yet, throughout the world we still have brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and massacred. Our first world problems pale in comparison to those of our brother Saeed Abedini, or of the Nigerian and Syrian Christians who's lives were taken. 
Let's get a grip, people. Let's see the world through the eyes of our King and grieve, not only for our brothers and sisters, but for those who kill them. May the Spirit of the Lord grip our hearts and remind us that our rights are diminished in God's presence and kingdom. It is He who deserves our entire lives. Let us pray not only for our cities, but also for the cities, towns and villages that are under great turmoil. Let us give ourselves to be poured out. Our brothers and sisters have...
Do I apologize for saying what I did? No, I stand by it. However if it offended someone (which it obviously did), that is regrettable. Still, that is the nature of social media and the players therein; they’ve all got opinions, myself included. Sooner or later, someone is going to get their feelings hurt. I know, I've had my feelings hurt before too. But really? Over a TV show?

So, with all do respect to my opponents, and at the risk of offending some folks even further, I will close with a classic tune from The Eagles. However, a caveat is in order: If you're easily offended by coarse language, you may NOT want to play this song.

Is it time that we all maybe just "Get Over It" and move on with life. Is this really that big of a deal? What about people with real problems? As someone once said, "I complained about having no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet" (anonymous). Maybe, as my friend Gibby said, "Our first world problems pale in comparison" to some of the sufferings going on in the world around us.

As other brothers and sisters in places like Syria are being massacred for their faith, maybe it really is time that we paused from all this TV nonsense and took a real reality check. Just a thought. Peace.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Taking a 'Bite' out of Universalism?

I remember some years ago coming back from a business trip in central Alberta when suddenly the whole highway seemed to move. No, it wasn’t an earthquake; it was grasshoppers, … locusts, … billions of them! Suddenly one literally couldn’t see the road surface as the invading army of locusts crossed the highway from one poor farmer’s field to another’s. By the time I got home, the front of my previously white car was yellow as millions of locusts met their maker (so to speak) via the tires and front grill of my car. Unfortunately for me, it seemed to take forever to later wash their residue off my car. Maybe they did have the last laugh after all.

Locusts are known to eat everything green that stands in their way. A quick visit back to Exodus 10 shows us that God used them as one of the plagues against Egypt in which they infested everything. Like my trip down that lonely secondary highway, God said, “They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields” (Exodus 10:5; NIV). It is no secret the damage locusts can do to the agricultural industry!

This morning I read at the other end of my Bible another Scripture that deals with locusts, but this time it almost seems as someone messed with their DNA, or some such thing, as they seem to have lost their appetite for vegetation. When we meet the locusts again in Revelation 9 it’s like they’ve been cross-bred with scorpions. Now it would seem that their sole purpose, according to divine instruction, is “not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4; ESV). What are we to make of that?

For me, there is only one answer, and it comes in two parts. First, God is sovereign and can use any part of His creation for any purpose He chooses, even if it means messing with what we might think of as the natural order of things. If He chooses to reorganize the DNA of locusts so that suddenly human flesh becomes more interesting to them than simply being vegetarians, then so be it. He is God, and as Creator, it is His right to do with the creation as He wills. Secondly, this serves as a reminder of an unpopular subject: Judgment. Despite our preaching on the love of God, which is true and correct, there is another side of the story that doesn’t seem to get as much air-time: Judgment of the unbelieving human race, those without the seal of God on their foreheads.

What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not therefore depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? (Romans 9: 14-21; NIV)

It is interesting how many people have looked at me funny whenever I’ve quoted anything from Romans 9. Based on some of the responses I’ve gotten from these well-meaning brothers and sisters, you’d think some of that locust-juice from the car wash was still splattered on my face. But with all due respect, people, I didn’t write that chapter; God orchestrated it.

This begs the question: So what are we going to do with it?

Could it be that some who read these words will be counted among those who will experience the torment of the locusts with the sting of the scorpion? As of today, there is still a little time left to get the antidote; the seal of God on your forehead. But one day it will be too late, and the door will be closed. Then all you will hear is, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you” (Matthew 25:12). Does that make God unjust? No, it just means that some Universalist feathers will be ruffled. God is more than gracious, but if men continue to reject Jesus, they will have no one but themselves to blame, as they are wholly “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

“And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them” (Revelation 9:6; ESV).

Something to think about. Peace.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

of Flying Pigs and Christmas Cults

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

So asks the caption on the Christmas cartoon on the left. As I sat back and thought about that question for a while, I had to confess, “Yes, it does seem very cultish to me.”

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

Now, I’m not going to regurgitate all the arguments as to why Christmas is or isn’t a pagan holiday, or where we got our Christmas tree tradition from, or even debate the Santa Claus superstition; we’ve all heard the theories and speculations on that more than enough times. But let’s think about that question again:

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

There are only two possible answers to that; Yes or No. If your answer is “Yes,” then the question that naturally follows is, why do you persist in observing something that is “cultish?” If the answer is “No,” then you might as well exit this post now and move on to someone else’s post that treats your Christmas (cult?) with a little more dignity and respect than you’ll probably find on this blog post. Still, the question remains:

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

My dictionary defines “Cult” as: “1. a system of religious worship: Buddhism includes many cults [and, I would argue, so does Christianity]. 2. great admiration for a person, thing, idea, etc.; worship: In the Soviet Union, the cult of Stalin was discouraged after his death. 3. a group showing such admiration.” So therefore, according to the same dictionary, “cultish” is “of, having to do with, or characteristic of cults,” and a “cultist” is “a person who tends to follow or practice cults.” Again:

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

Using the previous dictionary definitions, and considering how wrapped up many of us get into our Christmas celebrations (which I might add, the early church did not even observe), is the church (and Christians by extension) cultish? I know, I know, Christmas is about Jesus, and many cry out, “Keep Christ in Christmas,” but still few are the Christians who say “boo” when it comes to one of its greatest deities, the god Santa Claus.

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

Think about it. Symbolically we offer our children on his lap, not that terribly dissimilar to the sacrificing of the children to the Cannanite deity Molech by the confused ancients of yesteryear. “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God (Leviticus 18:21).” Why would that be in our Bibles if child sacrifice were not a very real problem? If nobody ever did such a horrible thing, there would have been no need for God to ensure its inclusion in our scriptures. But it’s there. So too, we continue the practice and take the kids to ole St. Molech … I mean, St. Nick. How ironic!

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

Are you still here? I haven’t scared you away yet? Yes, I’ve sensationalized the connection between Molech and Santa Claus, but only to create a point; to listen to some of us talk as we lie to our children about the Santa Claus myth (cult), it’s really quite bizarre, if not actually pathetic. Perhaps that’s why so many kids are so screwed up in our world today. Perhaps that’s why lying has become so acceptable in our society; we’ve instilled it in our children from an early age. We’ve taken them to see Santa; we’ve caused them to believe in a lie, and so they grow up believing that lying is acceptable. After all, mom and dad lied, so what’s the big deal? And then one day we get after the kids and chastise them for lying. Again, how ironic.

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

I remember a couple bosses I’ve had over the years who surprised me with dishonest requests. One, back when I drove a delivery truck, asked me to dishonestly “steal” pallets from a customer. He didn’t actually call it “stealing,” but that’s what I heard. The general accepted practice was that, for every pallet of product I delivered, I would pick up one empty pallet in exchange. The boss wanted me to pick up several extra pallets throughout the day. In other words, he wanted me to be deceptive. Other bosses over the years have also asked me to say things that were untrue. And then there was the boss I once had to whom I ultimately asked the question: “Is it OK if I steal from you or lie to you?” He didn’t like that, and yet he was asking me to do that very same thing to others. Ironic? I thought so!

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

Maybe those bosses grew up believing in the Christmas cult. Maybe lying is not that bad after all. Maybe Christmas, as our modern world celebrates it, is all only innocent fun. Maybe fantasy is good and healthy for children. Maybe a little white lie, if done in a spirit of love, is not really bad at all. Maybe Santa Claus really does exist, and maybe a Christmas tree is nothing more than his altar. Maybe the manger birth and the wise men are nothing more than a myth. Maybe it’s just me who is out to lunch. Maybe I’ve been making a big deal of nothing at all. Maybe the word “cultish” is a little extreme. Maybe pigs really do fly.

“This doesn’t feel the least bit cultish to you?”

Cartoon Sources: Unknown