Saturday, 30 November 2013

Your Face Is Like Seeing the Face of God

For to see your face is like seeing the face of God. (Genesis 33:10)

One author who has often caused me to stop and think more often than most has to be Watchman Nee. This morning was no different. He wrote,

“What does this astonishing statement mean? Jacob, who had seen God face to face at Peniel, now describes his meeting with Esau as if he were again seeing the face of God! It may have been mere flattery, an evidence that Jacob still retained something of his earlier scheming nature. It may also have been a kind of confession that all his elaborately planned arrangement of his family and possessions had been a waste of time. In Esau’s welcome he may have recognized that deliverance had come to him, not through his own clever artifice but through the overruling of God. But there is one more possible meaning, and this is a universal spiritual fact. It is that those whom we have wronged will always represent God to us. When we meet them, it is as though we are meeting God. It can be in judgment. Thank God if, when this is so, our hearts are truly humbled before Him. It also can mean mercy and reconciliation. ‘First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.’”

Why did this have such a profound effect on me today? Maybe because it suddenly hit me how many times over the years I’ve “seen the face God” myself in the faces of those brothers and sisters I have wronged in one way or another. I’ve never quite thought of it that way before. Wow!

I think that the “judgment” part that Nee was referring to is none other than our coming to the realization that, just as God is a God of love, we fail to be on the same page with God when we don’t respond in like fashion. It is not a case of God judging me as much as it is a case of me judging by discerning for myself that I am not walking where deep down inside I know that I need to be. 

I know the truth and importance of Jesus’ words when He said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5: 23-24; NIV). Though I know it, I also still stumble over that one.

I guess the bottom line for me in Watchman Nee’s little devotional (and something I’ve often mused over) is that all worship, spiritual wrestling, gift giving, piety – and whatever other religious activity we may want to include – ultimately really isn’t worth the paper it’s written on without first having a right relationship with our fellow man; especially those whose paths cross ours on a day to day basis.

If there is tension between a brother or sister and myself, and if I do not make it a priority to correct that problem, then not only is my worship essentially worthless, but that brother or sister will always be the “face of God” to me until peace and harmony is restored in the relationship.

If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20; NIV).

How many times have you seen the “face of God” lately? Hmm. Something to think about. Peace.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Our Screwed Up Society: A Rant

We’ve got things so screwed up in this society that one has to wonder sometimes what the powers that be were smoking when they legislated these crazy laws of ours.

I have always struggled with the fact that in our country one would get a significantly larger prison sentence for harming a cat than one would for harming (or killing) a human being. Don’t get me wrong; I do not believe in harming any animals, but the fact remains that they’re animals and we are humans. Is not a human life worth more than the life of an animal? Apparently in our society, based on the way we punish the perpetrators, the answer is No.

Then too notice the dichotomy in how we treat prisoners in comparison to the way we treat the elderly. The following little blurb has circulated around social media a number of times:
“We should place the elderly in prisons. They will get a shower a day, video surveillance in case of problems, three meals a day, access to a library, computer, TV, gym, doctors onsite, and free medication if needed. Put the criminals in nursing homes. They have cold meals, lights off at 7pm, two showers a week, live in a smaller room and pay $4000 a month rent! It’s pretty sad that we treat prisoners better than the elderly.”
It’s pretty sad indeed. It seems to me that there is too much concern over prisoners “rights” and not enough concern for the rights of the elderly. If it were up to me, the policy would be that prisoners forfeited their “rights” when they did the crime, and they can’t have their “rights” back until they’ve paid back their debt to society. The money our governments would save with such policy would be more than enough to cover the costs associated with treating our seniors with dignity and respect, like real human beings.

Human rights advocates would no doubt be appalled at my suggestions to return our prisons to third-world levels. I find this amusingly ironic, because while they balk at the lack of human rights in such prisons, many of these same advocates continue to support the abortion of the innocent unborn. While they raise their protest banners against what they see as injustices in the animal kingdom, they stay home and say nothing when some maniac, fully within his “rights” to bear arms, walks into a school with guns blazing and slaughters other innocent children.

To make matters worse, suddenly the concern is all about the poor perpetrator with the guns, “He had such a difficult time in school; they teased and bullied him so much that it drove him to this.” Give me a break! Meanwhile, what about the “rights” and concern for the families who lost their children? Something is very, very wrong.

The truth of the matter is that I do not have ill will towards anyone; criminal, elderly, unborn, or even the neighbor’s cat. I have deliberately sensationalized portions of this post in order to illustrate a point: We are a screwed up society with twisted values and I long for the day that we see some politicians with enough back-bone to turn things around.

Maybe that’s too much to hope for. Maybe that’s why John wrote the following:
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2: 15-17; NIV)
Forget waiting for the right politician to come along and fix all our woes; focus instead on doing the will of God. What is God calling you and me to do today? Perhaps we would do well to focus our energies and attention on that. Our screwed up society, like the rest of the world, will one day pass away. All that will remain is God, and those who are truly His.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Peace & Blessings.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Prayer in School: The Other Side of the Argument

Our local rag, the Lethbridge Herald, has a section called "Roasted & Toasted" that appears every Monday. I am usually quite amused when I read it, especially the "Roasted" sections. It really is quite amazing some of the things that people whine about.

However, in today's edition (November 25, 2013) it seems like the whole Prayer in School argument reared its ugly head amongst the "Roasted."

It's one thing to see the odd anti-religious or anti-Christian sentiment, but in today's "Roasted & Toasted," I counted no less than eight school prayer-themed submissions, and most of them negative. Wow, I thought, this almost constitutes a conspiracy! (LOL, in a sad kind of way)

But seriously, this brought me back full circle to something I've often wondered about, and that is, the perceptions that we Christians create for our unbelieving neighbours and friends. I have blogged on this subject before, such as in "Jesus loves you, but ...". Perhaps Brennan Manning was right when he said,
"The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."
We would do well to stop and think about that for a moment before reading the following submissions to today's "Roasted and Toasted" in the Lethbridge Herald. Do we do more harm than good in the way we profess our faith? Sometimes I wonder. Having said that, here are the eight submissions:

Did you notice that out of eight comments, only one was a "Toast," whereas the other seven were all "Roasts?" So let me ask you, as a Christian, do these comments offend you? Or are my non-Christian neighbours and friends justified in their perceptions of the "religious" Christians they've encountered in their journeys through life? Before answering that too quickly, we would probably do well to stop and think about that for a moment.

I cannot help but wonder that, if we Christians were really on the right track, if our neighbours and friends wouldn't be kicking down the newspaper editor's door with "Toasts" instead of "Roasts."

Just a thought. Peace.

Photo Source:

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Has Ours Become A Salt-less Gospel?

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” (Matthew 5:13; NIV)

Salt. What an interesting substance, but what is salt?

Recently I was given a smoker. As a hobby cook, I was ecstatic! One of the things I tried my hand at making was beef jerky, which uses a fair amount of salt. I learned that in the pre-refrigeration days, salt was a preservative which, when applied to food, enabled our forefathers to keep their meat from spoiling.

Salt also adds flavor to food. Many folks are on low sodium diets and make conscious efforts to use less salt, whereas others (like myself) tend to perhaps sprinkle a little too much salt on their food. But salt also has another characteristic, and that is that it tends to make us thirsty. Perhaps that is why many bars serve salty snacks to their patrons; it causes them to become thirstier, and therefore buy more beer.

However, like me, I’m sure you’re probably not interested in marketing ploys of drinking establishments, but bear with me; I think it’s relevant to Jesus’ use of the word salt in referring to His followers.

Could it be that when Jesus told those people listening to His “You are the salt of the earth” that He was suggesting that they will be (or ought to be) making the world thirsty for Jesus? Think about that for a minute. Are the people in our little corners of the world, those whose paths cross ours, thirsty for Jesus because of you and me? Hmm, I wonder.

The really troubling thing for me is that I do not see that much in my life or the lives of many other professing Christians. Yea, I know; that’s a giant OUCH! As the old adage says, sometimes the truth hurts.

However, if my interpretation is correct, then even more painful is what Jesus said next. He said, “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

I may be wrong, but I cannot help but wonder if the vast majority of problems in the church today, and even in individual Christian lives, is due to salt that has lost its saltiness; that is, lost its testimony. Sometimes I cannot help but wonder if that explains why the Gospel is often “trampled” under the feet of an unbelieving world.

Oh, if only we would all wake up from our lethargy; if only the world would look at Christians and thirst for Jesus.

Something to think about. Peace.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Unveiling Grace: Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?

I remember years ago mentioning something about the differences between Christians and Mormons, when a coworker answered back saying, “Mormons are Christians too; we even have the name of Jesus Christ on our buildings.” I also remember biting my tongue to hold back my then typical less than gracious reply, “Having the name of Jesus on your building doesn’t make you a Christian any more than it makes the swearing atheist using the Lord’s name in vain a Christian.” While I still maintain that my proposed reply would have been true in theory, the grace-less way in which I would have communicated it that day would not have been very Christian either.

Somewhere between that day and today, the Lord must have begun softening my heart by making me a little less militant in my approach to people of other faiths. While I am still very much opposed to Mormon (and many other religious) teachings, I am not opposed to Mormon people. The truth of the matter is, I am also in disagreement with many things I see in the Christian institutional church today, but I am not opposed to the people who make up those institutional systems either. I consider myself blessed to have friends and some very fine coworkers who follow many different religious paths. All of them have enriched my life in one way or another, even if we don’t see eye to eye on spiritual matters.

The bottom line for me is that, while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me (Romans 5:8). Translation: LOVE. In other words, if God so loved me (John 3:16) while I was still a sinner (in disagreement with Him), it seems to me that He would call me to strive to love others who may not agree with my theology as well. As Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Having said all that, this is why I was so excited to read Unveiling Grace by Lynn Wilder. I have read several other books before on the subject of Mormonism, but this one was different. How so? It was different in that it is the personal testimony of how Lynn and her husband Michael and their four children all found the real Jesus and left the Mormon church. Lynn and Michael were actively involved in Mormonism; Lynn as a tenured faculty member of Brigham Young University, Michael as a high priest, and their three sons having served the Mormon god as missionaries.

Lynn does a marvelous job of not just telling her family’s amazing story, but also of explaining many of the subtle differences between Mormonism and true Christianity. She deals with how, one by one, her family's eyes were opened to the deception of Mormonism and gives those of us on the outside a rare look into Mormon culture. All in all, it's a fascinating read that I had a hard time putting down.

The book includes helpful doctrinal comparisons of Mormonism and the Bible, as well as an equally helpful glossary of terms. I appreciated these appendices because I have always maintained that, though Mormons and Christians often used that same terms and lingo, in many cases (if not all) they have very different understandings of the meanings of those words.  Contrary to what many on both sides have been duped into believing, Mormonism is not simply another in the vast milieu of Christian denominations.

As opposed to what some of my Christian friends think, I have also always maintained that the Mormon Jesus Christ is not the Jesus of the Bible. While I didn’t know this prior to reading the book, the author pointed out that apparently upper Mormon leadership believes likewise, even if many of today’s Mormons and Christians seem to think otherwise:

“Even the most recent past LDS prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, admitted that Mormons do not follow the same Jesus that Christians do: ‘The traditional Christ of who they [Christians] speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.’” (p.315)

In the end, what I really appreciate about Unveiling Grace, is that the author mentions how the whole Wilder family continues to love and minister to Mormon people, striving to introduce them to the real Jesus. We do not have to agree, but we do have to love. “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8; NIV)

So if you're curious about Mormonism, or if you are a Mormon, I highly recommend this fine book. It will open your eyes to the wonderful grace of God.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Atheist Mega-Churches: The Latest Offering in the Religious Milieu?

I was looking through our local newspaper this Remembrance Day (Veterans Day for my American friends) and saw the following headline: “Atheist ‘mega-churches’ gain a following in the U.S.” It featured a picture of an attendee reaching for a brochure that was flanked by what looked like bumper stickers proclaiming: “BORN AGAIN HUMANIST,” and “GOD-LESS IS MORE,” and “I BELIEVE IN LIFE BEFORE DEATH.” Needless to say, this caught my attention.

The first thing I thought was, how ironic that on a day set aside to commemorate our veterans who, among other things, fought to preserve a way of life in a nation that was built on “Christian” values and principles, I’m reading of the formation of atheistic mega-churches. However, I then just as quickly ended my digression from the newspaper story and acknowledged that we haven’t been a truly Christian nation for a very long time, and so, whatever; to each their own.

The newspaper article began with, “It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega church. Several hundred people attended more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational sermon, a reading and some quiet reflection. The only thing missing was God.”

The article went on to speak of the people who attended as being “bound by their belief in non-belief” and the “camaraderie of a congregation without religion or ritual.” Having already raised about $50,000 of an $800,000 goal to promote and launch their God-less churches globally, it appears they even have a missionary arm to their “church.”

The “worship” service included a lot of stomping of feet and clapping of hands to songs like “Lean on Me” and “Here Comes the Sun.” While clearly not gospel songs, it doesn’t take much to see that songs like these could easily be Christianized (assuming they haven’t been already) to work in non-atheistic churches as well.  After all, I’ve long since argued that, with a few notable exceptions, what often passes as Christian music today is very theologically incorrect. But that’s a topic for another time.

I find it interesting that, though the word “church” has long since evolved from its original meaning of “the Body of Christ,” just about every faith (and now non-faith) today has a “church.” Cults such as the Mormons have churches, eastern religions like the Buddhism have churches, and of course, Christians have their churches. But at the end of the day, what we’re really talking about is, they all have their respective institutions.

Call it what you want; church, temple, kingdom hall, mosque, shrine, or something else, these are all simply places where like-minded people of like-minded faith (and non-faith) gather. So what if there are now atheist mega-churches added to the religious milieu? Have not all people the right to meet together as they see fit? Of course they do!

But apparently it’s not all coming up smelling of roses. The newspaper article went on to report how one self-described atheist said, “There’s something not OK with appropriating all of this religious language, imagery and ritual for atheism.” In other words, as uncomfortable as the concept of atheist mega-churches no doubt is to some Christians, it is equally uncomfortable to some atheists.

Well, there you have it. Just as Christian churches have long since known the rift of division and factions in their midst, so too at the inauguration of atheist mega-churches, there already appears to be a “doctrinal” split as well. Maybe what we’re really seeing here is the “genesis” (pun fully intended) of atheistic denominations. Maybe atheists are a little more religious than they previously thought.

Hmm. Just a thought. Peace.

Cartoon Source: Bill Mutranowski
Newspaper Quotations: Lethbridge Herald, Monday November 11, 2013; page A4