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Monday, March 5, 2012

A Question For the Ages

I am mentally exhausted.  Yesterday I made the time wasting error of stopping to think about a claim in the Christian and creationist Quick Study publication called The Discovery Letter.  I read a familiar claim, as the genealogies in the Bible do indeed support, that the age of the earth is 5,770 years.  I then went online to do a little research; thus the exhaustion.  Secular science ages the solar system and the earth at 4.5 billion years old. One has to admit that the difference in the estimation is quite simply staggering.  I began to read mind boggling reasons, observations, theories and postulations on both sides of the argument.  When I became a Bible believing Christian, I made a promise to myself, that as best as I could, I would continue to research and to question everything that I read, in the Bible or out of the Bible.  After several hours of reading both sides of the argument, I am no further ahead.  Even as a Bible believing and born again Christian, I have an admission to make.  I have no idea how old the earth is.  I suspect strongly that I am not alone.  Does it matter to my faith?  Does it interfere with my personal relationship with Jesus?  Does it make me doubt the veracity of the Bible?
It certainly does not!  The words in Genesis 1:1 make that assertion all so clear. 
1* ¶ In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
I must admit that despite wanting to know exactly how old the earth is and whether or not man walked with dinosaurs, referred to, as some assert, as dragons in the Bible, I do not need to know the exact number of years to have rock solid faith.  For reasons we will not understand in this life, God has not told us in a definitive manner exactly when He created the earth.  No matter what creationists and evolutionists claim to know and to prove, I need to know only one thing. God created the earth and us “in the beginning” and continues to watch over us now and into eternity.  In times of doubt, we have only remember the words of Paul written for times just like this in 2Corinthians 13:12.  I love the King James Version translation of this very wise statement.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
It is as if, now in the very real present on this side of eternity, that we look into a very poor quality mirror in  order to make some sense of this world that surrounds us.  We perceive  partially reflected images, but the picture is always somewhat incomplete.  When we finally triumph and enter into heaven, we will know the truth even as we see Him who saved us for heaven as clearly as He sees us now and forever.
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Word of God

During the first half of the seventies, a youthful Lozanne and I worked together summer and winter to complete my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.  We spent every summer with my parents or in a rented home away from home with an ever increasing number of  very young children so that I could attend school.  
I continue to marvel at the stark differences in the way graduate courses were conducted in the decade that followed the very free and easy sixties.  Each summer I would take two courses for a period of six weeks.  During the summer of 1974, I took one course that was quite simply an afternoon group discussion held, believe it or not, at the Brunswick House, a well known pub just down the street from the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education. There was no credible written component nor examination to evaluate student progress for this Sociology of Education credit.     In stark contrast, that same summer I took an extremely traditional course in the History of Education in Ontario.  There was a formal ninety to one hundred and twenty minute lecture each and every weekday afternoon.  Half of the marks for the course were based on a formidable written examination and the other fifty percent consisted of a major term paper that could be completed from primary sources only.  It took the professor one full session to get us to understand that we could not use one source of anyone writing about any particular subject.  We could use original documents only for research, footnotes and quotations.
Since the computer and internet age had not yet dawned, I spent virtually every morning of the month of July, 1974 in the Archives of Ontario, at a microfiche machine pouring over the original writings of Egerton Ryerson.  Much of the material was written in his own hand with straight pen and ink.  What had started out as a much resented and forced academic imposition became a labour of love.  For once in my life, I was expected to read the original documents and make my own conclusions, completely separate from countless scholars who had written on the subject.  I came to recognize Ryerson as the father of modern public education in Ontario and most probably, Canada.  
Ryerson was a “saddle bag” itinerant Methodist preacher who was eventually named the Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada in 1844.    He authored the three successive School Acts which made education available to all instead of the historical reality of only the privileged few.  I and many like me from working class backgrounds, who started school just seventy-one years after his death in 1882, owe reformers like Ryerson a very great amount of gratitude.  The provision of universal quality education is a very substantive gift to those who embrace it.
I will never forget the lessons from that summer and indeed I remember far more of that arduous course than any other I experienced.  I have come to realize that having to use the primary sources and not what others have to say about any given subject is far more valuable than the second hand alternative.  I have also come to realize in later years that the Holy Bible is just such a primary source.  Reading a commentary about the Bible is just that...another mortal man or woman’s comments about the Bible. The Holy Bible is God breathed and contains the word of God.  Hebrews 4:12 makes a very clear declaration about the word of God.
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The more you actually read and hear the word of God, the more you recognize the living power of it.  It indeed can cut through any subterfuge and and deceit.  Having said that, I have to give the final word to Jesus.
28 But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!(Luke 11:28)
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Monday, February 6, 2012

Little Doggies

As I reached the brow of the hill, I could see him waiting for me.  
He was actually waiting for anyone to walk in front of his property.  Daily he would protect what he considered to be his corner which consisted of a few rental cottages and a small confectionery store.  Even as a twelve year old, I found it odd that a business that depended on walk-in customers would keep an untied and ill-tempered full sized black Doberman pinscher on their property, not to mention the public road that led to my elementary school.  Passing this mean and at times vicious dog was a common noon-time challenge for the few kids who walked to and from school on Premier Road.  
Younger readers may find such a situation hard to imagine.  The best way I can explain the world of the fifties is a pervasive belief by parents that kids should learn early how to take care of themselves.  Anything short of requiring multiple stitches for a dog bite would not prompt adult intervention or indeed even a telephone call to the owner to complain about the situation.  There were simply no animal control agencies to call.  By the same token, protecting yourself in a physical manner did not elicit the actions of any animal protection agencies.  As a child, I well remember an upset neighbor shooting a purebred Boxer in the offending dog’s own yard.  The police gently admonished the man for discharging a firearm in a built up area. There were no other charges.
At the age of twelve, I had long since learned the art of either ignoring or blustering my way past this nasty waist-high beast that was always outside and blocking the road at 12:45 P.M.  On this particular day, his mood appeared somewhat darker than usual as I approached.  His tail was between his legs and his menacing growl was, well, more menacing than usual.  He was baring his teeth as he growled louder and louder.  Bluster would not work on this day, nor would ignoring him.  It was winter and in the fifties, pre-teens wore very uncool large and heavy boots called over-shoes in the winter.  I took very careful aim, kicked with all the strength I could muster and my right boot caught the Doberman right under the chin.  His head snapped back and his body arched in a sickening manner as he collapsed apparently unconscious to the side of the road.  Suspecting he would wake up soon in an even worse mood, I continued on my way to school.  The incident was so minor, I probably neglected to mention the encounter to anyone over the age of  thirteen.
The next day I approached the corner establishment with great caution.  Indeed I had spending money in my pocket at the ready for a purchase of candy.  My nemesis was sitting on his property well back from the side of the road and simply stared sullenly at me as I passed and entered the store.  He was never to approach me again.  
Anyone who has read more than three of my messages will know that I am a dog lover.  The exploits of our English Springer Spaniel named Marley are close to legendary.  Her picture has actually been published in my blog.  For this reason, I marvel at the reputation of dogs in the Bible.  The word “dogs” appears 23 times in the entire Holy Bible.  With the exception of one parable, the word “dogs” bring forth visions of those being thrown to the dogs or dogs cleaning up after a battle.  Dogs are associated with the wicked, the greedy, the fraudulent; not to mention murderers and idolaters. The singular word “dog” is present eighteen times and is used for a negative connotation each and every time.  The one parable where "little dogs" are presented in a more positive manner is in Matthew 15: 22-28.

22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
 23 But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
 24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
 25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
 26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
 27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
 28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire. And her daughter was healed from that very hour. 
One has to remember in this parable that Jesus is simply stating the fact that He came first to offer salvation to the Jewish nation.  This Canaanite woman, like me and perhaps you, is a Gentile.  Our time for salvation was to follow after His death on a Roman cross.  This woman shows remarkable understanding and humility.  Instead of being insulted by the reference to little dogs, she embraces the metaphor and by doing so shows her great humility and faith.  Jesus healed her daughter at that very moment!  Given the obvious bias against the word “dogs” in the Holy Bible, I find it all that more heartening that Jesus loved, before their time had come,  even the “little dogs”, especially those who showed Him their faith.
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Friday, January 27, 2012

He Carries Us

I have made an observation of late.  It is obvious to me that for various societal, economic and cultural reasons, a lot of parents are about a decade older that Lozanne and I were when they start to have children.  I have also observed that they seem to be more tired and indeed harried than I remember.  Looking after the every need of infants and very young children was and continues to be all consuming and a challenge.  Dare I dwell on the daunting prospect of “older” parents dealing with the continuous battle of wits that characterizes the teenage years?
Lozanne gave birth to four children within an eight year period from the time she was eighteen and twenty-six.  She enjoyed every minute of her “baby years”. I was a father at the age of twenty-one.  We both remember those years fondly and I dare say they were the happiest years of our lives.   I marveled at how Lozanne could cook supper with one hand while she held a baby in the other.  I remember enjoying changing, holding and feeding those beautiful babies in the early hours of the morning during the nights when it was my turn.  We had so much to see, talk about and share in those hours.  I don’t remember being tired.  Indeed being tired is one of the realities of middle and old age, not of youth.  One of the great things about babies and toddlers is that most of the time they have to be held.
I miss holding babies, but I gracefully admit I could no longer properly do the job.  I miss carrying babies and toddlers around at family and public events.  A young father is usually the strongest in the family and is even made stronger by carrying around a dynamic moving weight of twenty, thirty or forty pounds.  I remember so well the smell of freshly washed hair and the aroma of baby oil and baby powder.  I remember the intimate conversations with infants who could communicate in so many ways except speech and then the fascinating babble of toddlers and the clipped descriptive language of two and three year olds as they whispered in my right ear.  Much less prevalent in my mind are the memories of frequent illnesses, sleepless nights and dirty diapers.  Those were realities, but are by far over-shadowed by the joys of youthful parenthood. In Isaiah 46: 3-4 we discover that our loving and all-powerful God feels the same way.
3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, Who have been upheld by Me from birth, Who have been carried from the womb:
 4 Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
We who are believers are part of the remnant of the house of Israel.  In these two beautiful verses we learn that as loving fathers we are simply emulating the loving actions of our Heavenly Father, the Father who made us.  He holds us in the womb.  He holds us from birth and he promises to carry us not just as long as we are little children, but until we are old and gray.  Now that is a loving loving Father. I pray He is or will soon become your loving Father.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lean Not On Your Own Understanding

For the last three months, my health has improved to the extent that I have been able to deliver a short gospel message from the pulpit in our chapel.  Since I am scheduled to speak again in two months, I have spent hours researching how I could use Lozanne’s iPad in order to combine a PowerPoint presentation of prepared slides with my speaking.  Since I am of the generation that was introduced to the digital age after we turned forty, new computer skills can provide a rather steep learning curve. The Apple equivalent of PowerPoint is called Keynote.  When I was ready to purchase and download the Keynote software, I then discovered that I must download the latest operating system for Lozanne’s iPad.  Knowing first hand the devastation of lost data that can be the result of an operating system update, I then researched for hours the new IOS 5.1 update recommended before I could purchase Keynote.  With some difficulty and much trepidation I successfully backed up all of the data on her tablet computer.  That completed with minimal damage done to my wife’s iPad, I then purchased Keynote, whereupon I spent hours learning how to make a presentation in Keynote on my iMac and then transferring it to her iPad.
Having completed these challenging feats, I then researched how to use an iPad with a conventional digital projector.  After considerable reading and asking a Christian brother for advice, I purchased the proper VGA adapter.  Adapter and iPad in hand, I planned to test out a sample Keynote presentation on the chapel digital projector between services last Sunday morning.  With the assistance of the young man who looks after the audio-visual needs of our chapel and who possesses towering technical knowledge as compared to mine, I connected the iPad to the digital projection system.  I turned on the iPad and brought up the Keynote software.  I opened my sample presentation and was immediately disappointed with the huge blank and dark screen behind the pulpit.  I tried every imaginable variation of  settings on the iPad.  He tried every possible adjustment of the projector with absolutely no success.  Exasperated,  I went into the crowd in search of the brother who had advised me which adapter to purchase.  I knew he had successfully shown a Keynote presentation with his iPad on the chapel projector.  I asked for his help and he willingly came up to the pulpit.  
He took one look at the setup and simply said, “Did you press play?”  Alas, with a red face I had to admit that I had not pressed play, not that the arrow before me was anything but obvious!  My delight with the successful projection of slide 1 overshadowed my embarrassment for being so dumb. The irony is, of course, that I had figured out all of the complexities, but in the end was stumped by the most simple of all the steps in the process.  Upon pondering the situation later, the words of Proverbs 3: 5-6 came very clearly to mind.
 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. 
When left to our own devices, we inevitably will forget to "press play".  How we need the Lord!  I had in my human wisdom turned the simplest of steps into something highly complex.  Then I looked again at my first test slide and realized that the simple truth on that slide should not and shall not be made complex.  It is the simplest yet the greatest of truths.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Persistence in Prayer

My father-in-law and grandfather to our children practiced as a very well known and respected Registered Massage Therapist in our community from 1946 until 2005.  He is remembered by many as a man with the gift of healing hands.  During the 1970’s, when two of his chiropractor sons took over the family clinic, he became a land developer and a commercial and residential builder who turned farm land into a suburban neighbourhood.  A mini-mall, a large medical plaza,  apartment complexes and residential neighbourhoods were all the result of his ability to put his careful plans into action.  A condominium development rounded out his dream for the area.  

One of the jobs of a developer, after the plans have been approved by the municipality and once the infrastructure like water and sewer lines is in place, is to suggest names for the new streets that have been created.  The municipality approves the names, but it is the developer who really has control over the naming of streets.  Customarily, developers put forward names of  business partners, investors and finally family members.  I well remember during the building of the final residential neighbourhood the rather broad hints dropped by my father-in-law’s four daughters.  Lozanne, in keeping with her personality, was very persistent about her wishes for the choice of names for the remaining streets.  She was good natured in her reminders to her father.  He in return was characteristically non-committal in his equally good natured responses. The memory of her persistence puts me in mind of the widow in the parable given by Jesus in Luke 18: 1-7.
 18:1 ¶ Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart,
 2 saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man.
 3 “Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’
 4 “And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man,
 5 ‘yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
 6 Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said.
 7 “And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?
The true lesson of the parable is actually in the line introducing the story.  We are told to continually pray and not loose heart.  Persistence even in prayer demonstrates strong and abiding faith which is rewarded with answered prayers.  Indeed Lozanne’s persistence paid off with her earthly father and resulted in her name being attached to a large crescent that will be the home of hundreds of people potentially for a century or more.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Can We Thank Him?

My grandson Liam has soared to new heights this year.  He has been so very much on his game of making sure all concerned are only too aware of his Christmas wish list.  For the last three months, he has used personal reminders, written notes, telephone calls and email to make sure Grandma and Grandpa know exactly what he wants for Christmas.  
Due to my advancing maturity, like so many others of my generation, I have done my best to learn computer skills in order to literally keep up with this world.  One of my weaknesses has been all aspects of video capturing, editing and saving. The other day I was trying to expand my horizons by simply rooting around in the Photo Booth software on my iMac.  There before me was a file entitled “My First Project”.  I knew that I had never used the software and had certainly not saved any such file on my computer.  There was Liam’s smiling face.  I clicked on his face and was treated to a 90 second clip of just what he wanted for Christmas.  I have no idea when he recorded the digital video on my computer and Liam had never mentioned the clip to me.  I am beginning to realize that wherever I go on my computer, my eleven year old grandson has been there before me. 
 I felt truly blessed. Liam’s diagnosis of moderate autism before he was two years of age had included a prognosis of limited speech and indeed the likelihood of a life bereft of any clear communication.  The ninety second video clip was an animated and expertly choreographed verbal masterpiece in which he clearly outlined his deep desire for Pokemon White, Pokemon Black (books) and a DVD including the original soundtrack of Disney’s “The Emperor’s New Groove”.  The delivery was spirited and downright entertaining with the use of many  pertinent gestures and intonations.  There was an introduction and a conclusion to his creation.  At eleven, Liam not only knows more about my computer than I do, he can read and write at grade level or better and best of all he can express himself on an impressive oral level.  I can only thank God for such unexpected blessings.
Other than just saying thank you in prayer, what is it that we mere mortals can do to properly show our gratitude for blessings allowed in our and the lives of our loved ones.  Admittedly there is not much we can do for an all powerful and all knowing God.  Psalm 116 does give us some insight in verses twelve to fourteen.
 12 What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me?
 13 I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the LORD.
 14 I will pay my vows to the LORD Now in the presence of all His people. (Psalm 116: 12-14)
By taking up the cup of salvation, we determine in our minds to make Jesus our lord and our savior.  We admit our sinful and weak nature and submit fully to His taking all of our sin upon Himself and dying for our sake in order that we may spend eternity in heaven.  In short, we accept his offer of salvation by believing and following Him.  We call upon Him for all of our needs.  There is something else we can and should do within verse 14.  Just as Jesus paid His vows to God before and during His cruel death on the cross, so we should speak out and make our faith a public matter.  All those around us should know our stand and our submission.  To put it even more simply, they should know by our thoughts, words and actions that we are saved.  By doing so we are truly thanking God appropriately for His endless grace.
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