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Friday, July 31, 2009

Contend Together

This morning as the sun rises I have been meditating on my relationship with God. All the while I have been conscious of the watchful eye of our springer spaniel, Marley. We have yet another creature under our front steps. Marley chased a groundhog under there yesterday afternoon. She has been obsessing about its presence ever since. The barking, the whining, the crying, the panting and the smelling went on all of last evening. She, a normally quiet and well behaved dog, is really quite trying when this happens. Marley finally fell into an exhausted sleep late last night, but now she can’t wait to return to the scene. I told her a very clear and rather forceful “No” this morning and strangely enough she laid down at my feet and is now quiet, but her eyes never leave me, lest I head for the door. Note to self: screen the bottom of the front deck!

I have been reading three verses in Isaiah and I am always in awe of these short pieces of scripture. The first is Isaiah 1:18

18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.

The other two verses are found in Isaiah 43:25-26

25 "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
26 Put Me in remembrance; Let us contend together; State your case, that you may be acquitted.

There are two revelations in these very similar verses. God is speaking directly to us through the prophet Isaiah. First He tells us that He, the God of the universe, will make our scarlet sins as white as snow. He blots out our sins. The most amazing statement is that He will not even remember our sins. As I age I become more and more aware of my sins. I am a sinner and unlikely to change in the near future. I am by nature a sinner. I am most fortunate to have a God who puts aside my sins and promises to not even remember them.

That brings me to the second revelation. How do we have God blot out our sins? We must go to Him and admit our sins. It is the wording in these verses that just amazes me. He doesn’t want us crawling and begging on our knees. He wants us to “contend” with Him. He wants us to “reason” with Him. The relationship He wants is not so much subservient as direct, honest and maybe even at times contentious. He wants us to state our case. At times we are to actually argue with Him. Why would an all powerful God not only tolerate, but invite us to contend with Him?

The answer is very simple. Contention is better than apathy. Contention shows faith! The relationship we have is a real one. It is open, direct and honest. God expects us to say it all. He knows what we are thinking anyway, so why try to fool God. If we are angry with Him, he wants to discuss it with us. In order to be angry with God, we must truly believe in Him.

Two years following my diagnosis and treatment for cancer, we (My God and I) had some very angry and direct discussions. When I was actually fighting cancer, I tended to be submissive to the will of God. After the crisis of cancer was over, I started to assess the damage done by treatment. I had and still have some issues about the changes to our lives. I am now ashamed of some of the things I said. Indeed I sinned even as I spoke to God. I am most fortunate to have a relationship with a God who assures me that he will not even remember what I said in that dark time. At the same time we (My God and I) both relish the intimacy of the relationship.

The most fantastic word in two of these verses is “together”. God wants to “reason together” and to “contend together”. He wants a two way relationship and so do I. How I appreciate my time with God.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Power of Creation

I have been granted, by the Lord, opportunities during any given night and early morning to pray, think, write or even make natural observations. Very early this morning I was outside in our screen room on the lakeside of the house. I heard the beautiful and sometimes eerie calls of two loons in the bay in front of our house. Loons are some of the few creatures on this earth who mate for life. Except for switching mates after failed nesting attempts, they are generally monogamous for the fifteen to thirty years of their lifespan. I often wonder just what they are communicating with their distinctive male and female conversations. Are they directing each other to where the food is more plentiful? Are they professing their love for each other? Is she demanding that he finally come home and pay more attention to her? Is he wondering just where she is tonight? When you see these birds up close in the daylight they are indeed much larger than you would expect and rather majestic as they lift their head to prepare to dive once again for prey. You seldom observe them in flight. Since they are heavy boned in order to be able to dive to depths of 80 meters, they must run along the surface of the water for considerable distances in order to take off into wind very much like an airplane. Often they are a distinctive twosome or perhaps foursome if their offspring are with them.

Last night was a night for spiritual observations as well. I started to think of man’s explanations for such natural grandeur and specialized characteristics. In university I studied, in great detail, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. I believed it to be accurate for many years. I now just cannot accept its severe shortcomings. Such intricate beauty and indeed individuality did not just happen by chance and then change of necessity over time. Loons did not evolve. They were created by the God of the universe. Of course this train of thought is called creationism. Lately it has been referred to as intelligent design which I suspect is an attempt to water down just a little the power of a great and wonderful God. One of the most interesting fields of study of late is called chaos theory. This mathematical model has shown very clearly that although all things on this earth from animal behaviour to demographics appear to be random in nature, as time or circumstances unfold, a very definite pattern emerges. I wonder who set the pattern in motion. I wonder who controls the pattern. We don’t have to look to science or the future for the answer. The prophet Isaiah lived seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Jesus. He had all these theories in hand already. I like his explanation better than all the modern theories. In Isaiah 40 we read:

12 ¶ Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has taught Him?
14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.

By now you may have concluded that I am a creationist. That is an understatement. How delighted I am to be able to finally “understand” it all. I don’t need any more theories. He created it all. He created us all. I don’t know when he created us, but that no longer matters, because I know that He continues to care for us. In chapter one of the book of John in verse 10, we read further that the Son of God was there from the beginning as well.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

The world was made through Jesus. He was there at the moment of creation. He is still here. Unfortunately much of the world still does not know Him. I am thankful to know Him and how I am burdened that others would know Him as I do.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Wedding Dinner

I have been enjoying some of the parables of Jesus in The Book of Matthew. The parable of the wedding dinner found in the first fourteen verses of Matthew 22 really struck a chord with me this week.

It took me back seventeen years to the marriage of my eldest daughter. Weddings are festive occasions which leave us with very positive and cherished memories especially in cases where a happy marriage has been the result. That being said, I would venture to add that planning a wedding for one of your children is one of life’s most stressful exercises. Those who have “been there and done that” will, I am sure, immediately nod their head in agreement with me. Planning for a son is daunting. Planning for a daughter makes the son’s wedding plans look as simple as a walk in the park, albeit with a picnic thrown in. There is the budget that must be decided and adhered to. There are emerging family dynamics which you may not have ever known existed. There is the reception venue, the food, the church ceremony, the decorations, the dress, the gifts, the invitations, the photographer, the transportation, the speeches and did I mention the budget and adhering to it? And then there is the guest list. Major diplomacy is required in having two separate families agree on its constitution.

Being a neophyte at the time, I asked that the invitations be sent out very early so that we could have an exact count of those attending the reception. We would have an exact count for the caterer and for setting the seating plan. Silly me...when you send them out is really immaterial. Most of those invited will be cooperative about returning the rsvp cards with accurate numbers. Some answer yes or no immediately. Oddly some of this group who says they will attend indeed does not. Some of the group who say no will indeed show up. Some will never answer, despite telephone follow up. Of this group who are unwilling to commit, some will attend and some will not. Then there is the group who change the number of their party attending either up or down without notification. For those of you who are now faced with the prospect of coming up with an exact number in attendance at your function, I can assure you through nail biting experience that each group balances itself out. It is almost like a law of physics. For each one that comes when not expected, there will be one that does not come when indeed they are expected. Whatever your final estimate is, and it will be an estimate if not an outright guess, add five for good measure and you will be right on!

When I read the parable of the wedding dinner, I can understand why Jesus used this example. Organizing a wedding dinner is typically a frustrating experience soon forgotten by the success of the function. Human nature dictates that precision is nearly always impossible. We can understand immediately the stress and the anger felt by the king who is arranging a wedding dinner for his son. The king (God) sends out the invitations to his son’s (Jesus) wedding dinner (heaven) through the personal contacts of his servants (disciples). The invited guests (Israel) refuse to come (accept Jesus as the Christ). Even after the crucifixion of Jesus, the message of Jesus was treated with contempt as were the apostles who carried the gospel to the Jews. The king (God) destroys the city with his armies. The king (God) now tells the servants (apostles) to go out and bring all, the good and the bad (the Gentiles like you and me), to the dinner. The wedding hall was filled with those offered and accepting the opportunity to attend (eternity in heaven). The king (God) comes across one guest who is not wearing a wedding garment and has him bound hand and foot and cast into the outer darkness.

This is where the parable becomes a little difficult to understand. The wedding garment represents the unconditional acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ. This man, who was speechless when asked why he was in improper apparel, had failed to accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour and as a result was not going to enjoy the pleasures of heaven.

Verse 14 is so very simple yet so very important.

“For many are called, but few are chosen”.

The gospel of Jesus Christ goes out to many. Those who respond appropriately to the call are indeed the chosen. Some refuse the call. Like the unfortunate man in the parable, some for various reasons falsely profess their acceptance of Jesus. Some sincerely accept the invitation and become the few who are chosen.

What have you done with your invitation to this wedding dinner? Indeed you have been invited. Will you attend? Is your wedding garment back from the cleaners and ready to go? Do you wish to be one of the chosen?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Come to Jesus

In my former working life, I experienced on several occasions exposure to the civil court system. This of course brought me into contact with some very talented lawyers. One very capable young man once used an expression that really made me stop and think. I was a brand new baby Christian at the time.

He said to me that if the other side in a lawsuit wouldn’t capitulate, he would have to call a “come to Jesus meeting”. What he meant of course was that he would call the other side in along with legal counsel and explain to them what they must do and the consequences for not doing so. He was equating in an irreverent way their need for Jesus to their need to listen to his argument. If they would not accept his ideas, like they should accept Jesus, there would be consequences, just as there would be for not accepting Jesus in their lives. To him the expression was an irreverent attempt at humour. To me it was actually, despite its irritating irreverence, a rather clear statement.

Much of the ministry of Jesus while he was on this earth was spoken in parables. One of my favourites is the parable of the ten virgins found in the first 14 verses of Matthew Chapter 25. The ten virgins who represent in the parable those who should “come to Jesus”, in other words all of us on this earth, are awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom who of course is Jesus. Five are ready with their oil in order to light their lamps and join Him for the wedding and five are unprepared and must go out and buy oil upon His arrival. When they return from their late night shopping, they find the door shut to them with the bridegroom telling them that “I do not know you”. (Matthew 25:12)

The five prepared virgins of course are those who have accepted Jesus on this earth before their eventual death or His return to this earth in order to gather in His own believers. They have made the necessary declaration and live like they have. The Holy Spirit is within them. They are true believers. The unprepared five have only reacted when they actually see Jesus. It is too late to believe at that point.

Have you ever been invited to a “come to Jesus meeting”. Have you attended? Has the importance of coming been explained to you? Have you listened to the consequences of not coming to Him? Are you waiting to be more convinced?

Jesus, in the parable of the ten virgins, was telling us very clearly that we must be ready at any given moment to meet Him. I cannot think of a higher authority than the actual words of Jesus. We must believe. We must accept Him as our Lord and Saviour. We must confess our sins to Him and repent of our sins the best way we can.

We must have our oil ready for our trimmed lamps.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All Too Human

In my last message I wrote about the antics of our dog Marley given the possibility there was a skunk under our front step. Marley continued to be relentless in her desire to be free to deal with the threat beneath our front deck. I could not take her out without her leash which we use very little in the country. She kept pulling me back to the front steps where she repeatedly deeply inhaled, as well as barked, whined and even cried. She was salivating profusely and leaving a puddle on the deck. She was intent in her objective and that was to deal with whatever was lurking under the deck.

In desperation, I locked her inside the house and decided with some trepidation to flush out the interloper. I could hear Marley crying on the other side of the door. She wanted so badly to rush to the rescue. I pushed a strip of sheet metal between the boards from the inside to the outside and indeed a skunk immerged from beneath the steps. It immediately turned and raised its tail and prepared to spray me. I was horrified and thought to myself something about being very stupid. Nothing happened. The skunk was very small and very young. At that moment, while thanking the Lord, I learned that skunks must obtain some maturity before becoming effective at what they do. I proceeded to scare the poor thing along the side of the house through the garage and into the forest behind the house. I am certain that it was sufficiently traumatized so as to not return to our abode. I then let Marley out. After a few cursory sniffs of the area, she promptly laid down quietly in the sun on the front step.

Marley’s behaviour is sometimes disturbingly human. It occurred to me that she just had to do the wrong thing. Despite what she should have done, she was intent on doing the wrong thing. She just had to stick her snout in that small opening under the steps in order to get full in the face the last thing she needed. If the skunk had been a little older, she and all of our household would have had great regrets about pursuing the objective at hand. She could not be deterred from doing the wrong thing.

The Apostle Paul sums this human failing up in Romans 7:15

15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.

He is saying that he knows what he should do, but all too often he does what he should not do. The Message paraphrases this verse as follows:

“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.”

If the Apostle Paul can admit such shortcoming, we can only commiserate with him. The failing is all too common. At times we just can’t seem to stop ourselves from doing the wrong thing. We are most fortunate to have a very forgiving God and His Son who paid the penalty for all these wrong doings FOREVER. As hard as we try, we keep falling down. As often as we fall down, Jesus picks us up again and again and again.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Body of Christ

If I seem distracted this morning as I compose today’s blog, you can blame our dog Marley. She is now crying at the door because there is an animal of some description under our front deck and steps. When I let her out earlier, she was more than a little excited in her pursuit. To my horror when I finally moved the barbecue, I noticed through the boards a white bushy tail sticking up and in sight. Although I am not absolutely sure, I strongly suspect that the invader is a skunk. Poor Marley is now confined to the house until her new friend leaves! We are most fortunate that we are, at this very moment, not cleaning up a very smelly dog. Now Marley is whining at my feet imploring me to let her go out.

I wrote in yesterday’s blog about the four young men that came to voluntarily replace the shingles on our roof. While I observed their work last week, I was struck with the different skill set each possessed. Although each could do most of the work, a certain strength emerged as they worked. One was very patient and efficient at cleaning up the old shingles, nails and debris as well as bringing new shingles to the roof. Another was the planner carefully measuring and figuring the next move in the job as he consulted with others for their opinion when he needed it. One was the action man and worked very hard at removing old shingles and installing new shingles making the job move along at a good pace. The fourth laid out shingles for nailing and moved along behind capping the peak as the shingles reached the top of the roof. Marley is now again at the door crying to be let out. I don’t think that is going to happen!

What I observed in the actions of those four strong young men put me in mind of the church. The church is often called the body of Christ. The church, and there is only one church, is not a building, organization or hierarchy. The church is very simply made up of those who believe and try their best to follow Christ. Each has his or her own strength that can be used in service to the body of Christ. We find a description of this process in 1Corinthians 12.

27 ¶ Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.
29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles?
30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.

We as believers are all different individuals. We have different approaches and strengths to bring to the service of Christ. Indeed our strengths may change of necessity throughout our lives. Age or illness may indeed modify what we can best do. We don’t need or want to be all alike. There is no one way to serve that is the best, most prestigious way. The important thing is that we seek out our role in the body of Christ and offer ourselves to the service of His church.

Have you found your strength? What can you offer Jesus today?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009


For three very long days this week my sons and two friends of the family, who were childhood friends of my youngest son, came to replace the roofing shingles on our home. They worked under the threat of rain for most of that time. Indeed they did work in the rain one afternoon. Tarps were used to cover exposed areas during the nights. The good news was that heat, sun exposure and dehydration were not issues during the job. All four worked so very hard for long hours in order to get an excellent job done. I was proud of the work ethic displayed by my sons and indeed all four of these young men in the prime of life.

While they worked, the camaraderie was very apparent with joking and laughter being a large part of the days. One of the young men, a childhood friend of my son, said something during the job that made me really stop and think. I was expressing my thanks for his help for about the hundredth time and he said to me jokingly, “This is my way of making up for the grape pop on your carpet and the broken ceramic tile in your kitchen”. These were incidents that occurred more than twenty years ago in a house we no longer own. I had no memory whatsoever of the broken tile, but I must admit the grape pop incident was coming back to me through the mists of time. Forgiveness and forgetting had been granted for these very minor incidents a very long time ago.

Psalm 103 came into my mind immediately. We are forgiven our transgressions with mercy and finality by a loving and gracious God. Every one of us has sin in our lives, yet the God of the universe chooses not to even remember our wrongs.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

In these beautiful verses we who fear the LORD are assured that our sins have been removed from us about as far as you can go. East and west will never meet. I read the word “fear” more as words like obey, believe in, respect and love.

Just as we are forgiven, we are expected to forgive each other. This is not a recommendation, it is a must. If we are to be forgiven then we are required to forgive others.

When Peter asked Jesus how often we should forgive a sinning brother or sister, in Matthew 18:22, He answered the following.

Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven".

What Jesus is telling us of course is that we are to forgive over and over and over again.

Do you have someone to forgive today?

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

In the Fold

Reading the word of God can bring much comfort, particularly in difficult situations. Sometimes I depart from my pre-planned reading and meditating and simply thumb my way through familiar and loved sections of the Bible. I highly recommend this approach in times of anxiety and worry. Jesus told us very clearly not to worry, but most of us have a lot of trouble not doing just that…worrying. I don’t know why I continue to worry. After six decades of living, it has become very plain to me that in just about every case the problem is never as bad as initially presented. Indeed we fret about things that often never occur.

This morning I have been enjoying a few verses in John 10: 26-30.

26 "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.
27 "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.
29 "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.
30 "I and My Father are one."

Jesus is speaking to the Jews in the temple and they have just asked Him if He is the Christ. They want to know directly if he is the Messiah they have been waiting for so long. Jesus does not answer them directly but returns to His earlier analogy of Jesus being the good shepherd and we as His followers being the sheep.

Given the intelligence displayed by sheep, the analogy on the surface is not all that complementary. The hard truth is, however, that we do indeed act like sheep. We have a need to follow a leader. We wonder off and get lost. We are helpless without our Good Shepherd. We are under attack from all sides and need His comforting protection. As the prophet Isaiah puts it, “All we like sheep have gone astray”. (Isaiah 53:6)

How do we get to be one of his sheep? This is the part I love. We have only to believe. If we can come to believe in the Good Shepherd all else will fall into place and we can become one of his sheep who hear His voice through the Holy Spirit and are ready to follow Him. But wait, it gets better! He gives us eternal life in heaven. Once you profess to be His and truly believe, you are His forever. No power on this earth and beyond can pull you from His or indeed His Father’s loving grasp. He and the Father are one.

How I love it in the sheep fold!

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Soar Like An Eagle

A few weeks ago I watched a hawk hovering over the grassy area at the end of the lake where we live. In one fluid motion he appeared to soar straight up and then hover again. The motion was repeated several times. The act of soaring appears to take very little energy. This majestic bird made me think of the eagle in The Book of Isaiah in the Bible. Only hawks and eagles, to my knowledge, can soar so high so fast. Other birds do it, but not with the majestic efficiency displayed by eagles or hawks. I have also observed very large eagles on Vancouver Island soaring at great heights over large inland salt water bays. Again these very strong birds appeared to be using very little of their own energy. They find and use the power of the rising air currents in order to soar.

Eagles are often used in literature and indeed in the Holy Bible as symbols of strength, vigour, energy and courage. In Psalm 103 verse 5 there is a reference to the restoration of youth like the eagle. In Isaiah 40 we read the very comforting words:

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

In these verses we are reminded of the absolute and infinite power of the God who created us. Left to our own resources we can be weak and pathetic beings. We are nothing without the power of our God. He and only He can give us power and strength. As we age, we need to depend even more upon the resources offered by a loving God. Even the young can’t keep up without His help with the demands set upon us all.

We learn that if we wait on the Lord, He will renew our strength and “mount us up with wings like eagles”. One of the clearest images I can recall when watching these majestic creatures soar is their apparent complete lack of effort. Like they depend on the rising air created by God, so do we have to stop trying so hard and allow Him to lift us up. Although these verses of course address physical strength in a difficult world, we mustn’t lose sight of the spiritual strength offered to us as we soar to the heights.

There is a key word in the last verse. It is a small and simple word. The word is “wait”. If there is one word we should understand in this beautiful reading it is the word “wait”. How do we wait upon the Lord?

We must first of all believe in Him. We must read and meditate on His word as given to us in scripture. We must believe in His Son who is the only way to the Father. We must pray often and earnestly and finally we must pray believing. We must ask God for growing and unfaltering faith. Indeed we must wait for his direction with patience. Finally, as we mature as Christians, we must search for how we can serve Him.

I have really learned in the last little while that even if I suffer physical limitations, it is still very possible to spiritually soar using very little of my own flagging energy. If you will just unfold your wings and wait, He will mount you up “with wings like eagles”.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Monday, July 13, 2009


This morning I awoke very early in order to place yet another tarpaulin on our garage roof. One of my summer projects is to replace the roof over the garage. I have moved so slowly that covering the roof deck with tarps to keep off the frequent rain has become very necessary. When I was young and better able to endure, this would have been about a three day job. I have been at it for more than a month. It seems that I have one and a half to three hours of slow but steady labour in me on a very good day. That fact coupled with other work that must be completed this summer, including the splitting and piling of 20 cords of firewood and grass cutting, has meant that the roofing job has moved at a snail’s pace.

I reflected this morning, as Marley our dog quizzically looked up at me from the base of the extension ladder in the dawn’s early light, just how very patient I have become. I am quite prepared to finish this job just before the snow flies if necessary. My illness and slow recovery have created in me, not only a more submissive and stronger faith, but a very patient approach to work that must be done. As I reflected on my new found patience, it occurred to me that nothing could be compared to the infinite patience of our Lord and Saviour.

The words of my mother’s favourite hymn came to me as I descended from the roof. The hymn was written in 1880 by Will L. Thompson. The title of the hymn is actually the opening two lines as they are remembered below. In these words we see real patience! He is waiting and watching for you and for me.

“Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me.
See all the portals, He is waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me,
Come home, come home,
Ye who are weary, come home.
Earnestly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Oh sinners come home.”

These words can be interpreted on two levels. The first is that Jesus is patiently waiting for sinners to confess their sins and profess their belief in Him. He is waiting and watching for them to be saved. This is where thousands of years of divine patience are evident.

A later verse in the hymn contains the following warning.

“Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me,
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.”

The second group he is waiting for are His lambs, who are already saved, who come to Him as they cross over the threshold of death. He is waiting to greet them as they joyfully enter the gates of heaven and enter their new home for all eternity.

The first group is offered longsuffering patience and the second group is patiently expected at their appointed time.

Jesus is waiting and watching for you and for me.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Born Again

My maternal grandfather left to me the words “universal necessity” and “imperative necessity” penned in his Bible in John Chapter 3. The words written in red ink eight decades in the past highlight the necessity as outlined by Jesus himself to be born again. What did Jesus mean by saying that in order to see the kingdom of God, we must be born again? How do we become born again?

In order to illustrate in human terms the process, and it is a process, I would like to tell you the story of Frank. When I was in the hospital three years ago undergoing two major surgeries, Frank was a patient down the hallway of the surgical floor. I was in his room for one night until I was moved to a private room. One day I woke up to see Lozanne, the beloved wife of my youth, running into my room, picking up a book of comfort readings from the Bible that someone had given me as a gift, and running out again. She presented the book to Frank and his wife. Much to her pleasure they expressed interest and began to read the book regularly together at Frank’s bedside. Being a bold and personable evangelist, she followed up with the loan a Bible, which they willingly accepted.

Frank was in his late sixties and not a well man. He continued over that year to drift in and out of the hospital. When I was out of the hospital and in town, I tried to visit him when I was in our local hospital for tests or chemotherapy sessions. We were delighted when he and his wife were able to visit us in our country home on a sunny summer afternoon. He accepted the Lord as his saviour on Oct. 31, 2006. Most of us refer to that experience with expressions like, I am now saved” or “I settled out of court.” or “I am now born again”.

Frank, however, kept saying, “I signed on the dotted line”. I found it most interesting that he regarded his salvation as a contract with God. I went home that day and actually drafted a Memorandum of Agreement, a document that I had drafted many times in my former working life. The next day, November 1, 2006, Frank signed on the dotted line on that document. Indeed it hangs in front of me at my desk as I write today. That signature makes me smile.

Space prevents me from publishing the whole document, but I have presented below the core of the articles that Frank joyfully signed.

1. I believe I am a sinner.
2. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and died on a Roman Cross for the forgiveness of my sins and rose again from death to sit at the right hand of the Father for all of Eternity.
3. I acknowledge my need for a saviour and the forgiveness of my sins
4. I accept Jesus as my personal and eternal saviour.

Frank passed away in February of 2007. Despite feelings of grief for his loss and great sympathy for this wife, I was happy for him. He was a very sick man and his quality of life, which I have experienced for only a short period of time, was not good and I know where he went. He didn’t have the chance to exercise his faith or to grow, but he is there in heaven just the same. We all think we can plan our time of going into eternity. Only some of us have a chance to consider our position before we die. Frank was given that opportunity by the Lord Himself.

Frank gained much comfort from the Holy Spirit for the few remaining months of his life. When he signed that document he also confirmed the first line of his contract with the God of the universe.

“Having acknowledged the following, Frank has attained the rewards and privileges of Heaven for all of eternity”.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

An Imperative

When I became a Christian at the age of 49, my mother gave me my grandfather’s Bible. It has become one of my prized possessions. It is a 1917 copy of a Scofield Reference Edition. It is of course the Authorized Version of the King James Bible. Although the many enlightening notes by C.I. Scofield, who is a famous nineteenth and twentieth century Bible scholar, are of great interest to me, I must admit I am much more taken with the hand written notes penned by my grandfather. My grandfather died when I was ten years of age and my memories of him are vague, due mostly to the fact that he and my maternal grandmother lived hundreds of miles away from us.

In Chapter three of the Book of John at verse 3, which reads,

3 " Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.",

my grandfather had penned with a very fine nib in red ink, “N.B. a universal necessity”. I am much affected by those few words penned sometime, I suspect, in the 1920’s. He has summed up in a very understated way the significance of these words spoken directly by Jesus.

I am very much confused by the way that we tend to pick and choose what is important to us in the Bible. Main stream religions have been doing this for two thousand years. The more mature I become as a Christian, the more I am aware of the significance of the actual words spoken by Jesus while he was on this earth. This is a message from the Son of God spoken directly to us and indeed what he has to say is “a universal necessity”.

In verse 5 of the same chapter, which speaks again of this process of spiritual rebirth in different terms, my grandfather has written “imperative necessity”. Again he has succinctly understated the significance of this verse.

A much respected elder at our chapel, while speaking from the pulpit, told the story of a devout Christian man who had often stated the plain fact that, “You must be born again. Why must you be born again? Because you must!”

Just what is this term “born again”? What does it mean and how does it change your life? I will address these very issues in my next blog on July 11, 09.

(Comments, corrections, suggestions or rebuttals are welcome. My email link is contained in “About me: view my complete profile” to the right of this page or use the comment section below which requires that you have a Google account.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My Redeemer Lives

This morning as I walked with our English Springer Spaniel to get the newspaper in our rural mailbox, my mind turned to my favourite verses in the Bible.

These three verses became especially meaningful to me after major surgery for colorectal cancer 3 years ago. I read them many times during my long recovery. I still find myself at Job:25-27. Necessary alterations to my body were made in order to save my life. I try my best to accept these permanent changes with fortitude and good humour. I feel much better; however, when I realize that these alterations are indeed not permanent. They are as temporary as my remaining years on this earth. Job gives me this assurance.

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

The Book of Job is thought to be the oldest scripture in the Holy Bible. It is the story of a godly man who was not Jewish and who suffered great adversity. It is the classic tale of why and how bad things happen to good people. Despite great suffering and much prodding by others, Job never doubted the goodness of the will of God.

Imagine that! The very first manuscript of the Bible speaks directly of my Jesus. My Redeemer is my Jesus. There He is described so clearly so long ago by a Gentile who understood very clearly the power and glory of God. Job tells us that he knows that Jesus lives approximately two thousand years before Jesus Christ was born. He also informs us that Jesus will return to this earth to gather in His flock. After Job dies, he will see God (Jesus) and the wonderful thing about the sighting is that he will see God “in his flesh”. Job will be granted a new “flesh” to replace the old one.

Job will be given, after his death, a new body…a glorified body. We really don’t know the exact form of this body, but we know that it will be perfect and without flaw. It will not be limited by old age, illness or indeed previous surgical alternations made of necessity in our lifetime on this earth.

“How my heart yearns within me!”…

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Planting of the LORD

We live in the country on the lakeshore. Today I mowed the lawns. While operating the riding lawnmower, I was taken with the beauty of the day. Today was neither too hot nor too cold. There was a pleasant breeze blowing off the water which kept all of the flies away. The sky was blue and the sun was constant. For the first time in over a year, I completed the task at hand without the usual feeling of complete exhaustion. For the past five years, I have battled cancer. For the past three years I have battled the lasting effects of aggressive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment therapy. I suffer from a condition known, not by the medical community, but by cancer survivors, as “chemo-brain”, the chief symptom of which is fatigue. Most of the medical profession refuses to acknowledge the lasting effects of cancer treatment. The very good news; however, is that there is no sign of cancer in my body. For this fact alone, I praise the Lord every day.

Our property borders on what once was a thriving potato farm. The fields are now being returned by the Lord to the forest that dominated for centuries. In the parts that are still grass, there is a wonderful array of wild flowers. The yellows, whites, oranges, mauves and purples are magnificent against the green of the fields in the bright sunshine. The expanse is quite simply breath taking. The words that came to my mind this afternoon were the “planting of the LORD”. Who else could have made such beauty appear during such a natural transition?

These words are actually a quotation found in the Book of Isaiah in the Holy Bible. (Isaiah 61:3)

3… To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."

The prophet Isaiah lived seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Jesus Christ. As incredible yet wonderful as it sounds, Jesus is speaking directly to us through the prophet in this verse. We know this because Jesus tells us this fact in Luke 4: 16-21. The quotation as it appears above is actually a prophecy of things to come when Jesus returns to this earth for what is referred to as the Second Coming. Jesus is indeed returning to this earth to take all believers with Him to heaven.

The words are poetic, beautiful and powerful. Instead of dressing ourselves in the sackcloth of mourning and covering ourselves in ashes as was done in ancient Israel, we can expect to be beautifully arrayed in splendid and joyful colors. Rather than mourning the disgraces, sin and difficulties of this world, we can apply the oil of joy. In biblical times, the application of oil to the hair and the body was considered a great pleasure and a great luxury. Rather that feeling the heaviness of our sins, we can look forward to being praised by the Lord Jesus Himself. We will be tall and powerful examples of goodness. We will be the “planting of the LORD”…beautiful and tall trees of righteousness.

In order to be the “planting of the LORD”, there is just one qualification. We must be believers in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Are you the “planting of the LORD”?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Almost Persuaded

This morning I am mindful of the words of an old country song entitled “Almost Persuaded”. This cheating song describes marital disloyalty that almost happened, but indeed did not. In a sense, the song is good news to the imaginary partner as described in this piece of music.

A similar phrase in the Book of Acts in the Holy Bible actually was the stimulus for remembering the words to this song. In my opinion these words constitute some of the saddest commentary in the Bible. There is no good news in this instance

In Acts 26, the Apostle Paul has been brought before the Roman Governor Festus and King Agrippa who is accompanied by his wife Bernice. Paul has been charged with terrible crimes by his fellow Jewish brethren. Being a Roman citizen has enabled him to appeal his case to Caesar. He is soon to be sent to Rome for a final verdict that will end in his death.

Rather than plead for his life, Paul outlines the details of his conversion to Christianity and indeed preaches the gospel of Jesus Christ to those present. In response to his defence, Festus the governor suggests that Paul is mad and King Agrippa states in verse 28, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian”.

I don’t know much about the historical King Agrippa, but I do know that he was on the very edge of letting go and becoming a Christian. He was at the final step and indeed, like so many then and now decided to turn back from the decision to make Jesus his Lord and Saviour. He was “almost persuaded”.

What was it that he turned down? With those words he has declined a relationship with the Son of the God of the Universe. This relationship is made very real by the presence of the Holy Spirit to those who are believers. The Bible tells us in John 14:6 that you can only get to the Father through the Son. He has refused the forgiveness of his sins and has opted for the good works road to Heaven. Like so many, he believes that if you do more good than bad, you probably will go to heaven when you die. It does not work like that. We are saved by grace through faith. If indeed you do accept Jesus through faith, you don’t just hope to get to heaven. You are actually assured as an heir that you will join Jesus in heaven. King Agrippa has in one short sentence made a very sad decision, the consequences of which will last for all of eternity and that is a very long time!

Are you “almost persuaded”? While you still draw breath there is still time to become “persuaded”.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Love Your Neighbour

I am so tired of the stereotypes in the media. Last evening as I watched “Law and Order, Special Victims Unit”, it happened again.

A gay man had been the victim of murder and the first of many suspects was, surprise, surprise, the dried up old pastor of a very right wing American heartland evangelical Christian church. The pastor and his flock were actually staging an anti-gay demonstration at the funeral of the unfortunate murder victim. The character actor portraying the reverend was very convincing as the mean spirited, completely devoid of love, judgemental and unforgiving antithesis of all things Christian. The entertainment industry simply delights in presenting faithful Christians in this manner. The stereotype is as bad as the stereotype of the typical gay man. Both portrayals are not reality, but popular culture.

I am a born again Christian. I am not naïve. I know there are unloving and judgemental Christians out there. It is very unfair, in my opinion, to tar all Christians with the same brush. At the same time, it is crucial that we all are reminded from time to time of the instructions left for us by Jesus Christ Himself.

30 ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.
31 "And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these."

Jesus spoke these words in The Holy Bible in the Book of Mark (Mark 12:30-31)

Just who is our neighbour? Lest we think he or she is the person next door or indeed our fellow Christian, we have only to turn to the story of the Good Samaritan. A neighbour is anyone in this world who can expect to give us mercy or more importantly receive mercy from us. We are to love all others as we would like them to love us. That is a love like no other.

I would be just delighted to watch a television series some day soon where the portrayal of the true and faithful Christian, fundamentalist or evangelical or not, is a loving, non-judgemental, forgiving and merciful mirror image of Christ.