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Sunday, August 30, 2009

He Has Plans For Us

The gathering of the ducks has commenced. Fall is upon us for another year. I watch with interest the annual rituals of the many wild ducks on our lake. I enjoy their enthusiastic arrival just as the ice is clearing from the lake in the early spring. Soon male and female pairs separate off from the groups and are devoted to each other in a courtship that seems to last for a few short days. It is as if the males with their distinctive colouring, shirking all responsibility, disappear from the lake after this short relationship. You simply don’t see the males again for the rest of the summer. Child care and parenting skills don’t appear to be their forte. Next, apparently very independent mothers followed by peeping ducklings appear around the dock. In an infrequent ritual that is confusing to me, two mother ducks will fight violently over a group of ducklings. I have seen families as large as ten ducklings. Due to the effect of various predators, the numbers reduce as the ducklings mature. Much like the human condition, the very obedient behaviour of the very young is replaced by the more rebellious bluster of the older ducklings as they enter their “teenage” phase. They wander off and refuse to follow mother like they should. Sometimes she has to resort to physical confrontation to have them fall into line. Eventually it becomes impossible to distinguish the young ones from their mother and the family at least appears to separate.

It is the fall gathering that is actually the most interesting. Yesterday I noticed that the birds were beginning to congregate into swimming groups. The small groups grow over the weeks into larger groups. Eventually there will be one or two huge groups of ducks ready to fly south. In the interim, I am delighted to witness the practice flights and landings around the lake. The ever growing groups appear to be practicing the flying skills of the young ducks as well as, in my imagination only perhaps, allowing the potential leaders to show off their skills in preparation for the all important choice of a leader or leaders to guide them off the lake just at the right moment and return them to just the right destination to the south. It all happens in God’s perfect timing. His plan is so very evident as I watch this natural show for another year. I remain amazed with His attention to life cycle detail as His plan for them faultlessly unfolds. If the Lord pays so much attention to the ducks on our lake, I am excited by the prospects of His plans for me.

The prophet Jeremiah tells us about these plans. He is speaking specifically about the return of the Israelites from their captivity in Babylon; however, like John Gill, a Baptist theologian who lived in the 18th century, I believe of God that “the thoughts of His heart are to all generations”. His promise to the Jews is a promise to us all who believe. Jeremiah 29:11-13 reads as follows.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
13 You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart,
14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD…

The Lord has plans (notice the plural!) for each and every one of us. They are plans for good and not for evil. They are plans to prosper us. His plans assure us of a future and hope for that future. How do we stay within the bounds of His magnificent plans for us? We call out to Him. We pray to Him. We seek Him and He allows Himself to be found. His plans for me are so very complex that at times I don’t understand where He is taking me. At times I think He has forgotten His plans for me and then there are the wonderful moments when I see just how perfect His plans for me are. I am sure of one thing. The more I seek Him, the clearer His plans become and indeed they are marvellous and wonderful to behold.

(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, August 28, 2009

We Are Grass

This morning I was walking with Marley our family dog and friend along a pathway that runs parallel to the west side of our property. Although I see them often, this morning my attention was drawn to the five antique pieces of farm machinery that sit just as the day they were abandoned in what was then the eastern border of a field that was part of a large potato farm. Our property has actually been severed from that farm and we inherited through the purchase these machines from another time.

They are marvels of mechanical genius. They consist of gears, levers, chain drives and steel wheels. I am not sure if they were designed to be drawn by a horse or by a tractor. There are absolutely no electric parts, hydraulic lines or instrumentation of any description. Each has the required steel seat for the rider to sit amongst what looks to be a very dangerous array of moving parts with not a safety guard or fender in sight. I have absolutely no idea what the function of each machine actually was. I can only speculate upon functions like cutting, baling, ploughing, planting, fertilizing, weeding and harvesting. Although I have often examined them to try to figure them out, this morning another motive drove my curiosity.

For the first time, it struck me that each of these machines was operated by a real man or woman. These machines represent actual lives lived on this very land. I imagined the kinds of lives, so different from ours, lived by these most certainly deceased neighbours. I even imagined what they might have looked like and how they had hopes and dreams and perhaps faith just the way we do. Did they love God? Were they followers of Jesus Christ? Will I meet them in heaven? They owned the same land and walked on the very path down which Marley and I walked. They are gone and we are here. It suddenly dawned on me that someday someone else will own this path and will walk down it wondering about us as well as the generation who left the mysterious farm machinery. We each get our turn to serve God. Our turn is usually rather short when compared to the time spent in eternity. The prophet Isaiah clearly makes this point in Isaiah 40: 6-8.

6 The voice said, "Cry out!" And he said, "What shall I cry?" "All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever."

We indeed are like grass. We are like the grass that grows up and around these farm machine marvels which served so well a now absent generation of flesh just like ours. We grow and perhaps prosper for a short season and then we wither and fade. We have a short while to make the best of this life and indeed to ensure our future in eternity. How do we ensure this future? The answer is within the words of Isaiah above. We cling to the word of our God that stands forever. We wither and fade. The Lord changes not. Our God gives us life on this earth and then takes it away, but not before He offers us life with Him everlasting. Because I am so very aware of my fading and withering, I am so glad I have accepted His kind offer.

(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, August 26, 2009

Life Forevermore

Three years ago this week I began a six week course of radiation treatments for colorectal cancer. The treatments were daily and combined with chemotherapy delivered twenty-four hours per day by an intravenous infusion pump that I wore over my shoulder. Like all cancer survivors, I mark the anniversaries of note. I thank the Lord for another year. The prognosis three years ago would not have suggested a great likelihood that I would be sitting at this keyboard and writing this blog today.

There is a routine to cancer treatment that quickly becomes part of your life. The appointments could vary and one day you arrived in the morning and the next in the afternoon. Invariably there were at least fifteen or twenty persons in vastly varying physical condition waiting in a large reception room. All were treated with great kindness and courtesy as they checked in for treatment. Some were accompanied by family members or friends as I was by Lozanne on some days. I invariably brought a coffee and doughnut with me for the short wait. I was one of the very few who is insatiably hungry while on chemotherapy. The nausea was best combated by eating. I actually gained weight during treatment!

After a short wait, we were dispatched to a smaller waiting room just outside one of the five radiation machine suites. On a few occasions there were two patients waiting without family members in that area. As you can imagine, it was not hard to strike up a conversation. We were all part of a very common experience. The conversation just about always led to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Most cancer patients are very direct with other cancer patients. Some of the humour can be a little on the dark side.

One day I sat down with a gentleman probably ten years my senior. We talked that day about the effects each was suffering due to the radiation treatments. For some reason I asked him how the diagnosis of cancer had affected his life. His answer made me laugh. He said the affect had not been too noticeable except that it had really thrown off the ongoing plans for his one hundredth birthday party. Although he was making light of his most certainly shortened life span, he was also expressing a very human trait and that is that we all expect to live forever.

Indeed this desire to live long is placed within us by God Himself. We just have a feeling that we will live a long time. There is a good reason for that intuition. We will indeed live a very long time, not in this life as we know it, but in the next or as I prefer to think of it as the continuation of this life on earth. The references to life everlasting are many in the Bible. One of my favourite psalms may be the shortest and the final line ends in two very encouraging words, “Life forevermore”. Psalm 133 reads as follows:

1 ¶ A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, Running down on the beard, The beard of Aaron, Running down on the edge of his garments.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, Descending upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing––Life forevermore.

If we live together in harmony in the basics of faith and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are led to an eternity with Him in heaven. We are offered life forevermore. We have no idea how long we will live here on this side of heaven, but we are assured that on the other side we are promised life everlasting. This is a joyous pain free life that never ends and stretches into all eternity. No wonder we feel as though we will live forever. We will!

(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, August 24, 2009

Opening Exercises

When I started my career in education, I taught in the elementary public schools. In the first two years I had the pleasure to teach Grade 4 and Grade 5. I find it almost unbelievable that these same surviving nine, ten and eleven year olds are now starting into their sixth decade! One of the requirements at the time was that each teacher was to begin the school day with the singing of “O Canada”, the group recitation of The Lord’s Prayer and to read a portion of scripture to the students. Older students were often asked to read sections of the Bible to the class.

I had made no commitment to Christ in those days. Indeed during my first days in that Grade 4 classroom, I did not look forward to starting and leading the singing of our soon to be national anthem with my teacher’s college issue of a silly red pitch pipe. I had to write down the words to The Lord’s Prayer in case the class or I faltered in the middle of the recitation. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the reading of scripture as well. I was familiar from a childhood spent in a United Church of Canada Sunday School with the well known stories of the Bible, but for several weeks I simply read the passage and moved on to the spelling lesson of the day.

I had started the readings in the Old Testament and tried to stay with the child friendly stories in Genesis. I noticed one day the rapt attention paid by the class to the story of Noah. Rapt attention is not something most teachers achieve in the first few months on the job. I started to lengthen the readings ever so slightly. I began to ask a few questions of the students in order to clarify the reading. Hands shot up with an enthusiasm that was not always typical of the whole school day. Students even initiated questions on some days! I began to look forward as did the children to a reading from the Bible followed by an orderly but nonetheless lively discussion of the lessons being taught within the readings. There were not a few days when our discussion caused a late or shortened spelling lesson. I was able to teach history, values, morals, use of language and thinking skills while involving the students in action and adventure. The students very much enjoyed stories like David and Goliath and Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Joshua’s conquering of Jericho was of great interest as was the parting of the Red Sea.

After two years with the same students in Grade 4 and Grade 5, the “enlightened” powers that be declared that the regular reading of Christian scriptures should be discontinued. Although I understood the “enlightened” reasons behind the decision and actually at the time would have approved, I missed the readings and the resulting discussions a great deal. I suspect strongly that the students missed it as well. It had set a tone for each day and now it was gone. About fifteen years later the reciting of The Lord’s Prayer was discontinued as well. The regular use of Christian prayers was not consistent apparently with the needs our multi-cultural society.

How, you might ask yourself, are the memories of another world forty years in the past relevant to my blog today? Now, as a born again follower of Jesus, I am very aware of the power of the Word of God. (John 1: 1-3)

1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

In these first few lines of the Book of John we learn that Jesus is the Word. He was with God and indeed He is God. There never was a time when Jesus was not the Word. Indeed Jesus created all things. I find it most appropriate that Jesus should be called the Word. The words of the Holy Bible are God’s direct communication with us here on this earth. Jesus is God. Should I be surprised then that the reading of the Word of God had such a profound effect on young students and an equally young teacher so long ago?

I pray that we all understand the power and are willing to spread the Word of God. Its power has been evident from the beginning of time and continues to spread calm, knowledge and good sense. Jesus is the Word. Jesus began his day with those of us who read and discussed his words in class. Is it any wonder that the time spent in the scriptures is well remembered as highly productive classroom time?

(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, August 22, 2009

My Grace Is Sufficient

This morning I have been indulging in just a little self-pity. In 2Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul tells us that he has “a thorn in the flesh”. Because he had the opportunity to be transported up to heaven, the Lord had given him some affliction to constantly remind him of his human limitations. His thorn kept him humble and in need of the Lord. He asked the Lord three times to remove this never named affliction. It was not removed and as far as we know he carried it to the grave. Very few of us have thorns because we have seen heaven, although I do believe that a select few among us may have caught a glimpse of eternity. There are many other reasons to have a thorn.

I have a thorn. It is something that I never expected to happen to me. It is always with me and always makes its presence known. At times it can be very troublesome and at other times it can behave much better. On some nights it can cause sleep deprivation. It is extremely unpredictable and causes well laid plans to be reconsidered constantly. In many ways I am no longer in control because of this thorn. I spent my working life doing just that… being in control. It is interesting that the Lord should see the need to take away that control. My thorn is only as permanent as this life on this side of heaven. Like Paul I have asked for it to be removed or at least made more bearable. I have asked a lot more than the three times.

Paul never does tell us the exact nature of his thorn. There are many unproven theories that scholars have put forward. Since he says it was a thorn in the flesh, it is probable that it was a chronic physical condition. Eye problems, ear aches, migraines, malaria and even a speech impediment have been theorized. A speech impediment given to such a famous preacher of the gospel is an interesting thought. It would indeed produce humility. There is a very good reason that Paul does not tell us the exact nature of his affliction. He wanted us to fill in the blank with our own thorn. For the same reason I am not going to disclose the exact nature of my thorn. If you don’t currently have a thorn, I can assure that at some time in your Christian life you will. It may be permanent or it may be temporary, but you will experience a thorn. I just love the answer that Jesus gives to Paul when he asks for relief. (2Corinthians 12: 9)

9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

Grace is the infinite undeserved mercy, love and forgiveness as offered to us by God. Jesus does not say that because Paul has asked for help, He will increase the grace offered to Paul, but that it is always sufficient for our purposes. As our weakness increases, His strength is not only increased but actually made perfect. The weaker we become because of a thorn, the more we must turn to Jesus. The more we turn to Jesus the more His strength increases within us.

Paul could actually boast in his infirmities because they brought upon him the power of Christ. I must admit, in all honesty, that I am at the acceptance stage moving ever so slowly to boastfulness.

(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, August 20, 2009

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

It is 3:50 A.M. and lying in bed staring at the ceiling was an all too familiar and tiresome option. While I was doing just that, the words and the music of the hymn “Great Is thy Faithfulness” kept swirling around in my head. The verse I can remember the best is the chorus which flows as follows:

“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father,
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided,
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

The lyrics for “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” were written in 1923 by Thomas Chisholm who died at the age of ninety-four in 1960. The hymn was made popular by the Billy Graham Crusades in England in 1954. William Runyan wrote the music.

The lyrics of this great hymn have their origin in Lamentations 3: 19-26.

19 Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.
20 My soul still remembers And sinks within me.
21 ¶ This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
22 Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
24 "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I hope in Him!"
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.

These words have always been a comfort to me. When things are not going as well as I would like, I often turn to these timeless words written by the prophet Jeremiah. Our lamentable circumstances are very real and like the prophet Jeremiah, we should face that reality directly. Denial and forced cheerfulness gets us nowhere. At the same time, we have to rise above our present circumstance and look beyond in faith. We have a God of unending faithfulness for us. His compassion for us is always there and never fails. Despite our present difficulties, He will not allow us to be consumed. We should find great hope in the promises of salvation.

As I sit here this morning, I continue to wait for Him. I seek Him especially at a quiet time like this. The best news of all is that His mercy and compassion are renewed every morning. Despite difficult nights, I am heartened by the fact that each and every one of those nights is followed by morning.

Praise the Lord this morning! Great is His faithfulness.

(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, August 18, 2009

Count It All Joy

Last Wednesday I took Marley for her annual visit to the veterinarian. For a healthy dog like her this should be a non-event. The visit would consist of a couple of painless injections, an ear examination, a look at her teeth, a few other cursory checks and of course her turn on the weigh scales. She jumped into the back seat of the car with the usual tail wagging enthusiasm. She panted happily at my shoulder as we made the journey together. Unfortunately, when I pulled into the parking lot, she quite simply shrank back in horror and started to shake uncontrollably. Unfazed by this annual routine, I secured her leash and attempted to pull her out of the car. It is a good thing that dogs cannot grab onto objects or we would still be there. Once out of the car she attempted to make a run for it towards the road. I pulled her back and indeed wrestled her with great difficulty through the door into the waiting room. Indeed I am the only one in the family heavy enough to complete this rather strenuous job, otherwise I would have gladly given it up.

For the uninitiated, vet offices are disturbingly like those of your medical practitioner or dentist except that each person waiting is holding a pet on their lap or near them on the floor. Some pets behave well and some do not. The seats in reception are always filled and a twenty minute wait is considered immediate service. For twenty-five minutes long minutes my fifty-one pound dog shook uncontrollably, pulled on the leash toward the door and stood up on her hind legs so that she could stare directly into my eyes and plead for mercy. The small dog beside her who looked perfectly calm when we entered was shaking uncontrollably within 10 minutes. Marley can even spread the panic!

The visit in the examining room consisted of me holding a large strong shaking dog up on the examining table while the vet did her thing recognizing with good humour the extreme stress and reluctance to be there demonstrated by Marley. With the exception of Marley being declared a little overweight, all went as well as could be expected. At that declaration, I imagined Marley thinking rather peevishly that “I am just big boned, not overweight!” I settled up the account back in reception while holding on to a now acknowledged very heavy, soon to be on a diet, dog pulling me all the while towards the exit. It took me two days to remove all of the dog hair on my clothes, rest up and get over our adventurous afternoon.

Marley’s performance reminded me of my own approach to trials. She was facing a trial in her mind and simply wanted to escape from the difficulty by any means possible. She believed that I could help her escape, and indeed I could have done just that if I had been so inclined. I wonder how many times I have prayed fervently to be simply released from a trial. God may indeed grant that prayer, but more often than not, He chooses to keep us in the trial and expects us to pray for His help in weathering the difficulties at hand. He does not promise a trouble free life here on this earth, but He does promise to help us through each and every trouble. Both James and Peter address this issue in The New Testament. In James 1: 2-4 we read:

2 ¶ My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

In 1Peter 1: 6-7 we find a similar theme.

6 ¶ In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,
7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

The Lord gives us every opportunity to exercise our faith through trials and to grow as a Christian through them. Often this growth is not apparent to us or others through the trial. When the storm has passed, however, it is often possible to see the growth. We are told in the Bible that God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. (Is. 55: 8) Lozanne and I have not been strangers to trials in the last three years. The Lord has effectively narrowed my abilities to serve Him until I started to write this blog. I am not at all sure if I write it for His use, the reader’s benefit or indeed for myself. I find the continual research and writing has deepened my faith daily. I have been blessed through trials!

His ways are not my ways nor are His thoughts my thoughts!

(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, August 16, 2009

His Word

This morning I took a moment to review the twenty-three blogs I have written since July 1st. When I just typed “blogs”, it was underlined in red as a misspelled word. My Office 2003 doesn’t recognize the word “blog”. I have had to manually enter it into the dictionary. I was hard pressed to figure out the origin of the word. The “log” part I get, but what is the “b”. I wondered if it stands for “blah, blah, blah”? Of course when I looked the word up on the internet, I learned that the word “blog” is a shortened version of the term “web log” which is defined as “a frequently updated personal journal chronicling links at a Web site, intended for public viewing”. I have written a message every second day since July 1st and have every intention of continuing to do so.

I can’t but marvel that I am doing so. I had never even read a blog until the last week in June. I had no idea where or how to set one up. It never crossed my mind that I would even read a blog little lone write one. I have been praying for months asking the Lord how I may serve Him. I have been, due to inescapable fatigue, unable for at least six months to deliver messages from the pulpit. All the same, in the last week of June, I developed a real interest in researching blogs and blog sites. I learned how to set up a blog and indeed how to announce each blog on Twitter. The Lord had very simply and quietly answered my prayer. I can publish His word at any time of the day or night at my own pace freed from the restrictions of specific time and place and my own physical limitations.

In the definition of web log there is one phrase that gives me great hope. It states that what I write is intended for public viewing. Indeed I pray for very public viewing of the words of the Holy Bible. In Isaiah 55: 10-11 we read:

10 "For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

The Lord has made me into a frequent and very willing sower of His seed. Every time I quote His words I cast them forth into cyberspace, wherever that is, and they do not return to Him void. His words, certainly not my words, as they go forth, accomplish what pleases God. These words prosper just as the Lord has intended. My function is to simply present the words as I am guided by the Holy Spirit and the Lord’s power will do the rest.

According to my personal definition of the term “blog”, my words are the “blah, blah, blah”. The words of God are the log itself. I marvel at the possibilities of casting forth His words like seeds on the seemingly infinite internet in this modern world.

(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, August 14, 2009

Breaking of Bread

Last Sunday morning, I was unable to accompany Lozanne to chapel. There are some nights that I am unable to sleep due to several factors that do not need to be expanded in this space. The resulting fatigue sometimes makes it impossible to do anything but slow down and rest. Later in the morning I decided to work on a blog. While wrestling with some ideas, I began to deeply regret that I was about to miss my weekly Breaking of Bread. Others may refer to this spiritual opportunity as communion. I did something that I have never done before. I broke bread by myself at the kitchen table. It was truly an uplifting moment. I will do so again in the future if I am unable to go to the chapel in order to be in presence of other Christians.

I prepared the emblems which consisted of a small piece of bread and a small amount of wine. As I prepared to celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus on my behalf, I turned to 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

The Apostle Paul is advising those at the church in Corinth about the very ceremony that I was about to celebrate. Paul’s words are really more of a warning to the church members to not take this ceremony lightly and to do it properly. He is quoting Jesus who spoke these words on the night of His betrayal. He would be crucified the next day.

I did exactly as Jesus did at the Last Supper. I prayed my thanks to the Father. I specifically thanked Him for the sacrifice of His son. I thanked Him for the broken body which paid for the remission of my sin. When I was finished, I broke off a piece of bread and ate it. I then prayed for a second time my thanks for the blood shed on my behalf. I thanked Him for the new covenant created by Jesus. The King James Version of the Bible refers to this covenant as the “new testament in my blood”. A covenant is best described as an agreement between two parties. Jesus is offering me forgiveness of my sin and an eternity in heaven in return for my belief and faith in His sacrifice on my behalf. I then drank the wine.

I have felt the powerful effect of these actions before in the presence of others. On Sunday morning the effect was profound. I still cannot get the feeling of real communion with God out of my mind. Jesus tells us twice in these two verses that we should do these things “in remembrance of Me”. Days later I continue to remember. Next Sunday I hope to remember Him in the company of other Christians, but I can assure you that in the future, if I am unable to leave the house on Sunday morning, I will continue to remember Him in any case or any circumstance.

(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, August 12, 2009

Where Were You?

One morning last week Lozanne and I were jarred awake about 5:00 A.M. by a rather obvious thump on the outside wall of our bedroom. Lozanne asked, “What was that…was that a bear”? Bears in our yard are not uncommon. Not really wanting to have to investigate, I suggested that it was nothing but one of those things that go thump in the night. Oddly, she accepted that explanation and dozed off. I don’t doze off so easily these days so I decided to get up and write a blog. As I looked out the living room window, I was a little surprised to see the return pipe from our swimming pool solar heater pouring on the ground rather than in the pool. I decided that maybe an investigation was indeed in order. I got dressed and went outside and immediately adjusted the pipe back into position wondering to myself what could have dislodged such a sturdy fixture. Later in the day, I noticed that our garden composter was in three pieces and spread over the ground at least ten feet from where it should have been. I realized then that we had been visited by one of our black bear friends. This must have been an angry one, because the composter has been empty for years as part of our bear proofing procedures. This bear had destroyed an empty composter and actually took a swipe at our pool infrastructure, not to mention hitting the side of our house. All of our garbage is kept in a locked truck container far from the house and the bird feeder is put away every spring. I guess our paucity of available food and the resulting lack of hospitality did not please our friend.

I knew it was probable that this bear has taken to going through our property from the forest behind in order to check out the delicacies of our neighbours gardens or garbage improperly stored. I knew from experience that it is likely he or she had a regular daily route. Running into this wild animal would not be a good idea. As long as a lone bear is not surprised by human beings they will usually run in the opposite direction when contact is made. A female bear with cubs is to be respected and avoided at all costs. Bears are an extremely powerful and fast creature weighing hundreds of pounds.

Lozanne and I go out each morning to exercise. She jogs and I walk the laneways of our property and our neighbour’s. We do it rain or shine, flies or no flies. This week we are doing it to the ringing of a antique school bell. As we move around the circuit, I ring the bell every once in a while just to let the bear know where we are. The bear avoids us and everyone is happy. Our dog Marley is also our early warning system. She will pick up the scent of an intruder long before we see it.

Yesterday as I walked and rang the bell, I was musing on God’s creation. Why did He create such a diverse and sometimes dangerous world? Why do we have pests such as insects and downright dangerous animals in our midst? God gave us dominion over these creatures, but they are here in this world with us. Why would he create these challenges for those he loved? Why did we have to be concerned about a large black bear as we exercised this morning?

The answer is in the Book of Job starting in Chapter 38. God is speaking to Job who has suffered terrible losses and has been asking “why” questions as well. For three full chapters, God informs Job of His answer. Job 38: 1-4 starts off a long monologue by God Himself.

1 ¶ Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
2 "Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
3 Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
4 ¶ "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding.

Whenever I find myself questioning God, which we all do from time to time, I read these three chapters. God very clearly goes through all of His creation including the animal world, from fierce to gentle.

I could sum up these three chapters in very few words. Why did God create such a diverse and sometimes dangerous world? He did it because he is God. He and He alone is sovereign. He is God and we are the creation. We may understand it better in heaven, but for now we know one simple thing. God is in control, always has been and always will be. Our lives unfold just as exactly as they should. Accepting that in the face of life’s minor or major difficulties makes all the difference in understanding it all.

(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, August 10, 2009

By Grace Through Faith

During my working years, I was very much involved in the hiring of new employees or the selection of existing employees for promotion. With the exception of the hiring of brand new recruits, a hiring committee was always struck and met sometimes to set the criteria for the selection and always to interview and select the successful candidate. I was always a little surprised to observe the importance of the covering letter, resume and indeed the interview itself in the decision making of some committee members. Over the years, I had learned to trust one thing in the selection process. The service record of the properly qualified employee was all that really counted. That was easy enough to ascertain with present employees, but more difficult to obtain regarding outside applicants. I also learned over the years that glowing recommendations from outside were not always to be trusted just as negative recommendations could be less than reliable. There are too many human foibles involved in the offering of recommendations, more so in written letters rather than actual telephone or personal conversations.

I have witnessed candidates who have come in, taken over and managed for themselves, a very successful interview. Their service record may have indicated something else, but a good interview can sometimes be enough to bring success. In my more senior working years, I made my selection recommendation based upon service record, because in the end that would be the real indicator of future success. Some of the strongest candidates simply do not sit interviews well; as a result, known and proven service, in my opinion, is the most important factor.

Jesus tells us twice in the Book of Matthew that “…many are called but few chosen” (Matt.20:16). He says the same thing with slightly different wording in Matt: 22:14. I was wondering briefly this morning if service was His most important criteria in choosing. I very quickly came to the conclusion that service, cover letter, resume and indeed an interview are not the ways he chooses. The answer to my pondering is very clearly outlined in Ephesians 2:8-9.

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Through His wonderful grace, He offers a free gift based only on our faith. Our belief in Him and His Father makes us one of the few chosen. Our service record is of no consequence. We don’t have to impress with our fervent protestations and impressive answers to His questions. He loves us for our faith.

Our faith is enough to get our promotion to an eternity in heaven with the Son of God at our side.

You may be asking how does one build faith if you do not have it, indeed if you simply do not feel it? I can only share my experience. I was searching in my middle years for some greater meaning to this life. I started to read the Bible as part of that search. I read it a few verses at a time for three full years. I was looking for the contradictions that I knew must be there. I didn’t find any contradictions, but I did find Jesus. At the end of the three years, my faith was there and very real. Faith can be found in the Word of 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.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Last Will Be First

Today I hope to finish the roofing job on the garage roof. This exercise started early in June. The job has been interrupted by the weather, other demands, the weather, my own limitations and finally the weather. Even yesterday, which started out to be a nice sunny day resulted in tarps being reinstalled by noon. Today is the day according to Environment Canada! Yesterday, while I applied the roll roofing, according to my purchased instruction book of course, for my usual two to three hours of labour, I realized that the job was moving along well and felt more than a little satisfaction that this project would finally be complete and the roof sealed from the elements. My reward was intrinsic for a job well done. Yesterday’s labour and its reward brought to mind this morning one of the parables of Jesus found in Matthew 20: 1-16.

Very early in the morning, a landowner (God) sets out to hire labourers (believers) to work in his vineyard (the kingdom of heaven). There was an agreement struck to pay them one danarius (reward) for a full day’s labour (service to and devotion to God). At 9:00 A.M., 12:00 P.M., 3:00 P.M. and again at 5:00 P.M., he hired even more labourers with no agreement as to what they would be paid. The landowner would pay them what was fair. When the day was done he instructed his paymaster to pay the labourers from the last hired to the first hired. All were paid one danarius. Those hired first complained bitterly that they had laboured longer through the heat of the day and deserved more than the agreed upon wage. The landowner informed them that he could do exactly as he pleased with his resources and his generosity should not cause them to react with selfishness. In verse 16 Jesus informs us on one of the great and wonderful truths of the Bible.

16 "So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen."

When I first became a Christian at forty-eight years of age, I really thought that this verse meant that being saved later in life did not exclude you from the rewards. You could be just as eligible for them as lifelong Christians. I had read the verse literally and indeed I was wrong.

First of all, before I go on, evidently according to this parable there are rewards in heaven and indeed in this life for Christian service and devotion to God. I do not have a clue what form those rewards will take in heaven, but there will be rewards. Second, God is sovereign and in complete and utter control of the rewards. There will be some great surprises when it comes to rewards in Heaven. Finally, many who thought they were first will be last because of their motivation in serving God. If their service was inspired by pride and selfish ambition or to look good in the eyes of man, they will indeed be last at the podium for the awards ceremony. Those who laboured without an agreement for rewards due and trusted God’s mercy and grace will be first at the podium. I have no way of knowing there will be an award ceremony in heaven, but for me it puts the concept in human terms.

In The Message, the last being first and first being last is referred to as “The Great Reversal” and indeed it is just that.

(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, August 6, 2009


Lozanne and I recently celebrated forty-one years of marriage. Proverbs 5:18
offers some sage advice that I have followed. “…And rejoice with the wife of your youth”. We were indeed very young when we married. Yesterday, as a busy day was winding down, she really made me stop and think. Indeed I have been thinking about what she said most of the night. She asked the question, “How must the disciples have felt in the few days following the crucifixion of Jesus”?

The obvious answer of course is that they were in shock and grieving His death. When we started to discuss it and I have since thought about it further at length, the enormity of their emotion is understated in words like shock and grief.

The eleven remaining disciples had all been recruited literally off the water and off the street by this man Jesus. Each left that moment to follow Him without much thought other than those of instant admiration and trust. They had left their families, in some cases, and their livelihood in all cases in order to serve Him. For three years they had witnessed first hand His ministry on Earth. They had internalized His teachings, although some parts they still did not understand. They had witnessed His miracles and countless healings. They had been part of His revolutionary thoughts and actions regarding religion and those who led the Jewish people. Through all of this Jesus never sinned. He was a man without sin. They had been granted three years of life and training with God on earth. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah and would take over as an all powerful king. They did not realize that Jesus would promise to come again a second time to reign in power and glory.

Even if we suspend for a moment the idea of the Son of God who had come to Earth for our salvation, all believers and non-believers have to concede one thing. Never was a man in all of history so effective at making his mark on this world in thirty-three short years. Here was a poor, uneducated and seemingly ordinary man, who literally put the world on its end. No one in all of history is more famous than Jesus Christ. No one can deny the profound influence His life has had 2000 years into the future. Men still speak His name daily. Some speak His name with love and respect and some continue to revile Him and take His name in vain. The point is no one in all of history has had such a profound historical effect on the world. The disciples were personal witnesses to this historical greatness.

Unfortunately the disciples became unwilling witnesses to His very brutal and undignified death on a Roman cross. How must they have felt? Coupled with the guilt of feeling they had abandoned Jesus at His time of extreme need, their devastation must have been overwhelming. Their world and every promise for the future had come crashing down around them. They were unemployed, broke and had no idea what to do next. Their beloved teacher and hope for the future was dead…so they thought.

The good news was that they were not left to suffer this total devastation for more than three days. Jesus arose from the grave. He is risen indeed. Jesus had told them all of this before but for some reason they never allowed themselves to understand the enormity of what Jesus came to earth to accomplish. In Luke 24: 46-47, Jesus appears to the disciples after His death and tells them again.

46 Then He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,
47 "and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Why was it necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead? It was necessary that he should take the sin of the world upon His shoulders and do it all for us. That work is finished and all we have to do is to believe in Him and His work. Our work is to now preach “in His name to all nations”. Each and every one of us who believe is privileged to have a part, no matter how minor, in this great commission.

(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, August 4, 2009

Salt of the Earth

In retirement, albeit a rather confined but gratifying retirement, I have set out to learn a few different skills. I achieve this learning through reading specific instructions and experimentation. Last week I put up 16 litres of dill pickles. Preserving pickles had been on my need to learn list for years, so last year I bought the proper equipment, an instruction book and a couple of baskets of pickling cucumbers. The resulting jars of dill pickles, once opened during winter days, disappeared quickly. This year Lozanne bought me six baskets that have now been processed, which, by the way, is the technical term for the canning process. This year I experimented with different amounts of dill seed and salt. As I measured out the coarse pickling salt, the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:13 came to me.

13 ¶ "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men

Just what does Jesus mean by this seemingly confusing statement? Who is the salt of the earth? How does salt lose its flavour?

Salt in the modern day is actually a chemical compound that, when it goes bad from age or some other factor, it simply disappears. In the first century, the salt was much more natural and coarse. It was mixed inadvertently with vegetable and other mineral matter. When it went bad, it turned into useless white pebbles that were actually used for other purposes such as building up and smoothing out pathways.

The “you” in the verse refers to Christians. It refers to those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Once they become Christians they are expected to maintain their saltiness lest other men trample their testimony under their feet. Their saltiness is quite simply their continued demonstration of being a Christian. If you are a Christian, indeed others, Christians and non-Christians should recognize that you are indeed a Christian.

I can think, as I sit here in the dawn’s early light, of no less than eleven uses for salt. There are two that specifically pertain to pickling and one universal truth about salt. Salt is added to the pickling jars as a preservative. Once we become a Christian, we are preserved by God for all of eternity in heaven. Salt is also added to the jars as a seasoning. Human kind loves the taste of salt. We all probably use too much of it. The Christian life should be a well seasoned and enjoyable life. It should be a life more abundant. It should be a well lived and interesting life. Of course one of the effects of salt is that it makes us retain water and indeed makes us thirsty.

Jesus referred to Himself as “living water”. Our saltiness should make us and others around us thirst for Him. We read in John 4:13-14:

13 Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again,
14 "but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

I pray this morning that my saltiness is evident to all who read this blog and that others will thirst for the “living water” in order to be preserved 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.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Lord Helps

If you are following “The Marley Saga”, we last left our canine heroine quietly begging me with her eyes, as I wrote at my keyboard, to allow her to deal with the groundhog underneath our front steps. This is the same groundhog which she chased under the steps the day before. In recent memory she has done the same thing with a small skunk. After breakfast she accompanied me outside. Despite my hopes that the groundhog had left our premises, I was disappointed to discover through Marley’s extreme behaviour that the evil lurking beneath our deck was still there. Marley’s reaction had not been tempered by a restless night’s sleep. She went wild.

I knew I had to do something for this poor traumatized creature under my steps. I placed Marley in the screen room where she began to whine and cry very loudly while I removed one length of boards from the deck. As I was attempting again to flush out the terrified groundhog, my kind and helpful neighbour who lives at least 400 hundred feet away in heavy forest cover arrived behind me to ask what was wrong with my dog. He and his black lab stood there looking most concerned for the weeping Marley. I explained the problem. He attempted to help me to flush out the poor groundhog. Finally I asked if he might take Marley, on a leash of course, over to his house while I finished what I started.

Despite my best efforts nothing worked. I finally locked the door to the house, left the boards off and walked away to retrieve my dog next door. I brought her home and placed her under house arrest. The groundhog finally left of its own volition, hungry and thirsty no doubt, sometime during the afternoon. After some initial sniffing, Marley immediately looked bored by the deck and its recent history and went to sleep. I immediately cut and stapled steel screening around the apron of the deck.

As I stood back to admire the job, feeling rather self-satisfied, the words, “The Lord helps those who help themselves”, came to mind. A message delivered from the pulpit over a decade ago by my brother-in-law came to mind as well.

If I was to stand on the street corner in a highly populated area and ask where to find the quote, “The Lord helps those who help themselves”, I would strongly suspect that the vast majority would inform me with some surety that the quote is found in the Bible. I believed it for years myself until my wife’s brother burst that bubble. Nowhere in the Bible will you find those words. The Lord indeed does not help those who help themselves.

Who does He help? In the Book of Psalms there are no less than seven verses which tell us who the Lord helps. The best, in my opinion, is Psalm 40:17.

17 But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.

Jesus would have referred to those who are helped as “the poor in spirit”. (Matt. 5:3) Only when we realize that we can’t rely upon our own resources and that without God we are indeed helpless, will we be helped by God. We must admit our need and turn ourselves over to His strength. We must believe. We must ask. We must realize that we are nothing without our God.

The famous quote should read: “The Lord helps those who are contrite and needy enough to ask for help.”

(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.)