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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Work of His Hands

The other day I was walking by the television and a potter was working at her wheel with clay. I stopped for a minute to watch, thinking all the time of verse 8 in Isaiah 64. The clay started out as a glob of wet mud. It was vigorously kneaded and adjusted as it was placed on the wheel. The potter pushed the clay onto the head of the turning wheel in order to create a specific shape. Initially she was unhappy with the forming vessel and added more clay. Eventually she discarded the whole thing and started over. The clay can be reshaped as many times as required. You can add to it, take some clay away or start all over again. One thing that is very evident in watching the process is that the potter is very much in control. The clay has no say in the creation of itself into a vessel. It can make no effort to improve its own creation. Only the potter has the ability to shape, reshape, reform, change or indeed scrap the emerging vessel. In Isaiah 64: 8 we read:

8 But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.

The Lord is the potter and we are the clay. He is in control every second. He creates us and is able to reshape us at any time. We are not in control. Almighty God is in control. We are but a temporary vessel.

When we consider the reality that we are the clay, we are faced with a real lesson in humility. Have you ever stopped to think what clay is? It is dust mixed with a little water. It is wet dirt. It is mud. We are the clay so we are the filthy dust and mud of the earth. When the clay has been formed and baked, we are but earthen vessels for the rest of our life on this earth. (2Cor 4:6-7)

When we consider the words, “And all we are the work of Your hand”, we find a very beautiful truth. We are the work of The Potter. We are the work of the hand of God. There is another deeper meaning in these words. The very hands that made us as a potter are the same hands that were voluntarily pierced by nails for our sake. The same hands that made us saved us! The true work of His hands was to have them nailed to a Roman cross. Jesus did this very thing for us. His work is finished. This was done for you and for me so that ordinary earthen vessels could become glorified beings in heaven with the Father and the Son. We are truly the work of His hands.

(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, September 27, 2009

He Is Our Father

Verse 8 in Isaiah 64 is one of those marvelously loaded verses of the Bible. This one verse has actually inspired two blogs.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father; We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.

It declares that God is indeed our father. Just what does that mean? What do or did we expect of our fathers? I know I grew to expect love, care, safety, security and indeed to be shielded from the world as I matured. I also received direction and correction. I expected most of these things very much when I was young and less and less as I matured. The opposite is true of our Heavenly Father. The Lord provides all of these things and I expect them more and more as I mature, not less and less.

When the Lord provides the correction component and things don’t go as we had hoped, we often accuse him of not providing other expectations such as protection.

From time to time, I have written about the lessons I learn from our English Springer Spaniel. Marley was raised and trained in all female home and she just appeared out of the blue just before I entered the hospital for treatment. When she came to live with us, it was soon evident that she regarded me as the master of the home…the alpha male of the pack…but most of all, the father. This dog is confident that I can actually protect her from lightening and thunder. She runs to me to shield her. She is compliant, loving and always defers to me except when I disappoint her.

We have eight grandchildren, some of whom were babies or toddlers three years ago. When the visiting babies arrived for a visit, Marley welcomed them and completed satisfactorily all the expected niceties like allowing them to sit on her, to maul her to the point of pain and even licking their cute little faces if they came too close.

It was all an act.

She felt nothing but resentment for the intrusion of the babies into her world where she considers herself the baby and deserves all of the attention. Even to this day, when our children leave with their children, we all laugh at the reality that Marley is so very happy the little ones are leaving. Her tail wagging goodbyes are just too enthusiastic.

What was very telling, however, was her treatment of me the master, or the father if you will, after the departure if they remained too long like over night. She clearly blamed me for her misfortune. The baby visit was my fault and the longer they stayed the longer she attempted to punish me by refusing to come near me or respond to her name. All tail wagging stopped in my presence. Temporarily she deferred to others in the house and would not respond to my instructions. She even turned her back to ignore me.

She was modeling behavior that is disturbingly human. How often did we act like this to our human fathers? How often do we act like this with our Heavenly Father when things don’t go exactly as we have wished? I have on occasion reacted just like her. At times I have turned my back on my God. It is not for long, but I, and I suspect you may, act this way. We stop praying. Our devotional time is shortened or forgotten for a time. We may commit rebellious acts and actually defy our Heavenly Father. I am so thankful that our God, like any good father, has very broad shoulders and expects our bad reactions to his direction and correction. He is our Father and will ever be so no matter how silly we may act as children.

(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, September 25, 2009

Filthy Rags

I would like you to join me in conducting an imaginary open ended survey on the street this very day. Let’s pretend that we all are armed with the required clipboard and pencil and ask the very simple question, “How do we get to heaven?” I sincerely believe that the vast majority of respondents will assure you that they indeed do believe in heaven and that the more good deeds you have done in this world the more likely it is that you will go to heaven. If you have done more good than bad then you are in. It is kind of like storing up Aeroplan points or Air Miles in order to cash them in at the pearly gates (whatever and wherever they are). Mainstream religion has perpetuated this myth for centuries. Verse 6 in Isaiah 64 refutes this popular but defective theory in the strongest of words. We must keep in mind that Isaiah, being a prophet, was told directly by God what to say.

6 ¶ But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Our best efforts are so defective, and so far short of the rule, that they are as rags…filthy rags. These rags cover nothing and are good for nothing. They are so full of sin and corruption cleaving to them that they are as filthy rags. When we would do good, evil is still present within us. Just what is our motivation to do the right thing? Is it completely unselfish? Is there an intrinsic reward like the recognition of other men present? The iniquity of even our holy things would be our ruin if we were under the law of the Old Testament. No matter what we do in the name of right, we cannot and will never measure up.

We are saved by grace through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and not through our works. I am so thankful for this fact! If my good intentions and good actions are what I am judged upon, I am in very serious trouble. I find this verse very sobering, but at the same time it provides relief. If I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, I don’t need to depend upon my questionable righteous acts in combination with my most certainly sinful acts. Measuring up is just not an option.

What a relief!

(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, September 23, 2009

The Wind Blows

In recent days I have been, with some reluctance, closing down our above ground swimming pool. Because it truly signals the end of summer, it is not one of my favourite jobs. The final step in a rather involved process for preparing the pool for freezing into a solid block of ice is to cover it with a very large tarpaulin. As I prepared to stretch the tarp over the twenty-four foot expanse, I paid attention to something that typically I ignore. I stopped to assess the direction and force of the wind. I have learned in the past few years that attempting to place the tarp in even a moderate wind or in wind that changes direction, even with assistance, is just about impossible. The wind the other day was steady from the west and was little more than a breeze. As I tied down the tarp with wire, the words of Jesus came to my mind. Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who has come to Jesus by night in John 3: 7-8.

7 "Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’
8 "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the :sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

If you check different translations of the Bible, the term “born again” is also rendered as “born anew” and “born from above”. The last rendering suggests the spiritual aspect of the process in a little stronger manner. Jesus also refers to it as being “born of the Spirit” in verse 8. It is a highly personal and spiritual experience as you finally acknowledge that indeed you do believe in Jesus and are willing to follow Him. Again Jesus puts it so much better in John 3: 15-16.

15 "that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Why does Jesus compare being born of the Spirit to the blowing of the wind? I went to William MacDonald for a little Bible commentary help in order to answer this question. The fact that the wind blows where it wishes reminds us God is in control and indeed no one is born again except within the will of God. The process of being born from above, like the wind, is invisible. We can not see it happening, but we can see the result of it just as we can see the waves on the lake, tree branches moved by the wind or indeed the pool tarp being lifted high in the air and off the pool. The result of course is the changed life that results from being born again. What we formerly disregarded and perhaps even treated with derision, we now embrace in great faith. Just as we cannot fully understand the actions of the wind, so we have to acknowledge the mystery of being born anew. We also have to acknowledge that like the wind it is very unpredictable. We never quite know when it will happen and to whom.

I am a living testimony to the changes to a life following spiritual rebirth and indeed the unpredictability of the spirit. I actively resisted being born from above until I was almost fifty years of age. Now I find myself publishing a devotional message every two days…but that’s another blog.

(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, September 21, 2009

The Writing Is On the Wall

In my former working life, I spent several years dealing, as an employee, with an elected board of education. All of that time, I was entertained with the wit and good humour of one special trustee who has since passed away. She had the most colourful comments to make, from time to time, that I enjoyed even in the heat of battle.

During the selection process for a new principal, she mentioned in defence of a female candidate that there had been a time years ago when a male principal was hired “if he could see lighting and hear thunder”. It does explain why for many years the principalship was a male dominated role. When this trustee was exhorting others to properly set goals and plan ahead, she would often say, “When you are up to your rear end in alligators is not the time to remember that your first priority was to drain the swamp”. My favourite expression that she used was biblically based. I am sure she was aware of the source. She would say from time to time that “the writing is on the wall”. The expression means of course that it is time to recognize and accept the inevitable. It is a commonly used expression yet I wonder how many persons know that they are quoting from the book of Daniel when they use it.

In Chapter 5 of Daniel, we read the story of the king Belshazzar hosting a drunken party where the sacred vessels of the temple of the living God are brought forth in order to toast gods of silver, gold and wood…useless and inanimate idols. A hand appeared and wrote on the plaster wall opposite where the king sat. The king became most upset by the appearance of the hand and because he did not understand what the words said. He called for his wise men who could not interpret the message. At the suggestion of the queen, Daniel, a Jewish slave, was summoned to interpret the handwriting on the wall. His interpretation signalled the end to the king’s rule. For his complete lack of obedience to the living God, he was slain the same night and his kingdom split up between the Medes and the Persians. Belshazzar was well aware of the powers of God through the experiences of his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar, who had become a servant of The Most High God. He had made the choice to ignore “the Lord of heaven” in favour of idols. He was informed of the results of his bad choice by the writing on the wall.

If we fast forward to the here and now, how many in this so called modern world are doing the same thing? How many have made the conscious choice to follow the modern idols of money, pleasure, addictions, power, work or New Age beliefs? They are well aware of the gospel and the beckoning of the “Lord of heaven” who of course is Jesus, yet they choose to follow the desires of their own heart in a pursuit that is powered by their own resources. Even as they age, they fail to notice “the handwriting on the wall”. This life is a very short one unless we make provision to join Jesus here and forever in heaven. It is time to recognize and to accept the inevitable, which, if it is not written on the wall, it is surely written in the word of God. Daniel summed it up so well for Belshazzar in Daniel 5: 23

“…and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

(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, September 19, 2009

Success Is Not Ballet

A few days ago, Lozanne was expressing her regret that she had never properly pursued one of her childhood dreams. Although I knew the answer, I asked what that was. She has always been interested in ballet. She had taken lessons from a Mrs. Lewis for three or four years when she was a young child. When Mrs. Lewis was unable to continue her classes at the Oddfellows Hall for reasons long forgotten, Lozanne simply no longer went to ballet. To this day, she watches ballet dancers on television with interest and acknowledges that she regrets that she did not recommence her studies as she grew older. We all have a similar regret or regrets.

Without giving it a lot of thought, I said to her that success in life is not ballet. It is salvation. She turned to me like I had said something profound and acknowledged that I was indeed right. Any glowing achievement that we can boast about grows pale in the face of our claim to salvation. Worldly successes are great, but they are very short lived. The memory of what we have done in terms of success on this earth is very short even while we are still alive. The memory of our acceptance of Jesus as our Lord and Master lasts forever in eternity. The prophet Jeremiah directly tells us the words of God Himself in Jeremiah 9:23-24

23 ¶ Thus says the LORD: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight," says the LORD.

There is nothing wrong with hard work and success on this earth, but understanding and knowing Him will always be our crowning achievement. It is the measure by which all other successes are measured against. Jesus, who is also God, said it even more succinctly in Mark 8:36

36 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?

There is clearly only one achievement that counts and that is believing and obeying Jesus. That is where the real reward resides. I am so thankful that both Lozanne and I can claim that success.

Having said that, I have to acknowledge she must have been a very cute ballerina.

(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, September 17, 2009

His Everlasting Strength

There are days when I simply must let go and acknowledge the power of God. Although I know I should do it daily, I am prepared on those days to completely submit to His strength. Today is one of those days.

On the radio this morning, I listened to a news story related to the threat of the H1N1 Pandemic. I prayed out loud as I drove the car, “Oh Lord, please give me strength”. In Winnipeg, First Nations leaders and elders were returning to Health Canada, a trusted ministry within our federal government bureaucracy, two hundred body bags sent to them as part of packages to help the First Nations communities prepare for the possible advent of an influenza outbreak. The packages consisted of mostly preventive measures such as face masks, gloves and hand sterilizers to help prevent the spread of the swine flu. The aboriginal leaders were outraged by the inclusion of two hundred body bags. They were outraged and I was also dumbfounded as I listened. How any human logic could coldly and objectively consider body bags as initially preventive is completely and utterly beyond me. One of the elders who was present for the ceremonial return of the body bags made what I considered a very telling statement. He said that when the Creator deemed you should prepare to leave this world, then it was time to do so. He intimated of course that health Canada’s job was to help in the battle against disease and not waste time, money and resources on such a defeatist fatalistic endeavour. I do fully understand that body bags can be a preventive measure in a full blown pandemic. Their delivery; however, wherever needed in any community, urban or rural, could be better accommodated at the time of extreme need. Body bags stored in the Health Canada warehouse to be sent out as needed was the simple answer. The world’s “wisdom” can often bring about such well deserved outrage. The wisdom and strength of God, on the other hand, is unshakeable and unchangeable. It is solid as the rock mentioned in Psalm 18: 1-2.

1 ¶ To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David the servant of the LORD, who spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. And he said: I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Augustus Toplady who was the author of the words to the very famous hymn “Rock of Ages” is reported to have penned these very well known words while taking shelter from a severe thunderstorm. He sought protection from the storm hunkered between two giant towers of limestone. It is possible that he had the second verse of Psalm 18 in mind. I often wonder; however, if the words of Isaiah 26: 3-4 weren’t the basis of his memorable words.

3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:

Most translations of the Bible have a note attached to the words “everlasting strength” that reads “or Rock of Ages”. Whatever his biblical motivation, it is evident that the unavoidable immediacy of the violent storm guided his hand. It is said that he wrote the original words on a playing card.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save from wrath and make me pure.”

When life gets confusing and difficult, it is a personal comfort for me to realize that He will allow, indeed, invite me to hide myself in Him. He offers His everlasting strength in direct contrast to the “wisdom of this world”. This morning I sought the strength of “my rock”.

(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, September 15, 2009

Jesus Saves

When I attended secondary school there were no yellow school buses to transport us the seven miles between our home and the school. It was possible, but very inconvenient, to take the privately owned local bus to school. Actually, it was easier to drive to work with my father and walk across the breadth of the city in order to arrive at school in time to do some of my undone homework in the cafeteria prior to the start of school. It was a brisk half hour walk in all types of weather.

On the route that I followed was a church. It was very small, plain and covered in dingy white stucco. I have no idea of the denomination of that church, but I now am very much aware that it was an evangelical church. Mounted sideways on the front wall over the main entrance was a large neon sign in the shape of a cross. On that cross were two words written in red on the horizontal and the vertical. It was evident to me that it was probably the most expensive fixture on or in that institution. On dark winter mornings the sign was still fully alight and indeed it was impressive onto itself. It was a beacon that could be seen at a distance. Never once was there a neon tube that was dark or blinking. Maintenance on that fixture was regular and preventive. Someone who cared made sure it never malfunctioned.

The word J E S U S was on the horizontal and the word S A V E S was on the vertical part of the cross . The word SAVES shared its first S with the first S in the word J E S U S.

The significance of that special landmark escaped me at the time. I was strangely drawn to it each and every morning, but its meaning had little effect on me. Like so many young people then and now, indeed throughout history, I asked the age old question, “Saves me from what?” as I passed by. Oddly, I did not vary my weekday route and in a way enjoyed the familiar comfort of that sign as I passed by. The majority of those who even claim to be Christians are uncomfortable with the use of the word “saved” or even more so for the term “born again”. I used to feel the same way. The odd thing about the discomfort is the fact that Jesus Christ (thus the term Christian) was the one to use both during His ministry on this earth. One of the finest examples is found in John 10:9.

9 "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Jesus is the door. He is the only way to find salvation. It is not a church, a religion, a practice or a ritual that will save us, but only the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. We must enter in by Jesus Himself. Entering is simply the act of accepting Christ as our Lord and Saviour through faith. Receiving Christ is a highly personal and individual act.

In maturity I understand from what I have been saved. I have been saved from the penalty of my own sin. Because I acknowledge Him and because He first loved me, Jesus assumed the responsibility for my lifetime of misdeeds and redeemed me from a life shut out of heaven. What a wonderful work He did for me upon that cross. He saved me from death and lifted me to the light here on this earth as well as in heaven for all of eternity.

I now recognize the important work of that neon sign which, no doubt, is no longer there. I wonder how many souls were influenced by its simple but majestic message. It took thirty-four years for me to “get it” in 1996. I would very much like to personally thank the diligent and faithful caretaker of that evangelistic sign. I won’t likely have an opportunity on this side of heaven to do so. Then again there will be ample time to find him or her in 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, September 13, 2009

The 1957 World Series

Let’s just say that today I am not at my best. I have seriously contemplated a “I am too sick to create today” blog message. The truth is; even illness brings ideas from the Holy Spirit. I have thought a great deal today about a point in history mentioned in my last blog. In 1957 I was nine years old. That year has the distinction of being host to the second last serious influenza pandemic of the twentieth century. The most serious was at the conclusion of the First World War in 1918, which is coincidently the year of my father’s birth. More than fifty million people died due to lack of prevention and medical intervention capabilities. The last pandemic of the twentieth century occurred in 1968 and 1969 and was dubbed The Hong Kong Flu. In 1957 the advent of antibiotics developed during the Second World War minimized to some extent the effects of the epidemic that spread through Canada in the autumn of that year. Hopefully the threat of the current H1N1 pandemic can be even more efficiently handled in this the modern age of medical science.

I know it was in the fall months of 1957 because of the events that continue to loom large in my aging mind. I remember becoming so ill at school that I collapsed to the floor. In those days ambulances were not easily thought of or indeed called. Parents were called to remove children fallen from illness. My mother came to school and walked me home with some difficulty. I would not be back to school for at least a month. With the exception of surviving two successive major surgeries for cancer, I have never been more ill in my life. My sister’s infant daughter, who also lived with us, was the next to become ill. I still remember the painful coughing and resulting crying of my niece who is a mere eight years younger than me. The family doctor visited each morning to treat the two of us. I am not kidding! He showed up for a HOUSE CALL each and every morning for days. As I was beginning to improve just slightly, a wonderful thing happened. My father became ill with the same flu and actually could not go to work. It is the only time in my life that I can remember him not going to work daily at 7:20 A.M. Within a week he was a little better and magically the World Series of baseball began on television. As we slowly improved, we watched together, discussed, cheered and thoroughly enjoyed the 1957 World Series on television. We had never watched a television set in our home until the winter of 1956. There was even a family pool created involving very minor amounts of funds that I delighted in collecting triumphantly when I won. I had never watched the World Series before that date and I haven’t watched it since. I think the New York Yankees were in the series, but I really don’t remember. What was memorable about it was I watched it with my father. As our condition improved and the doctor stopped visiting, we had a fantastic time in the middle of crisis. I remember him so fondly from that few weeks!

Do we have a great and wonderful God or what? Some of my fondest memories of my father emerge from a very difficult time. The Lord used that time to allow a bonding between father and son. What mere mortal could think that scenario up! As expressed in Isaiah 55: 8-9, there can be absolutely no doubt:

8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your 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.)

Friday, September 11, 2009

He Heals All

I am ill this morning. I have picked up what I hope is a minor cold now that the other flu like symptoms, which do not merit further description, seem to have passed. On Sunday we attended chapel as well as a family dinner in the evening. My immune system continues to let me down. Moving in public circles often results in a disease of some description. I wonder what measures we will have to take should the H1N1 influenza pandemic gain strength this fall. I fall within the pre-existing medical conditions risk category, but on the good news side, I was born before the 1957 flu pandemic. Indeed I was sick for a month in 1957 and as a result may not be susceptible to this very similar strain that is also called the swine flu. This morning I have been meditating on the first five verses of Psalm 103.

1 ¶ A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

There indeed are some very real benefits in return for our faith. We are forgiven our sins. We are redeemed from an eternity shut out of heaven. We experience the Lord’s loving kindness and His mercies. He restores our youth spiritually as well as physically. Finally, He heals all of our diseases.

I used to puzzle over this line. We all know that no matter how many times the Lord heals our illnesses or injuries that there will indeed be a final illness that will cause our death. How then could the Bible tell us that all diseases are healed? I finally understand. Even the last and final disease is healed, and very quickly indeed, at the point of death. As we pass from this world to the next, the cure will be instant and miraculous! As a believer, I am absolutely assured an eternity in heaven with God and His Son. The Lord has already cured me of many diseases but that final cure will be the most instant, effective and merciful of all.

Indeed the Lord heals all of our diseases.

(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, September 9, 2009

The Lord Shall Preserve You

Our encounters with bears are apparently over for this year with the advent of hunting season. They have wisely decided that a lower profile might be the way to go and they have gone further into the wilds. We had a bear visitor two summers ago that showed very little of such wisdom or discretion.

We were awakened at dawn by a very loud noise from the vicinity of our garage. I threw on some clothes, but sadly neglected to bother putting on my glasses. Indeed the back door to the garage was damaged. The screen had been ripped off and the aluminium trim was bent. In those days I was silly enough to store garbage in the garage. I switched on the light and sure enough one of the four bags of garbage was gone. I concluded the obvious. A bear had entered and left with a bag of garbage. Thinking the incident to be over, I started back to the door on the lake side of the house. Just as I entered, I heard a second assault on the garage door. This time I decided that being without my glasses was not a good idea. Proper vision restored, I went out just in time to see a large black bear slamming his paw into the door latch until it miraculously opened. He then entered the garage and emerged, after reopening the door from the inside with a facility that shocked me, with the second bag of garbage. Not being in an argumentative mood, I backed up into the house. As I was backing up, I realized to my horror that the first bag of garbage was not twenty feet to my right in the bush. Without my glasses I had simply walked right by my visitor as I left the garage during my initial investigation!

I went to the family room window in order to observe my guest. He was back at the garage door. I opened the window and yelled at him to cease and desist. He did not even turn around to acknowledge me. It was then that I realized he was favouring his left paw because of a rather obvious gun shot wound. Hunger and desperation were making this bear much braver than nature would normally dictate. The third bag of garbage was taken in a different direction and deposited in the bush. Trying to avoid further damage to the back door of the garage, I pushed the inside button to open the large folding garage door so that he could enter and remove the fourth bag without difficulty. He did and proceeded to hang around our house for the day! He never approached us and lumbered away when we moved closer, but he had found a food source and was not about to give it up. Our neighbour is retired from the Ministry of Natural Resources and called the proper authorities who agreed that this dangerous situation merited a bear trap. Our large black friend took the bait and was in the mobile cage by 9:00 P.M. that night. He was hauled off to a new home, I assume, in the morning.

The thought of walking blindly within twenty feet of that bear has given me some pause from time to time. He must of really wondered how stupid is this guy? The other day, while browsing through the Psalms, I was taken with the comforting wording of Psalm 121 which really applies to this experience.

1 ¶ A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the hills––From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
8 The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.

The Lord did indeed preserve my going out and my coming in without my glasses. I must admit that my vision without my bifocals is rather poor. The bear was probably so taken with his bag of treasures that he simply was not interested in the silly old guy walking by so closely. The Lord does indeed look after us despite our sometimes very poor decisions. I have since realized that the Lord was also looking after the needs of the bear on that morning. We are both God’s creation and He made it all work for the better.

(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, September 7, 2009

Love and Charity

We left Lozanne’s family home on April 15th. We departed after an early afternoon in the sun on the patio. It was more like a summer day than the spring day it actually was. It was a glorious warm sunny day. Lozanne and I were returning to teacher’s college with our new addition to the family, our infant daughter Tami who was a little over five weeks old. The year was 1969 and our mode of transportation was our 1962 Volkswagen. Of all the cars, luxury and otherwise, that I have owned since then, that little blue beetle is my favourite. I still dream about that car from time to time. I even wonder if it is still “alive” out there somewhere and available for sale. I also wonder if I could still fill the gas tank with leaded regular gas for $3.50.

We departed on what seemed to be a summer day. With each mile we travelled (the metric system had not yet been implemented) it became cloudier and cooler. Within three hours it began to snow lightly. Within three and on half hours it was snowing heavily. Volkswagens in that day had air cooled engines with basically no heater. The only defrosting or heating was from a slow moving current of warm air from the engine. There wasn’t even a fan in the system. The car became very cold. The windshield fogged. The snow became relentless. Night was falling. Without a baby in the car we could have persevered. It became evident; however, that we had to get off the road to a safe haven. The motel sign loomed out of the blowing snow. We pulled, with some trepidation, into the lot of the James Lake Motel.

In those days, younger reader, there were no debit cards and indeed no credit cards. The cash in your wallet was how much money you had to spend. Cheques were seldom welcomed by business owners, especially motel owners. I entered the motel office and asked with some anxiety the price of a motel room for the night. The middle aged male owner looked out into the snow filled gloom at our very humble car and Lozanne fussing over the baby, looked me in the eye and said, “How much have you got?” I honestly answered ten dollars. I had one ten dollar bill in my wallet…ample cash for a student family to travel home in good weather. “What a coincidence”, he said with a straight face, “the rate tonight is ten dollars”. I was overcome with gratitude at his obvious kindness. He then asked, “Do you need help in heating bottles for the baby”? I acknowledged that indeed one bottle would be required within minutes and another in about four hours. He then assured me that he and his wife would keep the office open until Tami had been put down with her last feeding of a bottle with pablum which occurred on that night at 10:30 P.M. A morning bottle was also heated in the office which was opened very early the next morning. I know, younger reader, that you are now wondering why a bottle was required at all. Believe it or not, breast feeding was vigorously discouraged by the medical profession for at least two generations ending thankfully with the generation of our grandchildren.

The generosity and kindness of that couple so long ago has remained a vivid positive memory to both of us. I have no idea if they acted because of deeply instilled Christian principles, but I like to believe now that they did. I am aware that there are just some very nice people in this world. I hope, however, that most of them are Christians. Paul sets out the requirements in 1Corinthians 13: 1-3. Most know 1Corinthians as the “love” chapter. It makes much more sense to me in the King James Version where love is described as charity.

1 ¶ Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Forty years ago (please forgive me Tamara) a middle aged couple modelled in the middle of a snow storm the behaviour that all Christians should emulate. They acted out of love. I often think of their example. Are we doing it all with love as we should or are we just going through the motions?

Can you hear, like me from time to time, the sounding brass and the tinkling cymbal?

(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, September 5, 2009

As A Little Child

There can be no doubt that no generation that has lived on this earth has seen the extreme technological changes to this world that the last two generations have witnessed. As I sit outside with my laptop on this beautiful sunny morning connected to the whole world through a satellite driven wireless internet connection, my mind is taken back to a very vivid memory from my early childhood. I had just received a very bad haircut. I was not happy with the enthusiasm of the barber. After offering heartfelt positive assurances, my mother sent me outside to have the damage assessed by a very objective and unbiased friend of mine.

My good friend’s name was Pearl. I visited with her daily. She was the beautiful, gentle and very large horse that pulled the milk wagon down our street each and every morning. She would move automatically from house to house while the milkman delivered to each house. She simply understood that as he returned to the enclosed wagon that she was to move forward to the next driveway or walkway. There, right in front of her, I stood displaying my hated haircut. I even turned in a circle so that Pearl could see all of the damage. She calmly assessed my haircut and gave it a positive blink of her large brown eyes partially covered by the blinders used to keep her attention focused on her job and not the moving motorized traffic in the street. I felt in a very real sense her approval of the haircut and was immediately comforted.

I had displayed the unwavering faith of a very young child. I believed that Pearl understood why I was standing there. I believed that she cared that I was standing there. I believed that she was my good friend. I believed that indeed she understood my plight and was giving her approval to my haircut. As I look back, I am amused of course with the naiveté of that young child. In a few short years, maybe even months, such faith would be shattered by maturity and the world.

Yet it is that very kind of faith and belief that Jesus speaks about in Mark 10: 13-16.

13 ¶ Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.
14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.
15 "Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.

Are you close to accepting the Lord Jesus as your saviour? Are you filled with intellectual doubts? Are you filled with the doubts expressed by others in this world? Are you counting the costs? Although you want to accept Him, are you unable to make the leap of faith? The secret to the exercise is well known to us who have become Christians late in life. You can read the Bible, you can read commentaries and you can listen to convincing speakers in person or on television, but in the end, it all comes down to the childlike leap of faith. Once it is made, you can never go back and indeed you have no desire to do so. Once the Holy Spirit is within you, there is ample time and opportunity to research, to learn, to test the beliefs and indeed to intellectualize about your faith. All the intellectual pursuits will only lead you back to one reality…childlike faith is required for the first step. Jesus asks that you take it 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.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Time For Every Purpose

As I was barbecuing dinner yesterday, I looked up at the inscription that is etched in the cement of the stone wall that is the exterior of our house. It is an inscription that I have noticed many times, but yesterday it had a profound effect on me. The inscription contains the two first names of the previous owners of our home and the date that the stone wall was completed. There is another similar inscription on the lake side of the house with a later date. Lately I have been thinking very much about the sovereignty of God and my last few blogs have reflected that preoccupation. Here in the cement is a moment caught in time twenty some years in the past. I pictured them both working hard together as a mature married couple to balance and construct a formidable stone wall of hand cut field stone. The stones are large, variable and native to the area.

My respect for the craft of stone masonry was cultivated as a child by watching my paternal grandfather carefully cut, split and chip off unforgiving stone pieces before balancing the stone in just the right position so that it would be set into the slow drying mortar. It is an art as much as it is a craft. The result is a very strong, weather proof and very enduring wall. The very material used with the mortar is as old as the earth itself. It must have been a very special and gratifying moment when they reached the top of those walls and inscribed their names and the date. It must have been a very memorable moment in their marriage as well. I do know that the husband passed away within three years of the last wall being completed.

What entered into my mind were the words of Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8. It is one of the most quoted sections of the Bible even in the secular world. Normally I avoid long quotations within this blog. Today is an exception. All eight verses need to be read together to get the full importance of the 14 positives verses the 14 negatives found within this selection.

1 ¶ To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born, And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
3 A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
7 A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
8 A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.

The verse that has haunted me as I write this blog is verse 5. The literal meaning of course describes the act of removing the stones from the fields in order to begin cultivation and then a time to gather them up in order to build stone walls with them. The actions of the former owners of our house on that special day reflected those very descriptions. Some modern commentators and indeed the paraphrased The Message suggest that these actions are imagery for the ebb and flow of marital love including physical love. I suspect that the inscribed days were special ones for their long lasting marriage as well.

The first verse tells us that there is a time and a season for everything UNDER heaven. As we age, we realize that indeed we all get our seasons. I must admit that I enjoyed the earlier seasons more that some of the later seasons. Eventually there is a time to die. It is my fervent belief that IN heaven, the fourteen negative times found in these verses do not apply. The fourteen positive times may have many additions, but we can be assured that if we believe and if we accept Jesus as our saviour, we need not be concerned with the negatives that, in a way, cancel out the positives here on this earth.

(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, September 1, 2009

It Is Already Written

Lozanne and I were married forty-one years ago this summer. When we sat down for our first dinner together all those years ago in our tiny one bedroom apartment there were just two of us. I was astounded recently, when planning to accommodate all of our children and their families that one table would not hold the eighteen chairs required. From two to eighteen is a fairly hefty percentage increase in family size! I recalled the line from Proverbs which reads, “Children‘s children are the crown of old men…( Pr 17:6). The Lord has deemed that we should be blessed in the increase of our family. I must admit it sure was quieter when there were two!

As the years are passing by during our child rearing years and especially when we are raising teenagers and educating young adults in middle age, we probably do not sense the hand of God upon us as we should. Everything moves so quickly and it is all we can do to keep up with His plan for us. As I become a senior citizen, and indeed I am just becoming and not quite there, we have the luxury of time and the peace of mind to look back at the miraculous interwoven blessings as mastered by God Himself. How He guides it all from beginning to end! The words in Psalm 139 have always been a revelation to me, but only now am I really beginning to understand their full import. Psalm 139:16 reads:

16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

Each and every day of our lives has been laid out even before our birth by a gracious and loving God. The beginning and of course the end is carefully planned. We will not live five minutes more or less than the Lord has allotted for our lives. The hand of the Lord is upon us according to the same schedule. If we become believers and our faith increases, He will make His presence in our lives ever more noticeable to us until we get to the point where we recognize not our own efforts but His and not our own wise use of resources but His. Every achievement and every blessing, material and spiritual, we owe to a loving and devoted God. We arrive in this world owning nothing and that is just how we will leave it. I will consider myself blessed to leave this world with the promise of heaven having been written in God’s book long before my birth. The last line of Psalm 139 asks the Lord to “lead me in the way everlasting” and indeed I know He 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.)