Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Spirit and the World: On Judgement

Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?

Throughout history, this world has experienced many disasters, some natural and some man-made.
From the plagues of the Exodus in 1442 BC to the volcanic explosions of Krakatoa in 1883 to the use of atomic bombs, from the blitzkrieg and Auschwitz to the destruction unleashed by terrorists in the USA on 9-11, from massive tsunamis in the Indian Ocean and Japan, to famine, drought and disease in various places, from dust and sand storms to hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, we have struggled with questions always profound and sometimes controversial.

How might worldly disaster be related to divine punishment?
What of those daring souls who suggest that this or that problem is connected to the sinful misbehavior of a particular nation or people?

Even those who believe in God ask why He allows suffering.
What about those who suggest the end of the world is at hand?
How do we treat such questions and how are we to properly assess the various attempts to give coherent answers?

One might begin by considering these words from the 14th chapter of John, from the New Living Translation:

'If you love me, obey my commandments,' Jesus says, 'And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.'

'The world cannot receive him,' Jesus says, 'because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.'

This passage clearly explains why the reporters of the news of the world rarely give any hints of spiritual activity taking place behind the scenes of events both great and small. And even when spiritual influences are mentioned they are interpreted according to sociological or psychological theory.

'But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.'
'I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.'

One might also consider the words of Jesus as found in Luke chapter 13:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Spiritual goods are not recognized by worldly minds. Spiritual evil is usually either minimized or explained away as somehow either inevitable or rationally justifiable or even the result, never the cause, of illness.

For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God's household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News? 1 Peter 4:17

Wake up, Repent, turn away from sin, turn to Jesus!

Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart?

There's something even more important.
Have you asked, 'Change my heart, O God, renew in me a spirit of purity, holiness, 'fire me up'
Burn away my sin, keep me on guard against evil.'

In Revelation, chapter 3, we find these words: 'Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:

“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

 “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.

 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.  I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books.  The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave[ gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.'

Malachi 3:1-5  reads as follows:
Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.  “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.
As this song from about 25 years ago says,

For I’m building a people of power
And I’m making a people of praise
That will move through this land by My Spirit
And will glorify My precious name
Build Your church Lord
Make us strong Lord
Join our hearts Lord, through Your Son
Make us one Lord in Your body
In the Kingdom of Your Son

Jesus is coming again. Are you ready?

Jesus - The Stolen Door

The Ruins of Rievaulx Abbey - a parable for the current state of the Church.

I've been there. It's an amazing, inspiring ruin.

It's in Yorkshire, England, not far from York Minster.

Even now echoes of its former glory can still be sensed.

It's tragic story is reflected in church and society, in political and philosophical disputes, in church membership decline and in continued spiritual hunger.

The covering of God has been removed and the foundations are uninspected.
The 12th century roof is long gone; God's glory appears to have departed.

Its situation and condition point toward the state of spiritual schizophrenia in which the Christian Churches of our day find themselves.

Is the church Catholic or Protestant, or both? Is it liberal or conservative, or both? Or neither. Do pastors teach the truth faithfully and in good conscience, according to accepted traditions? Does it matter?

A vision: 'The abbot comes with a giant door, five full inches thick,
without hinges or handles or locks,
made from one great piece of wood from a very old tree. 
He places it in the entry frame.
But in the middle of the night someone comes and steals it away.
A woman is in the house when the demons come,
and without the door she has no protection.
She hides.

When the abbot wakes up he senses the demons are out to consume him.
They throw a sacrifice into the oven and leave the good master to simmer and then serve dinner.'

God's people, through the centuries, have been and remain at risk because the boundaries have been moved and removed.

Clergy and others play politics, virtually oblivious and practically careless, while people's souls hang in the balance. Synod representatives pretend to have more power and authority than those they represent. They forget that the church is not a democracy. A majority vote is insufficient when total unity is demanded for major decisions.

The Reformation is forgotten. The Via Media has been abandoned. False gospels are promoted. Education is little more than mere propaganda. Bishops routinely visit parishes but ignore their people. Unity and doctrine are equally forsaken. Appointed leaders tell us that relevance, for now, needs to trump Salvation.

Believers are being sacrificed to the felt needs of people in power, thrown, like Daniel's friends, into the fiery furnaces tended by the rulers of our day. Just for preaching, praying or wearing a cross!

The celebration of Jesus' birth goes on as usual while the Jesus of Judgement is hushed up.

Jesus says, "I am the gate... Come to me...Do you want to be made whole?"
He also warns, "What sorrow awaits you experts in religious law! For you remove the key to knowledge from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering."

O Christian, watch and pray! Be wary of wolves in sheep's clothing.
The heretics have taken leadership in the Church. In many places Jesus is no longer welcome. He's been replaced by a replica, a look-alike. Take note and prepare.

Jesus died. He is risen. He will come again.
Are you ready?

Come, Day of God, Come!
Are children cared for by lost youths of yesteryear,
weakened, humbled souls,
pared down by two thousand years of adultedness,
struggling ones, buried under wintry traditions,
serving with mocking tolerance,
while little ones wander in avenues of daily blooming disaster,
suffering and wondering, why?
Reminders are given by bookish ones from city lanes and country homes,
lessons of injuries and martyrdoms,
pointing the way ahead to those who would see.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

From beginning to end...

The Word...In the beginning, God, created the heavens and the earth...

No internet, no planes or trains...
Just rocks and soil, mountains and valleys, trees and plants, rivers, lakes and oceans,
animals, on and in the earth, in the water and in the air...
Back then there were no palaces or limousines, no radio programs or satellite launches...
no slums or iPads...
In the beginning, was the perfect Word: Salvation, Yeshua, Jesus.
We had Him among us for a season until He died, nailed to a tree.
He was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures say.
This Word comes down through time to you.
Believe and confess and one day, maybe soon, you will be raised with Him.
Rejoice and give thanks.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12

See, my servant will prosper;
he will be highly exalted.
But many were amazed when they saw him.
His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,
and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.
And he will startle many nations.
Kings will stand speechless in his presence.
For they will see what they had not been told;
they will understand what they had not heard about.
    Who has believed our message?
    To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?
    My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot,
    like a root in dry ground.
    There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance,
    nothing to attract us to him.
    He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
    We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave.
But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him
and cause him grief.
Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish,
he will be satisfied.
And because of his experience,
my righteous servant will make it possible
for many to be counted righteous,
for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier,
because he exposed himself to death.
He was counted among the rebels.
He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

On Mental Illness and Sin, Healing and Salvation

In the old Anglican Prayer Book, Christians are asked to renounce three things: the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanity of this wicked world and all the sinful lusts of the flesh, so that they would not follow or be led by them.

First, we stand against the Evil One who is the Father of lies, the deceiver, the ruler of this world who seeks to bring all creation under his own sway.
Second, we resist the attractions or distractions of the world in order to remain focussed upon the person and purposes of Almighty God.
Third, we battle against the internal personal drives which must be mastered in order to come to maturity as a believer and follower of Jesus.

This is a lifelong task, to learn to overcome the inertia of endemic evil systems, to endure through the chaos of broken communities until we reach the Heavenly Kingdom and to struggle through sin and disease toward salvation and health.

Christians have always battled sin. We have always been afflicted with disease. We have not been immune to diseases of the brain. Delirium and even hallucination can sometimes be attributed to physical causes such as infection. Mental illness cannot always be traced back to brain malfunction. Today, families are being manipulated by socio-economic forces; communities are built or destroyed by political design or geological accident; men, women and children have become objects of consumerism having only the illusion of democracy. It has always been so.

We see confusion and conflict in politics, industry and education, even in social work and medicine. We see tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes, acts of terror and warnings of plague and famine. We have instant access to vast amounts of information. Mental illness has become more prevalent, its steady rate of increase observed to be roughly 0.04, but sin is universal.

Jesus came to preach, teach and heal. He speaks of the acceptable year of the Lord. Today is always the right day to be saved. Anyone who admits that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead after being crucified, and who confesses Him as Lord will be saved from the ultimate penalty of sin. Yet even salvation cannot prevent illness.

Almighty God, who art afflicted in the afflictions of thy people. Regard with thy tender compassion all those in anxiety and distress; bear their sorrows and their cares; supply all their needs and help both them and us to put our whole trust and confidence in thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

If you are saved but still in torment, don't give up. Keep looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. He will heal all our diseases. That is His promise, not mine.

for more info on the prevalence of mental illness in Canada click on the following link

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rejoicing with a Friend

An excerpt from 'Finding light through the dark' - by Lance Holdforth,
 Special to the Barrie Examiner

Finding the perfect piece of wood became the light at the end of Christopher MacInnis’ very dark tunnel. Severe depression has plagued MacInnis since he was diagnosed in 1996, and isolating himself in his basement is often the only way he can cope with the dark thoughts of hopelessness that surface when his illness takes over. “My mood was exceptionally dark. It’s like being in a cave where there’s no lights,” he said. “It’s pitch dark and you can’t see your way to getting out anywhere even with all the medications.” On one of his good days in April, MacInnis was able to leave his home and went to an auction in Cookstown where he found an 11-foot plank of spruce for $5. After realizing the wood’s potential, 49-year-old MacInnis wanted to make a new cutting board for his kitchen which would become his long-awaited achievement of progress.

We really need more groups like the one Chris and his friends have. There are many others who are in dire need. Lord, Help us all to be willing to listen to one another's stories.

Monday, May 7, 2012

On the Power of Forgiveness

Reflections arising from the recent Threshold Ministries Conference, held at the Salvation Army Conference Center, Jackson's Point, Ontario - May 1-4, 2012

Jesus be the center
Be my source be my light, Jesus
Jesus be the center, Be my hope be my song, Jesus

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in my sails
Be the reason that I live, Jesus... Jesus
Jesus be my vision
Be my help, Be my guide Jesus

On learning forgiveness: In grade five my teacher had asked the class to memorize any poem, no conditions. A few days later I stood to recite Psalm 23 but before I reached the end of the first verse, she scolded me with, "That's not poetry. That's Scripture." She told me to shut up and sit down. As a result I hardly ever opened my mouth in class, except for Math, a couple of short plays or to answer a direct question, for the next eleven years. I didn't fully make this connection until last week. That incident was largely the reason for my extended silence. Now I finally forgive that teacher. Release is precious. There must be a few out there who know what I'm talking about. I have to learn as well what it means to forgive myself.

Now this happened way back around 1965. Our enemy has very long fingers and they are very sticky. Today's children are more likely to be told that Scripture is merely poetry. What a twisted torturous world we live in. I don't know why it took so long to really address this problem or why none of my teachers noticed or did anything to help. I do remember a few comments about my lack of class participation but my marks were good enough that they let me by. Even going through Bible school later, and this was after university, nobody seemed interested letting me share my story. You can't do such a thing in a seven minute testimony time!

I'm thankful to Peter Fitch, a pastor and Professor from St. Stephen University in New Brunswick, for the teaching He gave which opened my eyes. Several times through the conference I found myself trying to promise myself that I would never attend another such conference. Why put yourself through the torture of attending events, good as they are, when the only provision for sharing is the exhausting one-on-one repetition?

We think we know how to pray for the sick and we enjoy the sense of being used of God to heal but we don't seem to get the part about letting the one who is healed sing praise. We delay his recovery when we are always telling him, 'No thanks!' No wonder his song is halting and off key when we don't give him the time of day. A handful of opportunities does not make up for decades of oppression and indifference. Paul calls us to sing psalms, hymns and spritual songs to one another not just in the great congregation but as a part of daily life. But if we try to practice that particlar biblical teaching we are seen to be weird. I know! 

Jesus thou joy of loving hearts!
Thou fount of life Thou light of men!
From the best bliss that earth imparts
We turn unfilled to thee again.

As I'm editing this piece which is an expansion of a post I made another site yesterday, I'm listening to John Piper preaching from John 14 verses 13 and 14 on the call of the believer to do the works of Jesus and even greater works!

see this link 

Wow! Are we ready to receive this teaching or is it just too amazing for our modern or post-modern minds. What did He mean? can we do anything greater than those things Jesus did? I'm reminded of Paul's word in Plilippians 2, verses 12 to 16: So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, ...In the name of Jesus. Praise God!

Let us then shine for Him as we live out our lives as ordinary people in ordinary communities. But let us allow Him to do extraordinary things through us. Forgiveness is a powerful spiritual weapon. When we practice the use of forgiveness, we open the door for greater things.
This past week as I led worship in our community I finally allowed myself to sing a version of that well worn 23rd Psalm. Too bad it took me so long to get there, but our God is able and great in mercy and He truly does take every situation and eventually work it out for the good of all those who love Him.

Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought
But when I see thee as though art
I'll praise Thee as I ought.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cruel Joke

From Craig Carter's blog: The Politics of the Cross Resurrected ...
'The liberal idea that loosening the bonds of the traditional family is the path to individual self-realization is an unmitigated failure and a cruel joke for vulnerable women and children. The policies are a failure in achieving what they claimed they wanted to achieve. That fact is no longer in dispute. So the policies must change: liberals and conservatives should be able to agree on that much. Only a neo-Marxist has an ideological reason to dig in and defend the broken status quo.'

Click on above title, "Cruel Joke" to read more at his blog.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Love amidst the perils - reposted

LOVE! Why? It’s God’s command, here and now.
Who, Me? Yes, You!

Take some down time; Look around.
Multi channels visit the globe; noises blare!
Feel the sombre stare of screaming pages plucked from the web.
Burning sun and shooting stars yell and cry and warn...
of bitter justice soon scrawled on walls and doorways!

At the guarded gate to paradise,
mythic states jeer in defence of forged creeds.
Defiant shadows of our past echo their prideful conflict,
forcing children of men into nightmares.

Green peasant's lands suffer affliction,
as silvered rivers, damned for electric amenities,
flow wth pesticides, fungicides, wasted antibiotics;
Vigor is sterilized while rotten wealth is made.

A strange preacher leads his flock awry,
and authorities bring the fire and brimstone!

Is Love on holiday?
Kids bully and are bullied to take up arms
and little towns cry for lost minds.

Convicted killers are shuttered in dusky dungeons,
doomed, like parched trees,
dying to be posters for deception and vengeance.

Terrible gauntlets fly;
A mighty fortress is cracked open
and the deathday dawns upon a city of liberty;

Cries of faith punch at apathy as sacrifices begin again.
Silent lamp posts hang down,
marking lonely days and nights.

The whole planet shudders,
leaving cities and nations swamped as by its tears.
Crystal cups of sorrow haunt the yearly festivals.

LOVE! Why? … It’s essential, required, demanded!

Seek the Face of THE HOLY ONE,
the Healer of all wounds.

LOVE! and march forward into eternity!

(revised January 2012)