Monday, 26 February 2007

The Jesus Tomb

Well, the big story tonight is the discovery of what some purport to be the tomb of Jesus and his family. I don’t need to explain too much of the story here, because it’s so easy to find. I also don’t need to weigh in on the arguments. There are many people more qualified than I to handle that chore.

I just want to make one point to anyone who may not know quite what to think of it all. This is what the shield of faith (Eph 6:16) is for. This story is one of Satan’s fiery darts and time will show it to be at best, well-intentioned speculation or at worst, deliberate fraud. It is probably somewhere in between. I would suggest that anyone who may be disturbed by this story, or who may sense even small doubts creeping into their mind, to raise the shield of faith until all the evidence is in.

Ben Witherington gives an excellent response on his blog. Read the comments as well. There is a very interesting statistical analysis by “Jay.”

Take Care

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Remember

Two elderly couples were enjoying friendly conversation when one of the men asked the other, "Fred, how was the memory clinic you went to last month?"
"Outstanding," Fred replied. "They taught us all the latest psychological techniques: visualization, association, etc. It was wonderful!"
"That's great! And what was the name of the clinic?"
Fred thought for a moment, but couldn't remember. Then a smile broke across his face and he asked, "What do you call that flower with the long stem and thorns?"
"You mean a rose?"
"Yes, that's it!"
He turned to his wife, "Rose, what was the name of that memory clinic?"

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2, NIV)


What a beautiful chapter! It’s 11:00. I had just gone to bed and turned out the light, but the word, ‘remember’ came to my mind and kept running through my head and it led me to this passage. I didn’t know where to stop so I just quoted the whole chapter.

Remember where we came from. Remember where, and indeed what, we were before God, in Christ, rescued us. How great and wonderful is our God!

Have a blessed Sunday.

Take Care

The God Delusion

I was going to buy a copy of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” today, mainly just to refute it. Normally I don’t like to pay money for anti-Christian books or movies. For instance, I didn’t go to see “The DaVinci Code.” I’ll wait until it comes to TV, although even then I’ve heard it’s not really worth watching. But that’s beside the point. I just don’t like giving my ten bucks, or whatever it is, to people who are anti-Christian.

However, I went to our local library to see if they had it. They have one copy and it is out. There is a list of 51 people waiting for it.

So I was figuring: Edson has about 8500 people. Let’s say that half of them are adults; that’s about 4250 adults. So over 1% of this whole town is waiting for Dawkins’ book at the library, not including those who have already read it or already bought it.

Anyway, I went to the book store, prepared to compromise my principles if it cost less than twenty bucks. Am I ever out of touch as far as what hardcover books cost! The price was $38 and change. That made my decision for me. Not only did I not want to give Dawkins my thirty-eight bucks, he probably wouldn’t even tithe his share of it.

I’ll just have to see if I can borrow a copy.

Take Care

Thursday, 22 February 2007

CRI Perspective

These Perspectives from the Christian Research Institute come across my virtual desk from time to time so I thought I would share them here. Not too much in real depth, but always food for thought. Here are a couple from today.

Liberal Christianity

Then, in a letter to supporters, Hank Hanegraaff says this:

"The faith you and I share is under increasing attack in America. I am convinced the year ahead will be decisive in this historic struggle.

Of course, you can expect the Bible Answer Man program to keep exposing errors, myths, and lies of cults and false religions -- including Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, Word of Faith, New Age, and Islam.

But there is an equally serious and growing attack on our faith, arising from “non-religious” quarters.

For example, National Geographic launched a new broadside against our faith last Christmas with the prime time special, The Secret Lives of Jesus. They also ran an encore presentation of another widely-publicized assault on the Bible’s reliability, The Gospel of Judas.

Both programs use historically dubious manuscripts to make false claims about our Lord’s life and ministry.

Both repeated the oft-told lie that orthodox Christians hushed up the really exciting truths of Gnostic “gospels” purportedly written by biblical characters such as Mary, Thomas, Phillip and Judas.

The real truth, as renowned New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out in a recent interview with Christianity Today, is that during the second and third centuries, “the people being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake and sawed in two were not the ones reading Thomas and Judas and the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. They were the ones reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

Sadly, we’re becoming The Da Vinci Code society, where many are being deceived by the sheer quantity of “credible” attacks on Christianity, their doubts confirmed by even the wildest, most baseless conspiracy theories..."


He continues, making an appeal for support. You can read the entire letter here.

Take Care

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Bill Cosby Was Right.

Bill Cosby used to do a comedy routine called “Brain Damage,” in which he claimed that the only explanation for some children’s behaviour was that “their brains weren’t fully developed yet.” I remember using it as a running joke with my own daughters whenever we disagreed on something. Whenever they wanted something, or to do something that just didn’t make sense (an occurrence that was not all that uncommon as they progressed through their teen years) I would tell them, “That’s because your brain isn’t fully developed yet.”

In another running game I had with them in any of these friendly disagreements they would quote to me (out of the NIV), Ephesians 6:4:...

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children…”

...to which I would then answer with the rest of the verse,

“…instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

I don’t know whether or not I was aware at the time of any basis in science for Mr. Cosby’s claim, but it turns out now that he was exactly right. There was an article in last Saturday's paper on this very subject, this time without the comedy.

It’s interesting that our society seems to be wanting to grant teenagers more and more responsibility and even authority, in areas such as sexual activity, alcohol consumption, and voting rights, for example, when often they are clearly not ready for it. Obviously, the teens themselves think they are, but adults of this generation often seem almost to be intimidated by their own children, afraid of the confrontation involved in telling them, “No.”

May God raise up a generation of young people with more sense than some of their parents.

Take Care

Friday, 16 February 2007

Net Zero Housing

I just received an e-mail from a friend from St Paul’s in Edmonton, Gordon Howell. He is a professional engineer, a brother in Christ, who has long been concerned with environmental issues and, in particular, energy efficient housing and construction. His team has just received an award in a national competition sponsored by the CMHC. You can read about it here in the Edmonton Journal. (Edited to add: Sorry reader(s). I just realized that the linked article is not available without a subscription. Believe me, I am not trying to shill for the Edmonton Journal! It was originally printed in the Feb 14 edition. Here is another link.)
His e-mail reads, in part:

“In my view this project is 'merely' integrating my faith into my
professional area of life... It's about having dominion over (taking
care of) God's creation.

I have heard that a leader is someone who causes others to take
effective action (that means we are all called to be leaders). The
purpose of this house is exactly that -- to show people that God has
given us the resources to do much more than we think is
possible. ('I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.')…”

The home is called the Riverdale NetZero Project. Its web site is at
www.riverdalenetzero.ca.

Take Care

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Anna Nicole

Almost too much has been written about Anna Nicole Smith and the tragedy that was her life in the last few days, but I have a few thoughts that did not coalesce until today. I may not be able to contribute anything new, or anything worthwhile, but there are a few things I must say. First of all, I must point out that Here is the post on Anna Nicole that I wish I had written. I encourage you to read it.

I watched a segment on Entertainment Tonight the other night in which co-host Mark Steines was proud to have been the last person to interview Anna Nicole. Watching the interview at the time with my wife I was greatly saddened. The interview was the usual Hollywood fluff complete with hugs, air kisses and inconsequential sycophantic banter. But we both noticed that Anna Nicole was clearly not right. I will not judge whether it was stress, or depression, or overindulgence in drugs of some kind, or alcohol, but she seemed clearly, to put it rather bluntly, “spaced out.”

The sad thing is that Mr Steines did not seem to acknowledge her condition. He just carried smilingly and ingratiatingly with the usual small talk of celebrity interviews. Did he not notice? Did he not care? Did he feel awkward. Did his “professionalism” demand that he carry on with the interview without asking her if she was OK? Is this kind of condition so “normal” in Hollywood circles that it is not considered unusual any more? I found it a sad commentary. Here was a beautiful yet vulnerable person who was clearly in need of help and no one seemed to care.

But then I consider myself and realize how unqualified I am to judge anyone in this matter. Because Anna Nicole in the interview reminded me of another poor and vulnerable woman I wrote about in another post, here. Her manner, her condition and her speech were uncannily similar.

I think of the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans chapter 7:
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! (Rom 7:18-24a)


The words ring in my mind and convict my conscience, “What a wretched man I am!” I too was in a position to help, and I didn’t. Or I convinced myself there was nothing I could do.

And who among us hasn’t been in that very position. Looking back do we remember times and events in our pasts where we have been the opportunity to help, or intervene, but being too afraid, too shy, or too unsure of what to do, we “passed by on the other side of the road.”

I don’t know if anyone ever shared the gospel with Anna Nicole, or if so, if she received it. I don’t know if she ever realized that the relationship she so desperately seemed to crave was the one above all others; the one available to her with God, her Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ.

These things I do not know. And having said that, I don’t know what more to write.

Take Care

Monday, 12 February 2007

Reality Precedes Discovery

(Or, Reality Precedes Knowledge.)

So, I was thinking… (Please… hold your applause!)

Many skeptics and atheists claim, as their argument against God and faith, that He cannot be proven. My question in return is, “So what?” That is no argument against God at all. Lack of proof of existence does not equate to lack of existence. Some things are true whether you know them or not. Some things exist whether you believe in them or not.

It strikes me that all things known or discovered, or the possibility of all things created or invented by mankind, existed before, and aside from, their becoming known or discovered. This, apparently, was an idea of the Greek philosopher Plato. The possibility for the electric light, for instance, existed since the beginning of the world. In a sense, Edison did not invent it; he discovered it. Edison discovered how to assemble pre-existing materials in such a way that, when electricity was passed through them in a controlled way, they gave off light. He did not create any of these materials. He just discovered how to combine them to accomplish a purpose. In the same way, electricity, or the flow of electrons from one place to another through a conductor, has existed since the beginning of things. Mankind just more recently discovered how to harness it. The same applies to heavier than air flight, penicillin, radio, computer chips and anything else you could name.

The plans for a 747 or the space shuttle could have been drawn hundreds or even thousands of years ago. They are just concepts form people’s minds set down as images on paper. It took until now because they were set down by people who built upon the foundation of knowledge laid by others who came before, but the concept, it could be said, has actually existed for ever.

In the natural world, oxygen existed long before anybody knew what it was or what it did. People lived, and were sustained by the oxygen they breathed without ever being aware of it. A skeptic may not have believed in oxygen, but that didn't mean it didn't exist.

People have been walking around for years, not knowing there were billions of dollars of oil, gold, diamonds, etc. under their feet, but it was all there anyway, whether they knew it or not, even before these things had any real economic use or value. Not knowing of them was no argument for their non-existence.

So please don’t use the tired old line, “Prove God exists” as an argument against Him. Don’t accept it either. God is there whether you know Him or not. He is there whether you believe in Him or not. He would exist even if no one knew Him or believed in Him.

He was He has made Himself evident to all through His creation (Psalm 19; Romans 1). He has made Himself manifest in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. And He has proven His presence to His followers by the witness of His Holy Spirit. I know this means nothing to non-believers, but that is how it is. It has been said that God is not so much proven as known. One who has met God knows that He exists. When one knows something beyond the shadow of a doubt, no further proof is needed. Additional “proofs” of God’s existence are just affirmations of something already realized.

Those who insist that God does not exist are like those in medieval times insisting that the world was flat. It was a belief established in their minds and these people were, and some still are, resistant to change. But their denials are as futile as those of a slug under a rock on the north shore of Alaska insisting there is no such thing as New York.

Take Care

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Make Sure You're Dead

A couple of American guys are out hunting when one of them falls to the ground, clutching his heart. He doesn’t seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and dials 911. He gasps to the operator, “I’m in the middle of nowhere. I think my friend is dead! What can I do?” The operator says, in a calm, soothing voice,
“Just take it easy. First, let’s make sure he really is dead.”
"OK, just a minute," the guy says.
There’s a silence, then the sound of a shot. The guy’s voice comes back on the line. He says, “OK, now what?”

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:8-11 ESV)

“No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3:6-9)

If we really have died with Christ, died to sin, let us make sure we live like it. Let’s make sure we really are dead.

BTW Terry, thanks for Wednesday nights.

Take Care

My Testimony

Just in case my reader(s) might be interested, I thought I would give my story here in a post and the link to it over to the left, because it’s too long to add to my profile. Frankly, I’m not sure whether it is optimism or arrogance that would lead me to believe that I have any readers at all, or, if I do, whether they would be interested at all in what I am about to write.

I was born in 1945, a month or so after WW2 ended in Europe and a couple of months before the atomic bomb was dropped in anger for the first time in history. I remember exactly where I was when I first heard Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and when President Kennedy was shot.

My maternal grandfather (he died before I was born) had been a Methodist minister in Southern Ontario until 1925, when his denomination became part of the United Church of Canada. My mother, then, was a loyal churchgoer and I grew up going to Fifty United Church in Winona Ontario, every Sunday of my life, until I was about 20. It really meant very little to me, other than the fact that all my friends were there. In the mid ‘60’s the United Church entered the “God is dead” debate, and actually seemed to acknowledge the position as having some credibility. Frankly, I didn’t care whether He was dead or not, because I really didn’t believe in Him, but I was disgusted by the fact that for twenty years the church had been telling me one thing about this “God”, then seemed to be willing to so quickly discard everything they had held on to all this time. I thought to myself, “What’s the point? If they don’t really believe what they’ve been saying all this time, why should I hang around?” So I left.

For the next twenty-five years I focused on the usual young-adult pursuits. I got married (my beautiful wife, Eva and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary in July, 2008), had a couple of kids (girls) and worked to be successful in my career. By the time I was 45 I had most things that a man of my age could want. We had moved to Alberta and owned a fairly successful small business, a nice house, a couple of nice cars. There seemed to be nothing lacking in my life.

I can still remember the phone call. The woman on the other end of the line said they were opening a new church in our neighbourhood (St Albert, Alberta) and would I be interested in receiving some information? For some reason, without really thinking, I said, “OK.”

It turned out to be a church plant of Crestwood, a PCA church in Edmonton. We went as a family to their opening service, in a local elementary school lunchroom. It was not at all like what I remembered as church. Whereas church for me had always involved thundering organ music, this one had a guitarist and keyboard. Instead of all old hymns, these people mixed in more modern choruses as well. For some reason, even though it was all new and different to me, I had a strange sense of “coming home.” We began to attend every Sunday.

The pastor started a Bible study on the book of James, and I joined it. After a while, I was even invited to play my guitar on the music team (my daughters sort of shoehorned me on to it by nagging the worship leader.) The worship leader, Andy, and his wife Michelle wanted to start another Bible Study and I volunteered our house, because they lived in Edmonton. Gradually, for one reason or another, attendance dwindled down to just them and me, but they kept on coming faithfully, every week. I look back now and consider them my spiritual mentors for their faithfulness.

It was on a business trip through British Columbia one weekend in the spring of 1991 when God basically just stepped in front of me. Over the course of three or four days, He revealed Himself to me in such a sequence of events that I had no choice but to acknowledge Him as Lord of my life.

I will not list every specific event here, because I have learned from hearing the testimonies of others and giving my own, that many of the details of someone’s conversion experience are often truly meaningful only to the individual involved. They are ways in which a person feels God communicated with him that would not carry nearly the same meaning to his audience. But here is an outline.

In Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, through a particular set of circumstances, God stepped in front of me in so literal a way that it was like walking into an invisible wall. At that point, I knew something had happened. It was almost as if a door had been closed behind me. I knew at that moment that God was real.

A couple of days later, in a motel in Kelowna, I decided that instead of going down to the bar for a drink, I would stay in my room and read the Bible. I read all the way through the book of Acts and started on Romans. Somewhere between chapters 3 and 5 of Romans my eyes were opened. I paused at Romans 3:21 & 22 and read them over and over again, “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known… This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe…” I remember thinking, “I’ve never heard this before – it’s all new.” Now, I’m sure I didn’t go to church for twenty years without it at least having been read in my hearing. But I was truly “hearing” it for the first time in my life.

The next day, in Salmon Arm, BC, God’s intervention continued and finally, alone in my motel room, I had no choice but to fall back onto the bed, tears flowing, raise my hands to Him and say, in gratitude for what He had done for me through Jesus Christ, “God, I am Yours! I give you my life.” I had just bought a new 12-string guitar (which I still have, and which was instrumental in this whole series of events) and the first song I played, to an audience of One, there by myself in the motel room, was, “Thou Art Worthy.”

That was years ago. There are a few things I like to emphasize regarding my story. The first is that I was basically a pretty good guy. I was not saved out of a life of drugs or alcohol or promiscuity. I was the same as any number of people out there who probably think they are pretty good people as well. But I needed a saviour as much as anybody. God is perfect; we are not. No one measures up to His standards. So we need an advocate, a surrogate who does. That one is Jesus Christ. Only through faith in him and surrendering our lives can we stand before God and be 'covered,' so to speak, by his perfection and righteousness.

The next couple of points I mention for all Christian parents who are worried about their children falling away from the faith. They are these: first, keep taking them to church. Especially through their teen years. Even if they give you a hard time about it and even if they don't seem to be getting anything out of it. I am convinced that there is a process of "osmosis" that takes place, even if they don't seem to be paying any attention. The Bible tells us that God's word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55: 10,11), but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it.

Second, keep praying for them. My mother, even though she was in what we would consider a liberal (now, even, an apostate) church, and she herself may have subscribed to some of its liberal views, knelt by her bed every night and prayed for her children. For the whole twenty-five years between my church experiences she would ask me if I was going to church, practically every time she saw me. I know many brothers and sisters in Christ whose own children seem to have fallen away, who are fearful and frustrated at their children’s unbelief, and pray fervently that God would intervene in their lives and bring them to faith. Well, I was 45 before I came to a true faith in Jesus Christ. How faithful my mother was, how patient, and, I like to think, how trusting in her Heavenly Father, that His will would be done in my life.

And how much more patient was God Himself with me, all those years, waiting for the right time to reel me in.

Take Care

Monday, 5 February 2007

He Already Has In Mind what He Is Going To Do

I was considering in John chapter 6, God's amazing provision in the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The disciples witness and actually take part in an amazing and miraculous demonstration of God’s ability to provide much out of seemingly meagre resources.

Jesus made them part of it. He asks, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" It’s as if he tests them and gives them an opportunity to come up with the answer themselves. In Matthew and Mark’s account of this or a similar incident, Jesus tells them “You give them something to eat.” Almost as if to say, as a challenge, “You can do it.” But the disciples could not see how. They truly doubted it could be done. It looked like an impossible situation. But then there is this key phrase, this cause for hope; “…he already had in mind what he was going to do.”

Among the disciples we see a contrast: examples of two contrasting attitudes. Phillip takes the pessimistic view, “Eight months’ wages would not be enough…” Andrew on the other hand, seems to trust in Jesus’ ability to provide and sees a possibility, “Here is a boy with five… loaves and two small fish…”

And the same might be true today. We may see what we might think is an overwhelming task; insurmountable obstacles; a hopeless situation.
We can be like Phillip and cry, “How can we ever do this?” Or like Andrew and say, “Here’s a possibility. Let’s try this”, and trust God that He can supply.

In any case, Jesus already has in mind what he is going to do. God is not without a plan, and He is in control. The direction the world seems to be heading is no surprise to him. He already has in mind what he is going to do. But what he does, he will do through His people – people willing to be available and obedient. The disciples could not see how it was possible to feed such a large crowd with so little food. But they were available and Jesus made it happen, and there was more left over than there was at the beginning. Jesus’ resources can meet all our needs and more.

Are you worried about our society and how it seems to be crumbling into decay and immorality? Jesus already has in mind what he is going to do!

Are you at the end of your rope personally, wondering in despair how you are going to face tomorrow? Whatever the situation, in the world or in our own lives, we can rest assured;

Jesus already has in mind what he is going to do.

Take Care

Friday, 2 February 2007

We’ve Been Adopted

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God... “ Romans 8: 15,16 (NKJV)

A little turtle climbs up a tree, walks out on to a branch and jumps off. He falls straight down and lands with a thud. Walks over, climbs the tree again; out on the same branch and jumps again. Same thing; he falls down with a thud. Again and again the same thing happens. A mother and father bird are watching all this. One turns to the other and says, “Maybe it’s time to tell him he’s adopted.”

Some of us need to remember we’ve been adopted. If we ever doubt the security of our relationship with God, we can rest in the assurance that if we have placed our trust in Jesus Christ we have become sons and daughters of God. Our original adoption had nothing to do with any merit on our part, nor does our continued standing as His children. We will never cease to be His!

“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.” (Titus 3:5a)

Maybe an encouragement to someone.

I hope so.

Take Care