Saturday, 30 August 2008

Correction

In a previous post I falsely accused the United Church of Canada of changing the words to 'Amazing Grace." It appears this was incorrect. I am now told that the 'Voices United' hymnbook retains the term, 'wretch' after all. My apologies to any I may have hurt or offended by this error.

Take Care

Thursday, 28 August 2008

What Would Jesus Do?

My co-father-in-law Dave posted this conundrum over on his blogRather than get into an extended debate on Dave's blog, I thought I would give my further thoughts here. For one thing, if Dave posts that he did something different, it may cause a family dispute.;) If this is going to result controversy, I'd just as soon I did it here as over at his place. Here is the relevant part of the story,
The gas station here is full service so I told the attendant I wanted $20 of regular. She set the pump then went off to help other customers. A couple minutes later I realized the pump was still going and I quickly got out to shut it off. It was just over $54.00. The girl saw me get out and came running over to see that it had not stopped at the $20 she said she had set it at.

I was torn as to what to do; as to what the Christian thing was to do. If I had wanted to fill it I would have gone across to get the cheaper gas. Yet I did get much more than $20 worth of gas.


Here was my reply:
The right thing for a Christian to do is to pay for the gas you got, even if it was a mistake on the attendant's part. If the attendant was short, she would probably have to pay it herself. The really right thing to do, especially if you are known as a Christian, especially if you are known as a pastor, is to pay it graciously. The really, really right thing, if you are not known as a Christian or a pastor, is to pay it graciously and then introduce yourself as the pastor of the Baptist church. As the song says, "They will know your are Christian by your love."

Another person replied as follows:
Hummm....that's one of those trick questions! On one hand, I agree w/ John K. On the other hand, you did only ask for $20. You could have been in a position of ONLY having $20 to your name. As a single mom at one time, it's happened to me. $20 for gas. That's my budget. So, then what? Does it make you LESS of a Christian to NOT pay for what you didn't ask for? I don't think so...
And it is against the law in most places (Alberta included) for the owners to force the attendant to pay for mistakes, drive offs, etc..
So - - I guess I didn't answer your question, but would love to hear what you did!!!

But I did have further thoughts, and here they are. It seems to me that knowingly taking something not due you, unless it is a willing gift on the other party's part, is theft, even if it was a mistake on their part. My daughters still give me a hard time over the time, on a family outing, they were accidentally given a loonie too much change at a variety store. They told me about it a couple of km down the road. I turned around and made them take it back. Theft is theft, whether it is from the person behind the counter who sold you the pack of gum, the gas station attendant, or Imperial Oil.

In the case of having only $20.00 for gas, let's say that you are so strapped that $20.00 a week is all you can afford for gas. In that case, if you got $60.00 of gas accidentally, you now have 3 weeks worth of gas. You should then pay the gas station $20.00 each week for the next two weeks. Then you have given and received fair value.

We are called to live Christ-like lives. I can't imagine Jesus hassling the gas station attendant over her mistake.

Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Love, for the Day is Near. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Rom 13:7-10)


I would welcome any thoughts as well.

Take Care

Monday, 25 August 2008

Coveting What is Not Ours

Ive been thinking about the implications of the tenth commandment -- You shall not covet. I have touched on this subject in reference to Doug Wilson's blogs, referring to certain segments of our society, and, frankly, all of us probably at one time or another, to envy the more rich and successful members of our society and thinking it somehow fitting to take their money, by whatever means (usually some form of government intervention or taxation), and give it to the 'less fortunate'. I suppose that if this is done purely out of a genuine concern for the poor, it is one thing, and perhaps even admirable if done fairly, but I sense that the motivation is sometimes more sinister. I'm afraid it is often done purely out of a kind of jeaousy of those who have more than we do. Some people have bigger houses, or cars, or TV,s and we reresent it -- let them bear the brunt of caring for the poor. Well, that's covetousness, even if we call it a desire for fairness. The Bible doesn't tell us to get those with more than we have to look after the poor, it tells us to do it.

In fact, if we resent anyone for having more, of anything, than we do, it's covetousness. Some might put it down to what they might call, 'reverse snobbery,' but what it really is, is covetousness.

One area of my life where I've been particularly convicted of this, is talent, or ability. I have mentioned that I once performed standup comedy (in a former life, of course). Well my talent in that area certainly had a ceiling, and I was envious of others with whom I shared the open-mic stage whose acts were funnier than mine. That was before I was a Christian, but there is still a residual amount of that particular sin in my life.

I play guitar, over the years rising to a level approaching mediocrity. I would love to be able to play it better, and when I see someone who can play a lead guitar, or who can barre chord easily, I often joke that I am jealous. But in fact, there is some covetousness there, even if I claim it to be rather innocent.

I am envious of anyone who can preach a good half-hour sermon. I am envious of someone to whom communicating the gospel to others seems to come easily. In other words, I am envious of other people's gifts, even spiritual ones. I believe the tendency of myself (and perhaps others, although I speak only of myself) to envy the gifts, or success, or prosperity God has given others is indeed, a definite form of covetousness, and it's wrong.

And I know it's wrong, but I seem to do it anyway.

Take Care

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A Couple From Doug Wilson

I enjoy Pastor Doug Wilson's blog. Not that I would agree with him on every point, but he often has a particular way of turning a phrase that touches something in me. I think that both his style of writing and my appreciation of it spring from our mutual admiration of G.K. Chesterton.

This post makes me glad for what I think is my freedom in Christ that allows me to enjoy a little wine with a meal, not for its intoxicating effect, but for the enhancement of the flavour of good food.
"One might have hoped that, with so gracious a creature as wine, even the most ardent religionists and secularists would have made an exception to their universal custom of missing the point of things . . . Consider first the teetotalers . . . Something underhanded has to be done to grape juice to keep it from running its appointed course..."

I have heard certain radio and television preachers declare that to partake of alcohol is basically sinful in itself and Christians should never touch it, but I must disagree. To take the liberty of paraphrasing a point from St Paul, wine itself is not the root of all kinds of evil; the abuse of it is.

A second subject Wilson addresses is the propensity, I would put it, especially among those of a more liberal bent, to consider it a desirable thing to penalize the rich in order to support the poor, and calling it for what it really is; in many cases, a manifestation of covetousness. Here in Canada, politically, I see this especially in the NDP and its adherents. The thing is that they usually want to bypass themselves in this process. In other words, they place themselves in the middle and want to take from those above themselves and pass it down to those below, their only involvement in the process is the taking and passing. Rarely, it seems to me, do they see themselves as the ones who should do the giving.

I love this quote from Here...

Democracy is, as the fellow said, two coyotes and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch.

In fact it is quite applicable in another context; substitute wolves for coyotes and you have the position of conservative parishes within the Anglican Church of Canada.

And then from Here...
Where does the Bible tell us not to steal from the rich? In the same place where it tells us not to steal period. That commandment is in the same place where we are told not to steal from Ford Motor Company, WalMart, your mother's purse, or any other place where the money you want might be found. The morality of the thing has nothing whatever to do with the moral condition of the victim, or with his extra resources. Stealing is stealing whether or not the person involved would ever miss it, and envy is envy even if the wealthy are parading about in some unconscionable fashion. What is that to us? It is not our money. We must not want it, seek it, angle for it, manipulate for it, vote for it, or write prophetic jeremiads with one eye on the main chance. The only thing we may do to get some is by offering a lawful service, diligently performed. Surrounding the palace with ballots is no more acceptable that surrounding the palace with torches and pitchforks.

Take Care

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Liberal Shorter Catechism.

(With apologies to the Westminster Shorter Catechism.)

Q 1. What is the chief end of religion?
A. To glorify man and make him feel good forever.


I was reflecting the other day on the fact that a number of churches and/or religious organizations have changed the words to Amazing Grace from, "...saved a wretch like me" to, "... saved a soul like me." If I am not mistaken, these organizations include the United Church of Canada and the Unitarian Universalists (although, thankfully, not the Anglicans, [yet]). I wouldn't be surprised that other 'liberal' denominations have made the change as well. The reason behind the change, they will say, is that it is hurtful to be referred to as a wretch. The fear is that such a term will be off-putting to potential church recruits. I would have said, "non-believers," but to these liberal churches, the term is meaningless. Believing anything is irrelevant. Such religions are designed (or distorted) to be, "one size fits all," which really means, in the world of liberal religion and panty hose, "one size fits none."

But what does this change show? It reveals an attitude that discounts the fall, that tells people we are all basically good and therefore there is nothing from which we need to be saved. It completely denies the obvious fact that we cannot measure up to God's standards. It eliminates the need for grace and therefore, in effect, the whole reason for singing the hymn in the first place, except that it's a nice tune, inspriational at funerals, and gives us a certain spiritual buzz, in an, "I'm OK, you're OK, we're all OK" kind of way.

Those who know the reality of God's grace, and actually know they have indeed been saved by it, through no merit of their own, know why John Newton used the term "wretch." But rather than see such a term as lowering our self-esteem, we can rejoice that God saw us as worthy of being saved at all. The more wretched we see our condition, the higher will be our realization of God's grace toward us, and the greater our love and gratitude.

Liberal religion may not completely ignore that there is such a thing as sin, but they see it predominately on a horizontal level, against other people. So they will say that we must both seek and give forgiveness, but the focus is forgiveness of and from each other. They do not acknowledge that sin is first and foremost against God. Jerry Bridges, in, "The Pursuit of Holiness" quotes W,S. Plumer,
"We never see sin aright until we see it as against God... Pharoah and Balaam, Saul and Judas each, said, 'I have sinned," but the returning prodigal said, 'I have sinned against heaven and before you,' and David said, 'against You only have I sinned.'"

We can truly appreciate just how amazing God's grace really is only when we realize how wretched is our position apart from it.

Take Care

Thursday, 7 August 2008

But We're Still Doing It

According to The MCJ, now that the Lambeth Conference is out of the way, Episcopalians can get back to doing what they do better than just about anyone. Totally meaningless gestures that will make them feel morally superior to everyone else with whom they're forced to share a planet:

From Here...
A two-day solemn observance has been planned for October 3-4 at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the Episcopal Church will take a monumental step and publicly apologize for its involvement in the institution of transatlantic slavery. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori will serve as celebrant and preacher at the October 4 service of repentance.

And then this...
...the House of Bishops, in marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, revisited its 1994 pastoral letter, "The Sin of Racism," which stated that "the essence of racism is prejudice coupled with power. It is rooted in the sin of pride and exclusivity which assumes 'that I and my kind are superior to others and therefore deserve special privileges.'" (emphasis mine, JK)

And yet that is exactly the same attitude manifested in the current push in both the Canadian and American Anglican organizations toward liberalized sexual attitudes, ignoring the vast majority in the worldwide Anglican Communion who are people of colour and therefore not as advanced as we white westerners.

The same applies here in Canada, where the government and churches have apologized all over the place to our aboriginal communities for former wrongs, yet many within the ACoC and several of its dioceses plunge determinedly ahead with their aim to bless SSB's, equally determinedly ignoring the heartfelt opinions of the majority of aboriginal Anglicans who, I believe, stand firmly in opposition. The arrogance, hypocrisy and near-sightedness of those in the dioceses of Montreal, Ottawa, Huron, New Westmisnter and Niagara who have voted in favour of proceeding with blessing sinful activity is just head-shaking.

We seem to be excellent at confessing the sins of our forefathers, not so good at recognizing our own.

Take Care

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Did Jesus End Poverty?

Regarding This...
We are making a statement to the world about ending poverty in the third world.

Jesus predicted, in another context (yet also somewhat related to the situation in the Anglican church), that, “...many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mat. 24:11). The Apostle Peter also assured us that heresies would occur. “...there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them...” (2 Peter 2:1). Tertullian, in his work, Prescription Against Heretics," with the preceding Scriptures in mind, warned that heresies were to be expected, because, “When it has been determined that a thing must by all means be... it is impossible for it not to have existence."

The same, may I say, must also apply to poverty. Jesus said, "You will always have the poor among you..." (John 12:8) Therefore, we can be confident that... well, we will always have the poor among us, no matter how many wonderful plans we put in place to, "end poverty" forever. Now let me be clear that I think there is a world of difference between helping the poor (which is an admirable work and which we are called to do) and "ending poverty." Deuteronomy 15:11 puts it into perspective; "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." In other words, as Christians, we certainly are to help the poor in our midst, but ending poverty completely, I'm afraid, is not really a realistic goal, and declaring that you are going to do so does nothing but diminish your credibility. Asserting we can and will do so indicates, in a way, that we think we somehow know better than God.

What should the Christian's focus be? Certainly we are called to have pity on the poor and give them aid and comfort, but our real actions should be governed by our view of eternity. If we believe there is an eternal existence beyond this life on earth, and that our eternal destiny depends on coming to faith in Jesus Christ here on this earth, then we must believe that preparing for that eternity carries more weight than simply satisfying our needs here on earth. To the universalist, who believes that everyone will eventually attain salvation, or to the person who believes there is no afterlife at all, the needs of the moment are all that are important.

Another aspect here is that many of the people who are calling for an end to poverty are not so much making personal sacrifices to that end themselves, but calling on others (namely governments) to do it for them. It is, as Doug Wilson put it, a way of saying, "I gave at the office," and thinking they've done all they could. But after the march to end poverty referenced above, the Lambeth bishops returned to a sumptuous multi-course meal. Their message might have carried more weight if they had partaken of bread and water, or, at the very most perhaps, grilled cheese sandwiches.

Food for thought.

Take Care

George Conger on the Albert Mohler Radio Program

Discussing Lambeth, the Episcopal church and the Anglican Communion.

Listen Here...
The interview with Rev Conger begins about the 11:00 mark.

Take Care

Monday, 4 August 2008

Now For Something Completely Different


No, Not Monty Pithon, but my stab at being a business consultant for General Motors. General Motors lost over $15 billion (yes, billion with a 'b') in one quarter. They should not have been surprised. I could have told them why, if they'd asked me, and for only a small fraction of that fifteen billion.

I'm sure there is much more to it than this, but for a long time now, GM has no longer been the leader in the automotive world. They have become a poor follower, chasing after the leaders, giving the market away, then trying to catch up when it is too late. Back in the glory days of the 1950's, GM led the industry. GM came out with fins; everybody added fins. GM came out with a dog-leg windshield, everybody followed. In 1977 GM was the first to "downsize" their full-sized cars. I was managing a Chrysler dealership at the time, and Chrysler carried over their full size cars for one more year, hoping to capture some of the full-size market. They bombed. GM won, and the other North American manufacturers had to follow suit.

That was then, this is now. GM is behind the market in any number of ways. First, in performance. Only now are they coming out with sedans with horsepower. For the past few years, their Buick and Chev sedans had anemic horsepowere figures in the 190range, when their competitors like Accord, Acura, Camry, even Hyundai, boasted figures in the 260-270 range. Now it may not be politically correct to say it, but horsepower is still important. They may have been targeting old people with their underpowered cars, but a lot of old people still want to buy what young people are buying, and a lot of young people still buy performance.

Then there was the HHR (pictured above), the retro-station-wagon look minivan. They brought this model out just as Chrysler was ending the run of its successful PT Cruiser, again missing the market by several years. The next latecomer will be the new Camaro, scheduled, I believe, for the 2010 model year, again several years behind the new retro styled Mustang and now the Dodge Challenger, of which it almost seems a direct copy.

That's it for now, and thus endeth my career as consultant to the automotive industry. If anybody else has any input, we could get together and write a book about it.

Take Care

Friday, 1 August 2008

Thoughts on a Funeral

I attended the funeral the other day of a friend from church. I found it very moving, but not for the reason one might expect. Henry was a wonderful Christian and every believer among his family and friends was confident he was with his Lord even as we met. His brother gave a tearful and heartfelt message including an invitation to anyone present who wanted to know about Jesus to approach him and ask him. Pastor Terry presented the gospel clearly, including, if I may quote from my memory, this memorable thought,
"If you have not accepted Christ as your Saviour and acknowledged him as Lord, this life here on earth is as close to heaven as you will ever get. If you have done so, this life is as close to hell as you will ever be."

What moved me most was that there were unsaved people there, including from within even the immediate family. My heart aches for those who do not yet know the Lord, especially if they are in the families of those who do. My heart aches even more when I realize how little I do about it.

My own most fulfilling time in this regard were the years I was involved in the Alpha course, several years back. I saw many people come to faith through its clear presentation of the gospel message. And more often than not, these were the friends or loved ones of the believers in our church, because that's the whole basis of the course. Believers bring those they care about to dinner to introduce them to someone who will tell them about Jesus. Like Philip to Nathanael, even those uncomfortable or unable to give a full explanation of the message of Jesus Christ have only to say, "Come and see." And I saw many guests, whose eyes were opened during and Alpha course, realize, like Nathanael, that Jesus knew them, even when they were not even aware of Him.

We ran a couple of Alpha courses in our home when we first came to Edson. The last time I distributed about fifty invitations to the supper around my neighbourhood and had zero responses. After that, I'm afraid, my enthusiasm lapsed. Several months ago we listed our house here in Edson, feeling that it might be God's will that we move back to Edmonton. The listing has now expired. So I am here for a while yet. Perhaps it's time to try again.

I hope this post doesn't sound like I'm feeling sorry for myself. Even I have the sense that it might and that I am. But I am convicted about just how lousy a job I myself do in communicating the good news of Jesus to others. It's not that I am unable, although with all the wonderful thoughts in my head about what to say, somehow they disappear like vapour when I actually have an opportunity to say them. It's not that I am unwilling. I yearn to be able to evangelize, but again, when the opportunity arises I seem to become verbally stunted. I could write an essay, but I can barely speak a broken phrase. It's not that I can't, then, it's not that I won't; it's just that I... well, I don't.

This may seem an abrupt way to end this post, (it seems so to me) but at the moment I can think of no more to say except to pray, "Lord, forgive me and help in my weakness. Please help me to recognize the opportunities you give me to tell others about you, and the strength to do so when you do."

For Christ's sake
Amen