Sunday, 31 May 2009

Lift Up Your Hands

Praise the LORD, all you servants of the LORD
who minister by night in the house of the LORD.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and praise the LORD.
May the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion. (Psalm 134, NIV)

I grew up going to a fairly dry church. When I came to faith, even though it was in a Gospel-preaching, Bible-believing church, it was also a fairly non-demonstrative one. No one raised their hands when singing. As I met and worshipped with people from other denominations, those we would refer to at the time as, "charismatic," I wondered, from time to time, if I should do the same. Because there were times I sort of wanted to, but, for one reason or another, didn't. What reasons? Perhaps a reluctance to do something different. Perhaps (and this is more likely) out of some kind of sense of embarassment. What would people think? Everybody would look at me. I once mentioned this to Andy, who as I said in my testimony was my spiritual mentor. I can still remember his answer word for word. He said, "In my heart, my hands are raised as high as anyone's."

I didn't give it a lot of thought at the time, but over time it began to weigh on me. What was I saying to God when in my heart I wanted to raise my hands in worship, but for whatever reason, didn't? What attitude was I displaying to God when I felt prompted by His Spirit to lift my hands, but didn't because I was too embarassed or self-conscious. Basically, I think, I was putting Him in second place. I was saying that certain other things were more important than Him. Things like what people would think of me. Things like stepping out of my comfort zone.

Now I am not saying here that everyone should raise their hands when they worship. Some people may genuinely, because of their tradition, or the practise of their particular church, not feel the desire at all. And I must admit that I didn't really feel free to begin to lift my hands openly until I was at an Alpha conference in another city where no one knew me. So I am certainly not judging anyone who feels the same as I once did. But I am saying to anyone who really, deep down wants to, "Go ahead."

"Just do it."

Take Care

Monday, 25 May 2009

Grace Like Rain

Grace Like Rain by Todd Agnew

This post is a result of my connecting with Marie, who left a comment on this post.

Someone on Marie's blog mentioned the above song, and I replied that I actually liked it. We have not done this one in Sunday morning worship, and I really don't see it as that kind of song, but I have done it in a less formal Sunday evening context, as well as a couple of times in a secular coffee house. Let me tell you how I do it and what I like about doing this song, especially in a secular setting.

The song is an interesting take on a hymn that is familiar to most people, and I find that even non-believers like it. After singing it, I talk about how some people think the word, "wretch" is rather harsh and might be less offensive if toned down a bit. But then I say that, if there is a God, some kind of Being who brought everything we see into existence (which reason alone should lead us to realize there is), then His standards must be very high, and most of us, if we are honest, would have to admit that we haven't really lived our lives in a way that would be pleasing to such a Being. Then, of course, I mention that the author of the words of Amazing Grace was John Newton, the captain of a slave ship, and that he, after coming to a relationship with this God, realized just what a wretch he actually was. Then I say that there is really nothing wrong with realizing how short we actually fall, but that the whole basis of the Christian faith is that God has provided a way for us to have a relationship with Him in spite of our falling short of His standards, and that way is Jesus. I don't go into any more detail than that, but perhaps that's because I'm an extremely self conscious evangelist.

Then I sing the 'real' Amazing Grace. As I said, it is one Christian hymn that everyone knows and most people like and I have never had anyone, even in a secular audience, complain about my singing it. I must admit that I have also never had anyone come forward and accept Christ, but I can only trust that a seed may have been planted.

Take Care

Monday, 18 May 2009

Victoria Day, Edson Alberta

This is the weekend we usually do our gardening.

Take Care

(The Priests) Were Worthless Men. They Did Not Know The LORD.

To my Anglican friends, I would commend yesterday's sermon from Edson Baptist Church. Pastor Terry Stauffer's focus was not on the current troubles in the Anglican communion, but I certainly saw relevance in the passage selected, 1 Samuel 3.

From 1 Samuel chapter 3:
Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.(v 12, ESV)

Now Eli was very old, and he kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel...
...And he said to them, "Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people. No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the LORD spreading abroad. If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?" But they would not listen to the voice of their father...(22a, 23-25a)

And there came a man of God to Eli and said to him...
but now the LORD declares: 'Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days are coming when I will cut off your strength and the strength of your father’s house...
...And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.(27a, 30b-31a, 35)

Read the entire passage here

The first problem was that the priests did not know the Lord - a problem in many liberal, or should I say apostate, churches today. Therefore the things of God, His glory and His commands, are treated with disdain.

But God will not tolerate this forever. I believe He will, "remove their lampstands" so to speak, and He will raise up faithful followers, those who will adhere to His teachings and stand for His truth. I hope this is an encouragement to my friends in the Anglican Network in Canada. I believe the unfaithful will decline and the faithful will increase. (And frankly, I don't think you need to hold on to your buildings and property to do so, if you can forgive this personal comment, but that's another issue.) It may not seem so, in the midst of the battles in which you are now engaged, but God has promised to honour those who honour Him, and, in His time, His promises will not fail.

I also see relevance in this passage to those who believe they should remain in parishes or dioceses in the ACoC where falsehood is being accepted as truth. Eli scolded his sons, but effectively did nothing about their behaviour, and as a result, he bore the brunt of God's anger. Blame was laid at his feet. It was his house that was cut off forever.

One can talk for only so long. There comes a point when one must actually do something.

Take Care

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Real, Relevant Marriage Debate

Just to get things back into perspective, we sometimes become so focused on the gay marriage issue that we forget the marriage debate that has far more serious consequences. And these consequences are current, not future. They are with us today. That is the issue of heterosexual marriage itself, and the fact that many people nowadays don't see it as necessary. I have posted on this issue before, and the facts are everywhere to see, but the acceptance of co-habitational, or common-law relationships, as equivalent to marriage has done more harm to our society than any consequences the gay marriage issue might possibly hold.

Mona Charen puts things into perspective in this article in the National Review Online.
By the age of 12, 78 percent of children living in non-married households have experienced one or more years of poverty. For children in intact families, the figure is 18 percent. Babies born to unwed moms are more likely to be premature, to be low birthweight, and to suffer other pathologies. Children who are raised in non-marital households have poorer school performance, more trouble with the law, more mental and emotional disturbances, more poverty, suffer more physical and sexual abuse, and are more likely to become unwed parents themselves.

It's the elephant in the room that the politically correct cannot acknowledge without admitting that morality counts.

Take Care

Related post by Nove Scotia Scott

Welcome to the No-Zero Generation

Two stories in the Edmonton Journal recently seem to me to be directly connected. Today's paper tells of the experience of a Journal reporter being swarmed by a group of youths late at night.

A few days ago, this story appeared regarding the reluctance of school officials to hold students accountable for their failures.
Zero is becoming the toughest mark for students to earn in a growing number of Edmonton-area schools. Many schools have adopted a "no-zero" policy when it comes to assignments and tests, giving students multiple opportunities to hand in work past deadline or to redo failing assignments or tests. It is part of a national trend proponents say will help ensure more students make it through the school system, learn course material and succeed. Critics argue it fails to prepare students for the real world. In the Edmonton Public school district, many schools, particularly junior and senior highs, have operated under no-zero policies for several years.
"It's a philosophy about not giving up on kids," Corrie Ziegler said. "We will do everything we can before we give any child a zero. We want to give them every opportunity."

"Every opportunity..."? Why is one opportunity, the first one, not enough in all but the most exceptional cases? This is merely a continuation of the focus on the, "self esteem," "you are the center of the universe" philosophy children have been taught for the last generation or so. It has been a teaching that fosters an attitude of entitlement with no responsibility or accountability.

I am an employer, and I can say that kids who expect a, "no-zero" policy in the real world are in for a rude awakening. They certainly wouldn't last very long in my shop. It seems to me that, "no zero" quickly becomes, "Who cares?"

If there is no accountability, people do what is right in their own eyes.

Take Care

Monday, 11 May 2009

The Rothesay Report Theological Rationale for Same-Sex Marriages

That a church that even calls itself Christian could even entertain such a report as this defies all reason.
The theological rationale for same-sex marriages has been made powerfully and faithfully in the past few decades by theologians throughout the Church, This document attempts to give the briefest summary of some of the themes in that theological literature. We merely indicate the strength and weight of the arguments that are to be found in the theological literature authored by advocates of same-sex marriages.

The following video perfectly represents what I believe is the future of the liberal Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal church of the US as they continue to wander, no, flee, from the true faith of Christianity. Imagine the Mr McGoo's who are leading their churches down this broad road to destruction, blindly sitting on the ground floors in their indaba groups, discussing the finer points of culturally sensitive theological modifications, while their buildings collapse around them in a cascades of irrelevance.

They are bringing it on themselves.

Take Care
h/t Anglican Samizdat

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Moveable Truth

Jesus said, "I am the truth..." The Bible also tells us that Jesus is the same, "yesterday, today, forever." That means that the truth is the same yesterday, today and forever. It does not change like shifting shadows according to customs and fashions of the day. The truth of the Gospel is as true today as it ever was. God is still holy. We still have not measured up to His standard. Jesus died for our sins 2000 years ago. That is an accomplished fact, so that cannot change. Putting a different spin on it doesn't change the reality of its happening. Jesus rose from the dead -- that is also a fact, and changing our thinking on the resurrection to 'spiritualize' it doesn't change the fact that it really did happen.

Those who adhere to the firmly established truth of Jesus Christ, his divinity as the Second Person of the Trinity, his death by which he bore the wrath of God that we rightly deserve, and his defeat of death forever in his physical resurrection, are standing on solid ground. Those who think we must change or dilute what for the past millenia has been accepted as fact, for the sake of relevance or inclusivity, are like someone trying to stand on a beach ball in the middle of a swimming pool.

Take Care