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Crossing the line

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Some actions break trust.  When a line is crossed a person’s  life changes forever.  One of the most tragic examples of this is when teachers take advantage of kids.  In Ontario, we pride ourselves in the Character Education that the Ministry of Education has developed to help our children grow into trustworthy, healthy adults.    Events in the news continue to show that we shouldn’t neglect or make any assumptions about the character of their teachers.

The article in the  National Post about the resignation of the Chairperson of the Ontario College of Teacher’s discipline committee who had written a ‘steamy’ novel about teenager sex (click to see cover of novel) illustrates my point.    The article depicts the book in the following way;  “The novel, written for teens, features a high-school freshman described as having a ‘gorgeous bosom’ and ‘barely fleshy buttocks’ exploring her sexuality.”

What surprises me is that this teacher is still a member IN GOOD STANDING with the College of Teachers;   “ ‘I have accepted Mr. Tremblay’s resignation,’ the group’s chairwoman Liz Papadopoulos  said in the online statement.  ‘The college makes every effort to maintain public confidence in the teaching profession’s self-regulatory processes.’  Tremblay, who could not be reached for comment, is still a teacher with the public French-language school board in eastern Ontario, and is in good standing with the College of Teachers.”

This doesn’t help me place much confidence in the system.   There are always victims when it comes to exploitation of any kind.   In my opinion writing a book about ‘steamy teen sex’ for teens to read inevitably leads to unneeded confusion and pain for  some young person.  It is pathetic that the Bible is all but banned in public schools while a teacher can write a ‘teen sex novel’ with impunity.  Go figure!

Secularization of the Sacred!

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A friend gave me a book by Ravi Zacharias called Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintergrating Culture.  In it, Zacharias discusses the process of secularization and considers when and how it occured.  It didn’t happen overnight!  He writes:

Marshall [David Marshall – the Canadian Historian]  lays a major portion of the blame for the slide into secularism at the door of the Christian clergy.  It was from their ranks, he says, that the defection began.  From their ranks came the call to congregations to abandon the notion of an authoritative Scripture and surrender the biblical perspective on life’s deepest questions.  This was the explosive force that would demolish any claim to Christian uniqueness. (p. 45)

Wow!  If I hadn’t read Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis and Love Wins I would have found this statement provocative rather than the sad truth.  This has been going on for a while and perhaps is a process that works over time and history given the right conditions.  Steve Addison in writing about the decline of the mainline churches looks at the early church history of the United States; “…  two denominations grew significantly because they reached previously unchurched people. In 1776 only 17% of the poppulation was affiliated with a church. By 1850 that number had doubled to 34%. Most of the growth was as a result of the gains by the Methodists and Baptists on the frontier. Why? A key factor was the secularisation of the mainline denominations. ‘The religious message had become too vague, too accommodated and too secular to have broad appeal.'”

One reader comments;  “fascinating. i was struck by how much the early days of these movements resemble the landscape of our current situation with the exception being that i believe the frontiers are now the inner city and the safety zones are now the rural towns.”

The ‘watering down’ and undermining of scripture in order to preach a message that will appeal to more ‘paying customers’ and placate politicians causes eternal casualties among the very people who desperately need to hear His Gospel message.   Prophets of long ago spoke to this outrage;  “And there shall be, like people, like priest: and I will punish them for their ways, and reward them their doings. For they shall eat, and not have enough: they shall commit whoredom, and shall not increase: because they have left off to take heed to the LORD.”  (Hosea 4:9,10)

If the professional clergy who practice this sort of religion would take a warning from scripture I would point them to this; “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot.  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.” (Rev 3:15, 16)  Thank God for those clergy who remain faithful to His Word and His call upon them.

Love Wins by Rob Bell

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Love Wins is a difficult book to read if you take the Bible seriously.  In the preface, Rob Bell states;  “A staggering number of people have been taught that a select few Christians will spend forever in a peaceful, joyous place called heaven,while the rest of humanity spends forever in torment and punishment in hell with no chance for anything better. …. This is a misguided and toxic and ultimately subverts the contagious spread of Jesus’s message of love, …”  Yet, the Bible tells us this is exactly what Jesus taught; “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”  (Matt. 7:13-15)

Love Wins quotes enough scripture to make people who don’t know their Bible very well think that it is faithful to God’s Word.  Sadly,  Love Wins leads people away from the Gospel.  When we go deep into the heart of the Gospel we have to deal with hard truths and eternal realities.  Jesus tells it to us straight up so that we can choose life.  What would Rob Bell have us do?  If we don’t like the answers ask more and more questions until we get answers we like.  Or do we cover up the truth with doubt by perpetual questions that lead nowhere?  Why doesn’t Rob Bell check out the Bible to search for his answers?  Rob Bell reveals why; “Isn’t that what Christians have always claimed set their religion apart – that it wasn’t, in the end, a religion at all – that you don’t have to do anything, because God has already done it through Jesus? At this point another voice enters the discussion – the reasoned, wise voice of the one who reminds us that it is, after all, a story [emphasis mine].” (p. 11,12)    Rob Bell believes that the Gospel is ‘just a story’ and if it is ‘just a story’ we can change it to suit ourselves – make it better and not as demanding.

Love Wins has a theme of works-righteousness running through it that caters to postmodern sensitivities.  People like the message that they are basically good and can make the world into a better place.  Rob Bell suggests that we can prepare for heaven by working towards making heaven on earth right now; by helping out God; “… working for clean–water access for all is participating now in the life of the age to come.”  (p. 45)  As the book proceeds Rob Bell teaches that not only can we ‘help out’ God but that our essential nature is basically good;  “And that’s what we find in Jesus’s teaching about hell – a volatile mixture of images, pictures, and metaphors that describe the very real experiences of rejecting our God-given goodness and humanity.”  (p. 73)  The Bible tells us; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Jesus tells us; “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. “(Mark 10:18)  Love Wins is based on the idolatry of our world – the worship of humanity.  The truth is people go to hell not because they reject their ‘God given goodness’ but because they reject Jesus; “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)

To conclude, Rob Bell scaffolds his arguments on how some people have hurt others with their comments and judgemental attitudes; for example, the person who said that ‘Gandhi is in hell’ (p.1)  and the young Christian who asks a grieving person if her deceased friend was a Christian (p. 3).  The book builds the impression that Christians who take the Bible at face value have taught “millions” that “God would have no choice but to punish them forever in conscious torment in hell.”  (p. 173)  Who can speak against such alleged abuses.   Rob Bell in championing the cause of the victims of religious intolerance sets himself up as the hero of a loving god!  “And that is the secret deep in the heart of many people, especially Christians: they don’t love God.  They can’t because the God they’ve been presented with and taught about can’t be loved.  That God is terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable.” (p. 174, 175)  So Love Wins  presents a different god.  A god that doesn’t require any decision or commitment on the part of people in this life.  Oh, good behaviour is nice and makes you a better partner with God in making this world a better place but it isn’t required.  In so doing, Rob Bell, empties the cross of its power to transform lives and makes Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross seem like a publicity stunt.  Sadly this book will tickle the ears of many.

I love fractals

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I have made fractal images from freeware programs for many years.  The images can be haunting and they always fascinate me.  The link below will provide some back ground on fractal geometry.

http://classes.yale.edu/fractals/

I created these images very quickly with two freeware fractal generators.

Lip Service

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Matthew 15:8,9 “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.”

      Have you ever found yourself just ‘going through the motions’ – the accepted rule becomes the way its done and any true meaning empties out.   When this  happens in our spiritual life we get into trouble. The ‘motions’ become more important than God.   Doing it ‘our way’ becomes official and ‘His way’ is no longer in the forefront.   Self righteousness takes root in our hearts and life becomes a show of being good. The Pharisees criticized Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands to become ritually clean before eating and thereby going against the traditions of the elders.   Jesus’ disciples didn’t do it their way – which to them was the only right way!

      Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees used that very same body of traditions as a way of avoiding taking care of their parents. “For God commanded, saying, `Honor thy father and mother,’ and, `He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.’ But ye say that whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, `by whatsoever thou might have profited by me, it is a gift,’ and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:4-6) The Pharisees could give what should have been support to their parents in old age to God as ‘a gift’  thereby avoiding their commitments. They were sneaky and self-righteous.

      When we weasel out of something we promised, we make our actions sound reasonable, at least I do.  Like the Pharisees, we can confuse doing our own thing with doing the right thing .  And cover up with lip service and a ‘show of being good’.  Paul summed up the spiritual state of the Pharisees and their followers;  “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3)

     Others point out; “And this is the root problem of the self-righteous. Those who find no fault with themselves, but who find numerous faults in others, are guilty of blatant arrogance in that they see themselves as perfect in knowledge or [in many cases] righteousness and have no qualms about holding themselves up as the example by which they compare all others. . . .  God’s word is not the standard and not even Christ is the standard; they are the standard.” (The Sin of Self-Righteousness)  When self-righteousness takes root in a church or a church leadership, the people follow.  People start believing that they are better Christians than others; “Self-righteousness is not just an inflated view of self, but it is coupled with a view of others as inferior. . . . .they go further in applying that belief and conclude that all others must, naturally, be inferior to themselves.” (Ibid)

     Do you find your worship, song and testimony is delivered with ‘spiritual dry mouth’?  God doesn’t want any of that stuff;  “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)  Jesus didn’t come for the (self)righteous.  He came for the sinners; “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13)   (Self) righteous people have little or nothing to repent for and so have little or no need of Jesus; “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” (Luke 7:47)

     Here is a handy checklist to see if you’re self-righteous.    1)  Who are you judging?  If you’re looking at other people and not yourself you’re in trouble; “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)  2)  Who have you condemned and who do you have an unforgiving attitude towards?  Are you the only one who is entitled to mercy; “Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned. Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”  (Luke 6:37)   3)  Is the Holy Bible the Word by which you live your life or the standard by which you measure others?  Does the Bible convict you or do you use it to condemn others;  “For if any be a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a mirror; for he beholdeth himself, and then goeth his way and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.” (James 1:23,24)  4)  Do you feel superior to anyone – in your church, other churches or in the community?  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galations 3:28)  These four simple points help me overcome my self-righteousness but it is a daily struggle.  How easy it is for me to forget what manner of man I am!

     The best antidote to lip service and spiritual ‘dry mouth’ is gratitude for what God has done for us! Take a sober moment of reflection to begin to realize our spiritual condition;  “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15)   Realize that Jesus came not to comdemn but to save;  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”  (John 5:24)  Realize that Jesus is talking about you and me.  Realize that Paul is talking about himself so we can see that we’re no better than Paul.  When we accept the Gospel truth about ourselves, we can worship from our heart.  When we truly believe we are sinners saved by Grace then we are ready to share the Gospel with others.

 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.                                                                                                 (Psalm 51: 10-13)

Praise the Lord!

Rest for the weary

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Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

     Has the world beaten you down?  Are you tired of fighting to make headway against events and people that continually push you back?  Are you tired of fighting against yourself?  If you have nothing left but a broken heart, loneliness and disappointment and fear is pounding at your door then listen to His still small voice.  You have to pause, stop struggling and be still.

      When Elijah, after one of his greatest triumphs for the Lord, succumbed to fear and anxiety; he ran away to hide in a cave.  God whispered to him; ” . . ., and behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”  (1 Kings 19:11,12)   Over the tumult of the world, over the clamor of his inner doubts and fears – God’s ‘still small voice’ was calling Elijah out of his cave.  The cave is for hiding.  There is no rest in it; only an unholy communion with our torment.

     The heaviest burdens we carry are those spawned in our own minds.  They grow out of trauma and wounds.  They are but wisps and shadows in our memories yet their weight presses down upon our spirit, twisting our soul and crippling our emotions.  These wisps and shadows take on a life of their own; Rejection, Abuse and Fear are the names of some of them.   They all live in the cave with you.  They all lie.  Rejection insists; “You’re no good, nobody loves you.   You’ll never find anyone! You’ll never belong anywhere.”  Abuse snarls; “You’re bad, you’re ugly and stupid, pain and hurt is what you deserve.”  Fear gnaws; “Don’t risk it, you’ll be sorry.  You’ll fail and it will be your fault.  Don’t trust anyone.”   Over time the lies wear us down and our lives become an inner and outer struggle.  With one arm you’re fending off the cave shadows and with the other arm your pushing back against an indifferent and often hostile world.  You become exhausted!

     When I was in grade four I spent several weeks in a hospital being tested for mental retardation.  I was being bullied at school and the teacher was getting increasingly impatient with me as I was always in some kind of trouble in the school yard.  The kids said I couldn’t talk right.  What was really happening is that I was trying so hard to fit in and be accepted I was mixing up Danish with my English.  In my desperate desire to communicate I was picking Danish words that carried nuanced meanings that didn’t exist in English and vice versa.  The garbled outcome had the exact opposite effect from what I had hoped for.  I became an object of ridicule among the kids in the school.  Anyone who has been bullied knows that after the ridicule comes the beatings.  It got so bad I couldn’t sleep at night, my appetite left and I ended up pulling into my little child cave.  Shortly after, I found myself in the hospital putting together funny little puzzles with a nice lady timing me with a stop watch.

     The shadows that were spawned in my cave have never let up.  Daily the lying shadow voices accuse me of being stupid, never fitting in, not getting it, not saying the right things.  I can’t leave them at the ‘foot of the cross’ because they go where my head goes.  Today, my cave is bigger because I’m bigger but there is a little corner where the child still is and where it all started.  I know now that there is a way to overcome on a daily basis.  His name is Jesus.  He calls me out of the cave into His light.  Light is the only thing that will defeat the shadows.  His Word tells me that I’m worthy.  His Word tells me that I’m not stupid.    When I slip back into my cave, His Word comes with me and exposes the lies overcoming the shadows.  Jesus follows me into my cave and leads me out of it; ” . . . He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised . . .” (Luke 4:18)  His Word tells me that He loves me; “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Psalm 139:14)

      Gradually, His Word is shinning a pure light in all the corners of my cave exposing all the lies.   He’s not done with me yet; “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6)  His light will defeat all the shadows in my cave.  Jesus tells us; “. . . , If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31,32)

     He has set me free! 

     He can set you free!

     Praise the Lord!

Carving Night at Bob’s

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Bob and Bill working hard on their projects.

This is a close up of Bill's duck. The feather details are traced on the duck and Bill is using a burning tool to creat the feathers in the wood.

This is my project - a wood duck. The basic colours are painted on and details have yet to be added.

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