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Just what kind of society do we live in?

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Many people are still under the mistaken impression that we live in a Christian society – if not in practice at least in inclination with respect to morality and world view.  We don’t.

The article in the National Post; “Toronto teacher who posted graphic safe sex posters meant for gay bars back in the classroom” illustrates my point.     The article describes the posters; “The material — which was in the classroom since October — was produced by AIDS Committee Toronto, with a headline that read ‘If you like to f—,’ followed by tips for safe sex. The poster also included a section on ‘How to use your head when giving it,’ complete with fellatio instructions and a photo of a man’s partially exposed buttocks.”  Initially, the School Board put the teacher on ‘home assignment’ (does this mean ‘stay home’ with pay?) when the existence of the graphic ‘sex-ed’  posters in the classroom  became known.   Later the School Board reviewed the incident and re-instated the teacher back into the classroom.

The unsettling aspect of the whole story is the reaction of the parents and students; “Following news of Mr. Vroom’s removal earlier this month, more than 100 parents, students and alumni gathered at the school to demand the teacher’s reinstatement. Students wore t-shirts in support of the teacher and circulated a petition calling for his return.”  If you go and look at the posters  (the links are in the article – warning one is very visually graphic), the attitude of the parents is truly surprising.  What parent would want this kind of material in a grade 7 and 8 classroom?

The article describes a parent’s view point; “Eric Mackey, whose children attend Delta Alternative, said he was aware of the posters long before a Sun News report alerted the school board. ‘If you want to talk to a 12-year-old, or a 13-year-old … then talk to them about real stuff,’ Mr. Mackey told the Post earlier this month. ‘Use the word f—. Use the word ‘blowjob.’ That’s what they’re talking about.’ ”

Apparently at least more than 100 other parents were ‘OK with’ their children being exposed to this kind of material.  As a matter of fact the posters were placed as a response to a parental survey; “Mr. Mackey said parent input led to the posters in the classroom. A survey sent home at the beginning of the school year asked parents to list ‘hot topics’ they hoped would be covered by their child’s education. Mr. Mackey said ‘high-risk behaviour,’ like sex and drug use, was among the most popular responses.”

Is this is the kind of society we now live in?  A society that teaches zero tolerance for God’s Word and asks for sex posters for their kids in the classroom.  Today, every Christian parent needs to think carefully about sending their children into such environments.  Some Christian parents argue that we need to let our children get used to their surrounding culture.  This makes sense but does the argument  still have merit when the prevailing classroom environment becomes spiritually unsafe for Christian children?  We wouldn’t send our young kids into any place that was physically unsafe!

God tells us; “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 11:18,19)  And Jesus warns us; “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)

Given the number of incidents that are occurring in public schools with greater frequency it has become my conviction that  Christian parents, pastors and churches need to address the need for the spiritual safety of their children or answer to God for their failure to do so.

Bring God home with you

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John 14:23 “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.<sup class="crossreference" value="(P)”> My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

     What a wonderful promise!  All we have to do is to show our love for Jesus by obedience to His teaching and He will come and be a part of our family.  He’ll move in and live with us.  His rules become your house rules rather than what the world passes off for morality. Fear of God replaces fear of man.  The home truly becomes a place of refuge, rest and restoration.  Many ache for that in a world filled with trouble even for Christians.

     Jesus told us that we (Christians) would have problems and He would be there with us through them; “. . . In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  We know as Christians the blessings we enjoy even in the midst of trouble.  This knowledge is the source of joy and peace.  How do we know this?   We know because He tells us through His Word; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. . ..”  (the first half of John 16:33)  We can live His truths every day in our homes if He abides with us.

     A few years ago we had dinner guests.  As we sat down to our meal our guests remarked about how peaceful and quiet our old home was.  One person remarked there must be many peaceful ghosts in the house.  I said there was only one ghost in our home – The Holy Ghost and He brought the peace.   It’s odd that many in our time acknowledge the spiritual reality of our existence and are even sensitive to it yet have difficulty accepting His Word.  All blessings come from Him.

     Religious people will tell you that the House of God is their particular church down the street.  They will go and visit God once a week for an hour (and no more than an hour).  If they are especially pious they will come to a midweek and read His Word.  And sadly for some, that is where His rule starts and ends –  in His house not theirs.  I know this because for many years I was such a person.  Religion can promote the opposite of faith by keeping God at a distance in His house far away from daily life.  It’s OK to visit every Sunday but don’t bring Him home with you.  If you have to be seen with Him during the week make sure you go to the ‘mid-week’.

    We make churches around religious idols. And we worship these idols when we try to keep God inside the walls of our churches.  This situation is so contrary to the heart of God.  “What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ ” (2 Corinthians 6:16)  If you  do not walk with God to church, if you do not abide with God in church as you do at home and if you do not walk home with God after church, what you worship is an idol!

     The Good News of the Gospel is that even in all of our stiff necked obstinacy to go our own way, to live by our own rules and to make our own religion to  ‘put God in His place’, He still loves us and He wants to be with us.  Jesus calls out;  “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

     Praise the Lord!

      

Renovation – a work in progress.

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Anyone who has an older home knows that renovation is a work in progress.  It never ends.  Often, we fail to apply the same common sense when it comes to our emotional house.  For some anger, bitterness, resentment and disappointment are hidden structural components in their emotional make up that twist responses and warp relationships continually.  No amount of superficial cosmetic repair will remedy what requires a complete renovation.

You can never leave the past behind until you’ve done the work required to repair the structural flaws that create your present.  When the Israelites wanted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem they had to clear out the rubble first before they could complete their renovation; “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there isummer 2009 and engagement 134s so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”  (Nehemiah 4:10)  In the many years that I have renovated my older home I have always had to strip down the walls right to the frame in order to rebuild properly.  So it is with rebuilding our emotional house.

Some say don’t dwell on your past – you can’t change it.  True!  And it is also true that you can’t use your past as an excuse for your present behavior!  If you do then you are reliving your past at your own expense and everyone else’s.  “When you proclaim that your problems are a direct result from incidents rooted in your past, your argument gets weaker every day.  It’s true that everyone needs recovery time to heal from painful or traumatic life experiences, but they aren’t to be used as a lifetime pass for making excuses.” (Life Reboot)  An Alcoholic Anonymous’ bit of wisdom says; ‘Recovery begins when you stop blaming others’.

Recovery from your past begins when you stop using it as an excuse for your present behavior.  Recovery from your past begins when you start understanding how your past trauma and pain has scripted your present responses to situations in your life.  The key is not to try to change the past but understand how your past affects you today.  This understanding is the key to changing yourself!  You can’t walk away from your past because its ghosts will always haunt you until you deal with them.  How?

A good place to start is to look at what makes you angry.  Anger often covers past hurt; “Erroneous beliefs are beliefs and defenses we build up and replay with anger so we do not have to know the truth about our self. They are called errors of thought or cognitions.” (Lynne Namka)  Look for how anger tricks your thinking process.  As I discussed in an earlier post, I used to get furious when people parked their cars on my lawn during our summer fair.

When I really looked at that anger I found that it was based on old past hurt and resentments over being bullied as a child in school.  I believed that people today when they parked their cars on my lawn were ‘bullying’ me.  I believed that they were deliberately trying to disrespect me and it made me furious.  This anger was linked to a lie in my life that everyone was out to pick on me.  That’s not true.  People who park on my lawn just want to be close to the fair grounds.  They may be inconsiderate but they don’t have anything against me or wish to ‘pick on me’.

Once I understood this I could handle my anger much better.  I cleared out the rubble and  developed a healthier response.  I put up a ‘please don’t park on my lawn’ sign and stopped feeling furious.  I changed positively!

For the Love of praise!

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John12:42,43 “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue;  for they loved human praise more than praise from God.”

     This is a prevalent temptation for every Christian today.  Many have felt the pressure not to openly acknowledge their faith at work, in social gatherings and in public.  In my own career as a leader in the school system I have had many a ‘look’ at my small lapel cross that I usually wore to work.  My supervisors where not keen on it.  The unspoken rule in our culture is if you have faith in Jesus Christ be silent about it in public.  I wasn’t silent about my faith and I got in trouble for it.  If you doubt the existence of this rule try breaking it yourself and see what happens.

     Our young people are quickly taught to keep their views on Jesus to themselves and ‘personal’.  The case of William Swimmer illustrates the point; “. . . , a 12-grade student at Forest Heights Community School in Chester Basin, near Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been suspended for a second time for wearing a T-shirt which mentioned the name of Jesus.  The “offensive” yellow shirt actually reads “Life is wasted without Jesus.”

     I totally agree with young Mr. Swimmer’s T- shirt and would not have suspended him for wearing it.  One official felt Mr. Swimmer should have made his statement more personal; “School Board Superintendent Nancy Pynch-Worthylake, quoted in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, explained that the T-shirt could be offensive to those with other beliefs.  ‘If it said ‘My Life is Wasted Without Jesus,’ that would be fine, said Pynch-Worthylake, ‘because that would be more personal.’ ” 

     Every Bible believing Christian is going to run into trouble with the world because Jesus told us; “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19)  And we know that the world hates His name; “Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine . . . ” (Act 5:28)  

     And so is the choice for every believer – Jesus or silence.  Peter and the apostles made their choice; “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:29-32)  What choice will you make –  Follow the world and be silent or Follow Jesus and speak out?

     The outcome of either choice is perfectly clear.  Jesus said; “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38) And for those who stay the course; “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21)

     It all depends on whose praise you love the most?  “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe.”  (Proverbs 29:25)

     Praise the Lord!

What’s behind the words?

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John 7:18 “Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory,<sup class="crossreference" value="(S)”> but he who seeks the glory of the One who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.”

     Eloquent words don’t always come out of Godly people.  Eloquent words can dish out selfish lies just as easily as the truth.  Preaching good and doing good can be the best way to serve the selfish end of looking good.  The people who listened to Jesus at the temple courts during the feast of Tabernacles were amazed at His teaching; “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?” (John 7:15)   Many ordinary people in the crowd thought He was a good man.  The Pharisees who always looked good said He was a deceiver.  The Pharisees couldn’t care less about the people.  The Bible tells us why the Pharisees were worried about Jesus; “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”  (John 11:48)

     Selfishness can masquerade behind the best of intentions serving the worst of our nature.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between selfish lies and the truth. The Bible gives a good example of this in the parable of the rich young ruler.  Jesus is asked; “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)  Jesus responds; “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (v. 17)  The rich young ruler affirms his ‘goodness’; “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” (v. 20)  Jesus cuts through his facade; “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (v. 21)  The rich young ruler’s ‘goodness’ evaporated; “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” (v. 22)

     The Pharisees spoke on their own as did the rich young ruler.  When we hold ourselves up as good examples, as having good intentions or even voicing regret (without true repentance) for past mistakes because of their personal consequences we speak on our own serving our own selfish interests.  The apostle Paul speaking to the Thessalonians gave the basic nature of honest preaching: ” . . . we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6)

     Those who bring glory to God are approved by God by being entrusted with His Gospel not their own views or their own agendas.  Those who bring glory to God are accountable to God and do not insist on bending others to their will in place of God’s.  They know that God tests their hearts first and foremost.  Those who bring glory to God don’t play on the ego of others through flattery or being two faced serving their own greed or pride while claiming to serve God.  Those who bring glory to God do not need to assert their own authority because the authority of His Word, rightly used, brings His results.  The ‘goodness’ of many wolves in sheep’s clothing will evaporate when held up to Paul’s tenets of honest preaching.

     What can you do if you find yourself within ‘earshot’ of someone who is speaking ‘on his own’?  Scripture tells us plainly; “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.”  (Ephesians 5:6,7)  

     Praise the Lord!

Hope not hell!

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John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world<sup class="crossreference" value="(AA)”> to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

     How well would the Gospel be received if we started sharing it with the statement; “I’ve got news for you – you’re going to hell.”  This would be believable in some parts of the world where conditions are so horrific that the hearer is partial to thinking he or she is halfway there already.  But in our affluent easy lives living in the safety of our land which was bought with the sacrifice of soldiers long gone or gone far away, news like that isn’t believable.

     Good news isn’t news if it doesn’t  give you help and hope here and now.   If everything is going great and you don’t think you’re in trouble why would you believe you’re going to hell? Jesus knew this.  That’s why he said; “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) 

     Preaching avoidance of hell doesn’t play well with a well fed contented crowd.  Most of the time when I hear hell preached its always the ‘other’ people who are going to hell – not us.  Sadly and all too often,  I hear resentment more than concern coming out those preaching hellfire and damnation.  Hell is real, hell is eternal, and hell is a destination.  But people who are open to the Gospel already know that because they are usually living on hell’s front porch. You’ll find them in the hospital, in prison and in the gutter. You’ll also find them in the board room, in an office or in fancy homes living a quiet kind of desperation.

      You won’t find them with your mouth.  You won’t find them with good intentions.  You’ll find them with your eyes – if you have eyes to see with.  You’ll find them with your ears – if you have ears to hear with.  You’ll find them with your heart – if you have His heart.  Oh yes – you’ll find them with your nose – the situation they are in usually stinks.  Hospitals smell.  Prisons smell.  Gutters smell.  Hopelessness, dying, fear and suffering –  all smell.  When it stinks – you know you’re in the right place for the Gospel to be preached.

     The Gospel is a message of hope not hell.  When people are desperate they’ll listen.  When people are desperate they’ll be looking for hope.  Tell them His name.  Tell them He’s on a mission; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; 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) 

     Tell them He’s coming for them!!!

     Praise the Lord!

Nation, church and community

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Does the state provide shelter for the church or does the church provide shelter  for the state?

This question could be viewed as a kind of ‘chicken and egg – which comes first’ sort of question. Yet by exploring how people view the answer we can understand deep seated assumptions about God, spirituality and reality that people hold.  Tolerance and fair treatment is needed for shelter in our world. When did it come about? Who invented the these ideas and enshrined them in community values and laws?

Today many would say that the nation shelters the church in so far as  our country  sets up religious freedom as a Charter Right.

The Canadian Heritage Webpage states: “Under section 2 of the Charter, Canadians are free to follow the religion of their choice. In addition, they are guaranteed freedom of thought, belief and expression.”  These Charter Rights are limited; “Even though these freedoms are very important, governments can sometimes limit them. For example, laws against pornography and hate propaganda are reasonable limits on freedom of expression because they prevent harm to individuals and groups.”

People today, believe that the state nurtures religious freedom, tolerance and all things civilized. The greater community and thus any smaller community within it provides a fundamental ‘living space’ for the church as well as ‘other groups’ to exist.

Yet, history has demonstrated many failures of the state to protect religious minorities. The Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide are but two examples of many tragic episodes of slaughter and failure of a nation to protect.

Even in Canada, we grapple with protecting one religious view over others’ in our society especially when these views are in conflict. We struggle with trying to draw the line on how far to protect one minority’s rights over another’s right to religious freedom of expression when they are in opposition.

Many believe that at some point one group will be censured in order to protect the other group. Sadly, what was to be a guarantee of protection for all becomes a ‘zero sum’ game with winners and losers. What was to be a solution degenerates into just another piece of the puzzle.

Diana Ayton-Shenker writing for the United Nations ponders these questions from a global perspective; “How can human rights be reconciled with the clash of cultures that has come to characterize our time? . . . . As the international community becomes increasingly integrated, how can cultural diversity and integrity be respected? Is a global culture inevitable? If so, is the world ready for it? How could a global culture emerge based on and guided by human dignity and tolerance? These are some of the issues, concerns and questions underlying the debate over universal human rights and cultural relativism.”

The Bible clearly tells us that the church shelters the community. The early church was the framework and shelter of the Christian community (Acts 2:41-47) Indeed we find evidence in the Bible over and over again where the church provided physical, emotional and spiritual shelter to its members through many a hostile social climate. Any reading of the New Testament will confirm this.

Indeed, fair treatment and tolerance was established by God Himself in the Israelite community; “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9 see also Exodus 22:21) God Himself prefigured Jesus’ golden rule in His command to the Israelites; “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34)

Clearly tolerance and fair treatment is not a recent invention of the Canadian Charter of Rights or of any  nation state.   Actually, God invented these ideals when He raised up His chosen people. And we, in His Church inherited them. Fair treatment, tolerance and protecting strangers among us are deeply held religious convictions  of those who belong to His true church.

So in that way the Christian church shelters not only those within it but also the nations that harbor it. All nations should be cognizant of God’s great message to Abram, his children and in grafted (Romans 11:17) children; “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-4)

It is a wise nation that recognizes it’s True Builder, the Author of fairness and tolerance.

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