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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

On the Right Side of God

July 6, 2016 4 comments

BandwagonThese days are challenging ones for Bible-believing Christians in North America. Even needing to use the term “Bible-believing Christian” is evidence of this. It used to be that saying “Christian” assumed the “Bible-believing” part, but that’s not necessarily true these days, when even the Church is laying aside God’s Word to avoid the sting of being labelled – among other things – IRRELEVANT by a world that fancies itself to be heading in the right direction.

And the world – at first smilingly, then imperatively – is beckoning the Church to follow, inviting us onto the New World Bandwagon. In one of the many articles I’ve read on the subject lately, this invitation was accompanied by a dire warning: “You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, do you?”

It seems that our society, convinced that its ideological and theoretical revelations have given it the higher moral ground, has peered into the future and has seen that it will be right, and that those of us who do not conform will ultimately discover that we were wrong. We will disappear and be forgotten because we didn’t march forward arm in arm with the world into the dawn of a new age of enlightened thinking. If we did, we would share in our society’s glory, receiving glowing mention in children’s history books in the future. In other words, we would avoid being “on the wrong side of history”.

This would be a compelling argument if I cared about being on the wrong side of history. Actually, I am far more concerned about being on the wrong side of God.

I believe that God lovingly created humankind for relationship – with each other, yes, but primarily with Him. I believe that our earliest ancestors traded that relationship for independence from God, with serious consequences. As we cut ourselves off from our primary relationship, we became damaged, and consequently pride and arrogance made their home in the human heart. With no moral compass, we became a broken race, more naturally inclined to sin than to live righteously, and moreover, prone to justify our sin (see Romans 1:18-32). It’s a sad story. We all ended up on the wrong side of God, cutting ourselves off from His love. We all deserved to be cast from His presence forever.

But God is not like us. We are faithless; He is faithful. Even though our independence, arrogance and pride made us a wounded race with a penchant for sin, God so loved us that gave His Son, Jesus, to die for the forgiveness of our sins and reconcile us with our Heavenly Father. I believe in Jesus. I believe He paid for my sin. I believe He brought me back into right relationship with God. I believe that by the power of the Holy Spirit – God’s gift to His people – we can be transformed – less inclined to sin, and more inclined to humbly ask God for forgiveness when sin happens. There is nothing like experiencing salvation in Jesus Christ – being on the right side of God – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Which brings me back to the New World Bandwagon, with our society alternately beckoning me, shaming me and commanding me to join them on it. The truth is, I can’t.

The difficulty is that, although not all of the “new” morality is bad,  some of it contradicts God’s commands in the Bible, including some specific ones about how – and how not – to relate to each other sexually (see Leviticus 18:1-30). I believe the Bible is God’s Word, and an honest reading of these scriptures – and a number of others in the Old and New Testament – prevents me from shrugging my shoulders and jumping on the bandwagon, simply “because it’s 2016.”

So what is to be done with me? I suppose I can be labelled, judged and written off, which seems to be the common practice these days. Despite its stated values of tolerance and inclusiveness, our society is ironically adept with labels and boxes. It would be easier to judge us and dismiss us if I and other followers of Jesus were two-dimensional haters or “phobes” worthy of such labels. But we aren’t. We aren’t haters for the same reason that we aren’t jumping on the New World Bandwagon: to do so would put us on the wrong side of God. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

So we who are followers of Jesus are called to be compassionate and caring to all without having to call wrong right. This is a tall order, especially in a society that doesn’t understand the concept of compassion without agreement, which is true tolerance. But because of what Jesus has done for us, it is nonetheless our call – unwavering truth lived out with unwavering love.

So as the New World Bandwagon hurtles forward into a future that is less certain than we all think, and demands that I join them or end up on the wrong side of history, I will politely but not silently decline. I will offer a compassionate reminder that it is a far worse thing to end up on the wrong side of God than the wrong side of history, and I will happily extend that which God has given to all Christians to share – the good news that because of the reconciling work of Jesus Christ and the transforming work of His Spirit, anyone who humbly places their faith in Him and seeks to honour His Word can find themselves on the right side of God.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…

April 12, 2015 Leave a comment

“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you…” – Matthew 12Empty tomb:38

It wasn’t the first time the scribes and Pharisees made this request of Jesus, and it wasn’t the last time, either. In fact, they were demanding a sign even as Jesus hung before them, nailed to the cross. They wanted Jesus to show them a miracle – proof that He was the Messiah, the Anointed One of God.

Let’s consider the irony of this demand for a sign.  At the time the scribes and Pharisees were asking Jesus for miraculous proof of His authority (as recorded in Matthew 12), He had already healed a centurion’s servant, delivered two demoniacs from Satan’s power, healed a paralytic, healed a woman who was incurably ill for 12 years, raised a girl from the dead, gave sight to two blind men, restored a man’s withered hand, and brought sight and speech to a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. And that’s an abridged list. To top it off, the scribes and Pharisees had a front row seat at many of these miracles. They were there. They heard. They saw. And they still wanted more proof. What was going on here?

Jesus – in true Jesus fashion – pointed out the real issue to them. It wasn’t a proof problem. It was a heart problem. The scribes and Pharisees weren’t labouring under a lack of proof. They were suffering from hardening of the heart, due to stubborn unbelief. The resulting spiritual paralysis made them what Jesus called “an evil and adulterous generation,” stubborn and rebellious, spiritually fickle, and clamouring for proof that ultimately wouldn’t make a dent in their wall of unbelief anyway. As long as they continually demanded proof, Jesus wasn’t going to waste a sign on them, and He told them so. They would simply have to continue to witness the barrage of signs happening for others in front of their very eyes.

You see, the countless people who received miraculous signs from Jesus weren’t asking for proof. They were asking for help. They came humbly and simply to Jesus, asking for the impossible, and trusting that He could do something to help them. For these people, believing was seeing, not the other way around. And they were rewarded for their faith. But those who refused to believe would not receive a sign.

With one exception. Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except for the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The miraculous sign of Jesus’ identity and authority as the Son of God would be strikingly similar to Jonah’s rescue from a watery grave after three days and nights in the belly of the great fish. Only this sign would consist of Jesus literally rising from the dead, never to die again, after three days and nights in a grave in the earth.

Jesus also noted a tragic difference between the sign of Jonah and the sign He would soon give to the scribes and Pharisees. He pointed out that the people of Ninevah believed Jonah’s testimony and preaching, and repented, resulting in their reconciliation with God. But not so with the Pharisees. Jesus prophetically stated that, even though “something greater than Jonah is here”, the scribes and Pharisees would not believe the sign of Jesus – His empty tomb.

And so it was. Jesus rose from the dead after three days in the tomb, appeared to a total of over five hundred of His relieved and joyful followers over a month, ascended to heaven before their very eyes, and continues to work countless miracles through those who believe in Him, even to this very day. And the scribes and Pharisees, along with everyone since who suffers from an unbelieving heart, stand outside the empty tomb, scratching their heads and looking doubtful – drowning in proof, and yet still parched and paralyzed in their faith.

Before we start making the mistake of proudly thinking that unbelief and doubt belong only to those who reject Jesus, let’s recognize that Jesus was constantly amazed and saddened by these qualities in His own followers. Jesus addresses His own disciples as “You of little faith” five times in the book of Matthew. Evidently, unbelief isn’t something that only hinders and entangles unbelievers. It’s something we all struggle with.

So if we want to see the Lord work powerfully in our lives, it would be good to move on from thinking Jesus needs to prove Himself to us, praying “God, if You’re really there” prayers. It might be more productive to pray like the distraught father who desperately needed Jesus’ help: “I believe; help my unbelief!” With our faith in Jesus up front – where it should be – many signs will follow.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob

Covered!

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

So our roof was in crisis. It was old and curly and losing its asphalt. We weren’t opening umbrellas in the sanctuary yet, but it was only a matter of time before we would have to replace the shingles (which, being translated, meant that it was only a matter of time before we would have to clean out our savings account, and more). We got some estimates, which weren’t encouraging, so we decided to see if, with prayer, we could perhaps experience the same thing with our shingles as the Israelites experienced with their shoes in the desert (see Deut. 29:5).

I felt this was a reasonable request to make of the Lord. After all, we had just willingly given away our very own Brad to be the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, and we had also sent a team of our people with him and his family to bless the fellowship there, leaving not a few holes here in our midst. Of course, as we extend to others, the Lord would cover us in our own time of need, wouldn’t He?

The answer to that question didn’t look so good at first. On Tuesday of last week, it was extremely windy. I know, because I rode my bike to work, and I somehow ended up being against the wind both ways, feeling the burn as I pedaled in first gear, watching people walk by me. In any case, on Tuesday night as I arrived in the Church parking lot, I was greeted by almost a hundred shingles – our shingles – strewn on the ground. One glance at the checkerboard pattern on the roof made it clear that there was a big problem.

I couldn’t understand it. Here we were, vulnerable, prayerfully trying to eke out as much life as possible from our poor roof, and in one fell windy swoop all our hopes were dashed. This roof needed to be done, and now! I started to mentally work on how we could possibly do this, given our current finances. Being at a prayer meeting was fortunate, because when it came to replacing our roof, we didn’t seem to have a prayer, so we needed one.  

We prayed that night for the roof, asking the Lord to help us somehow. Then one of our people prayed that we would have favour with the insurance adjuster. Insurance adjuster?

Well, the shingles weren’t coming off before, or since, and a whole bunch came off on the windy day. It couldn’t hurt to call the insurance company and ask someone to come out and take a look, then make a decision whether the roof might be covered by our insurance policy. I must have looked doubtful, because I felt doubtful. Even though we lost our shingles during a windstorm, they were, after all, old.

I called the insurance company, and they sent someone over. He looked like I felt. But nonetheless, he went on the roof and took his pictures. He said that someone in Calgary had to make the decision. Isn’t that always the way? I suppose for Calgary insurance claims they have to make the decision in Winnipeg. He said he would call me when the verdict came in.

I got the call the next day. “Good news,” he said. “We’re covering it.” I was flabbergasted. After I expressed my gratitude and hung up (and did a happy dance), I reflected on the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to us. He knew all that we’ve been through lately, and He knew we needed a new roof, so He sent a mighty, rushing wind (an “act of God” in insurance lingo) and compassionate Calgarians. And so I sit here gratefully in my office, typing in time with the steady “blonk, blonk, blonk” of the nailers as the roofers shingle our building.

It’s nice to know we’re covered.

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” – Ps 91:4

May the Lord bless you,

Rob