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Showing posts from 2012

Legalism

The greatest insult in the Church today is to call somebody a Pharisee. Pharisees are a group of Jews that still exist but at the time of Jesus death they were considered the religious elite. Jesus, however, did not have kind words for them. He regularly pointed out there hypocrisy and exclaimed that they would strain out a gnat only to swallow a camel (Matt. 23:24). Although the label of a pharisee is often misapplied and typically used by a pharisee of a different type, it is important to analyze the nature of legalism so that we can avoid it.

When we were in Israel our Jewish guide explained to us a concept that is key to understanding the heart of legalism. He said that the Jews had 613 (Mitzvot) laws that act as a fence around the commands of God. In other words, if people keep the 613 laws then they will have no chance of actually disobeying God, since the fence protects them from it. How then did something that sounds so noble turn out to be their curse?

Obeying a law does not …

Decision Making

Making decisions about life is a difficult process. On Canadian thanksgiving I was notified that the company was closing down our office and they were hoping that I and my wife would move to Huntsville, Alabama. The offer they were making was compelling and forced us to have to make a big decision. Would we move to Huntsville or not?
At first we thought we would move. We knew it would be hard but it was the only option that gave me a guaranteed job. However, as time went on and we analyzed our decision making process, we realized that the only reason we were considering moving was because of the career implications. That is not necessarily a bad reason but is it the right reason?
This kind of decision needs to take into account all of life not just one aspect. The important things in life are often long term in their consequences and benefits. A wedding happens in a day but a marriage lasts until death. Children are conceived in a moment but they live a lifetime. In both of these case…

Forgiveness Leads to Reconciliation

The following post is a response I wrote to a blog that had stirred up some discussion regarding a division that happened to a Church I went to when I was young. The division happened in 1991 and has cause many issues since. I was hoping to stir up the readers to think about reconciliation instead of division.

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One of the issues with the church in general is that it does not connect with reality. This could be in the form of plastic smiles, tribal language, or emotional debauchery. As Christians we often talk about what we should do and what others should do but when we look at our own lives there is almost no evidence that we are actually doing what Jesus did. No, we are not saved by works but the Holy Spirit does live in us (or does He?), and greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.

Forgiveness. This should be the hallmark of every Christian and therefore of every church. When the world looks at the church do they see forgiveness or do they see divisio…

Management Techniques

Over the course of my career I have been recognized with the ability to build and manage great teams. The methods that I use are unconventional but effective. These methods will not work for everyone but maybe it will make you think.

Employees who work to please you are better than employees who work because they fear you. An employee who fears you will only do enough to keep you happy, an employee who wants to please you will do as much as they can to make you happy. If someone fears you they will not do any more than they are asked, which makes you the limit on their potential. If someone wants to please you they are the limit of their potential and you are there to help them be better than they ever thought they could be.

Developing a team that tries to please requires you to be a captain rather than a coach. A coach stands on the sidelines and yells at you whenever you are doing something and makes sure you are doing the right things. A captain does a very similar thing except he …

What is important in life?

Contemplating a move to a different country really makes you think about what is important in life. We are on this earth for a very a short time and we need to make the most of it, but what are we to make the most of?

Should we try to make the most amount of money? Money enables us to do what we would like to do when we would like to do it. However, there is no proven link that money actually makes you happy. In most cases you become a slave to money since you become dependent on it to maintain a certain standard of living.

Should we try to make the most of our own happiness? We often hear the saying, "as long as it makes you happy." The problem with happiness is the same problem with money, it does not satisfy because it takes more and more to make us happy.

There is a lot to be learned from older people. They have seen what life has to offer and should have a good perspective on what is important. Many older people have had successful careers but what really matters to the…

Lance Armstrong

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USADA released a damning report about Lance Armstrong's use of performance enhancing drugs  (PEDs) last week. This report contains incontrovertible evidence that cycling is dirty from the riders right up to the UCI. In recent years however it seems that the sport has done a lot to clean itself up. Lance was not the only person to dope but just one of many.
Nobody should have needed USADA's report to know that Lance Armstrong doped. Like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens before him it was obvious to those without an invested interest that Lance Armstrong took PEDs. It is amazing that so many people require absolute evidence when common sense dictates that it is impossible to do what he is doing without some sort of performance enhancing drug.
Many argue that it should not matter if someone takes performance enhancing drugs if everybody else is taking them too. This argument makes us ask the question what is the purpose of sport? Sport, at the competitive level, is the measure of s…

Tough Decisions

Important decisions are hard to make. Just last week I found out that they are closing the office where I work, which means I will have to find a job. There are several options including going to a different country to work. These decisions needless to say have caused me great anxiety, which always reminds me of these verses, "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6)."

The immediate reaction to these verses is to rationalize them. Maybe we say we are not actually anxious or that it only applies to certain situations. Although it would be great if that were true it is most likely not the case. The truth is we don't trust God as much as we should. We know that He is our creator and is in control of every bit of our life. Also, there is n…

Summer is done

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If anybody is reading this blog regularly you may wonder why there are very few posts in the summer. The reason is that I am away most weekends in the summer enjoying the beautiful weather and water at  my parents cottage. However, I am still thinking and wondering about why things are in this world. With the onset of winter I will be posting more regularly again, usually Saturday or Sunday mornings. I hope that these thoughts will be a blessing to all of you in the next year.

Heavenly Perspective

If this earth is full of pain and sorrow Heaven is for you. If this earth is full of joy and happiness Heaven is for you. Some people think of Heaven as a place where you sing songs, bow down, and look Jesus in the face. Other people think of Heaven as a place where you play golf, hang out with your friends, and are on vacation all the time. And still others think of Heaven as not Hell.

Even though all of those characterizations are probably true they are still missing the main point that Heaven is about a relationship with the Father and the Son. This answer may not be satisfying to you depending on your understanding of a relationship. A relationship does not mean that you will always be in a never ending conversation with God with nobody else around. There are many ways to get to know God as we already experience here on this earth. Nature and people bring us into a deeper relationship with God and there is no reason to expect that friendships, exploration of nature, and parties w…

Jealousy

Jealousy is culpable for more church splits than doctrinal differences. People may dress up their disagreements in doctrine but the naked truth is that they simply do not like the other person and/or group. Once jealousy has taken root it is very difficult to weed out.
Envy is not jealousy. Envy is wanting something that you don't have. Jealousy is hating the person for it. Feeling that you deserve something, or that another person does not deserve something, or that you are better than someone could all be sources of jealousy. For example; A co-worker is promoted above you and you think that they are not deserving because you could do the job better than them. Jealousy is to continually look for ways to make that person look bad, pointing out all of their mistakes, or always trying to one-up them.
In the church jealousy is no different and when it is present there is destruction. James tells us that, "where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and ever…

This Mystery is Profound

"This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32)."

Marriage is not seen as important anymore. Many people don't see the purpose in it and decide to not get married at all, they say they don't need a piece a paper to say that they are married. If they do get married they often test drive the car first and end up in divorce.

A car that has been driven for a short period of time at low speeds is in relatively good condition. But a car that has been driven at top speed for years at a time is a used car even if it has never been bought. Nobody would buy a used car at the price of a new one. The analogy of test driving a car for why people live together is a bad analogy and a bad decision. It is no secret that people who live together have a higher rate of divorce.

The reason why people who live together often get divorced is because they don't understand what it means to love someone. The love of Christ for the Church is b…

Homosexuality

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The news is full of talk about homosexuality. North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment that states marriage is solely between a man and a woman. President Obama himself came out and said that his stance on same-sex marriage has evolved. Biola, a Christian university, also made the news with the coming out of a LGBTQ community on its campus.

Voices on both sides of this debate have spoken for and against same-sex marriage. President of Biola, Barry Corey, gave a reasoned and tolerant response to the crisis that is developing on his campus.
Dan Savage, author, writer, and political activist, gave an intolerant and bullying (WARNING: Video is offensive) response to the topics surrounding homosexuality. These two people show a stark contrast between the different sides in this debate. Most of the well known voices that support homosexuality tend to be unnecessarily intolerant and derisive. In comparison, most of the well known Christian voices that do not support homosexuality t…

Do this in remembrance of me

I don't like going to church because it is full of hypocrites. Why should I go to church on Sunday, I don't get anything out of it? I don't need to go to church to be a Christian. Do these statements seem familiar?

Let's be honest, most people stop going to church because the hypocrisy they see in the lives of others reminds them too much of their own. Why are we surprised when we see hypocrisy in the church? Are we never hypocritical ourselves? We are to love our enemies and so should we not love hypocritical Christians who are just like us? Real hypocrisy is calling yourself a Christian and not be willing to die for the Church. Is that not what Jesus did?

Many people also struggle with the purpose of going to church because they get nothing out of it. The common response is that it is not what you get it is way you give. That is easy for some people to say but it does not fit with reality. Most people require real experiences to drive their hearts in worship. Being h…

Postmodern Certainty Part 2

Interpretation of the Bible requires humility and, as we discussed before, examining what Christians have believed throughout the centuries is a good way to check your own interpretation. Another consideration is the zeitgeist in which you live.

It seems that most people today know what their parents, or previous generations, did wrong but there seems to be little self reflection on what is wrong with our own generation. Society influences our decisions and also influences our biblical interpretations. Don't be surprised if your interpretation is strongly correlated to society's views on the same issues, but then maybe it is not previous generations that got it wrong?

Women's issues and homosexuality are predominant in the news and conversations in North America. These same issues are being discussed in the church and churches are dividing over them. Many "churches" based on the cultural ignorance of the times decide that we need to keep in step with current soci…

Don't Judge Me

How often have you heard someone say, "don't judge me!", or "it is not our place to judge?" This attitude is common in our society and is just as common in the church. As long as the person is not doing something to harm someone else then we should not do or say anything to them.

The Bible seems to be unclear when it comes to judging. For every verse that says, "who are you to judge your neighbor? (Jam. 4:12)", there is another verse that says, "is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? (1 Cor. 5:12)" Our muddled thinking does not come from the Bible but from our understanding.

Not everything that is categorized as judging is judging. Warning someone that their behavior is destructive to themselves and those around them is called love. If someone is driving towards a cliff it is our duty to warn them that if they continue along that path they will indeed reap the consequences. "If anyone among you wanders from the truth …

Strassion

On April 18, 2012 at 03:22 my wife delivered our baby dead to the world but alive for eternity. We named our child Strassion as a reminder of the strength and compassion that we need to live our life on this earth. It was a short journey into the world of death for us but it has left a mark that although may fade will never disappear from our memories.

The journey began on the morning of January 23, 2012 when we suspiciously but unexpectedly found out that we were pregnant. This news filtered down to us like gradually waking up with a morning coffee; not knowing what to think, turned into acceptance, which then turned into looking forward to what was ahead of us. My wife is a Type I diabetic so we had to immediately start meeting with doctors to ensure that her sugars and the pregnancy was going as expected.

The faint glimmer of the rainbow of what was to come disappeared on the afternoon of March 5, 2012, 11 weeks and 4 days into our pregnancy, when we found out that our child had an…

Why do we have to suffer?

Everyone goes through trials in their life but why does God allow it? Paul in his letter to the Corinthians explains the wisdom of God (2 Cor. 4:7-18). The trials that come our way will take us to the limit but not one step further (2 Cor. 4:8-9). These trials may be for our own good (Heb. 12:6), but most likely they are for the sake of others. We suffer so that God's glory can be shown to the whole world and especially to those who believe or will believe (2 Cor. 4:15).

Not all suffering is punishment for something we have done. It could be that your suffering is for the benefit of someone else. Are you willing to suffer so that someone else will come to the knowledge of God? Are you willing to live the rest of your life in suffering so that someone else will have the opportunity to hear the gospel? Are you willing to live the rest of your life in suffering without knowing the reason why, trusting only in God that He knows what is best?  These questions are abstract until they be…

Perfect Church

"And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42)." How many times have you heard it said that, "we want to be an Acts 2 church." This church described in Acts 2 is held up as the pinnacle of being a church. There is no disagreement that this fellowship of believers was indeed admirable but we need to be realistic about what the rest of the New Testament tells us about the church.

New testament churches were not perfect. If they were the New Testament would never have had to be written. In fact, some new testament churches seemed so dysfunctional that most of us would probably not go there on the grounds that they were worldly or too legalistic. Would you go to a church where there are incestuous relationships and yet the church is still arrogant about their spirituality (1 Cor. 5:1-2)?

Here is a list of some of the issues that were occurring in a selection of churches in the New Testamen…

Hall of Faith

Imagine yourself walking into a great hall of Heaven with millions upon millions of people line up on every side and all around.

The crowd rises and cheers as you make your way to your seat. The applause is thunderous and an energy is running through the crowd that you have never experienced as the presence of Unity is tangible. When you arrive to your seat nobody sits down and are still clapping. You go to lean over to the person next to you to ask why everybody is still clapping but they have tears in their eyes.  Suddenly the crowd grows silent in what seems to be eager expectation. Then as if He appeared from nowhere Jesus walks up and sits on the throne in the middle of the people and says, "you may not have been famous on earth but you are famous here." With that hundreds of people, one by one, walk up on the stage surrounding the throne and say thank you. Some you don't remember, some you only prayed for, some never even met, and others you devoted your life to, b…

Church Division

The Church has divided for centuries for many different reasons. These reasons can be categorized into two categories, personal and doctrinal. Personal divisions are those that are centered on individuals who cannot get a long as a result of pride, injustice, jealousy, etc... Doctrinal divisions are those that are centered on differences in interpreting the Bible.

Divisions because of personal conflicts are the hardest to deal with because of all of the emotions that are involved. Most disagreements even if they start out doctrinal usually turn personal. It is hard for people to allow for differences without thinking negatively of the person who disagrees with them. The reverse is also true that divisions that start out personal can also turn doctrinal. People may justify their dislike of certain people by a difference in doctrine.

The Bible is quite clear on how to work through personal differences. We should consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). Since it is obvious that…

Persevering through Trials

The book of James found in the Bible gives us some good advice when we meet trials in this life:
Count it all joy (1:2): Trials are not purposeless but are meant for our good (Rom.8:28). They change us from selfish people to people who depend on God. It is an honor to suffer like Christ because we are then experiencing what He went through. Not everybody is deemed worthy of suffering.Ask God for wisdom (1:5): We don't have to worry about making all of the right decisions on our own but we can ask God and trust that He will guide and direct us. Psalms 37:5 says, "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act."Understand the big picture (1:9): Everybody goes through trials and often our trials are insignificant compared to what other people have gone through. We need to understand that trials are for God's glory not ours.Persevere to receive the crown of life (1:12): Our trials and suffering on earth result in blessings in Heaven. Even though we may wonder …

Behind the Eyes

A fading smile shows the long miles. It is those wrinkles in the face that show the kind of race. What is behind those eyes, once you get passed the lies? Is it endless delights or sleepless nights? The smile appears but through how many tears. The smile disappears but for how many years.

One minute there is expectation and hope, but the churn of the stomach and the expectant "but" have you reaching for the life rope. It cannot be forgotten and cannot be wished out of existence like it's not going to happen. The march of reality sets in but living day to day lets you breath again.

Each moment can trigger a memory that brings you back to the start and reminds you of that burden in your heart. It is not the worst that could happen but it is the worst that has happened to you. When the fog clears and your eyes can see the path through the fear then the thoughts are not so near.

There is One who is in control as revealed to us in the Scroll. He demonstrated His love even tho…

Investing

Jesus told the rich young man that he could trade in his earthly treasure for heavenly treasure by giving it to the poor (Mark 10:21, Matthew 19:21). A treasure is something we find valuable such as a house or a car. It is not hidden treasure at the bottom of the ocean or in some cave but is an earthly possession that cost a lot of money. Jesus is telling the rich young man that he can spend his earthly possessions to save up heavenly ones. These heavenly possessions are not identified conclusively in this verse but Paul gives us an idea when he says, "what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy (1 Thess. 2:19-20)." Heavenly treasures, in part, are other people who know the Lord Jesus Christ. We can store up money for ourselves or we can invest in other people.

It sometimes feels as if the greatest battle on this earth is practicing delayed gratification. We know that the rewards are better in…

Music, Movies and the Internet

Music is powerful. It makes children dance, comforts those who are down, and incites those who are angry. There is almost no one who does not like it. Music can be used for good or bad but you cannot deny its power. Knowing its power should be a warning to us that we ought to be careful. What sort of thoughts and ideas enter our minds with the music we are listening to? Many people say that you should only listen to music that is Christian, meaning music that is produced by people who claim to be Christian. Although this is a start, I don't think it goes far enough. Some "Christian" music is worse than music that is not because of the poor doctrine that it articulates. It does not matter so much who wrote the song but what the song is about. We need to be critical about the things we are listening because they are powerful and deceitful.

Movies combine both music and visual stimulation to tell a story. These stories are often if not always immoral. We often think it is a…

Money

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils (1 Tim. 6:10). Money is the means by which we get what we want. Perhaps a better translation for this verse would be, "being able to fulfill our desires is a root of all kinds of evils." Unlike any generation that has come before us we are able to satisfy our impulses immediately without time for even a second thought. The whole collection of Beethoven can be bought from your iPhone in the time it takes to type in your password. The verses found in the Bible about money are more applicable today than ever before.

Making money is not a problem but keeping it for yourself is. James, the brother of Jesus, says "your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you. You have laid up treasure in the last days (James 5:3-4)." Bank accounts full of money will cry out that we  "lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence (James 5:5)." Money demonstrates who we are really wors…

The True Church

Many people have claimed the status of being the one "true" Church left on this earth. But what exactly does that mean?

"There is one body and one Spirit (Eph. 4:4). It is true that there is only one true Church, but that is not what people are claiming. They are claiming that the group of people they associate with have been given a special position by God. Some of these groups may deny the reality of other believers, but that is clearly adding to the gospel. The only requirement to being a Christian is belief in Jesus Christ. You do not have to be part of a specific group of people in the Church although you do have to be part of it in some way. The remaining claims are centered around the governmental function of the church.

The responsibilities of Christians are primarily moral. A Christian does not have to perform any rites or rituals to be acting as a Christian, although it can be beneficial (1 Cor. 11:17-33), their only responsibility is to act according to God&#…

Courage under Fire

The blogosphere has lit up with again with President Obama's new Affordable Care Act. The requirement that everyone must pay for abortions is not sitting well with people like Chuck Colson, Rick Warren, and Albert Mohler and it should not sit well with you either!

It seems to me that we often let opportunities pass to stand up for the truth under the guise of tolerance but in the name of cowardice. Our fear of offending others is stronger than our convictions in what God has revealed to us. It is similar to the person who thinks they would give their life for someone when they will not even give them 5 minutes of their day. There are always opportunities to live out our Christian convictions, and this is one of them. What will you do?

Will you stand up for the helpless in our society or will you find a technicality that assuages your conscience?

Prosperity Gospel

The recent controversy of The Elephant Room has brought to mind a critical issue regarding the prosperity gospel. Most of the controversy surrounds the modalist views, or lack thereof, of T.D Jakes, but it is the prosperity gospel that touches most evangelicals.

If somebody reads the Bible and thinks that God desires that all Christians be healthy and wealthy on this earth they are obviously illiterate. There is nothing further from the Truth. Jesus left the glories of Heaven to come to this earth.That alone should indicate to us that our life is not about our comfort but about other people. Jesus tells us that we will have trouble in this life, but don't worry He has overcome the world (John 16:33). Timothy tells us that "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12)." The ethos of faith is contrary to having all of our needs met in this life. It is about laying down our lives for others because that is what Jesus Christ did for us…

Infinite Value

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45)."

Christianity is unique among all the religions in the world. Every other religion preaches violence or indifference towards enemies, but Jesus Christ preaches loving and praying for them. This God is truly worthy of worship. If this characteristic were displayed consistently by Christians it would blind the whole world with the glory of God. Why is it seemingly absent?

One reason why this characteristic is not displayed is because we think that it only applies to life and death situations and not to our every day life. There is this common misconception that we would stop a bullet for someone but not give them a ride if they are too far away from our house. If we are not willing to go out of our way for someone now what makes us think w…

No Other Name

"There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)."

The name Jesus is nothing special taken out of context. We know this for sure because the name Jesus is a translation from a different language, another name could have been chosen. Even when the name Jesus is used to refer to the historic Jesus of Nazareth, it still is not meaningful (if you only think He is man like everyone else). The power and the meaning of the name of Jesus comes when we understand who He is as He revealed Himself.

People can only be saved if they understand and believe in Him. Does this mean they have to know the English name Jesus? No, because there are thousands of languages in the world. Do they have to understand the whole Bible faultlessly? No, because the early Christians may not have even had access to what we commonly call the Bible. It is clear that belief is based on knowing Jesus, but what is the minimum knowledge required?

This is a difficult ques…

Revelation and the Costa Concordia

The book of Revelation, the last book in the bible, is a fascinating book. Its content is hard to interpret authoritatively, but certain messages come through loud and clear. As of late, it seems that Evangelicals are studying this book once again, whether it is reading books, bible studies, sermon series, blogs, or debates. This renewed interest in Revelation may simply be coincidence or it could be the Holy Spirit telling us something greater.

Revelation is about judgment and the West is ready for judgment. Abortion, sexual perversion, divorce, and greed are hallmarks of our society and all of them are detestable to God. Judgment is at the door. Our excess of food and our prosperous ease is taken for granted while our system of greed teeters on the brink of financial ruin. The ship is listing and it is not an electrical problem. What will happen when the ship rolls on its side?

Many think of the West as being civilized, where dialogue occurs rather than war. This may be the case whe…

Faith

Faith is one of those words that everybody uses without thinking about what they are saying. It is like the words "till death do us part," the meaning is clear but few mean it. A proper understanding of faith is critical to Christianity.

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1)." It does not operate without a frame of reference but requires a foundation. The strength of the foundation produces the assurance and conviction. People have more faith in a banker keeping their money safe then a thief. If the foundation of a house is unstable then so is the house. Faith is not greater than the foundation, it only displays its strength.  That is why faith in faith is absurd because it equates to having faith in oneself; a known unstable foundation, which only amounts to wishful thinking.

Some people like to think that faith will make God do stuff for them. They claim that if they believe something will happen, then God wil…

Sex and the Church

Selling ice to Eskimo's is like selling sex to the West; we both have too much of it and don't need it. There is one difference, however, and that is the West keeps buying it. Whether it is the latest PG13 movie or a church trying to get people into its doors, sex sells! Sadly, the church either does not respond or cannot be heard because of the lack of distinction it its voice. Many professing Christians today have sex outside of marriage but there is very little real talk of either accountability or responsibility. Is it that nobody feels they have the authority to speak on these issues because they have failed themselves? This may be the case but we still need speak out for the glory of God.

What does sex have to do with the glory of God? The act of sex is described as to know your husband or wife." Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain (Gen. 4:1)." This is not just a physical act but a spiritual act where the spirit of a man and a woman are unit…