December 23, 2010

Joy to the World!

Joy is the province of the believer.  Though we have not seen Jesus we love Him.  Though we do not see Him now yet we believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.  And the outcome of such faith?--the salvation of our souls.  (Can I cite this verse here without being derided for holding such a silly faith that has no evidence to support it?  What a relief.)  What a joy!  And enough of it to share with the whole wide world. 

Joy to the world!  The Lord has come.  Let earth receive her King.

But alas, Jesus came to His own and His own did not receive Him.  
But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God. 


I have a new appreciation for my faith these days.  It has become a precious commodity in a forum of people who find it not merely an enigma, but a maddening (un)reality.  Their world knows no sin, no Saviour, and no Good News.  They resent certainty, faith, and I suppose, Joy.

I am ready for a holiday, a holy holiday to celebrate the real live birth of my real live Hero into a world that needs Him more than we know!  

Joy to the World, our King has come.  

Wishing you and yours a joy-filled holy holiday!!!


"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!"
"And without faith it is impossible to please God, for He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a Rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

Quotations and almost quotations are taken from the following:
I Peter 1:8,9; John 1:11,12; Luke 2:14; Heb.11:6

December 17, 2010

Joyful, joyful we adore Thee



“Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?  And this was a small thing in your eyes, O God. You have also spoken of your servant’s house for a great while to come and have shown me future generations, O LORD God!

For your servant’s sake, O LORD, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things.  There is none like you, O LORD, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears…”
I Chr. 17:16-20

It’s been twenty-seven years today since we stood side by side saying our vows before  Reverend Bradford, my grandpa.  It was the week before Christmas.  The familiar chapel was bright with poinsettias.  We were young and in love.  The season only added to our wonder. 

The organ swelled with Beethoven’s music as all joined to sing: “Joyful, joyful we adore Thee”.
Joyful, joyful we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Praising Thee their sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

My wedding band is engraved with a reference I have to remove my glasses and squint to read now. Psalm 118:23,24-- “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  We knew it then.  We know it now.  Our relationship is His conniving.  Its continuity is by His grace. And we can only marvel at His doings all along the way--Six children and one grandson—love that continues to grow between us-- He has made us rich.

These many years later, our anniversary celebration still gets squeezed into this busy but festive time of year.  The sun is shining for us today.  We will have a drive and maybe a kiss or two, and we will relish the joy that is ours in each other and in the Lord that has bonded and kept us all these years for His glory. 


December 11, 2010

“Like precious faith”

“To them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ..."
[continuing remarks on dialoging with non-believers about faith…]

Heady stuff this business of dialoging about faith and the lack thereof. It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of railing accusations, unfounded allegations and inflammatory speech laced with insinuation… I’ve had to step back, get into the Word and remind myself that this is a mission field.  The calling is to be salt and light, not fuel!!!  How am I to ‘give an answer’ to a skeptic anyway?  I can take my directives from God’s Word, or learn the hard way by trial and error.  I’ve done some of each this week.
Peter says always to be ready to give an answer for the hope you claim to have, but to do it with ‘gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.’ (I Pet. 3:15,16) This kind of gentle response is not a natural way of reacting to "irreverant and silly myths" (I Tim.4:7) —and they really are ‘out there’.  Did you realize some believe that the Christian God is none other than the Jupiter of Roman myth?  Really.  And they can give you ‘chapter and verse’ form ‘ancient’ writings…but I digress.   Neither will a gentle, repectful response naturally flow from my offended sensibilities when I’m slandered.  I guess you might say I learned that the hard way this week. I had to eat ‘humble pie’ a time or two when my words were not carefully chosen and came across with an accusatory tone.  I learned that “religion bashers” don’t care to be referred to this way. And I learned that it’s ok to apologize and that it very effectively ‘turns away wrath’.   I was struck with how offense is allowable one direction but never in return.  And it’s my calling to be the offended one but not the offender…I am not authorized to  respond in ‘like kind’. 
Jesus’ conversations with his opponents have taken on new relevance this week.  He knew all about choosing words carefully and knowing when and how to answer.  Sometimes he even refused to answer until they gave an answer to His question.  I read just this morning how the Pharisees ‘went and plotted how to entangle Him in his words’.  But instead Jesus left His audience marveling,  ‘astonished at His teaching’, and finally not daring to ask Him any more questions! (Mt.22)
I have also been warned that there is such a thing as an ‘unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words’ that has the effect of ‘creating constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth’ (I Tim 6:4).  This sort of thing is said to do no good but only ruin the hearers! and ‘spread like gangrene’. (II Tim.2)  That is certainly not my calling!  I want my presence on this forum to be like salt and light, not more rottenness.  I was reading Paul’s advice to Timothy.  His goal was God’s approval, and his job – to ‘rightly divide the word of truth’, avoiding ‘irreverant babble’ which not only spreads with use but is able to undermine the faith of some. (II Tim.2:14-18)  Ooooo but there is a temptation to concoct some clever verbal bit of badgering with which to stem the flow of skeptic rhetoric. BUT then I read this: “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (II Tim.2:24-26)
Ah yes, and of course that is right.  So I choose to pause before I read their words, and pray before I compose my own and then re-read them from Another point of view before I press the ‘Submit’ button.
But perhaps the most significant thing I’ve been reminded of this week is that underlying all the words and rationale is an unseen world of spiritual warfare.  Our struggles are not with flesh and blood, (or words and arguments). There is in fact a spiritual battle being waged over each and every unbeliever, whether or not they even believe in things unseen. (The ones I’m talking to generally don’t.) With God’s perfect timing II Cor. 10 was the text for this Sunday’s sermon: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.  We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”(II Cor.10:4,5) No bit of superior reasoning is capable of winning victories in this arena!  The people I’m reasoning with are blinded and held captive by the “prince of the power of the air” even if they don’t believe he exists.  Their vehement denial of the historicity and/or deity of Jesus Christ and forceful dismissal of the Bible as myth point to this deeper struggle.  They are unwitting pawns, demanding evidence but quite mired in unbelief.
What a precious commodity faith is.  I went back to Ephesians 2 to see again the glory of the story of our own rescue from this captor—saved by grace through faith, and this is itself a gift of God.  Faith so rankles the unbeliever.  Drives them crazy.  How can we believe ‘without evidence’.  They think us as ignorant, foolish, crazy, and even (and this is a rising tide in their thinking--) dangerous!  All because of faith.  I really think there is an element of jealousy in this resentment.  It was put in words this week when Will said that noone has a right to live in a ‘comfort zone’ free from a 'groping uncertainty about the truth.'  According to him every honest person will admit to living in this state.  He has turned his back on ‘church’ and taken up a rational case of atheism.  But his moral beliefs in certain areas are inconsistent with his purported unbelief.  We dialog a little and he politely refers to  me as a ‘quiet evangelist’.
But when I shut down my computer and leave this world of dialog behind I see my own world differently.  Last night we had our annual Christmas get-together with a few friends.  The conversation among believers inevitably turns to matters of faith, our like precious faith.  By it we are bonded.  In it we live and move and have hope for the future.  We can have fun together and be at ease because we agree on the most important things… But even as we talked I was reflecting on these other ‘friends’ online that see the world so differently, who see what we most cherish as a scourge to be wiped off the face of the earth [ as per Sam Harris, The End of Faith] .  And it makes my faith all the more precious.
So I gird on my sword, “the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God” ,and my one recourse, “praying at all times in the Spirit”, and I hope to follow Paul’s example in my conversations this week (“We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s Word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” II Cor.4:2 ) in hopes that God may perhaps grant even one repentance and they may come to share my precious faith.
"...Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” (II Pet.1:1,2)

December 3, 2010

Yea! for LIGHTS!!!

Out for a walk the other day I passed a man putting up his Christmas lights and in an effort to be friendly I called out "Yea for lights!" As I powered on up the hill I thought Yes! that's exactly what I mean. Not only do I love seeing all the lights at this time of year, but I am particularly grateful this week for one particular light I found in a dark place.

I've been itching to get into some serious reading, stuff you have to chew on to digest. I thought this would be much more enjoyable and profitable (and likely to happen!)  with a group, so I got to looking for possibilities... Where I ended up was an online book discussion forum that was not exactly what I had in mind to begin with. I was thinking Christian authors, or at least coming at good literature from a Christian worldview... Where I landed was a club whose most prominent members are pretty staunch and intellectually oriented atheists and whose preferred books are by leading atheists. It wasn’t where I intended to go and yet, I had a sense of being called to it somehow, called to be a ‘light’.

I suppose I don't think much about being a light most of the time. How significant is a candle in a lighted room?  My little light sits under its bushel basket, here in its cozy little home...or hangs out with other flickering lights.  Nothing dramatic about that.  But take a lone candle to a dark room and ahhhh…It stands out

Anyway, so I found myself at this forum. I looked around, listened in on conversations, and began to interact.  I was warmly welcomed despite my enthusiastic recommendation of a scholarly book by a religious writer....  Responses  were courteous, but increasingly came to have a sharp edge as anything remotely connected to truth claims based on the Word of God arose. Now mind you, I was at this point only attempting to bring a balancing perspective to conversations they had started.  But balance is not the point.  Being able to find truth by ‘evidence’ with reason alone is.  Things got hot when I made mention of the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom. But do you know what I found?  Just as the conversation was getting charged beyond reason another light showed up, and with wise and carefully chosen words defended and expanded on the truth I had only touched on.  Bless him!  I can’t tell you what a relief it was to find another believer in this place of darkened intellect.   

A candle that’s been overlooked all summer long becomes a precious commodity when winter days get long and cheerless.  It’s a welcome presence in a dark place, and easy to spot!  I had in fact spotted this faithful flame early on in reading through some threads of conversation.  His were the consistently wise and tactful responses, though not above wry humor. This is no easy place to show “gentleness and respect” as you “give an answer for the hope that is in you”. (I Pet.3:15)  It’s easier to respond ‘in like kind’ than to ‘overcome evil with good’.   I was challenged! I’m not used to being told I’m ‘flat our wrong’ or that I believe ‘silly things’ without a shred of evidence… and obviously have little ability to think critically.  [I don’t want to represent all these skeptics as rude and insulting.  They have been, for the most part, quite respectful even when completely disagreeing.  I do get the sense that they are being intentionally careful in conversations with me, not being yet sure if I can be ‘won’ to their point of view.  They have dropped this reserve with the man I call “Mr. Pilgrim”. (I call him this  because I don’t know his real name, and because he recommended we read Pilgrim’s Progress!)] But this man has been at it for years discussing and defending his faith with the same core of skeptics. He’s committed to being a light and wrote me a private note not to be discouraged but to keep on, hoping eventually to increase the candlepower (my words) here.  He says Christians come by this forum every so often but are always chased away. He’s chosen to stay in hopes of winning someone.  He considers these guys friends assuring me their bark is worse than their bite in many cases. He says he’s learned to ignore their insults except when it comes to slandering Jesus.  His heart is evident in his words.  He shines.

I want to learn to shine like that and am so grateful for his example.  I’ve been reading and re-reading my instruction manual:
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col.4: 5,6) 
That’s Paul talking, but do you know what he says just before that?  Here’s where you come in:
 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ...that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.”(v.2-4) 

Not only are we are all lights in our respective places but we can brighten each others’ flames as we pray for one another. I love that!. 

So as you’re digging out those dusty candles to brighten the season, give thanks for every opportunity to shine and say a prayer for all the ‘candles’ you know that are lending their light to our world. 

His light has shone in our hearts “to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor.4:6)

‘Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!!’(2 Cor.9:15)