4 Reasons Why We Must Commit To Prayer

If you knew that Jesus was going to come visit you personally in real time this afternoon and you could make one request of him, what would your request be? If you could ask him anything, would you ask for protection, a new job, more money, deeper relationships? What would you ask for?

The disciples came to Jesus one day with a request. “Lord, teach us to pray…” – Luke 11:1 I don’t know if you find that request especially interesting but I sure do. Think about it for a moment. The disciples had just watched Jesus preach the greatest sermons ever, they had been there while he performed miracles, but never once did they say, “Lord, teach us to preach” or “Lord, teach us to do miracles” or “Lord, teach us to raise the dead”. Instead they said, “Teach us how to pray.”

I think they asked that question because they saw the results of prayer in Jesus’ life. They saw him pray and they observed the impact and even experienced the results. From watching the example of Jesus, these men knew that prayer was the key to what they needed in their life.

We need to understand that as well. Prayer is crucial to the Christian’s walk and growth. I’ve heard it said before that just as air is vital to our physical existence, so prayer is vital to our spiritual existence. If you have never committed to a life of prayer allow me to share 4 reasons why we too need to make prayer a daily and growing habit of life.

1 We Recognize Our Dependence on God

When I pray, I am saying to God, “I need You.” For some reason, many of us have a problem admitting this. Perhaps it’s a part of the Canadian mindset – we value independence, hard work, and making it on our own. And while that can be a good thing, if you learn anything when you come to Jesus Christ, it is that you don’t have the ability to make it spiritually on your own.

Quite frankly I believe that one of the key reasons why a lot of people don’t pray is because it is humbling. “I admit I am inadequate – I am helpless – I need ‘Your’ help in this situation.” But when we pray we are declaring our dependence upon God as our Lord and Saviour, and we are calling upon his power and strength to equip us for the work he has called us to accomplish. In our humbling of self, we are admitting that we are but mere humans that do not have the ability to save the world, that do not have the strength to keep going, that do not have the staying power to keep on keeping on. We are saying to God, that while we do not have these abilities, we know that he does, and we are asking him to fill and sustain us through the struggle. God has the ability to change us and use us for his ultimate glory.

When the tough things happen, God invites us to place our dependence upon him to see us through. It does not all depend on me; it depends on me allowing God to work through me. But as long as you think you’re self sufficient, prayer can have no meaning for you.

2 We Grow In Our Relationship With God

Communication is essential to a relationship. It is safe to say that for two persons to get to know each other, they must take time to communicate. In talking together, they share not only ideas but something of themselves as well. Christ so longs to communicate with us. He has wonderful news that he is just waiting to share with each of us about who we are and of the plans he has for us if we’d just listen.

Christ promised, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” – John 15:7. It sounds like there is a communication thing happening here.

The wonder of it all is that the God of the universe wants us to call on him. In fact, unlike the annoyance we earthly mothers or fathers sometimes feel, far from being bothered, our heavenly father loves to hear the voices of his children at any time. “The prayer of the upright is his delight” – Proverbs 15:8

I remember an incident in our home a number of years ago, when my daughter was vying for my attention. She had just turned three and of course everything to her was of vital importance. I was watching a very important hockey game, after all the boys couldn’t win without me watching you realize. She had some important information that she wanted to share with me and had made a couple of attempts to get my attention. Finally, she climbed up onto my lap, grasped both of my cheeks with her cute, chubby hands, looked me full in the eye and said, “Daddy listen to me with your eyes”. She knew that to truly communicate there had to be interaction with both parties.

God desires a fully engaged relationship with us. A big part of that is to turn our eyes to him for ALL our requests. As we grow in our relationship with him we learn that we never have to call him twice. He is, in a sense, already waiting for our call. We have his full attention at all times.

3 God Wants Us To Ask from Him

In Verse 3 of Luke 11 Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Jesus was teaching the disciples that when you come to God we come, as it were with hat in hand, recognizing that everything we receive is from God alone. And not only that, but that truth must be recognized every single day, because let’s face it, we all have short memories and before we know it we get that pride thing going again and soon think that all we have and all that has been accomplished in life is because of ‘me’.

I’ve heard others say that as we grow in our relationship with God that we should never ask God for anything, or if we have to, it should be at a minimum. The thought is that the more mature a Christian becomes, the less they will request from God, and the more they will spend their time just praising his name.

My theological response to that idea is to use the Greek word, “Malarkey!” In fact, that’s about the biggest bunch of nonsense I’ve ever heard! God wants us to ask and receive from him in prayer. The longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I ask from him, because I have learned to believe in his ability, as I recognize my disability, to a much greater extent than ever before.

4 We’re Participating In His Kingdom Work

This is the most exciting thing about prayer. God invites us to pray about his work being accomplished and in that way, we are working in an act of cooperation with God in the building of his kingdom on earth. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” – Mathew 6:10

Prayer is God’s program – Prayer is God’s modus operandi. Prayer is God saying, “I have chosen to limit myself to what I accomplish on earth simply by limiting myself to the faith of My children on the earth. What they believe Me for, I will do.” When we pray for other people, we are cooperating with God. We are teaming up with God to accomplish his work in the world.

M. Bounds was a Methodist Pastor around the time of the American Civil War. It is said that he prayed daily from 4 A.M. to 7 A.M. before he would begin his work. E.M. Bounds wrote in one of many of his writings: “The Church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men [women]…What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men [women] whom the Holy Spirit can use – men [women] of prayer, men [women] mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men [women]. He does not come on machinery, but on men [women]. He does not anoint plans, but men [women] – men [women] of prayer.”

If you knew that Jesus was going to come visit you personally in real time this afternoon, let it be that you have already been talking with each other and it would simply be a continuation of the worship you have been giving him – every day – already.

5 Reasons Opening Up Bathrooms & Change Rooms For Transgender Individuals Is Not Only Unwise But Is Also A Dangerous Precedent

Former US President Barak Obama had instructed public schools in May of 2016 to let transgender students use the bathrooms matching their chosen gender identity, even threatening to withhold funding for schools that did not comply. This was hailed by many from within the LGBTQ community, among others, as a landmark victory for civil rights.

But then US President Donald Trump’s administration recently revoked the Obama guidelines, igniting outcries from those claiming this as a violation of human rights, sparking protests and a media frenzy which doesn’t seem to be losing steam as I write this post.

Before we move on I wish to lay my cards on the table. I in no way wish to belittle anyone’s struggle as an individual. I am not out to declare that I am better than anyone else. I am a sinner in need of transformation just the same as every single other human being on this planet. The fact is that we have free will to live anyway we want, we just need to realize that there are always consequences for the choices we make, individually but also at a societal level. What I am talking about here is a societal level issue and when other’s choices create consequences for everyone else at the societal level, then we must not remain silent.

I may not agree with Trump on all his policies, ideologies and decisions; however, I must applaud him for reversing the Obama decision and I have 5 reasons why I believe he did the right thing.

Reason 1: Gender matters to God

God created two (and only two) genders. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27. The current speculation about gender fluidity is foreign to the Bible.

The closest the Bible does come to mentioning transgenderism is in its criticisms of homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32) and transvestitism (Deuteronomy 22:5). Add to that to the fact that the Greek word translated “homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6:9 literally means “effeminate men.” So, while the Bible nowhere plainly mentions transgenderism, it does clearly speak to instances of gender “confusion,” and explicitly identifies them as sin.

God had it right in the beginning, so opening the door to the elimination of ‘gender’ from biological sex is only creating confusion to what a male and female actually is. If a ‘girl’ can actually have the biological hardware of a boy, or a ‘boy’ has the biological hardware of a girl, what exactly are girls and boys?

People who identify as “feeling like the opposite sex” or “somewhere in between” do not comprise a third sex. They remain biological men or biological women.” (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

In the end, if gender matters to God, then it should certainly matter to me. If God calls something a sin, then no matter my feelings about it I must accept it as a sin. However, that doesn’t give me licence to be a hater or a bigot.

(For more on transgerdism and gender confusion follow the link: https://thesavagetheologian.com/2017/04/24/transgenderism-identity-crisis-or-identity-lie/)

Reason 2: The push for choice is simply a ‘red herring’

The argument has been put forward that those identifying as transgender need the freedom to choose the public facility they identify with regardless of the parts they carry (or not carry) with them. This idea of their personal rights is really a ‘red herring’ as it is really about imposing a minority’s needs over a majority’s. What is really happening here is eliminating a choice from the majority. And it is even more of an issue given the fact that gender discordance isn’t simply a minority, the truth is that it’s rare.

“The norm for human design is to be conceived either male or female. Human sexuality is binary by design with the obvious purpose being the reproduction and flourishing of our species. This principle is self-evident. The exceedingly rare disorders of sex development (DSDs), including but not limited to testicular feminization and congenital adrenal hyperplasia, are all medically identifiable deviations from the sexual binary norm, and are rightly recognized as disorders of human design. Individuals with DSDs (also referred to as “intersex”) do not constitute a third sex. (American College of Pediatricians, January 2017 – http://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-ideology-harms-children)

Here’s the problem with Obama’s decision. Individual rights cannot be used to undermine the common good in any reasonable society. Please understand, I am not against the basic rights of anyone but what I am concerned about is the demands of special rights coming from any minority group at the expense of the majorities rights. Providing a separate washroom is one thing, personally I think that’s a workable solution, however to subjugate the majority for the benefit of the few just doesn’t make sense.

Reason 3: It opens the door for sexual predators

The University of Toronto recently instituted unisex bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. Was it a screaming success? I’m thinking that screaming may have been a part of it, but a success? I think not…

“The administration at the University of Toronto was recently enlightened on why two separate washrooms are generally established for men and women sharing co-ed residencies. The University is temporarily changing its policy on gender-neutral bathrooms after two separate incidents of “voyeurism” were reported on campus September 15 and 19. Male students within the University’s Whitney Hall student residence were caught holding their cellphones over female students’ shower stalls and filming them as they showered. Melinda Scott, dean of students at the University of Toronto, told The Daily Wire that campus police had been contacted immediately and worked with residence staff to “support impacted students and ensure the safety of the Residences.”
(http://www.dailywire.com/news/330/university-toronto-dumps-transgender-bathrooms-pardes-seleh? utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=121115-news&utm_campaign=benshapiro-share#.VwXOiCqc7wg.twitter)

I think it needs to be called for what it is – a crime, not water it down by calling it ‘voyeurism’. As much as we might like to think the best of people, we have laws for a reason. Some people are just creeps at minimum – sexual predators at worst. The truth is that there is nothing bigoted, hateful or homophobic about preserving the simple, fundamental privacy of women and children (in particular) by providing them with gender specific public facilities.

Reason #4: It opens the door for gender ‘impersonation’

The issue of gender impersonation is now a reality. One of the problems that seems to have been overlooked is the likelihood that we have the potential of “normal” males of bad character simply claiming to be “transgender” with the hopes of gaining an advantage over unsuspecting women.

“A man claimed a right to use a women’s locker room at a public swimming pool after his partial undressing there caused alarm. According to Seattle Parks and Recreation, women alerted staff at Evans Pool staff when a man wearing swim trunks entered the women’s locker room and took off his shirt. When staff told him to leave, the man reportedly said “the law has changed and I have a right to be here.” Employees told Seattle’s King 5 News the man didn’t attempt to identify as female but cited a new Washington state rule allowing individuals to choose their bathroom based on their gender identity. (http://dailysignal.com/2016/02/23/man-allowed-to-use-womens-locker-room-at-swimming-pool-without-citing-gender-identity/)

The unfortunate experience of a young female being exposed to biological males (regardless of whether that male ‘feels’ he is a female) is a high possibility. We must understand in all of this, whether you are being PC about it or not is that the facts are that a young mind being exposed to such images can have damaging and long term effects on a child in the same way as if being exposed to pornographic images or even sexual abuse. And while it is true that young females are unlikely to be molested by gender confused males, what is to stop a male sexual predator masquerading as a ‘female’? This foolishness isn’t just bad practice, it’s dangerous.

Reason #5: As Christians we have a duty to protect our children

Read through the gospels and you’ll quickly see that Jesus had a special place in his heart for children. As parents we have been given the responsibility to protect these children Jesus loves so much. Certainly, public places such as schools, public swimming pools and other gathering places should be safe for all children, both for the rare gender-confused student as well as their friends and classmates, but our society’s move to be inclusive to all cannot be championed at the expense of the protection for our children. It’s a matter of protection for majority over PC minority.

The move to ‘open the doors’ of public washrooms is a humanistic attack against the categories of male and female that God created, and as Christians we have a duty to affirm the biological reality of the gender binary for the sake of our children and future generations, even if the culture becomes increasingly opposed to it.

What should be the Christian response?

Our response as Christians should be nothing less than deeply felt compassion while becoming a people who prayerfully begin to reasonably understand transgender and sexual-orientation issues and what the Bible says about them. It’s only then that we are in a position to speak truth in love. Speaking “In love” means speaking with great respect, empathy, and appropriate humility. And it means to love with action (such as hospitality), not just words as John speaks about, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

And I think that love means being slow to speak, especially on social media. If you do choose to speak, work hard to speak with an unusually respectful, gracious voice. Maybe unknown to you, someone you know is struggling with their gender identity and your words could possibly impact them one way or another, so always speak as you would to a friend.

The ultimate answer, of course, is the Gospel, which has the power to change hearts and minds far beyond what our ability to change laws in the culture might be. Be encouraged and remember that even as Christianity emerged in the first Century, the Roman world was far more depraved than we could even imagine today, and yet the Gospel of Christ transformed that culture. As we go out to live in the world know with confidence that the gospel can and will transform lives today.

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18b (italics mine)

Effective Prayer: 5 Perspectives For Disciples Of Christ

Isn’t prayer just something done to look good in front of grandma at the supper table, or something just before the message on a Sunday morning because that is just what we do? Have we ever really thought about the vital importance of prayer in the life of a believer?

I love reading the story of Nehemiah because it’s in his story where we have a great example of how crucial prayer is to the life of the believer.

“The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.” – Nehemiah 1:1-3

In 455 BC, the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were in a terrible condition. Over 140 years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar and the armies of Babylon had invaded Israel and had carried many of the people away as slaves. The walls had been destroyed and the gates had been burned.

Meanwhile, Nehemiah is serving as a high official, the cup-bearer to the King of Persia, at the capital city of Susa 800 miles away from Jerusalem. His role as cup-bearer is to sample the wine and the food of the king to make sure it’s not poisoned, among other roles. He is in a palace living in luxury, drinking the best wine on earth, not that little box of blush that you have in your refrigerator. He’s eating incredible food, wearing the best clothes and completely safe, no real threat to the Persian Empire at this point. I mean, this guy is living the life!

Yet, with no television to update him, no Twitter feed for him to watch pictures of his people suffering 800 hundred miles away, he’s knocked to his knees when he hears of the news back in Jerusalem. His guts turn, and he weeps before the Lord and begins to fast and pray.

By its very nature, fasting suggests that something is wrong. Eating is a normal part of human existence, so abstaining from eating implies a disruption in the very rhythm of life. When Nehemiah’s world crashed his first response was to get rid of all the distractions, food being a big one so that he could focus on the one place he would receive strength… God. He recognized that his strength and hope could only come from God and not from another piece of pie.

So, here’s a question for all of us. When our world crashes around us, when life becomes hard where do we turn? God or the refrigerator? God or sex? God or shopping? Or sports or more wine, or more of anything else but God? Nehemiah is an example of the pattern we should follow.

When the world shakes us up we should get down on our knees.

1) Prayer gives us a right perspective of others

Nehemiah was radically compassionate because he had a God sized compassion for the hurting even though he didn’t know them personally. Here’s a question for all of us to consider. Is God just telling us this is what Nehemiah felt, or is he setting before us what he wants out hearts to look like? If you look at the Bible’s expectation on us as believers in Christ, we are to feel and be bothered like our man Nehemiah was even for people we don’t even know.

What God has called you and me to, as the people of God, is to live out a type of radical compassion and empathy. As the community of faith, we are to model to the world outside of us what it looks like to be the people of God. It is being mindful of the hurts and hang-ups of others and entering into that in some very simple ways and some very complex ways and being the picture of Christ’s love and compassion for his church in our presence and in our interaction with those around us.

If our hearts are filled with compassion for the hurting, causing us to be more committed to the Lord’s commission than we are our own personal agenda, the potential is limitless of what God can & will do through us. But it won’t happen with any depth, longevity or visionary focus if we don’t learn to pray, because it’s when we fall to our knees that we are then able to have a right view of those in greatest need.

2) Prayer gives us a right perspective of God

The prophet Zephaniah describes God in a fantastic way. “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17

The ‘mighty’ warrior who ‘delights’ in us… My dad was involved in prison ministry. I recall as a boy of 13 going into a maximum security prison on a family day once or twice with him as he took me along to see the other side of life.

During those visits, I recall the huge prisoners with muscles bulging, tattoos everywhere, shaved heads, chewing on rusty nails – sitting out in the communal area waiting to visit with their kids. And those were the women.

What fascinated me was that no matter how big and scary these prisoners were – their own kids would run up to them and fully embrace them. To me they were scary, but to these kids they were mom & dad.

To everyone else namely the enemy the devil, our father is a big, powerful warrior to be feared, but to me he is my dad and he absolutely delights in me. In fact, Jeremiah states, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3

God wants us to call on him so that he can share with us incredible blessings that we might otherwise have missed had we not reached out to him through prayer. And it’s through communion with God in prayer where he begins to change our hearts to reflect his heart of compassion.

3) Prayer gives us a right perspective of circumstances

Nehemiah knew that life’s circumstances change on a daily basis. In fact, things can go from good too bad to worse in a very short time. Even still he knew that God remained in control. At the start of Nehemiah’s story there was no tangible evidence in that moment that God was being faithful and God was keeping his promises.

The Jewish nation is scattered like the wind all over the ancient world. They have lost the land flowing with milk and honey. But Nehemiah’s prayer in verse 5 was saying, “You are faithful. You are good. You are a covenant-keeping God. You have not abandoned us. You are here even in our hurt. You love us. You will keep your promise.”

As disciples of Christ, we know who is really in control. In our humbling of self, we are admitting that we are but mere humans that don’t have the ability to save the world, who do not have the strength to keep going, who do not have the staying power to keep on keeping on. We are saying to God, that while we do not have these abilities, we know that he does. God has the ability to change us and use us for his ultimate glory. Nothing happens without God knowing about it. God can’t help being sovereign over everything – every time… it’s who he is.

4) Prayer gives us a right perspective of self

Nehemiah begins to confess the sins of Israel. “We have not been faithful. We have not kept your commands. We have not lined ourselves up with how you’ve designed the universe to work.” – Nehemiah 1:6-7

Nehemiah recognizes the importance of being honest about who he is. The truth is that the more you have an elevated view of yourself, the more it will be impossible for you to show compassion for others.

If your kids are godly because you’re awesome and not because God is gracious, then you’ll be hard pressed to show compassion for anybody who has a wayward child, because if they would have just done what you did in all your awesomeness, then they could have had a godly kid too.

If you’re financially set and not (in your mind) because God has been gracious to you but because you’ve worked and you’ve earned and you’ve set yourself up nicely and not, instead, feeling indebted to God for his mercy and grace, how impossible will it be for you to show empathy toward someone who is impoverished?

The more you are the author and perfecter of all things, the more all the blessing on your life is because of you and not because of God that has put you, in turn, into his debt, the more it will be impossible to show empathy to others who are struggling. Why? Because you’re so freakin’ awesome!

That attitude will rot out the soul’s ability to be compassionate and merciful. It will breed in us an indifference that is unacceptable before God. It will also rot out the ability to walk in unity, love, and compassion with one another and instead create a judgemental harshness among us that God will have nothing to do with.

And it isn’t until you know who you are and have a compassionate view of others and begin to have an inkling of the amazing awesomeness of God that you or I can think to know what our place is in God’s plan.

5) Prayer gives us a right perspective of our place in God’s plan

The final statement of Nehemiah in verse 11 “I was the cup-bearer…” indicates that he knew that who he was and that where he was at that moment was no accident and in many ways, he was declaring his place in God’s plan. He was the cup-bearer for a reason. Think about that for a moment, he wasn’t a prophet, he wasn’t a priest, he wasn’t a king, he wasn’t anybody particularly special… he was the waiter.

God uses who he wants to use no matter the position in life once we submit to him. He uses common fishermen, tax collectors, kings as well as shepherds, rebels and murderers like Paul and yes, he uses waiters. Regardless of your position in life, whether at church, at work, at school, at home, etc., you need to know that it is no accident! God has placed you where he has for a purpose. He has placed you where you are for his purpose! There are no accidents or coincidences with God! God has never been caught off guard… he has never once said “oops, I didn’t see that one coming.”

If our hearts are right, and we are more committed to the Lord’s commission than we are our own personal agenda, the potential is absolutely limitless. But it won’t happen with any depth, longevity or visionary focus if we don’t learn to pray, because it’s when we fall to our knees that we are then able to have a right view of self, others, our position and most importantly of God.

10 Images of Hope & Comfort Found In The 23rd Psalm

Often when attending a funeral, we hear comments and words that are meant to bring comfort. Even before someone passes away, we will look to offer the right words to share with the one about to leave us. Too often however we stumble over the right thing to say, making us feel like a fish out of water in an already uncomfortable situation. The question is, just what word does one say (or not)?

In my Pastoral experience over the years, I have found that coming back to the word of God is always the best way to share hope and comfort. More specifically I have found Psalm 23 to be the most comforting as it parallels God’s relationship with us. These inspired words speak to the journey each one of us makes through our life’s experience, and explains how God wants to walk with us through the stages of life as our Shepherd.

Psalm 23 was written by David who was a great leader in the history of the nation of Israel. He was a general in the army and later on in his life became the King of Israel. But prior to any of this David was a shepherd who, as a boy, took care of his father’s flocks. As a result, David knew first-hand about the relationship between the sheep and the Shepherd. In this wonderful Psalm, David shares with us 10 images of hope & comfort that he learned through his experiences with his sheep, but even more importantly with his shepherd.

1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” – Verse 1

The shepherd is the one who takes care of the flock. He knows his flock; he knows the sheep; he understands the needs of the flock – but also of each of the sheep individually. He knows the sheep who have gotten into the brambles and need grooming or who has been injured and need special care to grow strong, or which ones like to run away from the flock and go exploring; which sometimes gets that sheep in trouble because there are wolves out there. The shepherd knows the sheep and he cares for each and every one according to their needs because the Shepherd loves the sheep (you & me).

2 “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” – Verse 2a

Sheep will not lie down if they’re hungry, or if there is a threat of danger, or if they are irritated. Sheep will not rest if it is not at peace. Sheep will not drink from a fast-moving stream. They get spooked and so then regardless of how thirsty they are they will wander up and down the bank bleating and crying, knowing they need water to live but too jittery to take a drink. But the shepherd calms the sheep simply by being there and finds that quiet pool, that calm spot where the sheep can relax and get the refreshment they need. Do the cares of life make you jittery at times? Do you long for a place of calmness and refreshment? Trusting the Shepherd brings peace and calmness to our lives, and so the question needs to be asked, ‘Do you know the Shepherd’?

3 “He leads me beside still waters.” – Verse 2b

Sheep will not drink from a fast-moving stream. So the shepherd goes out of his way to find his sheep a quiet pool. God can help us find calm in our lives, too, so we can drink deeply from streams of living waters.

4 “He restores my soul.” – Verse 3a

This refers to what a shepherd calls a “cast down sheep”. Somehow, he has gotten upside down (onto his back) and can’t get back up. The shepherd comes along and sets him on his feet again. Sometimes this happens to us, too. Sometimes we as people find ourselves in the same place as a cast down sheep. Much like that commercial on TV… “Help I’ve fallen & I can’t get up!”

The problem is that we have all wondered away from the shepherd at times, and we’ve fallen upside down, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray.” – Isaiah 53:6

Perhaps a difficult event in our lives has caused us to fall away from God: That might be a death in our family; loss of a job; illness; overwhelming responsibilities; broken relationships. Events like this can cause us to become angry with God and even to distrust him. Perhaps we have simply chosen to serve ourselves instead of our God. Isaiah continues…”each of us has turned to his own way,” When we realize the need in our souls to be restored to our loving God, our Shepherd hears our cries of alarm, and helps us back onto our feet. He forgives us and restores us to a right relationship when we ask him.

5 “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – Verse 3b

Verse one and two described the spring; when grass is plentiful and the sheep willingly following the Shepherd. Verse three is a description of mid-summer, when the grass is getting scarce. Sheep, when they are in their pasture, will ruin pasture quickly – eating from the same grassy area until it is so short that it dries up and dies. So the shepherd makes new paths for them so that they can find fresh grass. Some of us need a fresh start (healthy grass). Jesus, our Shepherd, wants to help us find it, but the pathway back to green pastures can be dangerous.

6 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” – Verse 4a

This part talks about the trip to the high-country meadows in springtime. This route is through some tough country with lots of rocks, deep ravines, and cliffs. Places where wolves and wild animals stalk their prey for an easy kill. This shepherd was constantly on the look-out and protected the sheep. This is what God does for us, too. There are many times when life is treacherous and scary. Jesus wants to be our Shepherd through these times, as well.

7 “Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” – Verse 4b

The rod is a weapon to kill a bear, while the staff was a stick with a crook in the end to bring in a sheep for inspection or to pull them by the leg from a cliff. The Shepherd is well prepared to keep us safe. He will not let anything take us from him if we decide to follow him.

8 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” – Verse 5a

Finally the Shepherd and the flock arrive at a fresh mountain meadow where the grass is unspoiled by the harsh summer sun. All around the meadows, there were snakes, wolves and predators waiting to snag stray sheep. In the middle of this tension and danger, the shepherd led the sheep to a banquet of fresh grass – to a place of peace in a scary world.

9 “You annoint my head with oil.” – Verse 5b 

In the summer time, the gnats and flies would get up the noses of the sheep and lay their eggs in there. It would drive the sheep mad. Here, the shepherd anoints their heads with oil (pours it over their noses). This kills the gnats and gets rid of them. What an amazing picture of our father who loves to provide tender, loving care.

10 “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Verse 6

It’s now the part of the story where they have all come back to the farm for winter, back to the safety of the home pasture. The end of the life cycle (retirement, ageing, death). It’s a picture of an eternal life with our Shepherd who has helped us all the way through every stage of our life. No more perilous trips to the upper meadows; no more fast flowing rivers; no more wandering off; no more rocks and crevices; no more wolves. Rather there is safety in the Great Shepherd’s home and eternal peace in his love

Important Question

Do you know the shepherd? Do you experience his care; his protection; his guidance; his restoration when you wonder off? Here’s the key: It’s as we make Jesus our Shepherd now, in this life, and choose to live with him day to day, that we prepare for our eternal life with the Shepherd “back at the farm”.

Maybe life has become confusing. There may be some things you can’t understand or you wonder why they are happening to you (like the loss of a family member). Or, you are facing a situation that is frightening or has you worried. At a time of the death of a friend or loved one, you ask yourself questions such as: “Is there life after death? What am I really accomplishing in my life? How can I know how I should live now?” Perhaps you’ve been asking some of the big questions of life. Questions like these are often raised in times of loss or at times when we are confronted with death. I want you to know that the shepherd desires to lead and care for all those who would choose to follow him. He wants to comfort us and help us make sense of life, not only in times of loss and confusion but every day we live.

This Psalm is not only a comfort at a time of loss such as at a funeral, but it also shows God in a whole new light. Jesus is one who understands the turmoils of life and death and will help us in them. In the end Jesus is the only one who can give us purpose and hope in a world of hopelessness, sorrow, death and trouble. In the end Jesus is the shepherd and he is the Word that we need to share as we experience the toughest moments of life… and death.

3 Ways We Can Express The Fruit Of The Spirit, Love Each Other, & Bring God Glory Everyday

I enjoy a good movie…problem for me is that my attention span is so short that I have to watch movies with lots of action to keep me watching. If some kind of gun blasting, car crashing, ceiling walking, space ship zooming action isn’t taking place every 3 minutes or so I can’t be bothered to watch.

Even in an action flick, if the hero of that movie all of a sudden pulls out a picnic basket while in the park with his girlfriend, that’s my cue to go to the fridge.

On the other hand my wife & daughter can sit together and become completely enthralled with a bunch of women on the screen sitting around a table for hours just talking about …stuff. One of their favourite genres is these romantic movies where they end up living “happily ever after”.

It’s that stereotypical ending, the one where the Cowboy hero and his girl ride off into the sunset, the credits moving up the screen, the music fading as they disappear over the horizon into bliss and joy, while my dear women folk weep, not like they hadn’t seen a million of these before.

As the screen goes blank the movie is done and the understanding is that the Cowboy and his girl are now forever happy, the rest of their lives wrapped up in this crazy love for each other, blissful and joyous, sacrificing everything forever for each other, beautiful, glorious, sounds so wonderful. But come on, who really lives that way?

Let’s revisit the couple an hour or so after the credits have gone up. An hour later after we have all gone home from the movie theatre they are still riding. She’s getting a little sore by now from that saddle, hanging on to sweaty Tarzan in front, she’s starts to ask him about where they’re going, when will they stop, where’s the next bathroom, do these boots make her look fat.

Meanwhile, he needs his ego stroked again. That question “did you like how I took care of the bad guys?” after two hours is starting to get kinda old. Then she brings up the fact that they have to go to her side of the family for Christmas in Texas this year even though he had promised his grandma that they’d be at her place in New Mexico.

She suddenly whips out the honey dew list for all the chores that need to be done when they get home, that’s if this beast ever speeds up. He meanwhile, just wants some peace and quiet to watch the Buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play.

“I knew it!” I knew it! I knew that they couldn’t really live that way”

We may or may not receive some small satisfaction that they didn’t live that happy ever after. But most of us would have that hope or wish that it be so, that it just might work, this time at least.

In real life, when the world observes prominent Christians fail, there is sometimes that sentiment, “I knew it!” I knew it! I knew that they couldn’t really live that way” And many times we Jesus followers succumb to that in our own hearts and we agree, “Yes your right, it all sounds good but no one really lives that way” 

But what if it was possible? What if we could have a love relationship with God where we lived life in obedience to him and in a love relationship with our neighbour and fellow church folks? And those relationships of love and obedience will not only be a reality, but will grow richer and fuller and deeper in spite of the struggles and challenges we face daily? What if we could actually live that way? Live lives that actually expressed the fruit of the Spirit, loving with abandon, completely and fully, and with everything we got, bringing glory to God as a result?

The truth is this type of life is not only probable, but absolutely and completely possible for you and me right now – today – this moment and then every moment hereafter if we simply learn three things.

Prove Your Love

 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. – John 14:15-17

I am reminded of a story in which two ladies were standing in the entrance of one of their homes talking when suddenly the teenage son of one of the mothers appears from the kitchen dressed in a freshly pressed shirt, clean and fitted jeans, scrubbed face and hair though messed up messed up with a purpose. As he rushes towards the front door, he pauses long enough to plant a kiss on his mother’s cheek as he heads outside.

The visiting neighbour couldn’t help to comment “How do you get your son to dress so nicely in such nice clean clothes and scrubbed face and looking so good?”  To which the mother replied, “Actually I had nothing to do with that… it is amazing even to me that what I have been trying to get him to do for the past 18 years, another pair of blue eyes and long blonde hair could get him to do with just the tilt of her head and a smile on her face.”

This guy didn’t get himself all cleaned up because he was commanded to; he did what he needed to do because he wanted to. I think that’s a bit of what we see here in verse 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. We begin first with a love relationship which then causes a change in heart or a transformation in our mind to the point where we can’t help but want to obey Jesus’ commands.

The emphasis is not Prove to me that you love me by obeying me. The focus is put on to the love part of the relationship as in,If you love me you will want to obey my commands.”

When it comes to our relationship with Jesus, we must begin to live our lives of obedience not because it’s commanded, but rather because we can’t help ourselves. Remember that, “Christ’s love compels us”. – 2 Corinthians 5:14

Just Do It! 

As a parent, I continue to learn the art of communication through daily interactions with my children, most noticeably the art of clarity. I’m sure this only happens in my house but on occasion my wife & I will return home from being away for an evening only to discover that the dishes hadn’t been done (we have a dishwasher) or that the basement is a complete mess and nothing has been put away.

I understand that being a teenager is all about sleep, eating, connecting with friends through Facebook, texts and phone calls, watching TV, eating, playing video games and eating (I have two teenage boys), after all what else is there? But when I comment about the fact that nothing was done regarding making their world, within the house, a better place for ‘all’ and that my expectation was that it should have been done, whether it be dishes or cleaning up after themselves, I have often heard the response, “But dad, you didn’t tell me to do it.”

Interesting how their entertainments and other priorities didn’t have to be dictated clearly to them but the other stuff was not acted on because it ‘apparently’ wasn’t so clearly said. But reading John chapter 14 and more specifically verse 15 made me wonder how often I do that to God. “If you love me, you will keep my commands.”

Though I wouldn’t necessarily say it, I too often find myself acting like I’m waiting for God to bring clarity about what I need to do for him, to have him reveal his call on my life instead of just doing what I know needs to happen in my life to obey him.

I’m not talking about making a decision concerning whether or not we should be heading out to the mission field, but what I am talking about is living out our faith in action in the everyday.

I think too many of us use the “I’m waiting to hear God’s will for my life” as a means of avoiding action. Did you hear him tell you to watch TV or exercise or go on that last vacation? Probably not but you still did it. Those other things aren’t wrong, but I find it interesting in how we seem to be able to rationalize our entertainment & other priorities but can be so slow to commit to serving God.

Just look around us. There are myriads of opportunities to obey God. But the first obedience is to learn to love him. Begin to love him by getting to know him. Read his word, spend time talking to him while you drive around in your car or get ready for work in the morning. Don’t wait to get ready to be ready to find a place to wait to be ready, instead talk to him even now while you read this post – bottom line is just do it! Just begin and get rid of excuses for not getting to know him and thereby learn to love him.

Rely on the Holy Spirit

I know this love thing is tough. In fact much too often we see people who profess love but don’t display it. They don’t display it because this love thing is tougher than we think.

Love that results in obedience isn’t an easy thing and that is why we see in verse 16 that Jesus leaves us a helper. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth.”

 The word helper comes from the Greek work “Parakletos” which means quite literally “someone who is called in” … a ringer if you will. To the hearers of Jesus’ day, they would have understood immediately what Jesus was saying about this parakletos or helper he promised.

A Parakletos might be a person called in to give witness in a court of law in someone’s favour; he might be an advocate called in to plead someone’s case; he might be an expert called in to give advice in some difficult situation. He might be a person called in when, for example, a company of soldiers were depressed and dispirited to put new courage into their minds and hearts. Always though a Parakletos is someone called in to help when the person who calls him is in trouble or distress or doubt or bewildered.

What Jesus is saying is this: “I’m giving you a hard task to do… this love thing… It’s a very difficult assignment but has to get done. So I’m going to send you someone, the parakletos, In this case it is the Holy Spirit who will be there for you and who will guide you to what you need to do to make this happen and will also enable you to do it”.

Who really lives this way?

So back to the original question I asked, just who really lives this way? The credits move up the screen at the end of our life’s movie – the music fades away and we discover that we live that way by loving God with everything we’ve got.

And how does that happen? It happens as we get to know him. Read his word, pray, hang out with others who love God, join a community of other believers learning to love him, rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and ask him to help us and he will as he promised. He will be your Parakletos, and what will we discover as we live his way? We discover that we are living lives that express the fruit of the Spirit, loving with abandon, completely and fully, and with everything we got, bringing glory to God as a result.

3 Reason’s Not To Expect New Revelations From God

There are some exciting reports coming to us from out of the Muslim world about thousands of people coming to faith in Christ because of visions, words of wisdom, prophesies or dreams. Can this be true and if it is what do we make of it? What about scripture? Doesn’t God reveal himself through scripture and doesn’t Paul tell Timothy that scripture is all we need? “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:14-16

I think it’s important to understand that God can do anything he wants, at any time, and in any way he chooses. He can speak directly to any person that he chooses to and in fact many have bona fide experiences in which God communicated something to them that the circumstances actually bore out. This includes many in the Muslim world where it seems clear that Jesus is drawing his elect to himself in some spectacular ways. At the same time, I believe that it’s of no small importance to recognize that it’s also been consistently reported that the individuals are instructed to seek out a bible, someone who can explain the scripture to them, or both.

From the word of God it seems straightforward that scripture is complete and all we need as it points us to faith in Christ. But I have a deep concern, and that is the view that teaches that individuals can get a word of wisdom or a word of knowledge, by which they mean they have a special revelation that either adds to the word of God, is equal to the word of God or may even trump the word of God. In other words, ‘new’ revelations that are meant to enhance our spiritual experiences saying that prophecies, words of wisdom or words of knowledge carry the same weight as Scripture, sometimes even going so far as to use the recent events in the Muslim world as proof.

Here’s the thing though that is vital to know when studying scripture…

…God can do anything he wants, but we can’t teach anything we want.

What we teach ought to be what the Bible itself teaches us to expect. And the Bible does not teach that we can each expect to receive ‘new’ revelations from God. It’s just not in there and any teaching or belief contrary to that knowledge should be avoided for three main reasons.

1) We’ve been warned about false teachings

“For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” – Matthew 24:24

Here we have a clear warning that many false prophets will come and try to add to God’s revelation. That being the case the church should carefully guard against that danger. So since there is such a strong warning against false prophets, we should both not expect ‘new’ revelations as well as resist any alleged ‘new’ revelations.

Charles Spurgeon said it well:
“I have heard many fanatical persons say the Holy Spirit revealed this and that to them. Now that is very generally revealed nonsense. The Holy Ghost does not reveal anything fresh now. He brings old things to our remembrance. “He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have told you.” – John 14:26
The canon of revelation is closed; there is no more to be added. God does not give a fresh revelation, but he rivets the old one. When it has been forgotten, and laid in the dusty chamber of our memory, he fetches it out and cleans the picture, but does not paint a new one. There are no new doctrines, but the old ones are often revived. It is not, I say, by any new revelation that the Spirit comforts. He does so by telling us old things over again; he brings a fresh lamp to manifest the treasures hidden in Scripture; he unlocks the strong chests in which the truth had long lain, and he points to secret chambers filled with untold riches; but he coins no more, for enough is done.” (Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. I (1855), p. 38)

2) We’re in the silent period

In the OT we see that the ending of scripture for that time were with the writings of Malachi who prophesied that the next major event in the covenantal history of God’s people would be the coming of John the Baptist preparing the way for the messiah – Jesus.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” – Malachi 3:1

We see that prophesy being fulfilled in Luke and Mark. However, in between that time there was what is commonly referred to as the ‘silent period’. Don’t get me wrong, history was still happening at a very quick pace. During this time the Greeks were out conquering the land, there was a revolt in Israel that established a Jewish dynasty for 100 years, and then of course the Romans decided to show up on the world stage to do their dance and pony show.

So clearly, the silent period wasn’t describing a period where nothing was happening, and where everyone was whispering quietly, tip-toeing around, and being as quiet as they could be in the hopes they wouldn’t wake up another evil empire. Obviously, a lot was going on. It was referring to the fact that God didn’t speak through the prophets as he had earlier. The reason was that the OT scripture had been completed.

There was also a completion of the NT canon as well. In the book of Revelation, it says that no other scripture is to be added after this, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19

The fact is that we’re like the people in Malachi’s day in that we are now in our own silent period,

this one being between the closing of the NT revelation and the next major event in the life of God’s people, the second coming of Jesus. There is no other information required; and we are in the time reflecting the time of looking forward to the fulfillment of the promises made.

3) Jesus is the final word

The writer of Hebrews says this about the subject. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” – Hebrews 1:1-2

The tense and the context of these verses are saying that just as the prophets were the final word in the OT, Jesus is the final word in the NT.

The canon of Scripture is closed. And considering what we are told at the end of Revelation we discover that we should not, nor need to, add anything to the words of Jesus.

We already have all we need for faith and holy living.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak any more. He still speaks through prophecies, dreams, visions, angels, and in a number of ways that the bible still speaks about, as we have been hearing about in the Muslim world, just not as in an apostolic, inspired, canon revelation way.

Of course, we can’t despise prophecy as we are cautioned about in 1 Thessalonians 5, “Do not despise prophecies.” but then on the other hand we are to test everything as Paul continues into verse 21, “but test everything; hold fast what is good.”  – 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21. John shows his agreement with Paul as he says, “Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – 1 John 4:1

Scripture gives us the standard for testing, otherwise it’s open season to agree on anything and everything. “And He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” – Ephesians 4:11-14

It’s through the scriptures that we may be equipped and taught and it’s through the word of God that we have a standard that can be used to hold things up to careful scrutiny and testing. As such we have no need to receive more words than has already been given, thus no need for any ‘new’ revelation.

How Can We Know That The Idea Of Jesus’ Deity Is Not Simply An Idea Borrowed From Ancient God Myths?

I recently watched a BBC Documentary ‘The Dark Ages: An Age of Light’, hosted by Waldemar Januszczak, a television documentary presenter and British art critic, who pitched a startling idea. He claimed that Jesus is simply a deity borrowed from the mythology of the ancient Egyptian god Horus.

We may recoil in horror in response to this claim; however, this isn’t a new idea. There have been a number of skeptics over the years who have similarly claimed that Jesus was nothing more than a copy of popular dying-and-rising fertility gods in various places – Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Adonis in Syria, Attis in Asia Minor, and Horus in Egypt. As Dan Brown claims in The Da Vinci Code, “Nothing in Christianity is original.”

When the comparisons are made though, I must admit that, taken at face value, the similarities are astounding and can cast doubt on the historicity of Jesus (especially young believers who encounter this objection while in University).

A significant portion of the claims made about the similarities with ancient deities though are simply false and lack any archaeological or historical support. Sloppy research in the least and outright lies at the worst are often used in a ‘straw man’ attempt to bolster the effort of some atheists to make these deities (Horus in Waldemar’s case) look as much like Jesus as possible.

But serious research shows just how weak these claims are. Here are only three examples borrowed from J. Warner Wallace’s blog.

Claim: Horus was born in a cave, his birth announced by an angel, heralded by a star and attended by shepherds.
Truth: There is no reference to a cave or manger in the Egyptian birth story of Horus. In fact, none of these details are present in the ancient Egyptian stories of Horus. Horus was born in a swamp. His birth was not heralded by an angel. There was no star.

 Claim: Horus was baptized in a river at the age of 30, and his baptizer was later beheaded.
Truth: Horus was never baptized. While conspiracy theorists often point to “Anup the Baptizer” (claiming he was later beheaded), there is no such person in Horus’ story.

Claim: Horus had 12 disciples.
Truth: Horus had only four disciples (called ‘Heru-Shemsu’), but at some point, in his story there is reference to sixteen followers and a group of unnumbered followers who join Horus in battle (called ‘mesnui’).

(You can find many more claims and the corresponding truth by clicking here): 

There are many more examples, but even with only using three ‘claims vs. truth’ we can quickly see just how weak the attempts to discredit the authenticity of Jesus’ claim to be God really is.

What does the Bible say?

Still the question remains… Just what was Jesus’ claims about himself? Did he actually claim to be God and does the Bible shed any light on this question? To answer these questions let’s look at what Jesus himself says. In the gospel of John, he says “I and the Father are one.” – John 10:30.

At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim to be God, however, look at the Jews’ reaction to his statement, “We are not stoning you for any of these but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” – John 10:33. The Jews understood Jesus’ statement as a clear and loud claim to be God. What’s even more interesting is that later on in the following verses, Jesus never corrects them. He doesn’t put up his hands and say, “whoa, just hold it a minute guys, I didn’t actually claim to be God, you dudes got me all wrong.” The reason? Jesus was actually declaring himself God when he said, “I and the Father are one”. Jesus knew very well what he was saying and he knew how it would be received.

In John 8:58 we’re given another instance: “I tell you the truth before Abraham was born, I am!”

Here again the Jewish leaders get all up in a huff, and again get ready to stone him because of his ‘blasphemy’. Jesus’ announcing his identity as “I am” is a declaration, claiming the Old Testament name for God found in Exodus 3:14 (remember the burning bush story?).

John starts off his Epistle with “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God.” – John 1:1, and then in John 1:14 “The Word became flesh.” Jesus is identified as the ‘Word’ and so is clearly being acknowledged as God. Following Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” – John 20:28. Jesus doesn’t correct him, rather accepts the worship only God can receive.

We see the apostle Peter describe Jesus as God, “…our God and Saviour Jesus Christ” – 2 Peter 1:1. The apostle Paul does the same thing, “…our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” – Titus 2:13.

Also God the Father himself said the following about Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” – Hebrews 1:8.

And then we discover that Old Testament prophecies of Christ, announce his deity, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – Isaiah 9:6

Interestingly enough, the Ancient Greeks, who were immersed in mythological deity worship, never tried to claim that Jesus (or his followers) borrowed ideas from current or former deities or mythologies. The reason they didn’t was simply because they never perceived there to be any similarities. They in fact confirmed that Jesus was unique and not mistaken for any other god when Paul spoke with them.

“Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, ‘What does this babbler wish to say?’ Others said, ‘He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities’ – because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean’.” – Acts 17:18-20

The point is that if Paul was just rehashing stories of other gods, the Athenians wouldn’t have referred to his doctrine as a “new” and “strange” teaching. If dying-and-rising gods were plentiful in the first century, why then, when Paul preached Jesus rising from the dead, did the Epicureans and Stoics not remark, “Ah, just like Horus and Mithras”?

Why is the question important?

Why is the question over Jesus’ true identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God?

in his book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes the following:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him [Jesus Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”

In attempts to explain away the words of Jesus, modern “scholars” claim the “true historical Jesus” did not say many of the things the Bible attributes to him and as we have seen people like Waldemar do – even trying to bolster their claims by relegating Jesus to a borrowed ‘God Mythology’.

But who are we to argue with God’s Word concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can an art critic, “scholar” or documentary presenter, two thousand years removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus himself?

C.S. Lewis argued, believing Jesus to be only a good teacher isn’t an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably claimed to be God. If he is not God, then he is a liar, and so not a prophet, good teacher, or godly man. Jesus has to be God because if he is not God, his death would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Only God could pay such an infinite penalty, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

Salvation is available only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ deity is why he is the only way of salvation. Jesus’ deity is why he proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” – John 14:6

If Jesus is simply a myth among many myths, and therefore not a prophet, good teacher, godly man, or even real, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. But if he does exist as God then we must recognise that we are responsible to him and in need of forgiveness from him. “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20

I truly hope and pray that men like Waldemar discover this truth and declare Jesus as Thomas did, My Lord & my God, before they meet him as their Judge.

Is It Possible To Have A Deep Relationship With Jesus Without Doctrine?

There is a growing trend to devalue doctrine for Christian living and make the teachings of scripture irrelevant or unimportant. I have repeatedly heard statements like, “Doctrine is not important in Christianity. Nothing is important but having a relationship with Jesus”.

This can be made to sound good if presented with passion and is packaged right, but it’s a completely false statement. In fact, it is impossible to have a deep relationship with Jesus Christ without doctrine because doctrine is about knowing him.

A young man who meets a young girl and finds his heart going all twitter pated, naturally wants to know everything about her. If you love hunting you naturally want to know everything about hunting, same with sports or baking. Jesus says the same thing about knowing him. In John 14:15 he says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Then also in verses 23 & 24, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”

Bottom line is this… if you do not know the word, you can’t keep the word.

If you do not keep the commandments of scripture, you do not love God regardless of how emotional we get and how spirited our time of worship becomes. Keeping the Word of God is the evidence that the love of God is in our hearts.

If you do not know God’s word, how can you keep God’s word? If you do not know God’s word, how can you know God? Sound doctrine is critical because it reveals to us how to know and relate to our Creator and Saviour.

Paul tells Titus to “Teach what accords with sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1. Such a mandate makes it obvious that sound doctrine is important. In fact it’s so important that it’s the last command given by Jesus before he left earth.

In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Later on, we see how the apostles followed through on that command of Jesus’ in Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”

Doctrine Is A Sacred Trust

In Titus 2:1; Matthew 28 & Acts 2 we see a command of God’s to teach doctrine because he wants us to know him. If that’s true then doctrine is a sacred trust.

The overall teaching of the church contains many elements, but the primary message is explicitly defined by the word of God itself: For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, [and] that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

This is the clear-cut good news that we are to share, and Paul says it is “of first importance.” Change that message and the basis of faith crumbles and shifts from Christ to something else. Our eternal destiny depends upon hearing and then acting on that message.

A sacred trust is defined as something not to be violated, criticized, or tampered with. That means we dare not tamper with God’s communiqué to the world. Truth is, we are the couriers of the message, not its editors. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it.

Jude was so insistent that the church defend sound doctrine that he uses the word ‘contend’: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” – Jude 1:3

To “contend” carries with it the idea of strenuously fighting for something and to hold nothing back in the struggle, to give it everything you’ve got. A contender in boxing is someone who has worked hard for a shot at the title and will fight through pain to get it.

Are you known as a contender for the doctrines of God or are you more known as a lover not a fighter? Love Wins is applicable only in that someone else contended and died for us first. God now wants fighters and defenders for his truth. The question is… are we?

Doctrine is such a sacred trust that scripture includes a warning about tampering with God’s word. Revelation 22 says, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” – Revelation 22:18-19

Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we are to receive what has been passed down to us, keep it, contend for it and pass it on.

Doctrine Affects How We Live

We also need to understand that doctrine is a statement of faith which articulates our orthodoxy (meaning ‘right belief’). Belief is only the beginning because what we believe affects what we do.

In his first epistle to Timothy, Paul clearly associates proper belief (sound doctrine) with right behaviour. Writing to slaves he says in 1 Timothy 6: “Let all who are under the yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honour so that the name of God and our doctrine may not be spoken against.” – 1 Timothy 6:1

If a Christian slave dishonoured his master in any way by disobedience, by acting disrespectfully, by speaking shamefully of his master, the worst consequence would not be the beating he would receive but the curses he would cause his master to hurl at this slave’s God, his religion, and the teaching he had embraced: “So that is what this new religion teaches its converts!”

Instead of bringing honour to the true God and the gospel, as every Christian should be anxious to do, this slave would bring about the very opposite.

With that in mind it’s of interest then that the history of the early church reveals that Christian slaves generally commanded a higher price on the slave market than unbelievers. If a master knew that a certain slave on the auction block was a Christian, he would generally be willing to pay more for that slave, since he knew that the slave would serve him faithfully and well.

This is high tribute to the Christian faith and the soundness of the doctrine that this slave embraced. What this slave believed inside himself, affected how he lived outside himself.

Here’s a question for all of us to consider. If you were put on the “slave market” so to speak would you “command a higher price?” The purpose of doctrine is not to simply inform us intellectually of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, but to challenge us to live out our faith in life and practice.

Behaviour is an extension of theology and there is a direct correlation between what we think and how we act, between belief and behaviour.

Let’s look at it another way. If you believe that you’re invincible you can easily make foolhardy decisions. For example, two guys stand on top of a bridge; one believes he can fly, and the other believes he can’t. Their next actions and ultimate results will be quite dissimilar.

In the same way, someone who believes that there is no such thing as right and wrong will naturally behave differently than someone who believes in well-defined moral standards.

Paul says, “Understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine.” – 1 Timothy 1:9-10

Isn’t it interesting that here Paul lists sins like rebellion, murder, lying, and slave trading and then concludes with “and whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine.” I think Paul thinks sound doctrine is kinda important don’t you think? In other words, Paul’s saying “listen, bad behaviour is out of sync with true belief”. Sound doctrine curbs corrupt conduct.

So ask yourself, “Are my actions before my family, in school and at the workplace giving clear testimony to the reality of the doctrine of Christ in me?”

Hey Enlightened Culture! Who Gets To Decide What Is Evil Or Good?

On Sunday June 25, 2017 the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and his wife Sophie, marched in the Toronto Pride Parade. It was the second year in a row that he’s marched as Prime Minister – showing the world his acceptance of, and determination to make the LBGTQ life choice (yes, I said choice on purpose) accepted as an integral part of the Canadian cultural identity and showcasing this resolve as a top priority for him personally.

If that is Justin’s personal belief that is one thing, one I don’t happen to agree with, however along with his personal belief comes a worldview that says that if you don’t accept a person’s behaviour you mustn’t be tolerant and thus not love that person. The conclusion most often made with that view is that true tolerance and thus loving others mean that we can then never determine what is evil or what is good – for them or anyone else… “If it feels good to you than who am I to say that it is wrong?”

Interestingly enough, based on their own worldview, most who hold to this belief determine that I am wrong because I choose to disagree with them. By that admission they are automatically intolerant of my personal worldview and thus I can only surmise that they must not love me… obviously a self-defeating philosophy of thought which of course they can’t or won’t recognize.

There are many who contend that no one can say what is evil, moral or good because we are all simply non-created animals, evolved from some primordial soup and thus not accountable to anyone… are they right?

Among those who would believe along those lines is Richard Dawkins who wrote in his 2006 book ‘The God Delusion’, that God and belief in God are misconceptions. Belief in God, says Dawkins, subverts science and knowledge, breeds ignorance, foments bigotry, and abuses children. All this happens for the simple reason that God is a delusion.

However I would contend that God is not the delusion; atheism is. Instead of a god-delusion the apostle Paul tells us that the human race in general is lost in sin and self-delusion.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” – 2 Timothy 4:3

The denial of God is the true delusion  that extends to the atheist’s view of humanity as “good,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. A sober assessment of human beings recognizes that we lie, cheat, steal, lust, complain, envy, hate, and forget and that we are careless, ruthless, disrespectful, resentful, and loveless.

We are all these things naturally from birth. This is what God means when He says, “There is no one who does good” – Psalm 14:3. We are so obviously sinful that it is silly to claim that human beings are “good.”

Nobody teaches kids to lie; and yet they do it quite naturally almost like they’re presupposed to it. Nobody teaches teenage boys to lust; they do it naturally and almost without being conscious of it at times. Nobody teaches us to resent our boss or spread malicious gossip about someone we don’t like in the next cubicle; we do these things naturally. Nobody teaches the wife to overly criticize or the husband to neglect his wife; both do these things naturally.

Yet in the sixth chapter of The God Delusion, entitled “The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?” Dawkins states (despite the fact that apparently there  is no God who can define what is “good”) just why human beings are good, which he does based on nothing more than his own opinion.

Later in the ninth chapter of The God Delusion called “Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion” Dawkins replies to a question about clergy sexual abuse: “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Christian in the first place” (page 317).

What?!?

In fairness to Dawkins he later claimed that it was an off the cuff comment to a question he had been asked at a conference in Ireland. However my push back is that we are responsible for those ‘off the cuff’ comments we all make from time to time because those comments are indicative of what we truly believe.

Dawkins was essentially saying that human beings are “good” and that even (minor) sexual abuse they (priests or others) perpetrate is better than a religion that tells them they are not “good”. All of that comes out of his belief system where he can’t or won’t accept the idea of God, and the subsequent accountability to God for our actions. How he explains the heart of “good” people sexually abusing children completely escapes me I must say.

At the end of the day it isn’t you or me who get to answer the question of who is evil or who is good, rather it is God and only God who get’s to decide.

We humans do evil because our hearts are evil. “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” – Matthew 12:35.

A few years ago (2010) Christian Apologist Gregory Koukl was asked a very important question:

“While giving a talk at a local Barnes & Noble, someone asked why it was necessary for him to believe in Jesus.  He was Jewish, believed in God, and was living a moral life. Those were the important things, it seemed – how you lived, not what you believed. To him our message depicted a narrow-minded God pitching people into Hell because of an arcane detail of Christian theology. 

How should I answer? Remember that the first responsibility of an ambassador is knowledge – an accurately informed message.  What is our message? One way to say it is, “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’ll go to Hell.  If you do believe, you’ll go to Heaven.” That’s certainly true, as far as it goes.  The problem is it’s not clear.  Since it doesn’t give an accurate sense of why Jesus is necessary, it makes God sound petty. So how do we fix this? Here’s how I responded to my Jewish questioner.

I asked him two simple questions. “Do you think people who commit moral crimes ought to be punished?” 
He thought for a moment.  “Well, since I’m a prosecuting attorney…yes.” 
“So do I,” I agreed.
“Second question: Have you ever committed any moral crimes?” 
There was a slight pause.  This was getting personal. “Yes, I guess I have,” he admitted. “So have I, ” I confessed, agreeing with him again.
“So now we have this difficult situation, don’t we? We both believe those who commit moral crimes ought to be punished, and we both believe we’ve committed moral crimes. Do you know what I call that? I call that bad news.”

In less than 60 seconds I had accomplished a remarkable thing with this approach. I didn’t have to convince him he was a sinner. He was telling me. I didn’t have to convince him he deserved to be punished. He was telling me. I was tapping into a deep intuition every person shares: knowledge of his own guilt. And I didn’t do it arrogantly or in an obnoxious, condescending way. I freely admitted I was in the same trouble he was. Now that we agreed on the problem it was time to give the solution.

“This is where Jesus comes in,” I explained. “We both know we’re guilty.  That’s the problem. So God offers a solution: a pardon, free of charge. But it’s on His terms, not ours. Jesus is God’s answer because He personally paid the penalty for us. He took the rap in our place. No one else has done that. Now we have a choice to make. We either take the pardon and go free, or refuse it and pay for our own crimes.” 
https://www.str.org/blog/cross-examining-attorney-0#.WVKohWjyvIU

So back to the original question i posed at the start of this post. Many, like Richard Dawkins contend that at the end of the day no one can say what is evil, moral or good because we are all simply non-created animals, evolved from some primordial soup and thus not accountable to anyone… are they right?

No they are not. So then who gets to decide what is evil and what is good? The answer is… Jesus Christ. And the truth and hope for the world is that we can be made new creations in Christ, otherwise mankind will continue to do evil because it is their natural inclination. “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God’.” – Romans 3:10-11

What Should Be The Christian’s Response To Anti Christian Sentiment?

I recall a number of years ago, the University of Saskatchewan’s student newspaper ‘The Sheaf’ published sexually derogatory cartoons depicting Jesus Christ. There were apologies and resignations over it but controversy continued to surround the situation for months. At the very least it was tasteless, at the worst it was a personal attack on Christians. I saw it as a growing appetite of society to showcase a defiant ‘fist pump’ in God’s face.

Truth is that the fist pumping isn’t stopping anytime soon. We have recently witnessed boycotts and even legal actions taken against Christian bakers who refused to bake a wedding cake for same sex couples, anti Christian graffiti on church walls, employees being fired for pro-life stands, subtle and not so subtle undertones of intolerance in the media, or outright abuse of power in the government.

In the June 21st, 2014 edition of the National Post, journalist Rex Murphy wrote an article that spoke to a very troubling issue with regard to the suppression of personal choice based on conscience, religious or otherwise. Rex said, “Elected Liberal MPs are under Justin Trudeau’s direct order that, in any legislation that touches on the abortion issue, they must — mindless of their faith, their previous professions on the subject, or their conscience – vote the “pro-choice” dogma. Pro-abortion is the party line. And it is the only line allowed.” – full article can be found by clicking on the following link: http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/rex-murphy-in-justin-trudeaus-world-christians-need-not-apply

The responses to all the aforementioned anti-Christian sentiments have been overwhelmingly angst driven. Many comments were angry (rightly so), but what was notable was the almost militant responses. Much of the reaction was a result of fear, quickly turning to hate, with some individuals on the very edge of making death threats against Trudeau. We’ve seen this fear / hate in other situations as well. Similar threats have been thrown the way of same sex couples, and in the situation of ‘The Sheaf’ in Saskatoon, calls for the editor of the University paper to be publicly humiliated were abundant. I wasn’t surprised about people exercising their freedom of expression in areas of disagreement… we should always allow for healthy dialogue, especially in places of disagreement. What did surprise me however, was that many of the most hateful and fearful comments came from within the Christian camp.

My question is how are we Christians supposed to respond to the growing anti-Christian sentiment? Are we to ‘fist pump in your face’ back for every ‘fist pump in your face’ received? Please don’t misread me. I absolutely believe that we must respond, but what does that look like? Death threats? Civil uprisings? That last one may be answered differently depending on what side of the Canadian / U.S. border you live on of course. But does the bible have something to say that would – should direct us, independent of our country’s history’s?

Regarding the government, it’s always good to remember that the civil government is a means ordained by God for ruling and maintaining order in communities (1 Peter 2:13-17). As Christians, we must acknowledge that God gives the local government the “power of the sword,” the lawful use of the force to administer just laws (Romans 13:1-7). We are also called to pray for those who God has placed in the positions of authority over us (1 Timothy 2:1-4). But if that government forbids what God requires or requires what God forbids, then of course Christians cannot submit, and some form of civil disobedience becomes necessary (Acts 4:18-31; 5:17-29). But this civil disobedience must still be done with respect and according to the heart of God’s Word, not the way of our old selves – the carnal, revenge seeking, hateful hearts we once had.

What we are seeing are events in our world that we, as Christians need to learn and understand will increasingly become an expectation rather than an exception. I think it really speaks to what it means to follow Christ. And what is that? Simply it is that the work of Christ is based on being insulted.

Already in the Psalms and in Isaiah the path of mockery was promised: “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads” – Psalm 22:7 “He was despised and rejected by men as one from whom men hide their faces and we esteemed him not” – Isaiah 53:3

If Christ hadn’t been insulted, there would be no salvation. This was, after all, his saving work: to be insulted and die to rescue sinners from the wrath of God. This helps us establish a benchmark for ourselves of what the Christians’ response needs to be (even if it includes civil actions or individual ‘retributions’).

That being the case then, just how should his followers respond? In answer to those who say we need to protest or seek revenge I would like to point us back to the words of Jesus himself, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” – John 18:36

So… what is our response?

On the one hand we are grieved and angered. But on the other hand if we identify with Christ, embrace his suffering, rejoice in our afflictions, and say with the apostle Paul that vengeance belongs to the Lord, then we will seek to love our enemies and win them with the gospel. If Christ did his work by being insulted, we must do ours likewise. Pray for those who persecute us. Love those who say all manner of evil against us. Live so that others may know the real Jesus, the Jesus who sees with the eyes of compassion.

“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. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5:43-45

So before we all plan that next fist pumping march on Ottawa, Washington or London to call for the head of someone we perceive is trampling on our Christian rights, maybe we should make sure we got the love ‘your enemies and pray for those who persecute us’ figured out first.