Abuse of Liberty

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As a Christian I take comfort in the fact that I’m called to freedom. As a Canadian I’m thankful that I live in a free country. Freedom is a wonderful thing that we dare not take for granted. But according to Galatians 5:13 freedom can be abused. In that verse Paul tells the Galatians, and us, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”

It seems to me that we North Americans are in great danger of doing what Paul expressly told us not to do. We are using our freedom as a chance to indulge our sinful nature. It’s happening all around us. Freedom can lead in one of two directions summarized by two four letter words.

We can either use freedom to love, or we can use our freedom to indulge our lust. Take an honest look at our society today. Which four letter word are we really focussing on. Is our society dominated by love? Or is it dominated by lust? Love is all about giving. Lust is all about taking. Sometimes the line of demarcation between the two becomes blurred, especially when it comes to romantic entanglements.

Whatever happened to the concept of saving sex for marriage? Most people no longer see the necessity of making a life-long commitment before “making love”. Instead, they just wait until their partner is sufficiently intoxicated and then its game on. Or they just wait until they can be alone somewhere, in the back seat of a car, or their parents basement or whatever the case may be. And the girls are just as bad as the boys, perhaps worse.

And who says you have to be entangled with a member of the opposite sex? We’re free aren’t we? We can be entangled with anybody. Men entangled with men. Women entangled with women. Who cares right? I’m a free moral agent in the universe. I can make my own choice to live however I want. True, but what about Paul’s warning here in Galatians? Are we truly walking in love? Or are we really just abusing our freedom and hence each other in the process? The fact is, when we abuse our freedom we really just end up abusing ourselves.

But the cry of this generation is summed up in three words, “don’t judge me.” It’s understandable. People who are not living right hate being judged. Who can blame them? But like it or not God is going to judge us all. Nobody should be overly concerned about my judgement, but they should certainly be concerned about the judgement of God.

Even if you’ve never heard Hebrews 13:4 you’re still going to be judged by it, just as I will be judged by it. The verse goes like this: “Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”

Fornication refers to all types of sex outside marriage. The Greek root of this word is “pornea” from which we get the word “pornography.” Need I say more. Of course, adultery refers to any type of illicit sexual activity involving married people. To make matters worse, there’s also such a thing as mental/emotional adultery which Jesus talked about in the sermon on the mount. (see Matthew 5:28)

These are not my words, I dare not take credit for them. They are God’s words, written for all people. We dare not ignore them. Like it or not God is going to judge our abuse of freedom.

People today want instant gratification but instant gratification is not what they really need. What people really need is genuine love. Deep down people crave this true love. Love is the only thing that really satisfies the soul. Love is why God sent His Son Jesus down from heaven to die on the cross for the sins of the world. God’s love brings forgiveness and cleansing and healing to our souls and bodies. We need God’s love. Without it we will grasp after anything or anybody to fill the void in our hearts and lives. Without it we’ll just go on using our freedom as an opportunity for the flesh.

And when we do make the choice to live for God we find that God meets our needs and even our desires. As Psalm 37:4 says:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Jesus died for our freedom. The question is how will we respond to what He has done for us?

There’s a story that has been told from Civil War days before America’s slaves were freed, about a northerner who went to a slave auction and purchased a young slave girl. As they walked away from the auction, the man turned to the girl and told her, “You’re free.”
With amazement she responded, “You mean, I’m free to do whatever I want?”
“Yes,” he said.
“And to say whatever I want to say?”
“Yes, anything.”
“And to be whatever I want to be?”
“Yep.”
“And even go wherever I want to go?”
“Yes,” he answered with a smile. “You’re free to go wherever you’d like.”
She looked at him intently and replied, “Then I will go with you.”

Shooting for success in Parenting

The other day I shot my eight-year-old son in the face. Twice. The first bullet struck him on the forehead. The second struck him on the cheek. Thankfully, he was wearing his goggles. Even more tha…

Source: Shooting for success in Parenting

Shooting for success in Parenting

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The other day I shot my eight-year-old son in the face. Twice.
The first bullet struck him on the forehead. The second struck him on the cheek. Thankfully, he was wearing his goggles. Even more thankfully, I was firing from a Nerf Gun. Before you judge me I would ask you to consider the fact that playing Nerf Gun wars with an eight-year-old can be exceedingly fun.

Furthermore, I didn’t mean to shoot him in the face, I was aiming for his upper body area, preferably the chest. You might rightly question the wisdom of playing any form of a gun game with a child. I’ve been told the same thing about wrestling with him. Or playing full body contact hockey in the basement. My experience is that boys sometimes like to play rough. And they like to have fun. Should we discourage this? Or play with them, teaching them the difference between play time and real life situations.

Should we teach our boys to be wimpy? Should we raise them as if they were girls? Not that girls are wimpy, that’s not what I mean at all. Rather I mean that girls, generally speaking, are different than boys in the things they enjoy. If I had a girl I probably wouldn’t wrestle with her (at least not too much), or check her up against the boards during a basement hockey contest. I’d probably play dolls with her and have make-believe tea parties.

My philosophy of parenting is that boys should be raised as boys and girls as girls. If my boy wanted to play with dolls, quite frankly I would discourage it. For his own sake. And mine. His mother’s. His grandparents. And for society’s. Believe me, I don’t pretend to have this parenting thing all figured out and I’m open to change my philosophy in the face of new information and experience. Currently though, I’m sticking with the line of thinking that says boys are from Mars and girls are from Jupiter.

It could also be argued that not all boys are the same. Just as there are various species within a family of animals so there are various temperaments, personalties, etc. within the species of boys. If I had another boy, he might not enjoy hockey or Nerf Guns, or any other type of highly competitive activity or sport. He might prefer a quiet game of checkers to a rough and tumble game of basement hockey. I suspect that parenting, like many areas of life, requires an element of “going with the flow.” My wife and I have sincerely tried to refrain from pushing our boy into any particular sport or activity. We merely suggest possibilities and allow him to try different things in order to find out what he’s good at and what he enjoys doing so that we can encourage him along those lines.

And we try to teach him that there are more important things in life than winning. We tell him that he’s not going to win every game, or finish first in every contest. He doesn’t have to the best, the fastest, or the smartest. Life is not a competition. He simply needs to try his best and have fun. Such is not a bad philosophy of life even for us adults.

I also try to teach him that the most important thing of all is having faith in Jesus Christ and love for people of all walks of life. He has a long way to go to reach perfection in this. But then again, so do I.

The Wildest of all Fires!

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The situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta got me thinking about wild fires from a biblical perspective.
I was thinking specifically about the “wild fire” that destroyed two infamous cities – Sodom and Gomorrah. This particular fire, which you can read about in Genesis 19, was a direct judgement from God. Ironically, it came down like rain from the sky. Thankfully, there is a big difference between the Sodom fire and the Fort Mac fire. In the Sodom situation only Lot and his family escaped and even Lot’s wife died shortly after their departure. The rest of the population were completely wiped out.

In Fort Mac the people got out. Only property was destroyed.. Thank God for His mercy in Fort Mac. And I certainly don’t want to minimize the tragedy of people losing everything they’ve worked for. Their feelings of loss and devastation are totally understandable. But we need to be thankful that, as far as I know, there’s been no loss of life.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 gives some insight regarding the issues that plagued Sodom.
“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. (50) And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit”

It always concerns me when I see society parading pride (sometimes quite literally) as a good thing, as a quality to be fostered and developed in people. Scripture presents pride as something to be avoided. Proverbs 16;18 says, “Pride goes before destruction And a haughty spirit before a fall.” And James 4:6 tells us that “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble”

Sodom was a city of great prosperity (“fullness of food”). And because they had left God out of their lives there was plenty of time to party hardy (“abundance of idleness”). Most people were “well off” but they refused to help those who were less fortunate (“neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy”).

Therefore, God “took them away as (He) saw fit.”

One of the benefits of leaving God out of your life and refusing to serve Him is that you’ll have more time to do other things. Sometimes those other things are not bad in and of themselves. Going to the cabin. Taking a run on the quad. Fishing. Boating. Hanging out with friends. Taking trips. Going on cruises. Watching TV. Spending countless hours scrolling through Facebook and Twitter. Working. Peddling around the house at this or that. Eating and drinking. These are not bad things. The badness is in leaving God out of the picture, putting the “things” in the front seat and God in the back.

Unlike most people who go to church God refuses to sit in the back. He demands first place in our hearts and lives.

In the meantime, I have joined my voice to the many who are rightly praying for rain in Fort Mac. Yet, I am reminded of another “wild fire” that will never be quenched. It is doubtless the wildest fire of all. The book of Revelation describes it as a lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

God has already issued an evacuation order. We must leave the city of sin and run toward the Saviour. When it comes to the lake of fire, there’s no other way of escape.

All Aboard

No offence to Russel Crowe but I heard the Hollywood film “Noah” wasn’t very good.

I haven’t seen the movie but I heard that it strays considerably from the biblical narrative. I’m not denying that the movie was probably well put together with good acting and dazzling special effects. I’m just saying it would have been nice if they had stayed closer to the text of scripture. But that’s Hollywood for you.

In any case, Noah is one of the best-known Bible characters because his name is associated with the greatest catastrophe in the history of the human race. One thing we know about the Ark (which Noah built in obedience to God) is that it was a massive structure. Big enough to fit two of every animal.
And I tend to think the ark was big enough to fit extra people if necessary. Unfortunately, the ark set sail with quite a few empty seats.

It reminds of the Titanic. While the great ship was slowly sinking into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic lifeboats were lowered to the sea half-full. From the ark to the titanic, to some of our churches today, it’s the tragic story of empty seats. I know what some of you are thinking. You don’t have to occupy a seat in a particular building in order to be saved. That much is true.

The ark of safety for us is not a big floating box with three decks, or any other kind of physical structure made of wood and stone. The ark of safety is a Person, none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet we also see in scripture that the church is called the Body of Christ. Has Christ become severed from His own body? Can we have a relationship with Christ and at the same time refuse to associate with a local body of believers?

Some claim they don’t need to sit in church on Sunday morning in order to worship God. They feel closer to Jesus while sitting on their couch sipping freshly brewed coffee. Surely, it’s easier and more comfortable to sit home and watch church on TV than it is to get dressed, get in the car and drive to a building filled with messy, imperfect people.

But is it right? And is it best for the one desiring to sit at home? Of course, it’s much easier to raise questions than it is to provide solid answers.

One thing I can say for sure. There’s no salvation apart from Christ. He is the ark of safety for humanity today and there’s no shortage of room for those who want to get onboard. If you have questions and doubts about the church (or about anything else) you’re certainly not alone. My only advice would be, don’t let the questions and doubts keep you from Christ.

I’d even go so far as to say, don’t let the church keep you from Christ. It almost sounds blasphemous but it’s true. When operating at its worst, the church can actually hinder genuine seekers from finding the Lord. When operating at its best the church is a lighthouse, warning people of danger, helping them to safely reach their destination.

There’s safety in following Jesus. He loves us. He knows what is best for us. We just need to trust Him.

Easter is Over but not its Message

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Easter is over but I decided to write about it anyway.
You’re probably thinking I’m only doing that because I have serious issues with procrastination. You’re thinking that I meant to write about Easter a couple of weeks ago but kept putting if off.

The truth is, you’re partially correct. In any case, I now wish to use my procrastination to make a legitimate point about the gospel. Easter of course is largely about chocolate eggs and a large bunny whom nobody ever sees.

But it’s also a time when we supposedly remember the death of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent resurrection on the third day. Good Friday is good because it’s the day when we remember that Jesus died for our sins. Easter Sunday is good too because on that day Christ rose from the dead. It’s the gospel in a chocolate covered nutshell.

As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

We sometimes say it’s not enough to believe. I’ve even said it myself. But I’m starting to see things a little differently. My new motto is this: “It is enough to believe if you really believe”. It’s easy to say we believe the gospel. It’s easy to say a lot of things in life. It’s easier to say “I love you,” then it is to actually love somebody. It’s easier to say “I believe in Jesus” than it is to actually believe in Him.

Please allow me to propose this question and I sincerely ask that you refrain from the temptation to stone me. My question is this. If a person really believed in the message of Easter would they only show up to church once or twice a year? Or would they show up more often? I would even dare to say that it’s not altogether outside the realm of possibility that a true believer would find themselves making a monthly or even weekly pilgrimage to a place of worship.

Of course, this is not to say that weekly church attendance is the only mark of a true believer. Nor is it to suggest that all true believers would be so radical as to attend church every week. There are other marks of true faith in Christ. Some true believers have been known to develop habits of prayer and bible reading. Some have become better people as a result of their faith in Christ.

Some have found freedom from various addictions such as drugs and alcohol. Yes, believing is indeed enough if you really believe. What does it mean to really believe? I don’t presume to have fully answered the question in this one little blog. But it’s a good question. We’d all do well to ponder it.

The Inner Sense

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I’ve always been facinated with the brain.
​Not my own in particular, but brains in general. How they function. What they’re made of. Why they stop operating properly when you need them most.

I was reading a story recently that spoke of our brain’s built-in ability to recognize the existence of God (see link to full story below). According to scientific research, the tendency to believe in God is no accident. It’s hard-wired into our brains.

We can’t help ourselves. Scientists say even children left to their own devices, with no prior teaching, still have some conception of God. I believe Romans 1 has something to say about this.. Verse 19 says, “…what may be known of God is manifest in them (people), for God has shown it to them.”

Yes, the inner sense is in all of us, telling us there has to be something more to life than the things we see around us. So if this “inner sense” is in all of us how do we explain the tendency toward atheism? I would propose that even atheists have the inner sense. It hasn’t left them. It doesn’t really leave anybody. It may get smothered under layers of hurt, pain, wrong teaching, pride, and deception but it doesn’t really leave.

Perhaps, the inner sense is the very thing that causes some atheists to fight so ardently against belief in God. Deep down, they know He’s real. They just don’t like Him very much. Please understand, I’m not judging atheists. I know some atheists personally and I like them. They’re great people. There’s a variety of reasons why people come to a place of unbelief.

​But I do believe that all atheism involves some form of denial. Obviously, there’s a denial of the facts of scripture. But also there’s denial both of the inner sense mentioned above and the witness of creation. Romans speaks further about this. Verse 20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

Ouch. “They are without excuse.” That part scares me a little, for the sake of those who have chosen unbelief. Ultimately, whatever reasons a person has to deny the reality of God, there’s really no valid excuse for doing so.

On a lighter note, the research also found that prayer helps people overcome anxiety, depression and high blood pressure. Apparently, the positive affects of prayer are impossible to overestimate. Who knew?

Of course, prayer is much more effective when you know the God you’re praying too. If you know His Son then there’s really no limit to what your prayers can accomplish. If your inner sense of God has come alive through the Holy Spirit then you carry the potential of being a powerful prayer warrior. If you don’t know what a prayer warrior is then I encourage you to watch the movie War Room.

READ THE STORY ABOUT THE INNER SENSE @ CHARISMA.COM