Tuesday, 30 October 2018

The Two Facets of Love

A little girl had parents who gave her everything she wanted.  They didn't want to pressure her or limit her, so they rarely said "No."  They left her to set her own boundaries.  Even, left her alone during tantrums.  As the behaviour got worse, they retreated even more, not wanting to come down on her - until one day that girl - the one who had been given everything, and had been told "I love you" incessantly when upset - finally concluded "My parents don't love me."

How?

Love is expressed with a "No" and a "Yes."  It separates and it unifies, always for good.  But this little girl was disintegrating.  Her parents had provided no order to her life, because they didn't want to stifle her, but in so doing let her break into pieces and float away.  She would never have asked for this order - though some might say her bad behaviour was her way of calling for it - but she definitely needed it.  Love is a balance of "No" and "Yes."

Reality was created this way.  God created everything in Genesis 1 by unifying and separating - defining by gathering together, and distinguishing by setting boundaries.  Heaven and earth.  Land and sea.  Body and Soul.  Adam and Eve.  Creation was an ordered blend of separate things able to come together for life to thrive and flourish.

But there's more, this balance of "No" and "Yes" is also the way we humans understand what we experience.  There is no way for your eye/mind to process the near infinite amount of information that comes to you day by day.  You are actively engaged in this process of "No" and "Yes" in deciding what to pay attention to, categorizing what you are looking at, in forming the details you will remember in your memory, in understanding, experiencing and interpreting reality.  Humanity is created in the image of God.  And we, like Him, continue this process all the time, everyday.

Imagine if you, like that little girl, had one of these two - the "No" or the "Yes" - shutdown in your experience of the world.  You would look in the face of your mother, or wife, or child - and you wouldn't see their eyes.  You wouldn't know where to look, because you wouldn't be able to distinguish between their hair and their eyes and their skin.  All the boundaries would be mixed up and confused.  You wouldn't know if you should look at a single pore, or at them as a flat part of everything behind them.  You would immediately conclude, "My Creator doesn't love me, because this is chaos."

Your heavenly Father does love you.  Every part of your experience is ordered in this way.  From the least significant to the most significant.  From your bodily needs to your spiritual needs.  God separates and He unifies.  He gives and He takes.  He orders and He creates.  And all of it for you.  And though we mix it up.  Though much of what we do and say, mixes it all up - Christ was sent down from above.

In Christ, He has united heaven and earth - God and Man in One person - suspended on a tree with its roots in the earth and its branches in the heavens.  He has united you and Him.  Every syllable of His Word does the same, and provides you the pattern of reality for your life.  You are forgiven in Christ.  As a parent, you can balance the "No" and the "Yes" for your children.  As a husband or wife, you can balance the "No" and the "Yes" for your spouse.  As a son or daughter, you can balance the "No" and the "Yes" for your parents.

And in such a perfect, beautiful creation - as His wonderfully made child - you can say to your Father in heaven - "You are amazing.  You really do love me in Christ.  Keep me eternally in Him.  And make me part of your everlasting pattern."  In Jesus' Name, Amen.


Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Stand or Not?

There I was sitting in a room with a group of adults.  Various conversations were happening, when all of a sudden "O Canada" came blaring into the room through the speaker.

I rose to my feet, came to attention as I was taught (and ordered) to do in the Navy.  And as I settled into place, I noticed that some of the other adults had stood, but some had not.  Certainly had these adults been in front of children or had they found themselves in a more formal setting - they would have stood.  But in that room - with that group of adults - they did not.

I don't tell you this story to reinforce the practice that Canadians should stand for their national anthem.  This isn't about what ought to be done.  I'm focused on the way it created a division in the room that day.

Whether you like it or not there are certain things upon which you must take a stand - but when you take your stand, there will be others who will not stand with you.  Reality is built this way.  As truly as heaven is different from earth, standing is different from not standing - yet we are forced into situations when we MUST choose.

If we stand - we are divided from those who don't stand.

If we don't stand - we are divided from those who do stand.  It is going to happen.

So the ultimate question is: for what will you take your stand?

Christ took His stand for you.  He lay it all on the line - that you might be forgiven and live.  But the way He did this is so incredibly important.

He united heaven and earth.  The standers and the sitters.  He came down from heaven, entered into our situation, and made Himself the One place where all may be One.  Christ - the greatest sinner - yet also the Lord of heaven.  He didn't sit on His throne and oppose us.  He joined us - to Him - and promises to carry us up to His throne on high.

Now, you are here - living day by day in a reality where you are forced to take a stand.  Will you stand with Him?  Stand up for Him?  Or will you stay seated because you aren't sitting in a pew at a church?  Will you stand for Him at work, at home, in public?  Or will you run from Him when He needs you (like the disciples)?

The truth is - you will do both.  But you know He will always stand for you - you know you can return to Him, kneel before Him - and ask Him to strengthen your legs to take that stand for Him.  And forgive you for when you don't.  Make me stronger Lord - don't let me be a coward anymore - but strengthen my faith in You and Your eternal joining of heaven and earth.  Use me to hold You out before those in need, that You may join them to this new humanity You are creating.  In Jesus' Name, Amen.



Monday, 4 June 2018

Coffee and Weeds

I stood there, coffee in hand, nozzle in the other, watering my grass.  The water sprinkled out over the green sprouts.  I relaxed into the moment as the sun sparkled off the mist and the morning breeze pleasantly played with the leaves in the trees.

Then it struck me.

Here I am watering my grass, hoping for it to grow and have the best life possible.  But even as I do it - I am watering the weeds as well.  I don't want the weeds, but as I water my grass - I am giving those weeds exactly what they need to grow and thrive too.

"Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:18)

The Christian desires to grow in faith - that is, grow in trusting in that grace revealed in Christ, and in knowing more and more about how all-encompassing that grace is.  But there is a problem.  The weeds are growing too.  Sin.  False desires.  False faiths.  And much like my lawn, there is nothing I can do about.

Oh - but wait - there is this guy I can call.  He comes with a truck and sprays my lawn and the weeds go away.  Likewise with my soul - there is this guy I can call.  I pray to Him.  I pour out my concerns to Him, and He comes along with His bloody hose and forgives all my sins.  He feeds my soul His promises.  He enters into my yard with His grace and clears the weeds away - so that I might marvel anew and grow in Him.

Pray to the Lord.  Ask Him to make you grow in His grace.  Ask Him to clear the weeds away with that same grace.  Ask Him to make the lawn of your soul a beautiful green carpet of perfect grass - one ready to host any hurting other person and show them the same grace He has shown you.

We don't deserve a weed-free soul, but Christ gives us one anyway.  We don't deserve to have Him hear our prayers and come running to help us, but He does it anyway.  That's grace.  God's riches at Christ's expense.  All of it - For You.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Is there anything better than this?

"No better life than the life we living"
"No better you than the you that you are"

These are the platitudes of Alessia Cara's "Scars to your Beautiful" where she insists you have nothing to change about yourself - let the world change for you - because there is nothing better than what you are right now.

I cannot think of a more depressing, demotivating message in all the world.  And it is utter nonsense.

My very problem is that I know I have squandered my potential.  I know I have not lived up to all that life has to offer.  I know that I could have done better.  But I have "halfed it" - I did it - Me - I'm responsible - and I've lied to myself about it.  I don't need Alessia Cara to help me.

Is there anything better than this?

Yes.  There is - and you've been made for it.  This is why you want it.  Why its transcendent beauty attracts you.  You were created for a far better life than this - one of truth - one of peace - and there is One who is working to bring it back to you.

He truly had no better life than the life He was living - up in heaven.  But for you and for your salvation He came down from heaven, entered your life, became human just like you - and faced all your troubles and enemies and failures and wasted opportunities.  He came to collect all the shortcomings and the lies and the guilt and the shame - and put it into death where it belongs...  but it cost Him.  It cost Him His life.

Jesus is the new humanity.  He is your new life of fulfilled potential.  Risen from the dead, He is all that life has to offer.  He is "the better" we all should have done - yet He is not your competitor - He is a gift - your ally - your champion and friend - who did all He did only for you, and not for Himself.  He is the One who has truly lived every human moment for other people, and even in His death gives the whole credit of His life to you - as a gift - for free.  You are forgiven.  Yes, you "halfed it," you are responsible, you lied to yourself - but Jesus forgives you - and gives you His truth - His honesty - His perfect life and promises you are free.

Free.

Free to walk with Him.  Free to pick up the heavy load in your life, and follow Him - knowing it matters - it is not wasteful - but will set the world straight as He guides your feet in truth's path.  I can admit it - I have failed.  But I can trust it - He forgives me, and sets my feet on the path of new life in Him.  In Jesus' name, Amen.





Wednesday, 13 December 2017

How do you love Jesus?

You hear it all the time.  "We're just trying to gather together with people who love the Lord."

But how do you love the Lord?  What does it mean to "Love the Lord"? 

Our first problem is that we think we know what love is.  Do we really know what it means to love - or does God have to teach us by giving us the Ten Commandments?  "Love is the fulfilling of the Law" (Romans 13:10).  The Ten Commandments are God's teaching on love.  Love for God, and love for the neighbour (Matt. 22:37-38).  It is the first table of the Law (Commandments 1-3) that teaches us how to love God.

But we think we know love.  We aren't looking to the Commandments to teach us - we're looking inside ourselves - to our hearts.  Have you ever got the impression from someone who says they "love the Lord" that what they mean is "He makes me feel good"?  I have strong emotions for the Lord.  I love Him.  Yes, so do I - but what about when He disciplines you as your heavenly Father?  What about when He doesn't give you what you pray for because His Will is different?  What about when He doesn't make you feel good - do you love Him then?  Is love for God more than warm feelings?

God teaches what it means to love Him - and it is not what we would first expect.

1. You shall have no other gods.
2. You shall not misuse the Name of the LORD your God.
3. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.

***According to God, Loving Him is entirely about how we treat His Holy Word, not about how He makes us feel.  Our love for Him is an action, one He describes in the first table.***

First Commandment:  Is God and His Word first?  The first thing we trust?  The first thing we look to when we want to understand and receive goodness? 

Second Commandment: Does God's Word and Name have such a place in our lives, our heart and minds, that its purity is primary?  Are we chiefly concerned with whether His Word is presented truthfully and faithfully?  Are we praying for this?  Studying diligently to be sure its happening in our midst?  Is His doctrine important?

Third Commandment: Is the hearing of God's Word the ordering principle of our life?  The thing upon which our lives are built?  Do we recognize that without His Word our day is unholy, but by His Word all things, even we, are made holy?

This is love for God - Jesus teaches.  It is about trusting, studying and hearing His Word.  It is about growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). 

Beautiful Savior is trying to gather together with people who love the Lord - in study of His most faithful and merciful Word and promises.  Come, learn, grow.  To Him be glory both now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.



Monday, 4 December 2017

Are you a Rebel?

*This following post was written by Rev. Ted Giese and used with permission.

Are you a Rebel? There are two kinds of rebels. There are the kind who rebel against the World and its influences on society and culture, and there are the kind of rebels who rebel against God and His Word. Which kind are you?

In the Old Testament we are warned, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) While the World is currently castigating sexual abuse in Hollywood, the News Media and Government, it is a snake eating its own tail - for it was the World through these very agencies of power that gave licence and encouragement to both young and old to have sex before marriage, to live together before marriage, to live together without marriage, to seek divorce for “irreconcilable” differences, to downplay the effects of pornography and promiscuous behaviour, to fight one by one for the rights of every kind of sexual behaviour imaginable, to soften attitudes on adultery and abortion. For years they have said evil is good - To do what feels right - to be true to your own heart. Yet Jesus says “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:19)

In the last 60 or so years the Church has often failed to push back hard enough against the sexual revolution. We’ve talked a big game but have folded like a cheap suit for fear of losing you. But we have done you no favours. Forgive us. Permissiveness only helps spread the darkness. It hides the light. In the darkness you have experienced pain and suffering; you have sinned against others and others have sinned against you.

What would truly be rebellious today? What would make you a real Rebel these days? If you’re in a relationship and you’re living together, if you’re engaging in pre-marital sex … then ask yourself is this the person for me? Should I be getting married to them or should I be breaking it off? If the answer is yes then get married, have your common-law relationship blessed by God; the fee to purchase a marriage licence is $60. Come to us and we will help you. If you are having an affair break it off and fess up to it, face the music and seek forgiveness in Jesus. If you have had an abortion or you have coerced someone into having one and you feel the guilt of it and need forgiveness, come to us and we will help you with private confession and absolution. Maybe you want to have a big family but the World is pressuring you to be financially afraid of having children, to be afraid of global warming or whatever the fear of the day is, be encouraged; have your children, make a family for yourself and gather together here at Beautiful Savior.

This Christmas be a rebel, buck the trends and temptations of the World; turn to Jesus and to God’s Word. And remember in a dark World it is Jesus who says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) The World without Jesus is darkness. Come, gather around the Light. Come talk to us, we'd like to help.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

As if no one is watching but God

Pressure.

It is all around.  Pushing you.  Pulling you.  Calling on you to prove yourself here, there and everywhere. 

Well - enough is enough - especially for the Christian.

Before God you don't need to prove yourself.  Christ has done that for you.  He is enough for you.  God is pleased with you in Him.  At peace with you in Him.  He has your back.  He has made you His own child, and promised that the only evaluations, judgments and opinion that matters is His!  And His mind is made up, because you are in Christ.  You are free to live your life before Him in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, knowing that Christ has ended the pressures.

But the world doesn't work that way.  It will never stop pressuring you.  The world wants to rob you of that peace.  It wants to put more and new pressures on you everyday.  What is the world to you?  How do it's judgments and evaluations and opinions matter?  Isn't the world coming to nothing?  Won't every mouth be stopped on the Last Day?

Yes.  It's true.  The only opinion that matters is God's.  You don't have to prove yourself to anyone.  You are free - to live as if no one is watching but God.  You are free - to live your life before God  - and not before the world.

Who cares what they say?  Who cares what their judgments are?  The only One that matters is God.

Stop and think about that for a moment.  Make it real practical.

How would your day be different if you lived as if God were the only One watching?

How would it change how you treat people?
How would it change how you see yourself in Christ?
How simple, how pure, how peaceful would your live be if you lived as if God were the only One watching?

On account of your trust in Christ, you seek His holy Will - as it is laid out in the Ten Commandments.  Christ has filled them up for you - and given you new desires to seek after them.  Walking with you as your strength each day.

So do it - picture yourself watched by One - by God.  And keep Him there before your eyes - as you live before Him alone - and see how He changes your day, your relationships, your walk with Him.