Good news in bad times

What is happening with the coronavirus outbreak has affected all of us.   The deaths across the world along with global uncertainty has been felt everywhere,  shutting down entire countries, shows us how completely vulnerable we are, in spite of our technological and medical advances.  We have been made aware of the risk to our health by governments and media alike, the danger for now is unlikely to end any time soon.  But this health concern now before us, serious as it is, may point to something even more grave, and though it is not going to attract headline news, still deserving of our attention.  Last Friday, we spoke about it at a youth meeting just before building closures were announced. Let me take you there now.

 As I said, our youth group met together for the last time, before major school facilities shutdowns took place.   A young lad joined our group for the first time and for the first time, he heard the gospel. It appeared that he may never have heard the gospel explained the way he did that night.  He remained fairly attentive throughout the lesson where he heard a true account of a 19th century tightrope walker named Charles Blondin, who had walked across Niagara Falls on a rope.  Twenty-five thousand people had gathered to watch him perform his daring-to-do feats with no net or safety harness of any kind, seemingly fearless and raging falls below. He did it successfully over and over on many different occasions,  sometimes on stilts, blindfolded, one time with a wheelbarrow full of rocks, the crowds gathered in mass numbers. They broke out into a cheering frenzy each time he made it! One time, the daredevil turned to a man in the crowd and told him to get into the wheelbarrow!   The man refused and neither were any volunteers found that day to accompany the showman in his act of defiance.

This true story is often used to illustrate real faith.  Those on the shore had watched the “Great Blondin” walk across the falls three hundred times on varied occasion to applaud wildly and give their happy nods whenever he asked if they thought he could do it again and again, all the while sporting  different props which he made use of to cross to the far shore, delighting the crowd with his death defying antics, all very risky and without a net beneath him, yet when it came to trusting that he could do it with someone in the barrel that he would push across, none of the spectators would come forward when challenged!    You see, for that moment they had lost their nerve or should I say confidence in Mr. Blondin. They thought that he could do it and did watch him walk the rope to their amazement, but their confidence failed each of them when they were asked if any one of them would join him and take a seat in the wheel barrel which he would push across.   You may have guessed the spiritual application by now.

   First, the illustration does not exactly do justice to our application.  Jesus Christ does not put any at risk when He tells us to trust Him, implicitly.  You only have to read the gospel story with any sense of understanding to see that Christ never failed His mission in any way, that He accomplished everything He ever said He would do.  When He predicted His Resurrection, that was documented and witnessed by hundreds of people and when he healed the sick, they remained healed, not anything He did or said was later found to have failed or false.  So trusting your life to Christ is not a gamble, because Christ is fully able to save and fulfill His promises to us. His Word is sure because He is God in the flesh, and God never fails to achieve His purposes in us and in His creation.   You have every good reason to believe in Christ, who gave His life on the cross that sinners may experience forgiveness and new life. We must exercise personal faith in Christ alone for what He did on the cross to be given newness of life.   Now let us get back to the young lad that you heard about earlier, After our gospel lesson was over, when we had gathered in our van to return the kids home, the young lad asked me about coming back to our group. I smiled. Maybe, next time he can take that needed step of faith!  

He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. …  Ro.4:21

 

A Name Above All Names

A few weeks ago an athlete known to most died along with several others which included his daughter in a helicopter crash.  Many tributes poured in from far all over since he was quite popular. He was eulogized in extraordinary ways, at times to mythical proportions.  His legacy was founded mostly on the basketball court where few could match his prowess between the painted lines. But not all was well. Some hinted at a complicated legacy, a few oblique references to “Colorado” left us with an uneasy feeling that not all was rosy during his glory days.   Decades earlier, Kobe had been criminally charged with rape, and though he denied it at the time, he did pay the nineteen year old woman a sum of a million dollars in a civil settlement. The criminal charges never came to a court of law. He later admitted that though he thought his sexual encounter with the complainant was consensual, in hindsight he did not think that she had consented to it.      

   Winning ways and wealth seems to make bad things go away.   Other high profile athletes have had similar run-ins with the law and sought a resolution in similar ways.    It seems that the media together with a zealous fan base are quite willing to look past immoral dealings, to keep their heroes intact and untarnished.   Good behaviour off the field seems to be of less interest these days. often seen as insignificant, becoming a footnote to an otherwise celebrated life. Just think how much putting a ball through a hoop, or throwing a pass or kicking a ball better than most anyone else has come to mean more than that time-honoured decency off the field we once saw as important.  

   Centuries ago, a man came into the the public’s eye living honestly, doing good,  caring for the sick and lame, often forgiving people`s sins, and restoring broken lives.   Some mocked His claims of deity, and others doubted He could be who He claimed He was. Christ was not deterred.  He continued to minister to all those that came to Him, He lived among the common folk travelling with His disciples, healed lepers, brought hope to the downtrodden, and befriended those who were hated.  The religious rulers accused Him falsely before the courts, where trumped-up charges were laid, since no moral or legal wrong could be found. Christ was condemned and put Him to death.  

  By and large, few wish to emulate Jesus Christ in our day.   During His lifetime, His Name remained unsullied even under great persecution.  His life was spotless. There was ample reason to be convinced, that He was the long awaited Savior that they had waited for.  Yet, they would chose to release a prisoner instead and convict a thoroughly righteous man.  

   Today, our permissive society acts much in the same way.  Distilling evil for good; often dismissing moral rectitudes as little more than blimps on a screen that disappears after a while.   Our fascination with heroes warps our ability to see what we should value as truly essential. Consider the Name that is above every name, whether on earth or heaven, that Jesus Christ alone is worthy of our praise and worship!  In the book of Hebrews, the author makes a point to look at many Old Testament figures and concludes that none of them can compare to Christ. On another front, Paul wrote these words to the Philippians:

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil.2:9-11

   Really, there is only one real champion today and He resides in heaven.  Only He can claim to have lived an upright life whose status remained stellar and untarnished and will one day return for His Believers.   Are you ready for that? Do you value what He has done for us on Calvary? If you do, place personal trust in Him alone and seek forgiveness of your sins.   

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.  Acts 4:14

May the Lord lead you to trust Him today!

Politics And Truth

George Orwell put in his essay about Rudyard Kipling, “a humanitarian is always a hypocrite” Said dogmatically, yet true enough. Jesus spoke of hypocrisy often during his lifetime, mostly to those trying to prove him wrong. The religious order at that time, made hairsplitting rules for the people to follow, In their many attempts to entrap Jesus, they charged Him with breaking the Sabbath, even after He wondrously straightened a woman`s back, a musculoskeletal or neurological disorder where the spine is bentThis woman had been stooped over for eighteen years, and Jesus healed her on the Sabbath. Jesus pointed out to His accusers that they themselves had brought water to their animals on the Sabbath. It became clear to all that heard Jesus that day that the Pharisees lived by two sets of rules. They had failed to accept the earlier teaching by Jesus on the law where previously in what we call the Sermon on the Mount, he had taught both its intent and meaning which countered their own.

Men in leadership especially those who practice politics generally have become self-servingwanting to improve their own status and that of their party`s especially using deceptive meansPolls and rising donkey votes (electorate randomly marking a ballot box because of a lack of trust in politicians) indicate doubts about anyone telling them the truth at election time. Plenty of porc-barrel spending promises and little substantial policy-making informationrun the same gamut where party`s try to outdo each other to win votes, no matter how many bold face lies are told along the way accompanied by smiling faces. Being “Pharisaical” has come to mean hypocritical. The Pharisees were characterized as those who “kept the outside of the cup washed” (Mat 23:25), making superficial laws to observe themselves and who expected others to follow them, but ignored the weightier matters such as mercy, justice and faithfulness. (v. 23)

Two facedness is something we may expect from officials at election time, but we all our guilty of it to some degree. More simply, we may excuse our “faux pas” as a slip in character or inexperience and carry on like nothing more can be done about it. Meanwhile, we know that our false actions did not betray our true intent, we meant it, problem was we were caught in the act and sought to excuse ourselves or downgrade our insincerity Our Prime Minister has committed a series of stunning contradictions over his short time in office. He is one of many.

Jesus is the only truthful being that ever lived on this planet. Ask yourself how He could confront thousands without receiving a single reproach from the multitudes in return, whereas he never had to defend Himself against legitimate accusations for this simple reasonHe was without sin! He defined the law of God through His perfect life and teaching. None of the crowd that I earlier spoke of could deny their hypocrite ways or accuse Jesus of the same. Since Christ had fulfilled the entire law, He stood as the only truly righteous person that ever lived. The crowds throughout the region of Palestine heard and saw Him as He travelled through their villages and towns teaching and healing. They knew that someone special was among them, yet few would admit He was their Messiah. Still Jesus pressed the truth home to them, because they needed to hear the gospel and turn from their sinful ways.

Will you look inside yourself and see what Jesus saw in each man including yourself, that your motives are not always pure and that you and I are as much part of that crowd then, as we are now. The only way out of impure motives and actions is to see in Christ the only sinless One who has complete authority to forgive us and grant us eternal life. After all, He is the only one who can unmasked our ways and disclosed what is truly in our hearts as He did the crowd. In the same narrative Jesus told His followers: Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. (Luke 12:2)

The gospel is a stark reminder that we cannot live our lives any way we wish and think we can escape judgment. Christ came into this life not to condemn since we stand condemned already, but to give life eternal. Do you see yourself a sinner in need of forgiveness or are you thinking that perhaps you are not as bad as the next guy. Problem with that kind of outlook is that none of us can ever be good enough for heaven. We are all sinners from birth and not anything we do can act as a substitute to remove the guilt and sin`s consequence.  Only by trusting in Christ and confessing our sins to Him and repent of them can we be saved from Divine Wrath.

Religion and Truth

In this article,  and several to follow. I will point out how hypocrisy has become a way of life for many.  Practicing double standards occupies a broad swath that cuts across everyday life.   So much of our world, the way we deal with each other,  has become like a murky pool of double standards, we lie and deceive one another while while trying hard to shield our efforts from being discovered.  Concealing real motives in politics, religion, and business has become almost like wizardry, turning deceitfulness into feats of remarkable cleverness.   In the weeks ahead, we will seek to take the cover off falsehoods by exposing it to truth.  The Bible speaks of evil and truth as darkness and light, so shinning God`s Word is what is  needed.  To simply tell the truth may leave some readers troubled, as it may hit close to home.  We will begin by speaking about the 2nd largest belief system in the world.

While hypocrisy can be found most everywhere, religion is no exception.   In recent articles by Quillete  (18 July 2017) and Ottawa Citizen (22 Nov 2019), Islam and its influence were articled.  In Quillete, Jeffrey Taylor had written a piece in response to a Huffington Post article that spoke about a recent religious conversion of one of their reporters, Kristiane Backer.  She  became a Muslim, while on assignment for the publication in Pakistan.  Kristiane compared Islam`s values “not only with German values [but] with European values generally…”  She adds that “Islam is a religion for all times and all worlds–therefore also for Europeans in our day and age.  I`m living proof.” she says.   While she is enthusiastic, her view is not in line with reality.   German values do not compare to that of Islam.  In times past, the prophet Mohammad had called on Muslims to one day rally behind Jesus after his resurrection to destroy Christians, Europeans, and Hindus at the end of time.  (Ottawa Star, pg 17, 21 Nov, 2019 Tarek Fatah).  Islamic cleric do not deny this, neither condemn or reject it.  One has to ask oneself where is the peace in all of this?   They seek the deaths for all non-conformists.   Much of the world wishes to live in peace, and freedom of religion is a pillar of Western society.  But  to speak of Islam to be what the world seeks for itself as Kristiane says is simply wrong thinking and to insist upon is hypocritical.   All through the Middle East and Northern Africa, Islam forces their beliefs on non-Muslims through intimidation and violence and while what is happening today in the Far East is disturbing, an increasing presence of their terror is being staged in the free world also.     Peacefulness does not make for chopping off the hands of thieves, holding women responsible for their own abuse and rapes, or murdering the apostates of whatever religion that they may belong to.   No, this is not what the rest of the world wants for itself.

Earlier, we saw that Jesus was brought into the plans of the prophet Mohammad.  That is dubious thinking since Jesus is the central figure in the Bible and speaks truth so men and women may be converted to Christianity, peacefully.    Christians understand this, and rally to His call for peace throughout the world, not by the sword,  but through the Gospel to spread its message.  It is hardly conceivable and in fact insulting to think that Christ would kill His own people that He saved on the cross.

Jesus had given a discourse of some considerable length to a crowd of thousands (Luke 12), and when he arrived at the end of it, He  gave a parable to urge his hearers to be quick to reconcile to God.  Now this same parable was used another time in Matthew 5:23 – 26 which taught Christians that their relationships needed to be right with other Christians, and, if not, that they were to reconcile quickly with their brother and sister in the Lord, even if it meant leaving off worship until it was done.  For the Christian,  it would be hypocritical for any one of us who follow the Savior to leave broken relationships unresolved within the Church.  Reconciliation becomes a priority.    And for those who are not Christians, and wish to become one, reconciliation with God the Father through Christ is your first step.  Jesus is the way to the Father if you are to be in a right relationship with Him.  We know that Christians will suffer wrongly for the sake of Christ, but we do not dishonour Him by seeking vengeance or retribution.   It is by peaceful means, love and respect we seek to win people to Christ.

Following article about Politics and Truth.