Oh Canada — What Have You Done?

Recently we learned of a child, no more than 14 yrs old, had a bomb strapped to him that had been detonated at a wedding reception, which resulted in 54 people dead and a larger number injured. Until now the focus was on those responsible and what needs to be done to stop them. The suicide bomber was a juvenile who like the triggering device in the bomb itself was programmed by those who many believe to be ISIS insurgents. Minors are increasingly being targeted to advance their cause. Child soldiers are fed propaganda as they are told that “if they do this, they will go to heaven and have a good time and get everything that they ever wanted.”

God’s heaven is far removed from what they and others have made it out to be. It is not a place that will welcome sinners who remain defiant and unrepentant. In the crowd that day in Gaziantep, Turkey, it was especially sad to learn that as many as half were children when the bomb exploded. When Jesus was on earth he welcomed children to come to Him, and warned that for those who would offend them that it would be better that a millstone be hung around their neck and cast into the sea than to cause them to sin (Luke 17:2). What we teach our children and how we lead them should be in accordance with the Scriptures, if we truly grasp the serious role that each one of us has in caring for the souls of our youth. Jesus would not have issued such a warning if that were not the case. We would do well to read our Bibles carefully to learn how to raise our children in the truth.

It is heart wrenching to see how the institutions of today have turned against God. The Bible is no longer the basis for learning about life in most of our schools and even some churches. It is horrendous to see the filth and pollution that kids learn from their peers, the immoral material taught in the classroom and even churches whose sense of the gospel has become all but meaningless. The Scriptures teach that neither the sexual immoral, nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9b,10) Yet, the treatment of children in our society makes them appear to be mere chattel to advance certain causes. Last Sunday, hundreds of pre-adolescent youth were in downtown Ottawa walking in the homosexual parade. No one has the right to use children under such conditions. God has weighed in on sin and has warned us against the exploitation of children.

All of us may think that we stand against abuse. Yet, have we taken the time to consider our responsibility given the explicit nature of Christ words to us? That it does not speak about the child’s physical well being only, but also the care and protection of their souls which each of us are responsible for. Knowing this, that God condemns homosexuality, should lead us to think hard about this matter. If you still wish to defy God and refuse to recognize your own sin, then that is your choice. But what right have you or anyone else to lead others down the same path that you have taken in light of Christ solemn warning. You may not like God very much but a child’s soul is far too precious to put at risk for anyone’s cause.

The Danger of Unbelief

Have you ever received a phone call from a telemarketer who begins to solicit you for money by thanking you for a previous donation to their cause? You think hard about it but fail to remember ever giving money to their charity nor for that matter did anyone else in your household. When you confront the telemarketer about this he simply says that his records show differently and continues with his sales pitch.

Certainly not all marketing ploys are identical. It is doubtful that any of us believe everything we are told by them anyway. But when you open the Scriptures you can be sure what God says is consistently true throughout. The amount of Israelite men in Numbers 1:46 listed at 603,550 aged 20 and above together with some of their family members and later reported in Hebrews to have died in unbelief is given as a personal reminder what could happen to us if we are not careful with our faith (Heb 3:7-19). Now in our day, half a million people that rebel against God may seem of little consequence when you consider the extent of spiritual darkness in today’s world. But keep in mind that God had performed a series of powerful miracles expressly to convince Israel about His Goodness, Might, and Personal Care for them much like a Shepherd would His sheep. So, under these conditions, to learn that almost the whole nation had turned against Him is not something you would expect. Consider that within 11 months the nation had witnessed God’s dealings with Miriam who in her rebellion sought anonymity and authority for herself, and months earlier saw an awesome display of God’s holiness and power from Mt. Zion where both the commandments and instructions for the tabernacle were given to establish the Hebrews into a great nation. Now, one hundred and fifty miles North of Mt. Sinai, the Israelites are perched to enter the land promised to them when they decide that they would no longer trust God and chose to return to Egypt and stone their existing leaders instead! All but two of the twelve scouts that had been sent into Canaan had come back with a “doom and gloom” report. Caleb and Joshua whose faith was firmly fixed on God attempted to convince the throng that God would fight for them as He did on previous occasions. Still, giants were found in the land. And even though God had shown His love and care for them multiple times, Israel’s faith gave way to fear, from belief to unbelief. In the book of Hebrews we are admonished:

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience (Heb. 4:11)

Does this all seem possible when you consider how God had been so faithful to them? Instead, complaints and doubts seem to dominate their time in the wilderness, beginning just three days after their epic crossing of the Red Sea! I suspect that the statement found in Numbers 14:22 where it says Israel had tested God ten times was deliberate to remind us about God’s patience and mercy compared to Israel’s constant rebellious nature. But the incident at Kadesh was “the last straw” so far as God was concerned. There comes a “point of no return” and Israel had reached that point. God’s judgment at Kadesh for their refusal to enter the land that was promised them would be a major turning point for first generation Israelites as they would die in the desert and never cross over to Canaan. Even though afterwards, they expressed sorrow and a willingness to confront the Canaanites, it was too late.

What about us today? We are to do battle with unbelief, to keep from apostatizing from the living God. The word rendered “falling away” in the book of Hebrews, a regular term in the original Greek, means to apostatize or forsake — to leave one side and go to another. The true believer may backslide but he never apostatizes. In Luke 8:13, the parable of the sower speaks about those who are represented by the seed falling on stony ground: they hear the Word with joy, receive it for the time being, but in time of testing they fall away — apostatize. The word under consideration fundamentally means to leave one group and go to another place. But real faith perseveres to the end. Hebrews is written to teach the need for perseverance. James also exhorts us to persevere “under trials” because those who do will be blessed and will receive the “crown of life” which God has promised (James 1:12).

How we persevere is tantamount to running a race in that we must do so to win the prize. That means working through sufferings, trials and ordeals much as Christ did in that He learned obedience through the things he suffered. (Heb. 5:8). Any athlete will tell you that constant hard preparation is necessary for marathons and that during the race whatever difficulties or pains that may come up must be overcome to finish well. Those who quit will find it easier to quit the next time and the time after that too. The individual who professes to be a Christian who says “no” to God repeatedly may find himself in a state of disobedience, which if it continues indefinitely, may lead to a complete falling away. At the risk of sounding repetitive, going back into the world and leaving behind the Christian faith is not something that happens suddenly, but is often the consequence of repeated willful acts of disobedience, much like was documented for us in the wilderness and is a powerful reminder on what could happen to us. When you continually thwart God at every turn and choose a course of disobedience, in time you may find yourself doubting what you had once believed. Sadly enough, your deadened spiritual state may not matter to you at this point.

See to it, my brothers, that no evil, unbelieving heart is found in any of you, as shown by your turning away from the living God. (Heb. 3:12)

If we could turn back the clock and ask those who have fallen away from the Christian faith, I suspect they would say that it was incremental, leaving off going to church meetings, not dealing with personal sin, spending so little time with God…etc. Eventually, it adds up and what once might have looked like a vibrant Christian life slowly dies out. We must see to it that no evil, unbelieving heart is found in any of us. God is telling us the truth that the danger of leaving your Christian faith behind can happen to any of us. Each of us should take this warning personally, so that we do not end up as Israel did dying in a state of unbelief.

(In 2 weeks: Defending Yourself Against Unbelief)

The Samuel Morris Story

The Bible teaches that Christians should make every effort to enter into the finished work of Christ (see Heb 4:11). That does not mean that we are to work toward our salvation, but rather, it is about putting our faith in Christ alone for salvation and the fulfillment of His promises here and now and into the future. We are to cease from our own efforts to gain God’s approval, for Christ has appeased God’s wrath and met the demands of the law, whereas by faith we look to Christ for cleansing of our sins and for our every physical need, as well we look to that final rest that awaits us in heaven.

An inspiring example of this is found in the life of Samuel Morris. His tribal name in Liberia, West Africa, was Kaboo. His father was the chief of the tribe. At the young age of fourteen, Kaboo was taken captive by an enemy tribe. Kaboo was severely beaten and put through many sufferings before God miraculously set him free. Eventually Kaboo met a missionary who taught him the Bible. By then he changed his name to Samuel and, learning what he could from the missionary, decided to go to New York and hopefully attend Taylor University to learn more about the Bible. It seems that from the time of Samuel’s conversion to the point of his early death, Samuel was always trusting God for everything. Even on board ship where he was ill treated, he still remained gracious and firm in his faith, always speaking to others about God as His Father who would provide him with everything that he needed. Anyone who met Samuel would be deeply moved by his sense of peace and trust in God. When he started his studies at Taylor University, many of the students would stop often at his room to pray with him. Samuel was asked about how he felt about not being able to return to his people as a missionary to teach them the gospel, he was nearing his death due to a repertory infection, he replied that God had someone else better equipped than himself to perform the task and that he was happy to be going to heaven to be with His Father!

I am not sure how many Christians would react that way, if it appeared that they would never complete their life’s ambition. Probably not the same way that Samuel did. He was completely satisfied with God’s direction and provision for his life. Are we entering God’s rest or are we sort of wandering in the wilderness as it were, like the Israelites did, always complaining about not having enough or having been brought into the wilderness to die. Is it any wonder that in the book of Hebrews we are told to be diligent to enter that rest? This is done through faith in Christ alone. We may say that we have faith, but under careful scrutiny, we may find that our faith is in man, the Church, doctors, support groups, counselors, and society.

No doubt Samuel had tremendous faith. Even though things got worse before they got better, he was equal to the task and grew stronger in his perseverance, patience and faith. And while his commitment was unwavering, God honoured him for it. When Samuel died at the age of 20, several of Samuel’s classmates soon after graduation left for Liberia to minister to his people.

While the road ahead may look difficult, Christians are to persevere in their faith in Christ. We must not fail to obey God’s instructions and trust in His promises. Is there something in your life that you know God wants you to do, but you have not done because of fear or lack of faith? Seek His help and make every effort to enter into that rest by faith that God has for you. Be committed to a life of obedience and you will find out what Kaboo did.