Archive for November, 2017|Monthly archive page

Changing the world

We Christians often lament what is going on in the world around us – killings, sexual immorality, abortions, abusive and broken marriages, and a growing anti-Christian attitude in media and education.

Many of us feel impotent.  Some will go so far as praying that God will bring change.  And a few will tackle head-on some of these social ills.

But what does God want?

He wants to begin with us.  He wants us to change first.

The Lord made this clear to Israel’s King Solomon in a famous passage in 2 Chronicles 7.

Solomon had just finished dedicating a magnificent new temple to the Lord.  It was a spectacular ceremony with the glory of the Lord filling the temple and the people falling to the ground in worship.

That night, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a vision.  He promised to be with Solomon, his descendants, and the people of Israel as long as they were faithful to God.

However, if the leaders and people of Israel wandered away from God, they would face disaster.

But the Lord made this great promise in verse 14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

A growing number of Christians have seized on this verse in recent decades, praying for change in our society.

What strikes me from this promise is that it depends on the people of God humbling themselves, praying, seeking God’s face, and turning from their wicked ways.  Only then will God bring sweeping change – healing – to our country.

Do we Christians really need to change?

On the surface, Christians are mostly law-abiding, peaceable people.  But probe beneath the surface and you will see in our hearts many of the same problems that non-Christians have  – envy, pride, lust, anger, deceitfulness and so on.

One of the saddest things in my mind is that Christians often fight among themselves.  We fight within our churches and we fight churches in other denominations.

Jesus called on his followers to love one another as he loved them (John 13: 34).  He also urged believers to serve others rather than seeking to dominate them (Mark 10:42-45).

In his great prayer to the Father, Jesus said of his followers: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23)

In the past,  I have been as wary of other Christians as anyone.  But I have changed my mind as I have prayed with believers from other denominations in a city-wide prayer group.  I have learned from them and enjoyed great prayer times with them.

So, yes, I believe we Christians need to change.

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Letting God do it

Bill Gillham was struggling as a young psychology professor when he decided to practice what he was learning from scripture.

Gillham, author of Lifetime Guarantee, had just graduated from Oklahoma State University with a doctorate in counselling and accepted an appointment as a college professor.  He was really proud that he could write “Dr.” in front of his name.

Trouble was he soon found he was often tongue-tied during lectures to his students.  It was extremely embarrassing.

Try as he might, he could not seem to climb over that hill.  He looked for help.

He found the help he was looking for in a pamphlet that talked about letting God take over his life – a process that is sometimes called the “exchanged life”.

The apostle Paul described it most succinctly in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

In other words, believers give up “self” when they put their faith in Jesus Christ and they receive his life and direction in exchange.  They are to act in faith on this biblical truth in their daily lives.

Gillham says Christians often feel they must work for God.  But God wants to work through them.

At first, Gillham had trouble understanding this concept.

But, finally, he gave up, fell on his knees and prayed to God: “You want me to depend on You to teach those psychology classes through me, using my personality and my earthsuit to do it.  Okay, Lord, I enter into that agreement.”

He didn’t stop there.

“I got up off my knees and walked down the stairs acting as though Christ was going to do it through me,” Gillham writes.  “If I had waited on my knees until I ‘felt’ Jesus take over and move me to the classroom and wiggle my lips for me, I’d still be there.”

It is our faith in God – not in our feelings – that matters.

Gillham’s act of faith led to a new confidence and a changed life.  He had relinquished control of his life to God.  The results were in the Lord’s hands – he just had to obey.

This new life is not without some setbacks.  God is not promising that we will become perfect or succeed in everything we do.

But he is promising us peace and rest as we rely on God’s life flowing through us.

Gillham found that obeying this biblical truth affected all aspects of his life – including his marriage.  The Lord was transforming him.

I am convinced that Gillham is right.

It is up to me to act in faith that Christ is living in and through me.

Snap judgements

Sometimes, I make snap judgements about other people.

That can be a problem – especially if I’m wrong.

Maybe you’ve had the same experience.  Perhaps you discovered that a person who let you down was going through a family crisis.  Or, the angry boss has just been told he has cancer.

I am learning that my vision is limited.  More often than not, I see only the surface in people’s lives.  I’m partially blind.

The only being that knows everything about everyone is God.

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me,” David wrote in Psalm 139.  “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.”

So God is the only one who can judge people without making a mistake.

Yet what strikes me most about God is his mercy.  He is just, no doubt about it.  But he loves to pour out his grace on weak human beings like me.

There are consequences to my failures – and to those of everyone else.

But, as David said in Psalm 103: “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

Christ, the perfect image of God the Father, told his followers in John 13:34: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

In other words, Christ is my example if I find others fall short of what I expect and want.  I must be ready to cut them slack.

As God has mercy on me for my failings, so I must be merciful towards others.

I must not let instant judgements determine how I approach people.

On the other hand, the Lord is not asking me to walk blindly into trouble.

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus told his disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” as they spread the good news to other people.

They were to be alert to potential evil and false teaching.  But that did not justify dealing harshly with others.

Ultimately, judgement is in God’s hands – not mine.

What is truth?

“What is truth?” asked Roman Governor Pontius Pilate during the trial of Jesus Christ.

Canadian Governor-General Julie Payette, a former astronaut and engineer, this week indicated in a statement to a scientific group that she believes the only truth is scientific truth – presumably something you can see, touch, smell and measure.  She went on to comment critically on people of faith believing in creation.

Pilate’s dismissive question about truth came after Jesus Christ said in John 18 that he came to earth to testify to the truth.  Earlier in John 14, he said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Payette’s statement ignited a storm of controversy in Canada – some like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – supporting her unequivocally.  Others, such as the Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer and Christian and Muslim leaders criticized her for her comments.

So, what is truth?

Many scientists believe in God, though they may not believe in Jesus or a personal god at all.  Albert Einstein, who developed the theory of relativity, believed there was a god behind the universe, a mind infinitely superior to a human being’s.

“A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist,” he wrote.  “Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”

He also said: “My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit . . . That superior reasoning power forms my idea of God.”

Indeed, it is hard for inquiring minds to ignore the possibility of God.  The intricacy of the universe from planets down to the makeup of the human body cannot be dismissed as a cosmic accident.

“For since the world was created, people have seen the earth and the sky,” the apostle Paul said in Romans 1:20. “Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature.  So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”

The truth that Jesus spoke of is much greater than debates about scientific theories.  He was talking about God and his love for human beings and his great plan for bringing them into his kingdom of everlasting love.

Closing our eyes to God is a tragic mistake.