Is the truth really plain to see?

Last Friday night, Stephane and I had a night at the movies where we watch the new Disneynature film “Earth”.  We loved it!  Over the course of a calendar year, Earth takes the viewer on a journey from the North Pole to the South Pole, revealing how plants and animals respond to the power of the sun and the changing seasons. The film focuses on three particular species, the polar bear, African elephant and humpback whale.  We were left in awe by the beauty of God’s creation and the wonder of life.  The only problem with the movie was that there was absolutely no mention of God!  Not that I am surprised, but what a shame that the very One who spoke the world into existence and created everything that we were watching was not even mentioned. 

During the movie, Steph asked me the classic question: – how could people think that all this just happened?  It seems as though the more I learn and discover about the world and the wonders of God’s creation, it becomes ever more inconceivable that something as complex and intricately designed as our planet could simply have happened by chance and evolved into what we see today.  But yet just because we, as Christians, think that it is plain to see that there had to be intelligent design, does not mean that most people will agree with our position.  In fact, most don’t.  Listen to what it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4.  “In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”   Let me just do a short exposition on this passage (would you expect anything else from a pastor?).  For all those who don’t believe in Jesus Christ (who is the fullness of God in human form), the god of this world, aka Satan, has blinded them from seeing the light of the gospel.  In other words, Satan has blinded the world from seeing the truth.  So no matter how much evidence you throw in the direction of an unbeliever, they can’t see it – they are blind.  I got a kick out of the title of Ray Comfort’s new book – “You can lead an atheist to evidence but you can’t make him think.”  Funny, and true, but it’s also sad that so many people just don’t get it.  So it should not come as a surprise that when a person does not believe in Jesus Christ, they also miss the obvious – namely, the necessity of a Creator God. 

Let me quote one more passage.  “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.”  (Romans 1:19-20)  Scripture is clear – men are without excuse because God’s general revelation plainly speaks of Him.  So for the person who doesn’t have a Bible, and has never heard the name of Jesus, they are still held accountable.  My advice to you is don’t waste your time trying to argue someone into the Kingdom.  Yes, show them as much evidence as you can, but be persistent in prayer for them and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.     

 

Reflections on 9 months of marriage

My wife and I were married almost 9 months ago – July 26th, 2008.  Its hard to believe how fast time flies but over our 3 quarters of a year marriage, I have learned a lot.  Let me just say upfront that our marriage has been the happiest time of my life  – we have a great marriage and have already grown so much together. 

For those of you who aren’t familiar withour story, let me just briefly share how we met and eventually started a relationship.  In the fall of 2004, I came to to Ohio to intern with my uncle Walt at Hope church, which is the church I am now pastoring.  We hit it off from the beginning and developed a strong friendship.  After I left Ohio and returned to Saskatchewan, right before Christmas that year, we stayed in touch through email- thank goodness for technology.  Over a two year period, there were times where I wanted to ask Stephane if she was interested in starting a dating relationship, but everytime that I would pray about it, the Lord said no.  In March of 2007, this happened again and I prayed about it for a full month.  This time the Lord was very clear with me and gave me the green light to ask Stephane out.  I didn’t phone her, but just sent her another one of those emails.  She agreed, but the first question she asked was – how is this going to work?  You live in Vancouver (I was in Seminary) and I live in Ohio.  I responded that I did not know, but lets just start talking on the phone.  So we did, and the rest is history.  After 8 trips back and forth, I eventually moved to Ohio and we got married last summer.  When we first started dating, we could never have imagined how it would all work out, but the Lord took care of everything.

 Now, let me just share some of the lessons I have learned from our short marriage. 

1. The importance of family devotions.  Steph and I read the Bible and pray together every morning before work.  This has been a wonderful time of learning and growing for us and it reminds us that Christ must always be at the center of our marriage.  As a couple, we are now a unit -we are one.  And not only that, but we are one in Christ.  Our theme verse for our wedding was, “a triple- braided cord is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

2. How much God loves me.  One time I was thinking about how hard I pursued Stephane during out dating relationship and the Lord said to me – that’s how hard I pursued you and am still pursuing you- and even more so!  And now in our marriage when I think about how much I love Stephane, God reminds me, that’s how much I love you – and so much more!  And when I think about the wonderful intimacy that Stephane and I share together, the Lord reminds me – that’s the kind of intimacy I want to have with you – and even more!  It is amazing to me how instructive marriage can be when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.

3.  That I am a sinner.  Ok, ok, I guess I knew that before.  But marriage has a way of exposing all those warts and not so pretty aspects of our character that we used to like to hide and pretend they did not exist.  Now, I am more aware of my own selfishness and pride than before we got married.

4.  That as the head of our home, I have a lot more responsibilities.  It used to be that I only had to look out for myself and my own interests.  Now I have my wife and eventually, some children as well.  Obviously, this is a big change – but at the same time, its a good change.  I have been blessed with a wonderful wife, and it is my great joy to provide for and protect her and lead her.  At the same time, to listen to and submit to her.  Even though I am the head of the home, there have been so many times were I have felt the Lord saying to me – LISTEN TO HER – SHE IS MY GOOD GIFT TO YOU!  It is at those moments where I have to let go of my pride and submit to Stephane – which is a good thing

5.  Marriage is a lot of fun.  Yes, I did anticipate this but it has been far beyond my expectations.  We do everything together and it is so great to have a companion on this journey we call life.

6.  If you commit your way to the Lord, He will take care of you.  There has been so many things that we have dealt with over the life of our relationship – immigration, moving to a new town, new jobs for both of us, lots of travel, etc.  But the Lord has taken care of us every step of the way.   

7.  That our love for one another just keeps growing and growing.  Before we got married, I had heard other couples talk about how they keep growing and growing in love for one another through the years.  But for me, it was hard to imagine loving Stephane any more that I did at that moment in time.  Now, after several months of marriage, I better understand what they meant as we have grown so much in our love for one another. 

In summary, our 9 months of marriage have been wonderful, but they have also taught me (and us) so much.  I so look forward to spending the rest of my life with Stephane and learning all the things that the Lord wants to teach us.

The Power of Prayer

PASTORS NEWSLETTER – MAY 2009

“the condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings.  So is the prayer meeting a grace-ometer, and from it we may judge of the amount of divine working among a people.  If God be near a church, it must pray.  And if he not be there, one of the first tokens of his absence will be a slothfulness in prayer.”

            One of my great hero’s of the faith, Charles Spurgeon wrote these words way back in the 19th century, but they are incredibly relevant to the situation we find ourselves in today.  Churches have become houses of anything and everything but prayer.  What a tragedy!  You can find more churches today that offer weight-loss programs and financial freedom classes that you can that offer prayer meetings.  I’ve told the story before about the pastor who commented, “if you want to know how popular a church is, then look at the Sunday morning attendance.  If you want to know how popular the preacher is, then look at the Sunday night attendance.  And if you want to know how popular the Living God is, look at how many show up for the prayer meeting.”  Unfortunately, in most churches, prayer meetings are a thing of the past and if they’re still going, chances are the attendance will be pitiful. 

            In Isaiah 56:7, we read, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”  One of the defining characteristics of the people of God is that they pray and call on the name of God and plead with Him to move in mighty ways.  This is, plain and simple, what a church does.  A church that does not pray is not a true church.  You see, when people are excited about the Lord, there is a deep hunger to enter into his presence with like-minded people.  But instead of tapping into the power of prayer, the modern church has decided that God is not up to the task of building his church.   We have denied the power of God and come to the conclusion that the Lord’s work should be done using the world’s ways.  This always means that the power of prayer is minimized.

            At Hope Church, the month of May is our prayer emphasis month.  So while prayer is something that must take place at all times and in all places, I thought it would be appropriate to have a month where we focused on prayer.  This corresponds with National Day of Prayer on May 7th, and Global Day of Prayer on May 31st.  We will be having special prayer meetings at the church on each of those nights.  I hope that you are able to sense the passion I have for prayer.  It is my hope and prayer that as a church we will be led to our knees in prayer.  It is also my prayer that we will come to realize as a corporate body our desperate need for God and that we might call on him to bring revival to our hearts and lives.  There is great power in prayer and especially when we come together (Matthew 18:19-20).  Let me close with the words of Jeremiah 33:3.  “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Are you willing to call on God?  Do you believe He will answer?

Standing for the Truth

Standing up for Biblical Truth is not a popular thing these days.  Witness the Miss USA Pageant this past Sunday.  When asked to comment on gay marriage, Miss California responded by saying:

“We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.

The outcry from this response was immediate – people were outraged that she would say such a thing.  The ironic thing about this is that she shares the same view as President Obama and Elton John on this.  Should this outcry surprise us, as Christians?  No.  Read Romans 1 if you want an explanation on that.  The world has exchanged the truth of God for a lie – that’s basically what it comes down to.  We shoud not be surprised when those who stand up for biblical truth are ridiculed because the world hates the truth.  Should this sadden us?  Of course.  And we Christians must have a passion for the truth and be resolved to take our stand against the lies that are being pushed today.  In John 18, while Jesus was on trial, Pilate asked Jesus a couple questions.

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

I find this facinating.  The reason that Jesus came into the world was to bear witness to the TRUTH.  And everyone who loves the truth listens to Jesus.  Why?  Because He is the truth.  Earlier in John’s gospel Jesus said.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”  So when I speak of Standing for the Truth, it is impossible to separate the truth from the teaching and person of Jesus.  And ultimately, it is impossible to separate the truth from all of scripture.   My wife and I just recently purchased the Gospel of John movie and have been slowly working our way through the 3 hour film.  By the way, this is a great movie – the guy who plays Jesus is fantastic!  But it struck me as we were watching it, how often, when Jesus would begin to teach, he would say “I am telling you the truth.”  Now, if you read the ESV or some other translations, it usually reads, “Truly, truly, I say to you.”  What Jesus was basically saying, is that if you want to know the truth, LISTEN TO ME AND LISTEN TO MY TEACHINGS!  But he also gives a warning to his disciples in John 15:18.  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  So if you choose to accept the teachings of Jesu and take a stand for them, the world is not going to like you, in fact, it may even hate you.

So here’s what it boils down to.  There is objective truth.  Truth is not relative to a persons individual beliefs.  We find the truth in the Bible.  Christians must know the truth and take a stand for it.  In the simplest terms possible, that is what I am trying to say

Take a look at what the Apostle Paul writies in Ephesians 6

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth

Did you notice how he emphasized the importance of taking our stand?  He said this because he knows that if we do take a stand for biblical truth, we will not have to go far – the battles will come to us.  In 1 Peter 5, it says that the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour.  Namely, those who oppose him.  And then it says that we are to resist him, standing firm in the faith.  Friends, the church today is so very weak.  Christians are not grounded in the truth, and because of that, how could they possibly take a stand for it?  As I said before, we must be passionate about biblical truth and we must take our stand.  Lives are at stake in this war and we must be prepared.

For Jesus and for His glory

FIREPROOF

On Sunday night, my wife and I watched the movie Fireproof for the third time.  It is a rare thing for me to watch a movie more than once, let alone 3 times.  I do have to confess that 2 of those viewings were with church groups so maybe that doesn’t count.  Anyway, each time I have watched Fireproof, it has impressed me and I am encouraged that the Lord is using this movie in such a powerful way.

Fireproof hit theatres in October of last year and ended up grossing around 35 million at the box office.  Maybe not blockbuster numbers but when you consider that a church from Georgia did the bulk of the work in putting together the movie, not to mention on a 500000$ budget, those are pretty impressive numbers.  And since it was released on DVD in late January, it has been viewed in churches all over the place and I suspect that it is now in the “millions” the number of people who have seen fireproof.

Another thing that impresses me about Fireproof is the number of biblical, positive messages that are packed into it.  Not only is there a clear, gospel presentation, but the movie shows how a struggling married couple on the brink of divorse is able to stay together through the grace of God.  Freedom from addiction, forgivenss and reconciliation, not storing up treasures on earth, and marital fidelity are just some of the themes picked up on in Fireproof.  It is amazing to think how this God has powerfully used this movie and will continue to do so long into the future.   And to think that it was mostly accomplished through the work of a church!  If only there were more examples of the body of Christ coming together for the glory of God.