Thursday, December 31, 2009


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1.

What New Year resolutions are you working on this time? I’ve always thought that the best resolution was a resolve not make any more resolutions as they never last through the year! But the idea of a new start is always compelling as we face a new year—even if it’s only to shed the pounds that the Christmas season has accumulated. But if there is an overriding sense of loss for me during the past year, it is the lessening of a constant relationship with our Father.

I have to admit that 2009 has been a good year—at least as good as any previous vintage—and I have nothing but gratitude for the joy that the past year has provided. That makes it even more distressing that the setbacks, disappointments and failures of the year should puncture my faith journey so easily. It is so disturbing that these small things can “hinder and so easily entangle” us.

If omission is a great a sin as commission, then I am compelled to begin 2010 with repentance and seeking forgiveness from Him. In fact, I doubt if any effort to improve my daily walk with God, and consequently with others, can begin with anything less. The idea of “running with perseverance” entails frequent renewal, for constant engagement with the surrounding world, together with my weak nature, continually intercepts my communion with Him.

A passage of Scripture that has a continuing impact on my waywardness is Paul’s reaction to his “light and momentary troubles”—mine are a lot lighter than his ever were! We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18. The lure of the unseen always beckons me forward. The constant nagging that life with Him is far greater than anything this world offers, keeps me coming back to the greater realities of life beyond this.

For having found Him, who alone can completely fill the void of life, nothing else can ever hold the same allure. And as the palmist reminds me, despite my inconsistency, He is always there. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-10.

Every day is a “new year” available for a new start. Join me, won’t you, in making not only the first day of January, but every day a renewal with Him?

Monday, December 14, 2009

This letter appeared in the Lethbridge Herald this last weekend. Excellent letter. Read and enjoy. Thanks Edison.


Remember the gift that is Christmas

Written by Edison Bardock

Saturday, 12 December 2009

With Christmas, people are so busy trying to find the perfect gift, scrambling to get the cards mailed. The media inundate us with sales offers. In some ways, Christmas is being lost. We are pressed on all sides to accept the plastic interpretation of the real thing and are perplexed to find that after all the gifts are unwrapped, the turkey eaten, after all of the lights go off and the tree comes down, we are not much happier. We wonder why we do not continue to tingle with anticipation and the high level of excitement generated from the overwhelming power of Christmas.

If, like Herod, we fill our lives only with things, if we must fill every moment with action, when will we have time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Brood over the coming of the Child as did Mary? For all of us, there is a desert to travel, a star to discover, a being within ourselves to bring to life.

We hear the true meaning of Christmas is about families, the spirit of giving, about thankfulness. It is all about these, but I would like to remind you, as I often remind myself, that the glue that holds them all together is the realization that we are not alone. Christmas is a day, once a year, to remind us to remember the birth of hope, the birth of Jesus Christ. It is why we give gifts . . . as a reminder of the greatest gift of all.

It is at Christmas that we not only recognize the birth of Jesus Christ, it is a time for us to find, in life, both a meaning and a purpose. I love gifts and the festivities. But there comes a time, shortly after Christmas, when we realize we are in a world not lit by lights and we are able to look at Christmas with the realization of hope that we are here for a reason . . . the feeling that Christmas isn’t a feeling that shoots in like a star and is gone in a flash.

Remember the gift that is Christmas. In this Christmas season, take a moment to rediscover how the holiday started. It will help to have the season and its meaning stay with you all year long.

Edison Bardock


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday December 13, 2009

For the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, Luke 1:49-50

If ever a verse stood out as a bulwark against the uncertainties of life, this is it. Spoken by Mary as she waited the birth of her child, these words of great faith, were contrary to her experience up to that time.

Found with child before contact with Joseph her intended husband was a huge shame in that culture, far worse that the results of the shenanigans of our favourite golfer. All but her closest friends and family would shun Mary; a story of her impregnation by the Holy Spirit considered a joke or sacrilege. She probably kept that to herself, it would only make matters worse.

Even Joseph didn’t believe this story until it was confirmed to him in a dream. Then he was as supportive as any husband should be. But none of this shook Mary’s faith in the greatness of God, and especially the great things he had done for her.

But the greatness of God on its own is no comfort. Many great people exploit those dependent on them, and create greater misery than they could find on their own. Mary recognized it was God’s mercy allied with his greatness that was the source of ultimate security and comfort.

What she found, we can find. There is nothing in any world, now or hereafter, that can come between God’s care and us—except, of course, our own rejection of him. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

His greatness is awesome, far more than enough to meet all our needs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Geese: crazy, lazy or smart?

Winter is well settled in Lethbridge, and the Canada geese are still around. This is not unusual; it seems to be the same every winter. They hang around, perhaps waiting for the last dog to be hung, and now find themselves hung out to dry, freeze, starve . . . I see them now on the grain field opposite, hundreds hunkered down, their dark bodies against the mottled stubble and snow covered field.

Earlier, I watched them fly in, coming in many large and small flocks, all making for the same destination. They glide in, more gracefully than a space shuttle, their wings with a characteristic droop, sometimes making a half circle into the wind. A sharp fluttering of the wings and they are down; no runway needed for these space travellers!

With the ability to fly to warmer climes that we can’t without a lot of fuss, why stay around here? Are they fooled by all the talk of global warming and expect Arizona in Alberta? It’s not just the cold and shortage of food, the frozen ponds fool them. The elegant glide to water finishes up as an inelegant slide on ice, with nothing but their companion’s bodies to provide crash stops. I wonder what they make of that!

Of course, for some they are a pest. Vancouver’s beaches and walks become covered in what they no longer need, and they make occasional concerted attacks on inquisitive, defenceless humans who venture too close. Can’t (perish the thought) cull them, they are protected like the sturgeon, although I’m sure they’d make good eating. After all, it is Christmas, it’d give the turkeys a rest and we could get our goose cooked!

For all that, I can’t think of any Albertans that would be glad to see them go—either south for some sunshine, or onto a dinner plate. They are an elegant bird, more so than the ungainly big beaked pelicans we see here in the summer. They probably fly south, their feathers may be white but I’m not sure that makes them amenable to snow. Are they more sensible than the geese?

But why fly when you don’t need to? Birds, apparently, don’t fly for fun, or so I learned at a recent visit to a local bird sanctuary. They fly for food or migration, but apart from that, they’re happy to laze around. But these geese may not have heard that. They gear up their autumnal bodies for a long flight, their V-shaped formations passing my window like streamers on a windy day, and then decide not to go. All that wasted effort.

But then, Ann has me walking every day, not to go somewhere, but just to walk. And I don’t walk (or fly if I could) for fun. Apparently, it helps keep my body healthy. Perhaps that’s what the geese are after—more smart than lazy; no flies or fat on those birds! So perhaps crazy is out as well. I have to accept they know what they are doing, just like us . .

At least we think we know what we’re about, but sometimes I’m not so sure. We are probably more lazy and crazy than smart, and if we could get into those little goose heads, we might learn a thing or two. That’s unlikely, so let’s just watch the geese; it’s good for the soul.
Friday, December 11, 2009

And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,” Luke 1:46-48

There is a world of cultural distance between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Barack Obama, president of the United States. Yet they have one thing in common: peace! Mary gave birth to the Prince of Peace, and Obama obtained the Nobel Peace Prize. In addition, both Barack Obama and the Prince of Peace also have one thing in common: recognizing the existence of evil!

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama is controversial. He must be the first person to receive a noble prize of any sort in hope of what he will do, rather than for the little he has done. Furthermore, his acceptance speech was far from peaceful, warning that war will always be possible, if not inevitable, as long as evil exists.

In this, he is probably closer to George W. Bush than he, or his followers would like to be. Bush’s phrase, “axis of evil” referred to the nations of North Korea and Iran, which remain a thorn in the American president’s side. Even more dangerous, the Islamists pose a worldwide threat that even Obama claimed in his speech could not be tamed by negotiation.

The difference between tyranny and Islamism is the difference between life and death. The leaders of rogue nations, usually tyrants must maintain life to accomplish their goals. Their death frequently ends confrontation. The danger from Islamism is greater because life is less important than death. Not only is death preferable if it will achieve what they consider God’s goals, martyrdom serves to reinforce and perpetuate the belief in others.

Tyrants will negotiate if it furthers their cause in some way. Note the on again, off again, overtures of North Korea and Iran to inch their way to their goals; for them, negotiation is a verbal war, not a means to peace. But for the Islamists, negotiation with the enemy is apostasy, death the preferred alternative. They must universally enforce their version of God’s will. To achieve it, any sacrifice of themselves or any device against the infidels who thwart that will is acceptable and necessary.

The liberal concept of evil is simply a correctable human defect (recall the name of the Canadian prison system: “Corrections Canada”!) This idea is naive, for it assumes that evil men are reasonable at heart and can be talked out of their intentions. Too often, as history has shown, the talk of rogues is simply a smokescreen to cover continued preparation toward their goals.

Christianity teaches us two things about evil. First, evil is a spiritual force to which we are all susceptible and thus available to the evil one’s manipulation; especially if his goals coincide with our desires. This dictates that evil is always present. Secondly, the Prince of Peace will only bring about peace on earth by force, not by softening hearts, Psalm 2:8–9 and Revelation 19:14–15.

That does not make the returning Christ a tyrant who enforces his will upon all. He will finally deal with the source and manifestations of evil in order to ensure a permanent and stable peace for those who genuinely desire it. His rule will ensure that, "Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid,” Micah 4:4.

In the meantime, we have the comfort of peace in our hearts because we have peace with God. We join the chorus of generations thanking Mary for her commitment, which enabled the birth of the Prince of Peace. He is Immanuel, God with us, come to dwell in the hearts of all who seek him.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tuesday December 1, 2009

But as for me, it is good to be near God, Psalm 73:28.

Well, after a day of nail-clipped joy, it’s time to return to the other item that reminded me of eternity yesterday. is my news source early each morning, and yesterday an article suggested that heaven is a preferred story for the crowd than hell! A study of 35,000 people taken across national, religious and ethnic lines, found that “in the presence of the ‘largest possible stakes,’ [heaven or hell] rewards are more persuasive than punishments” by a three to one margin.

Hardly earth shattering findings. In fact, common sense could have easily arrived at the same general idea. The idea of hell is dreadful, and just as we turn off television images of child suffering, we turn off hell. If we are trying to beat hell, what better way than to ignore it, believe it doesn’t exist, or even better, that no afterlife exists. In fact, an Ipsos-Reid poll shows that while nearly half of Canadians believe in some form of afterlife—presumably the nicer variety—less than half that number believes in hell.

That means that over half of Canadians believe we die like dogs—once buried, it’s all over. Or, even if some afterlife exists without hell so everyone made heaven on his or her own terms, who would want it? But the experience of life on earth is a preview of both heaven and hell, and the closer to the hell side we live here, the less we will believe this life is our ultimate destiny.

Probably the greatest evidence of life after death is least recognized, yet the most obvious: it is the ability to conceive of an afterlife. If there is none, we wouldn’t be programmed to consider it, just as if there was no God, the idea wouldn’t cross our minds. But history shows that a search for God and preparation for an afterlife has always been a primary human occupation. Modern human rejection of these things is more rebellious snobbery than intelligence.

Disbelief in an afterlife is a vain attempt to discard any future accountability. If there is no afterlife, there is no real justice or moral accountability, which means that if we can use evil to our benefit in this life and get away with it, we’ve won. Human justice is at best rough, at worst non-existent; not much hope for a heavenly life here. The example of this life is that heaven and hell exist together. Heaven and hell in the next life are simply the separation of the two realities that exist on earth.

In the end, God determines an afterlife, even heaven and hell, and places the search for him in our hearts. God’s approach is something like the saying: “If you love something, let it go. If it returns, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was.” Heaven and hell are a choice made on earth. God’s love prevents him from forcing himself on those who do not desire him; he will honour their choice. And when he removes his presence from them all that is left is hell. That’s why today’s text is so important.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday November 30, 2009

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn, Luke 2:7

Two events today have turned my thoughts to eternity. The first is quite mundane; I needed to clip my nails. I can’t believe they need it already. I may be getting older and slowing down, but my nails won’t follow suit. So on more frequent intervals than expected, the clippers have to come out again.

The first indication that they’ve grown without my permission or knowledge is the yell from the pillow beside me—Ann’s getting her legs scratched in bed again! The second observation is a disturbing clicking on piano and computer keys and an increasing lack of control—what little control I have—on those keys, and a matching lack of harmony and spelling accuracy—again below my dubious standard. How do women with long fingernails cope?

The problem is, nail clipping for me is a hazardous activity, particularly my toenails. As my arms are getting shorter, or my legs longer—not sure which—it is increasingly difficult to reach my toes. The toilet bowl is ideally suited to my handicap, as placing my foot on the rim helps me reach my furthest extremity, and lo and behold, the clippings fall into the ideal receptacle. Trouble is, the clippers with a spring lever sometimes spring out of my hand and head in the same direction. Must remember to flush the toilet before . . .

I understand that hair and nails apparently grow, at least for a while, after death! Probably an extension of that zest for life they refuse to abandon in old age. I doubt if my nails will get clipped when I’m boxed, and Ann needn’t worry about scratched legs. But the thought remains: is our life in our nails and hair? And is the continuation of that life what we call the afterlife? Doesn’t sound too inspiring!

The Bible makes it clear that our physical life is in the blood, not our hair and nails that apparently refuse to die when we do. While animal flesh is given for food, drinking the blood is forbidden, emphasizing the Bible’s assertion of the sanctity of life. But while our physical continuation depends on our blood, the real source of life is elsewhere—believe or not, in the babe in the cattle trough announced in our text.

If he is the source of life, then the blood is only a temporary requirement; life beyond this physical one only requires him, not the trimmings necessary here. The creator of life determines when that life will end, and as our hair and nails suggest, it continues after death.

And the other event reminding me of the afterlife—it’ll have to wait until tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tuesday November 17, 2009
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go, Joshua 1:9.

This text has been used but more often abused to fuel the positive thinking movement, which assumes that all things are possible for us as long as we foster positive thoughts about it! 

Originally developed by Norman Vincent Peale and coated with a Christian veneer, the movement has been encouraged by Robert Schuller and spawned the Word-Faith movement of today. It has earned John Stott’s response: “I find Paul appealing, but Peale appalling.”

In this verse, God encouraged Joshua for the work of settling Israel in the Promised Land, but not to do whatever he wanted. It is the fulfillment of “your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth” that merits this kind of assurance. 

Misplacement of a parallel to positive thinking is the subject of a new book called “the Self-Esteem Trap” that is critical of today’s self-esteem movement.

The author says that “junk praise” is creating a generation of self-absorbed children. She admits to raising perfectionist children who have “been more unhappy than they’ve been happy.” The idea that each child is special—obviously to their parents—does not prepare them to find they are not “special” to everyone else!

This automatic imputing of self-esteem the author complains of, reminds me of another parallel idea, that of anti-grading in education: every child must “pass” at his or her own level. It has created a generation of children who have no idea how their strengths and weaknesses fit in relation to others, and assume that any performance is adequate for any task.

Both these approaches, the emotional and educational, promote the “Self-Esteem Trap.” They infuse the idea that we are automatically entitled to all the benefits of life, an attitude completely alien to the builder generation whose hard work created the prosperity we now enjoy. Unfortunately, the resulting “entitlement” movement is fast undoing the benefits it assumes it is entitled to!

If she could parent over again, the author says she would promote reverence for life, family structure, chores and the responsibilities of being a member of a community. What a breath of fresh air in our culture where “rights” trump everything from respect to responsibility!

Joshua failed in part of the task allotted to him, not because he didn’t think positively enough about it, but because he failed to fulfill the requirements that God laid out. Consequently, he was fooled into letting some of the aliens inhabit the land. 

It’s not a positive self assessment that we need in thinking, education or esteem, but an accurate one. We need to know what strengths God has given and desires us to use, and where others’ strengths can buttress our lesser abilities.

Think about it. Can we really do anything through Christ who strengthens us?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tuesday November 10, 2009

He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet, Proverbs 27:7

Do you like shepherd’s pie? Perhaps a better question is: Do you know what shepherd’s pie is? Basically it is a form of stew baked with a crisp potato topping, a favourite dollop of which goes down well, both culturally and digestively, in British pubs. If you weren’t sure what shepherd’s pie is, then you will be even more confused over its nomenclature. “Shepherd’s” pie, as its name suggests, is made with lamb.

Then the question arises: “Can I make it with good Alberta beef?” Why not? It is frequently made with English beef, but it is no longer “shepherd’s” pie, it is now “cottage” pie. This should translate adequately into Canadian. But now our daughter has confused the issue even more by changing the ingredients. How much more North American ignorance is going to continue to adulterate the famed English Shepherd’s Pie?

She didn’t try to make it with lamb or beef, but with chicken, and even added corn and beans. This is not only a mockery of shepherd’s or cottage pie; neither name can be awarded to this travesty of British culinary culture. Her husband suggested it should be called “farmer’s” pie because of the inclusion of so many extra ingredients. Perhaps it could be salvaged if some of those foreign ingredients were omitted by calling it “cluckery” pie!

However, I doubt that this pie, whatever it is called and however it is made, would taste any the less great to the hungry soul in our text. A rose by any other name smells as sweet, and the same could be said for shepherd’s, cottage or cluckery pie. The real travesty is not naming the pie, it is that a billion of the world’s population goes hungry while much of the remainder feasts on delicacies—perhaps even refusing “honey.” How can we respond to such overwhelming need?

The importance of helping one at a time is illustrated by the story of a child who noticed hundreds of starfish left on the beach by the receding tide. As he started throwing them back into the sea, a passer-by commented that he was making little difference to the vast numbers. The boy threw another starfish into the foam as he replied: “It made a difference to that one.” We can all offer the local equivalent of shepherd’s pie to one family in need.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

You may recall the story. Samuel was looking among Jesse’s family for a new king of Israel which the Lord had told him to anoint to replace King Saul. Jesse’s finest, strapping sons looked the part to Samuel, but it was David, a strip of an adolescent that God chose. Perhaps his “ruddy” complexion hid his acne; probably not. Nothing like fresh air and sheep smell to clear it up! Either way, God was looking for a suitable heart, not smooth skin.

All I can say after reading today’s text is: thank goodness. If God was looking for stature, physique or pock free skin, I’d never have made it into his call list. The only wanted list I ever made was the local constabulary traffic division on a regular basis, but, glad to say, it never became a permanent relationship. The only other recourse to desirability was deep pockets, and mine were rarely deeper than David’s would have been. Sheep minding was the lowest rung of the ladder.

All I had left was my heart, and Ann eagerly seized that. Still not sure why she did then, or even less likely, why she still hangs on to it! Especially after nearly sixty years since we first met, she knows in detail what is wrong with it. I guess that’s the mystery of love, it perseveres beyond the defects of the heart, even in human relationships.

What was it that God saw in David’s heart? Certainly not sinlessness, as David’s subsequent biography reveals. If that was God’s pre-requisite for David or me, we would have joined David’s other brothers. For David, it must have been the real intent of the heart, not his later actions. 1 Samuel 13:14 records that the Lord “sought out a man after his own heart,” and that was David.

God was attracted to David because, despite the impurity of his heart on occasions, David thought, cared about and loved those things that were close to God’s heart. The record shows that David’s attitude always led to genuine remorse following failure. The need to spruce up our appearance to be acceptable to others and the rueful awareness of the frailty of our hearts, must make this story the consolation and hope for us all in our desire to please God.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday November 7, 2009

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there, Psalm 139:7-8

A popular book circulating a few years ago was titled “The God Chasers.” This text could be aptly titled “The Man Chaser.” If there was ever dedication to a task, it is God’s persistent seeking men and women despite the prevalence of rebuffs he receives. The psalm goes on to dismiss the far reaches of the ocean and the depths of darkness as a place to hide from God—even the darkness is light to him!

The passage is frightening. We can run, but we can’t hide. The fragile covering of every argument, subterfuge and claim of disbelief can be shattered in a moment. No-one can escape a performance interview with our maker. We may meet him in life, or worse, we will meet him in death. Flight from him is a futile escape. Discounting liability to him is a fool’s errand. Our every word, action and thought is recorded in vivid colour.

But there is also consolation here! The power of God is omnipotent and inexorable. Yet that very power, the greatest source of fear, is also a greater spring of comfort. If the sinner’s fiercest rebellion cannot avoid God, neither can the saint’s darkest moments. When our lives miss our communion with God; when we feel farthest from him; when the gap seems insurmountable; in our sense of failure, of unworthiness, or defeat: he is there. His presence is unavoidable. His reach exceeds our hopelessness.

Hear the psalmist’s experience while in the farthest reaches of human existence: “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” Our emptiness or despondency is no match for the span of God’s touch for “You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me.” In our extremity, is there a safer place to be?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday November 4, 2009

The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away, Psalm 90:10

Well, if you’re looking for a guilt trip here it is. If seventy years is our predetermined finish date, then someone needs to die early to let me live into my mid seventies. I’m not just living on borrowed time, I’m living on some-one else’s lost time! This psalm is attributed to Moses who lived to 120. Not only was his guess on his own lifespan woefully inadequate, he carried a bigger age guilt that any of us ever will!

I suppose pleading that we are not responsible for the death of some poor soul who has lost years to accommodate our longevity may assuage our guilt a little. Perhaps redefining seventy years as a “best before date” would reflect the reality of failing faculties and mobility and lessen the impertinence of extending our stay. Of course, that might give the euthanasia crowd reason to recycle us, suggesting that our use as a fertilizer is a greater good.

Well, if you’re not feeling bad enough yet, Moses has some more helpful news for you. The years we have are “nasty, brutish and short,” to let Thomas Hobbes paraphrase our text. You will all have had experience of this during your earthly sojourn to date and probably don’t need Moses to remind you. So if all the forgoing is true, why are we in such a tizzy about staying here—especially if over there is really our ultimate and preferred vacation spot?

Despite all the arguments for clunkers to cease and desist, an indefinable quality of life causes us to hold tenaciously to it. However old we are, we all desire to live long lives and death is an unwanted intruder. For all the guilt and burden of life, as long as I can stagger past seventy I’m not in a rush to have my heating pad unplugged.

In the meantime, reflecting on this psalm’s opening verse gives a hint why this life can still be pleasant and not just bearable: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.” David, in his 23rd Psalm agreed crediting his survival in the “valley of the shadow of death,” with “you are with me.” May we all come to realize that the dark tunnel with him is a better place than on the mountaintop alone!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday November 2, 2009

You know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, James 1:3

It is of critical importance that we stand up for what we believe. If you are not sure what you believe, it is hard to defend it. In fact, as the saying goes, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything!” Contrary to the impression they give, most with a secular mindset easily fall for the nonsensical drivel that passes for common wisdom, because they have no basis to defend against it.

Take the current reduction of human values under way in western society. If truth falls, can the value of human life be far behind? The acceptance of the postmodern belief that all truth is relative is the basis of confusion for any agreement on human dignity.

This devaluing of dignity responsible for abortion, euthanasia and other quality of life issues, and a concurrent ramping up of persecution for politically incorrect ideas—think of the human rights kangaroo courts—is a consequence of and in proportion to the discarding of Christian values.

A newly published book traces the falling value of human dignity in Canadian society and the philosophical, legal and political processes that have fostered it. The book Building on Sand: Human Dignity in Canadian Law and Society, can be reviewed at

The author, Mark Penninga has a master’s degree in Political science from Lethbridge University and is the director of the Association for Reformed Political Action (ARPA) Canada. His book provides critical insight into the basis of secular thinking and its detrimental effect on human dignity in our culture.

The groupthink of our current culture tends to extract Christian values from within our belief system, by guerrilla or underground warfare. The Christian Gospel of salvation without the human values it fosters, becomes a hollow relic, meaningful to its adherents, but irrelevant to public life.

A hollowed out Gospel may not stand against false but articulate communal beliefs. The values bred by the Gospel of Jesus Christ are alone the basis for a free and secure people. Is that connection clear in our minds? If it isn’t, then our faith may not persevere against increasingly secular ideas.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday November 1, 2009

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil 4:13

Here’s one of the motivating phrases of all time—I can do everything! Obviously a great idea to start a new month. However, this month starts with putting all the clocks back an hour. We enjoy the extra hour in bed each fall, but it takes me at least an hour to change all our clocks. Have you ever counted the clocks in your home? There are all the usual ticking timepieces on mantels and wall, and of course, the watches every household member has. Then of course, there are all the electronic clocks attached to every other device in the home: the ovens and stove, microwave, coffee pot, TV and DVD player . . .

Mercifully, our computers are programmed to change automatically, although in a forgetful moment it doesn’t stop me from trying to update them. Oh! Did I forget any clocks in the basement? Then when it seems all are done, I get in the car and find another clock—which reminds me I haven’t changed the clock in the garage. But then, I forgot to change that one in the spring, so it now shows the right time again!

Then I get nostalgic for the spring time change—not, of course, for the lost hour of sleep, but the ease of putting the clocks forward one hour: a simple one click or rotation of the dial. What makes the fall process so time consuming—unless my timepieces have a backspace—is that they all have to be put forward eleven or twenty three hours depending upon whether they are twelve or twenty four hour clocks—one of my clocks needs to be cycled through 12 and 24 hours! Of course, if the clock or watch has a calendar attached to it then . . . !

If I can get through this part of today, I’ll probably be OK for the rest of it! I’m sure that putting our clocks to the right time is within God’s will, or we’d be late (or is it early?) for church. Which brings me to the conclusion that there must be a condition against accomplishing everything through him? Paul has already suggested that whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable . . . think about such things, verse 8. Clearly, it is those things of good repute or that further the kingdom of God that are in view here, not whatever we want to do!

It is still early morning yet, and I can see a full moon leering at me through my study window just before it settles below the horizon for its day of rest. Of course, the moon doesn’t take a rest, it is now lighting the night sky for others on this ball of a planet we live on. But it is a reminder that the full resources of God are available to us continuously for everything that we need to do and he wants us to do. A good way to start the month, after wading through all the reminders of how short our time really is.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday October 30, 2009

Women: Sexual Predators?

A recent news article indicated that although most women engaged in sex for pleasure, researchers had counted 237 reasons why they did! There were many good or innocuous reasons for women to have sex. “These reasons ranged from the very altruistic, specifically because you wanted to make your partner feel good; to the mundane, where women said they had sex because they were bored; or to the medicinal, where they said they had sex to get rid of a headache or back pain or menstrual cramps, or to keep warm, or to lose weight, or to get exercise.”

Other reasons, although not altogether surprising given today’s sexual climate, are far more problematic. Some used it as revenge against a partner, or giving unprotected sex to pass aids to a man who wronged them. Others had it for adventure, to get another notch on their belt, to “mate-poach,” to compete to be first to get a desirable guy into bed, or barter for wealth, a job or even just for dinner!

Some had sex to fight loneliness, or to hold onto a guy. Perhaps the most unusual was having sex to get closer to God. Not quite sure how that would work. Perhaps the same way as admiring God’s creation often does the same thing. After all, the beauty of sex was God’s idea in the first place. Certainly, sex in the appropriate relationship without guilt is a great gift from God.

What was most surprising was that the article didn’t even mentioned having a child, although it is hard to believe it was not at least one of the 237 reasons for women to have sex. After all, furthering the human race is the purpose, if increasingly not the reason, for sex. The pleasure derived from it is a side benefit to ensure reproduction takes place! What this article with its glaring omission declares is that sex has finally become totally recreational, and not procreational.

A friend once stated her belief that the trend started with condoms. While contraception in some form has always been practiced—recall Onan in Genesis 38:8–10—the condom and later contraceptive methods have provided a completely new environment where sex can be practised without the attendant responsibility. While contraception was touted as a means of family planning, it is now a vehicle for free sex, even abortion frequently used as a means to the same end.

Nature demonstrates its dislike of indiscriminate sex by sexually transmitted diseases, which would die out in a generation if monogamous fidelity were practiced. This may be too much to ask, but it would be a start to recognise that it is not sex but children, the product of sex, that are the priority. There is perhaps a glimmer of hope in that the majority of Americans are now against abortion for the first time since Rowe v. Wade. Even a recent Law and Order episode portrayed a rethink on the practice.

An old song says: “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.” Unfortunately, too many think that idea went out with the horse and buggy days. Even a cursory knowledge of Scripture will reveal its message of final sexual satisfaction only within marriage. At the risk of being legalistic, the restriction of sex within marriage must be the basis not only of a stable society, but also of a secure and happy family life; for a man and a woman, but also particularly for the children.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thursday October 29, 2009

I said to the LORD, "You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing." Psalm 16:2

The idea that apart from God we “have no good thing,” is probably the greatest barrier to reconciliation with God for it completely deflates our pride and independence. Yet we don’t need to look far to see the naked evil that is unleashed around us daily, born in the minds and hearts of humans. And in those infrequent moments of honest personal appraisal, perhaps sparked by anger, misery or even Holy Spirit conviction, we realize that the propensity for evil is resident in us all. The idea of what Christians call depravity is illustrated in this following excerpt from our book Happy Together: Daily Insights for Families from Scripture.

When I first learned to ride a bicycle, I was let loose on the streets of my neighbourhood and almost immediately came into conflict with another user. My problem was a very simple one; I was riding on the wrong side of the road as the other user testily informed me. My father had not taught me the first rule of the road—to ride or drive on the left (that was in England of course). A moment’s thought reveals to us the chaos produced without this one simple and basic rule.

When it comes to human nature, most are poorly informed of the one simple rule that governs all human behaviour, and must be taken into account in any process of governing: that is our total depravity. This very definitely goes against the grain, especially as it suggests that we have nothing good in us. But it simply means that everything we do is somehow infected with sin; we act with mixed motives and engage in undesirable fantasies. Society assumes the ultimate good in all, a mistaken notion that contributes as much to society's ills as sin itself, by applying incorrect notions. Sin is regarded as a correctable defect rather than a terminal disease.

By contrast the Bible teaches that we are all infected by sin and need inward cleansing by our Creator. The first line of defence for our children is a commitment to Jesus Christ, responding to their recognised need of cleansing and forgiveness; first as an initial experience of salvation, and then as an ongoing need in daily life. Unfortunately, these are so basic that we take them for granted and forget to clearly instruct our children of them—as my father forgot to inform me of the first rule of the road.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday October 25, 2009
The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out, Proverbs 20:5.
Deep waters indeed! It is in the innermost recesses of our soul that our greatest unspoken shames and ambitions reside, and as long as we have a conscience, however distorted or dulled by sin, it threatens a future judgment. After all, our conscience at least gives sufficient innate knowledge of right and wrong to suggest that one day we must all face an accounting. This is the greatest fear of death: what will happen to us when we die?
One way to overcome this fear is to assume God doesn’t exist, or if there is one, he is simply irrelevant. However, with a little thought, it must be obvious that what we believe about God must affect the way we live. If we believe there is a God to whom we are probably accountable, then we will try to adore, fear, respect, appease or worship him—at least try to seek his favour in some way. If we don’t believe he exists, then we will live by laws imposed on us, fear of what others think of us, or by our own moral values or lack of them.
Without God, human ambition tries to assert a natural world that exists on its own as the final truth. Unfortunately, truth based on human reason alone undermines itself because truth then becomes each person’s individual property. With no universal or absolute truth about life, the slogan becomes, “All truth is relative.” Because the truth of that statement is also relative, a postmodern approach where intuition trumps reason is a natural outcome.
The idea in our text that “a man of understanding draws them out,” suggests that a wise man will be able to see into the deep recesses of the human heart, but in addition, “draws out” the false conclusions that those dark recesses invent for cover. In fact, the wisest man, whose foolishness begins where human wisdom peaks, not only made us aware of our hidden proclivities, but also came to deliver us from them. His wisdom is not a cold recitation of facts about us, but also a love for us that passes all human understanding.
It may be a stretch to say that this verse is a prophecy of Jesus Christ, but at least it provides the basic truth about us: In our fall into sin we also fell from truth, and all our human reasoning contains error about life. What we believe about the God who not only insisted that sin and its reasoning be recognized and judged, but also gave himself to ransom us from our predicament, will affect the way we think and live. Particularly it gives life meaning now, and future hope for earth and eternity.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday October 20, 2009
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, and all who live in it. Psalm 24:1
This year has been eventful! Ann and I spent the first two months in England on a short-term missionary assignment, meeting up with members of our family to visit many of our haunts of our early-married life. Then there was prostate surgery waiting of me on our return and thankfully has given me clean results to date. During that time, we published our first book, Happy Together: Insights for Families from Scripture, and that meant a spring of activity and two summer trips to the coast to promote it.
Then our second great grandchild was born, but taken seriously ill shortly after. Again, we are so thankful that after a lengthy stay in hospital, he is home with his family and the prognosis is good, but needing a minor operation in a few weeks. Then another trip to the coast, this time to Victoria to attend a cousin’s sixtieth wedding anniversary. Now of course, Ann is back at university, and has one further course to take in the spring to complete her political science degree.
During the summer, I put together material for a second book, Guess Who’s Coming to Reign! Jesus Talks about His Return, ready for publishing this fall. I also launched a website to incorporate much of the writing we have done during the years, and you will find a link to it on the side panel, Norford's Writings - Home. All this has meant an interruption in my blogging and the letters that I regularly like to write to our grandchildren, but it is my hope that this blog will get me back into that comfortable rut I am always looking for!
Thus, it seems a fitting start today to muse on the words of today’s text, that all the earth and its inhabitants belong to God; especially that all we do is within God’s view and, we trust, within his purposes. In fact, despite the effort of many, it is impossible to get away from him.
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, If I settle on the far side of the sea, Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:8–10.
The first line of this quote reminds me of yesterday’s news, that astronomers have found another 32 planets around other stars raising the number to over 500. This always raises the excitement that we can find another earth like ours with similar life upon it. Unlikely; other heavenly bodies all appear to be frozen wastes or stifling heat. Furthermore, our expanding universe appears to maroon us in an eternal space that God controls and where immense distances ensure we are contained in this solar system.
The immensity of God’s power is at once frightening and comforting. It is certainly a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, and terrifying that we cannot get away from accountability to him. Yet the offer he gives us of reconciliation with him gives us equally immeasurable security for life and for eternity. The vast universe is the big picture, and is an analogy of the big picture of our lives, “hidden with Christ in God.”

Welcome Back!

Tuesday October 20, 2009

After some experimentation we have finally come back here with our blogs. They are easily accessed from our website at, or directly from this address at

You can also access Norfords' Writings from here by clicking the link on the side panel

Either way, we trust you find future information helpful or interesting, and look forward to meeting you here again on a regular basis.

Ann and Bryan Norford

Thursday October 8, 2009

Cole is HOME!

Here is the latest bulletin from Cole's mom. Thanks to all of you who prayed for a healthy outcome.

*From:* Joelle Alexander

*Sent:* Thursday, October 08, 2009 1:03 PM


Wanted to let you know that Cole is home!! We just got back from the hospital 1/2 hour ago... What a great feeling it is to have him home with us. All the screening for side effects from the meningitis have come back negative. He is doing great!

Thanks again to all for all your support, prayers, thoughts and helping hand through this tough time. We couldn't have made it through without you.

We hope that you all get to meet Cole very soon!!!

With much Love.

Dan, Joelle, Norah and Cole

Friday October 2nd, 2009

Cole is Improving

Thanks for your prayers. Below a note from Cole’s mother Joelle.

Ann and Bryan

From: Joelle Alexander []
Sent: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 9:50 PM

A quick note to let you know that Cole is doing great. The docs were successful at putting the picc in his leg and he bounced back from the anaesthetics quickly. He was really looking well tonight. He is out of ICU and back in Unit 2. He was only in ICU for 26 hours cause he was doing so well! We are so glad this part is over! Now he can get his treatment easily with no more pain and just work on getting better. Cole should be coming home in 8 days!! Yay.

Thanks again for your prayers and thoughts! We all feel relieved and are looking forward to taking our little hero home soon!


Daniel, Joelle, Norah and Cole

Joelle Alexander

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love is Stronger than Death

In an earlier blog, we were happy to announce the birth of our first great grandson, Cole Ryan Alexander. Now we are seeking prayer for his recovery from serious infection that could include meningitis, besides kidney and blood infection. The time in hospital for most of his three and a half weeks of life has been traumatic for his little body, a harrowing one for his parents, and anxiety for other close relatives—grandparents and great grandparents!

His mother Joelle writes that through it all “He's a trooper, a very strong boy!” While some individuals—adults and children—are stronger than others, strength for all of us is gained from the love of those around us. It is common knowledge that a newborn cannot survive without love, and will die unless held and nurtured. Similarly, the will to survive for a newborn like Cole is strengthened by the love and care he receives from his parents.

Somehow, he will be sensing their love and devotion, the desire for him as an essential part of their family. It seems to me that love from another is what gives life its meaning, and the greater Cole senses that his little life already has meaning, the greater his will to participate in it and fight the disease and the pain of it.

This speaks to the meaning that life has for all of us—without the loving interest of another in our existence, life loses its meaning. The decisive significance of life is found in God’s love for us—that we were created purposefully and for a destiny with Him. That is why our souls crave for direction and meaning and it can only be found in the knowledge that God loves us and has an ultimate purpose for us.

We can all feel the pain and heartache that Dan and Joelle are experiencing this moment, although perhaps not to the same degree. But we trust that our love, prayers and support will increase their strength. And Cole himself will fight to be with them as he is drawn to their love and affection for him. Above all, our prayers can strengthen the bond between God and Cole created at birth that will be his ultimate healing.

Tuesday September 15, 2009

Most Terrorists may be Muslims, but not all Muslims are Terrorists

Few of us would feel comfortable meeting these three men, at least the way they are portrayed in these media photographs. But if we met them on the street we probably would not give them a second glance.

Nevertheless, these men were convicted of plotting suicide attacks to blow up seven flights from London's Heathrow airport to New York, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto and Montreal, using liquid bombs concealed in drink containers. The jets were planned to explode over the Atlantic simultaneously, and would have killed upwards of 2,000 people.

The three pictured above were sentenced separately to life in prison, with no less than 40, 36, and 32 years minimum to be served in detention. The trio were told they may never be released.

Short of capital punishment, this is perhaps the closest to punishment fitting the crime than most jurisdictions provide. Yet what is remarkable in this case is that the intent was considered equal to the action, the closest I’ve ever seen to Jesus’ charge that anger will be judged as murder, Matt. 5:21–22—the thought is as bad as the deed.

This conspiracy follows the New York, Madrid and London bombings, planned bombings of Toronto buildings and other attacks of the last decade all triggered by Muslim extremists. So it is not surprising that Maclean’s May 24th 2009 magazine found that 45% of Canadians consider mainstream Islam encourages violence.

Ann and I have had contact with a number of Muslim families over the years, and found that whatever interpretation is placed on the Quran’s promotion of violence, most Muslims want what we all want: freedom and security to raise our families. The massive migration of Muslims from their homelands to the west in recent years, bears testimony to the desire to escape from religious tyranny to the freedom of expression (however challenged) of western nations.

Even if not acknowledged, it is the Christian faith that has provided that freedom and the recent rejection of Sharia law in Ontario by Muslims themselves is evidence that they prefer the culture of the west to what they left behind.

While we may hear little against Islamist violence from the Islamic community—often from fear of reprisals!—Muslims have the same range of devotion to nominalism as Christianity does. The majority are not going to give up their new-found freedoms and return to what they escaped from any more than we would.

It may be surprising to find the same Maclean’s article referred to above also notes that 10% of Canadians believe that mainstream Christianity also encourages violence! In reality, every belief system has its fringe extremism and certainly Christian history attests to that.

Few of us in our right mind, including Muslims, can possibly believe that God’s call on our lives is to kill and maim as many countless innocent men women and children as possible any more than we applaud Hitler’s death camps. Our God given conscience tells us at least that much.

Your Muslim neighbour next door wants much the same from life as you do, and would welcome your friendship to help them understand how to achieve it. Eventually they may come to understand that the freedom we enjoy in the west is an outcome of the personal freedom we enjoy in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yesterday we received the announcement that our second great grandchild, Cole Ryan Alexander, has joined our family. We are grateful to God for his safe entry into our world, and that mom, Joelle, is doing well. We assume dad is doing OK too!

Our direct family now numbers eighteen souls, scattered from Eastern and Western Canada to New Zealand. Our greatest joy is the close relationship we have with all our family members, despite the geographical distances between us. We have endeavoured to remain in touch on a constant basis, visiting whenever possible and convenient, and our pleasure is doubled as family members frequently take time to be with us.

However, as we enjoy our family closeness, it makes us keenly aware of so many families that are torn apart and are a cause of heartache and pain, not joy. While we are sure that closeness results from the efforts of family members to express their love for each other, that is not the whole story. Many members of families have poor relations with each other in spite of the genuine efforts of one or more of them.

Furthermore, some families have good relationships despite poor performance by some members. We are personally only too aware of our own parental shortcomings when our children were young—selfishness, over strictness and inconsistency—a cause of regret in our old age. And then, of course, there is the heartache caused by loss of family members due to illness or accident. A few days ago, a local young family lost their mother to a blood clot four days after the birth of their third child.

It has been said that we can only plan to be good parents, not plan to raise good children. Children are individuals who will make their own choices often in spite of us as well as because of us. We recall a local family devastated when their beloved but rebellious daughter became pregnant. Fortunately, she is now reconciled to God and her family and married to a fine young man who adores her and her child. But not all tragedies turn out this way.

What are the characteristics of parents that are likely to raise fine children? Here the Bible’s wisdom has something to say. What are the characteristics that God displays in his dealings with his people? God revealed those features—with which we are familiar by being made in God’s image—to Moses in Deuteronomy 34:6 and 7: compassion, graciousness, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice.

Do we display these qualities in our interactions with others, members of our own families, and particularly our children? If, as we believe, most character formation is taught by example, then making these the goals of our family relationships will at least lay foundation for probable joy as the family expands.