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.