“Where Was God?”

“Where Was God?”

8090B62D-A050-4801-AF8D-A6311B72E04F“Why did this happen? Where was God?” These are the two major questions that were posed by the team pastor at the Humboldt Broncos vigil.

Humboldt Broncos vigil: Team pastor delivers tearful and powerful address

The beautiful part of his answer is that He is with us, that He is with the broken hearted. The more challenging part of his answer is when he said, “God is on the throne.” The thought that immediately follows is that if God is on the throne, He is, therefore, in control. As these thoughts were being expressed, the camera was on a tearful young lady who was shaking her head as if to say “No.”

Rejection of this kind of thinking at a time like this is understandable. “How can a loving God allow such a tragedy to happen?” If you look closer at the Scriptures, you will find that God is more accurately pictured as sovereign, which is actually different than being “in control.” As a matter of fact, the Scripture says, “that the world around us is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Can I suggest that this tragedy had  more to do with the “evil one” than the God who is sovereign? Why did this happen? The evil one is said to have a purpose of stealing, killing and destroying (John 10:10). Why not bring the evil one a little more into focus for the responsibility of these types of circumstances or even just human failure?

Read a previous blog to help answer the question: Is God Really in Control?

In this blog, I use the example of the Queen, who is considered the Sovereign over Canada, but she does not control the decisions or even influence the government of Canada. Interestingly, the Queen sent a message of condolence which is definitely a positive thing. My concern is more about the message the Sovereign God is trying to send.

The fact is, we experience hardship in this life and the primary reason is that satan and sin are still at large in this broken world. During times like these, we certainly shake our heads “no” and may be tempted to think that God is not there and is not sovereign or reigning. He is, however, very much interested in your brokenness and can somehow bring good from the evil that has happened. That can be very difficult to comprehend at a time like this. In fact, He can take these awful events that satan intends for evil and turn them around, and bring eternal good out of them.

Maybe instead of asking, “Where was God” we should ask, “Where is God now?” God’s promise is this: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Pastors may not have all the answers during such difficult times, but we can all have the confidence that, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

We can all have the assurance that God is with us in life’s darkest valley.

“Our Season Was Painful” #humboldtbroncos

There is much sadness in Canada today whether you are a hockey fan or not, due to the bus tragedy in Saskatchewan. I just happened to turn on SportsCentre this morning and the main story of course, is about the Humboldt Broncos hockey team with 15 dead and others critically injured.

Many coaches, players, politicians and even those who really have not had much connection are heart broken over this loss. One comment made by Glen Gulutzan, coach of the Calgary Flames was particularly striking. Here are his exact words:

I said in Winnipeg, our season was painful, and I would like to take that back … I can’t imagine what Mom’s and Dad’s are going through.

That provides perspective! Sometimes our experiences in a particular season (of life) can be so challenging, often because it may represent a loss of some sort. Obviously, a season of loss and failure to make the playoffs is not loss at all in comparison to this.

It is pretty clear that the pain of this tradegy has impacted the hearts of so many.  Thus far more than 40,000 people have donated 3 million dollars through the gofundme.com/funds-forHumboldt-Broncos.

What will be the legacy of this Humboldt Broncos team? Legacy may prove to be the greatest consolation for these families.

In law, a legacy is something acquired by inheritance, or by a will. In historical terms, a legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. Often it means something handed down from an ancestor or predecessor.

Humboldt players range in age from 16 – 21, which is not a significantly long period of time. My prayer is that the short period of time lived, will enable a legacy that is meaningful enough to provide some consolation for those families who are now feeling the pain of loss.

I am not sure anyone can find the right words at a time like this. I searched google and found this quote below about a power that is able to make a way out of no way and can transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.

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Is God’s Love Reckless? Part II

After writing my blog in January concerning the powerful song “The Reckless of God,” my wife and I were able to visit a few churches as we travelled during February month. Interestingly, in the first two churches we visited, they sang this song and I was moved to tears on both occasions. Why? It is such a significant expression of God’s love reaching out to those who are distant and away from Him.

This song is definitely controversial simply because it uses the word “reckless” to describe God’s love. One response to my blog asked a couple of very good questions: “How can you separate God from His love? In fact, God is love, so by speaking of His love being reckless, are we not saying that God Himself is reckless?” My question in response is this: Can we limit God’s love by our theology? God is not confined to our way of thinking and as much as we think we understand God, we should never underestimate His ability to reach out to others in the manner He chooses.

In my devotions this week, I have been reading the book of Hosea and could not help but reflect on this song again as I read. Here is how Hosea starts in verse 2 with an unusual instruction to the prophet:

When the Lord first spoke to Hosea, He said this to him: Go and marry a promiscuous wife and have children of promiscuity, for the land is committing blatant acts of promiscuity by abandoning the Lord.

Seems like pretty reckless strategy, don’t you think? The command from God was to marry a prostitute, but wasn’t God concerned about the reputation of his servant? Reckless is defined as utterly unconcerned about the consequences of some action. That sounds like the attitude of God when choosing a wife for the prophet. The essence of the story is really to illustrate exactly how God loves and pursues His people despite their unfaithfulness to Him. Patiently, God continued to pursue this one-sided relationship by lavishing love and mercy on a nation that rejected Him. The devotional I read all but quoted the lyrics to the Reckless Love song but fell a little short of actually referencing His love as reckless.

Oh, the unstoppable, unmatchable, inextinguishable, everlasting love of God! We don’t deserve it. We can’t fully comprehend it.

The song is based on Luke 15; the lost sheep and the lost son, which can be argued as evidence of “the reckless love of God.” However, if you search the Bible you can easily find multiple examples that can support the truth expressed in this song. Just take a look at the genealogy of Christ, particularly some of the females (who are not normally mentioned at all). I won’t go into the stories in detail but Tamar is the first female (Matt. 1:3) who pretends to be a prostitute and tricks her father-in-law to continue the family tree (Tamar’s story is in Gen. 38). Then there is Rahab (Matt 1:5), who was a prostitute who had no hesitation to lie and deceive her own people to protect herself and her family (Joshua 2). Then one name is not mentioned, but she is referred to as the wife of Uriah (Matt. 1:6). Remember he was the guy David sent to the front lines to make sure he was killed to try and cover the adulterous affair he had with Uriah’s wife (2 Sam. 11).

Why are these stories brought forward and included in the genealogy of Christ? What do these stories have in common? They all include sexual promiscuity. You would think God would be more interested in covering these details, rather than reminding all the readers about the details. Let’s face it, those are the types of things most of us would prefer to cover, not remind everyone that these things are part of the family history. God is obviously not at all concerned about the consequences of using people who have been involved in these sexual sins.

God is interested in redeeming those lives and including them in His story, reckless as that might seem. Maybe as you read this you can relate in some way to some of these people. You are distant from your Creator and feeling hopeless. Be assured of this fact, He is pursuing you with a goal of including you in His great story.

The video below is 12 minutes long but includes Cory Asbury’s story behind the song. Is this song being sung in your church?

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

Billy Graham: Not in Heaven Because He Preached to the Crowds

After watching the funeral of Billy Graham this week, I discovered his final column where Billy states: “By the time you read this, I will be in heaven.” I don’t think there is a doubt in anyone’s mind that Billy Graham is in heaven. Why are we all agreed that he is in heaven? We might answer, with all the good he has done through his preaching to millions, you know he is going to be in heaven. After all he was “America’s Pastor” and the world’s best known evangelist, so he is a obviously in heaven.

F82EB9F9-DBF9-4EBC-9A4A-C6ADF24A9A53What’s interesting is the reason Billy Graham gives for his entrance into heaven. He states, “But I won’t be in heaven because I preached to the crowds or because I have tried to live a good life.” It is only his faith in Jesus Christ that gave him the  confidence of heaven. If Billy Graham will “be in heaven for one reason,” our hope of going to heaven is because of  the very same reason.

Randy Alcorn says this:

Many mistakenly believe that heaven is our reward for doing good things. This is absolutely not the case. Our presence in heaven is in no sense a reward for our works, but a gift freely given by God in response to faith.

Well, what about the millions that Billy Graham preached to and the lives who came to Christ because of his preaching? Doesn’t that account for anything? The answer can be found in Eph. 2:9, which Billy clearly understood: “Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (NLT). In other words, what you believe is the key to entering heaven, not what you do.  That is a good thing because if it is based on our efforts then most of us would have a difficult challenge ahead, especially if we compare ourselves to the accomplishments of someone like Graham.

However, we can’t stop reading there because immediately after saying salvation is “not by works,” the next verse clarifies that our works matter a great deal.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.

Even though salvation is not through our works, we are actually created to do good works. A lifetime of good works was actually prepared in advance by God for us to do. A few years ago I did a study using a book by Bruce Wilkinson called “A Life God Rewards” which explained how Jesus taught the promise of reward in heaven.

“He will reward each according to his works” (Matthew 16:27)

“You will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21).

“You will be blessed … for you shall be repaid at the resurrection” (Luke 14:14).

This certainly suggests that God is keeping track of what we do for Him every day. Wilkinson speaks of two keys: The first is belief that unlocks the door to eternal life and determines where we spend eternity. The second is our behaviour which unlocks the door to reward and determines how we will spend eternity.

The reality is we have the same hope of heaven that Billy Graham had because it is simply through faith that we enter heaven, which is really the foundation. At the end of Wilkinson’s book, there are several quotes from well-known theologians and preachers, of which is Billy Graham.

“The believer has his foundation in Jesus Christ. Now we are to build upon this foundation, and the work we have done must stand the ultimate test; the final exams come at the Judgment Seat of Christ when we receive our rewards.” –  Billy Graham

Are we living and working everyday with an eternal perspective? Will our good deeds, acts of kindness (works) pass the ultimate test?

 

Is Believing Enough?

Is Believing Enough?

Recently, I heard the amazing story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker, which illustrates how we can be challenged. 

Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

wheelbarrow

He also went across pushing a wheelbarrow and then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!” How many volunteers do you think stepped forward? There were none, but the reason is the most interesting: They only observed and believed.

DDblondin1As the story is told only his manager was willing to take the step beyond belief and have sufficient faith in Blondin, to be carried across the tightrope on Blondin’s back.

Standing on the ground, it was easy to believe based on what the crowd was witnessing. However, when asked to risk their own life, it required more than simply believing. There is obviously an entirely different level that takes us beyond belief.

In June 1990, Petra release an album featuring a song written by Bob Hartman entitled: “Beyond Belief” which was based on Heb. 6:1a, Phil. 1:6 Rom. 1:17. Here is the chorus:

There’s a higher place to go, beyond belief, beyond belief
Where we reach the next plateau, beyond belief, beyond belief
And from faith to faith we grow
Towards the center of the flow
Where He beckons us to go, beyond belief, beyond belief

The song did not actually name on that place that is beyond belief, but I would call it trust. What Bondin was asking of the crowd is very similar to what “believers” are called to do, not just believe but trust. Trust is much difficult and beyond belief.

In my search to highlight the difference between belief and trust I read a blog that quoted Peter Enns and he provides a great illustration.  Jesus tells a famous story about why those who follow him need not worry about anything. Don’t fret about how much you have, what you wear, or what you will eat. Don’t worry. Trust. (Matthew 6:25-34).

Jesus illustrates the point in what at first blush seems rather off topic–at best marginally helpful. He tells us to consider the grass of the field and the birds of the sky. Look at them, Jesus says. They’re doing just fine and they don’t worry for a second.

Of course they don’t worry, Jesus, because they are–if I’m not mistaken–grass and birds. Grass doesn’t have a brain and birds are skittish little things that fly into windows. These things aren’t really relevant, Jesus, because, you see, by definition, Jesus, these things are incapable of worry.

And when you put it that way, you can see the profound point–and challenge–of what Jesus is saying: worry should be as impossible for us as it is for grass and birds. His followers–if they get it–should be as incapable of worry as insentient grass and bird-brained birds.

“Believing in God” doesn’t get you to that place Jesus is describing here. Belief leaves room for worry. Trust explodes it.

The question I would leave you with is this: Are you one who can step further than the crowd of believers, beyond belief, and move to trust, where you are incapable of worry?

Is God’s Love Reckless?

Is God’s Love Reckless?

My youngest daughter recently sent me a youtube video of a song called, “Reckless Love,” which is written to describe how God pursues each of us through His love. If you are a parent who has ever quoted the verse, “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it,” then this is a song that you should listen to. It will lift your faith in God because He pursues all who are away from Him to bring them back into relationship.

It is easy for us to focus on the word “reckless” and say that this word cannot possibly describe God in any way. At first glance, the dictionary definition seems to confirm this thinking since “reckless” is not a good descriptive word for God. It is defined as “without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action,” providing the example of  “reckless driving” which is clearly a careless act.

God is certainly not “careless” but actually the exact opposite. “He cares for us” so much that He will go to any extreme to reach us, which is the heart of the song, Reckless Love. Verse 1 highlights how God created us and gives us life. Verse 2 focuses on how God redeems us, despite the fact we were His enemies and rebellious in our sinfulness. The chorus focuses on how incredible it is that God loves us and pursues us.

The biblical basis for the song is Luke 15 which contains 3 parables: the lost son (or the prodigal), the lost sheep and the lost coin. Think how “reckless” it was for the father to receive with open arms his son who had squandered his inheritance.  He did not care about the consequences of what other people thought of this act of love. Same thing with the parable of the lost sheep. Why would a shepherd not care about the safety of the 99 to go find the one?  The shepherd was a little reckless … without thinking or caring about the consequences of leaving the flock, he recklessly drove to save the one that was lost.

Is this really any different than the song “Amazing Grace?” The language of that time speaks of “saving a wretch like me” which is picture of reaching out to someone who “once was lost, but now am found.” The message of “Reckless Love” focuses on God reaching to us in much the same way as through Amazing Grace. The important issue here is not how this new song compares to an older song, but rather the biblical support the author was inspired by to write it.

If Luke 15 isn’t sufficient, look at 1 Cor. 1:18 where Paul writes: “The word of the cross seems foolishness to those who are are on the way to destruction; but to us … it is the power of God.” The word “foolishness” is easily comparable to “reckless,” which can be seen as one way to describe how God extends His love to humanity.

Here is an excerpt from what the author of the song, Cory Asbury, says:

“When I use the phrase, “the reckless love of God”, I’m not saying that God Himself is reckless. I am, however, saying that the way He loves, is in many regards, quite so. What I mean is this: He is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of His actions with regards to His own safety, comfort, and well-being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike, and might I even suggest, sometimes downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. His love doesn’t consider Himself first. His love isn’t selfish or self-serving. He doesn’t wonder what He’ll gain or lose by putting Himself out there. He simply gives Himself away on the off-chance that one of us might look back at Him and offer ourselves in return.”

What an interesting perspective. I am not sure you can bankrupt heaven, but I get the point: “God gave his only son.” As a parent, I want the Reckless Love of God to relentlessly pursue my children with the goal of drawing them back to Himself. For that matter, when I myself am distant in my relationship with my Creator, I trust He would “recklessly” leave the ninety-nine to seek after me. This song truly displays the message of redemption, which is the ultimate message of the church. I truly cannot understand how a church would not have this song as part of their worship service.

I will admit that the word “reckless” in reference to God’s love does push the boundaries a little but the whole point of the song is exactly that … His love reaches beyond any barrier. Isn’t that the whole point of John 3:16? Isn’t that a reckless expression of God “coming after me,” as the song says?

Please watch the video:

 

 

The Loudest Voice

The Loudest Voice

We live in a world filled with voices and depending on the voice that is loudest, that is what we will hear. Oftentimes, the voice we hear most will actually begin to shape us. One of the ideas expressed by Mark Batterson in his book entitled, Whisper, is that a whisper speaks of intimacy.  In other words, you have to get close in order to hear what is being said and if you don’t get close, you will likely miss it.

My google search resulted in this definition of whisper: speak very softly using one’s breath without one’s vocal cords, especially for the sake of privacy.

In order to hear a whisper, we must be in a quiet place, or lean in towards the whisperer.  During our busy days, we are most often in the midst of many voices and actually have to make a choice as to which voice we will tune our ears to.

Some voices are in our head, previously shaped by what we have already heard or been thinking about and will compete with a current voice we hear with our ears. In the Christmas story, Zacharias heard the voice of Gabriel say he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to call him John. Unfortunately, that was not the loudest voice in his life at the time. The loudest voice was actually more about his age and how his wife was unable to have a child. Interesting that he was then silenced until his son was born and he only received his ability to speak again once he wrote, “His name shall be John.” It seems it was only after these months of silence that he was finally able to align his thinking and speaking with the voice of the angel he had heard months earlier. In the time of his silence, I am sure he thought a great deal about what he had heard the angel say.

What a relief it must have been for Zacharias to finally to be able “to give voice” fulfilling what he was actually called to do. Here is what I find most interesting: the origin of the word for “calling” comes from the Latin word “vocare” or “to give voice.” The big question as we embark upon another year is, “What are we giving voice to in our lives, our work, our relationships?”

Think about your work-life for a moment: Are you called to do what you do everyday?

Do you have a job, a career or a calling?

– A job can be defined as something you do for money (often temporary and one you can and will change in your life.) My first job was “pumping gas” which is pretty rare to see now-a-days with mostly self-serve stations and options to pay at the pump.

– A career comes from the Latin word “cart” and the French word for “racetrack.” I did move on to a career, or actually changed careers a couple of times.

Screen Shot 2018-01-13 at 12.55.38 PM– I have discovered that you can actually fulfill your “calling” in a job or a career but the key is to fulfill your calling, no matter what your hand finds to do. I guess you can say, it’s finding that sweet spot and I think many times that simply means following the voice that is within.

For me, that sweet spot is the overlap of my gifts and passions that enable me to fulfill a kingdom need. That means I am able to help others find and fulfill their individual calling.

You can be in a job and you just desire to get another, a better higher paying job. You may be in a career and feel like you are circling the racetrack, going around in circles and feeling like you are accomplishing so little.  Sounds like a frustrated life, but in the midst of that, you may need to simply quiet yourself and listen because there is a still small voice that desires to move you toward what you were purposed to accomplish in your life. This may not mean a new job, a change in career or retirement. It may simply mean a new perspective because you tuned out the many voices around you and listened to the One voice that really matters.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart!  (Psalm 37:4)