The Goal of our Recreations

 

The other day I met a friendly young couple who were visiting Squamish to take advantage of our stellar mountain biking trails. In the course of conversation, the guy mentioned that he was struck by the fact that the whole town seems to ride bikes. Obviously, this is a slight overstatement – but only slight. Because the reality is that there is a plethora of recreational opportunities that we enjoy in these coastal mountains. This is what largely draws people to Squamish.

I’ll be the first to admit that these are wonderful blessings that we have to enjoy. Yet is it possible that the end goal of all of these opportunities could be short-sighted? Is there the potential that they may not provide ultimate fulfillment for our lives? If we’re honest, we know the answers to these questions. We can attain the pinnacle of any number of these recreational activities and find them lacking a bit.

This shouldn’t take us completely by surprise. In the weeks and months to come, we will be investigating a biography of sorts that documents the pursuits of one man throughout the course of his life. He seemingly has access and the resources to participate in all the things that are available. Yet, at the end of the day, he concludes that these pursuits can all be meaningless. The reality is that anything that we pursue in this life has a deadline date. The message of the Book of Ecclesiastes is a somber reminder of this truth. However, we can find hope and encouragement when we consider that we have been created with an eternal purpose. Please join us on Sunday mornings beginning June 12 as we launch on this journey.

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The Conflict in Sanctification

I have some friends who are trying to talk me into climbing giant slabs of rock. The pictures I’ve perused from the latest exploration suggest that I would needlessly place myself in the way of deathly peril. When I raised this very fair point from my perspective. I received a response that it’s about “mind over matter.” I’m not about to research extensively what this actually means. However, it sent me on a bit of a contemplative journey about sanctification. For as I considered that there is likely an element of truth (however miniscule) about this “mind over matter”.

When we think biblically about the necessity of life transformation, we must necessarily conclude that the mind is a major participant in such change. Paul clearly articulates this in Romans 12 where he writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

This is but one component of our spiritual growth. An important component to be sure. It is vital that we are able to interpret life’s circumstances theologically. We must be able to discern our God, ourselves, and the appropriate responses to life’s tests. As we grow, we are able to navigate these waters more effectively and accurately.

But often life is not so simple. There are other significant contributors in life. Sanctification does not occur easily. It’s painful at times. The Christian life is not neutral. We must acknowledge that other forces are at work. We are at war with the world, the flesh and the devil. The “world” is that which is opposed to God and his ways. The devil is the ringleader in this circus. The other combatant in this war is our sinful flesh. Though we are now also armed with the Holy Spirit who changes our desires, we continue to wage war against the flesh.

This seems to be the more difficult road to travel at times. This requires heart change. This requires complete dependence on God, His wisdom, His strength. We are completely doomed without these. If it were not for Him and His resources, I would be repeatedly headlong on the path of folly stemming from self-absorption.

Here’s the rub. It’s easier for me to pursue the renewal of the mind. I am a problem solver. I love to search the Scriptures and find solutions to life’s problems. By God’s grace, I can often clearly see through the deceptions of the world and the Adversary. I can hold it up in front of my eyes and see it for what it really is.

The conflict arises because the mind and the heart don’t always play nicely. A former professor of mine very simply stated that though we now have the ability to “not sin”, we still love it too much. Now I won’t go so far to state that we have the ability for sinless perfection. the point is noted that when we give in to sin and its temptations, we are failing to note several things. We have a new identity. Being “in Christ” provides us a wealth of resources – most notably the empowering of his Holy Spirit.

Perhaps the aspect forefront on my mind is that our sinful patterns are rooted in unbelief in God’s provisions. On many different levels in different circumstances, we do not believe that God’s ways are more satisfying. Additionally, we do not believe that He is able to deliver us from sin and its temptations. We act out of disbelief when we are proud, when we envy, when we are anxious, etc.

There are many other components that participate in our growth process that perhaps I will explore at another time. We must consider the part of prayer, grace, wisdom, and godly counsel. For now, this helps me identify what goes on in my heart. I long to grow in godliness and faithfulness and be effective for God’s Kingdom. As painful as this can be…

For His Glory.

What is Truth?

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This is the question that was asked of Jesus Christ moments before he was killed on a cross nearly 2,000 years ago. It was asked by Pontius Pilate, the governing authority, over the events surrounding Jesus and his trial.

Whether we realize it or not (or admit it), the same question fuels our thoughts and passions today. It is not fashionable to talk about it though. Because once you introduce a concept of overarching truth, there are immediate implications. Somebody may be ‘wrong’. We don’t like that. We’d rather say that truth is ‘personal’. We are the determiners of truth. Or it can be ‘relative’. A particular belief or worldview can be true for one person and not another.

And we like to be inclusive. We like for everyone to have a vote on what is truth. This is often directed by social media, news and opinion sources, actors and actresses. Many times, we embrace the more ‘popular’ consensus in our determination of truth. We’ll just go with the flow.

But what if we are not the determiners of truth? What if there is an overarching and absolute truth to which we must submit. In fact there is. There is a truth that supersedes any personal, subjective, and relative worldview that we manufacture or embrace.

The Bible tells us that there is a God who is the determiner of truth. And as you read through the many pages of the Bible, you can see how all things that we know and experience are true. There are answers as to why there is suffering in the world. The Bible helps us to make sense of life. Because it is true. Most importantly, the Bible tells us also that there is a person who embodies the truth. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is in him and through him that we are made whole and able to walk in the grand and overarching truth for which we are created.

Spiritual Paralysis

This week studying the Gospel of John, we witnessed an encounter between Jesus and a man who had been paralyzed for thirty eighty years. This man had apparently held out hope in a legend that he might be healed if he might only enter a pool of water after it had been stirred up – supposedly by an angel. Jesus demonstrated wonderful compassion by noticing this man, and then by instantaneously and miraculously healing him by uttering but a few words. Can you imagine the change in this man’s life? He had experienced thirty eight years of depending on others for just about every necessity in life, to suddenly having the ability to carry on by himself!

What struck me about the story is that this man does not want anything to do with Jesus afterward. The Bible makes clear that Jesus demonstrates his power over sickness and death. We read story after story how he makes the blind to see, the mute to speak, even the dead to rise. But all of this was not simply to change these men and women physically, but to heal them spiritually. Jesus is much more than a healer of the physically sick, much more than even the best of teachers, much more than a great example of morality. Jesus is God and he is Savior.

This account makes no mention (or even suggestion) that the man embraced Jesus as anything other than a healer of his infirmity. There is no indication of any appreciation or gratitude either. In fact, the religious leaders of the day also encounter both the man and Jesus in this story and are unable to rejoice in the fact that this man had been miraculously healed. They too are ‘spiritually paralyzed’.

Yet a similar thing happens even today. Jesus has done much more than heal the physically sick. He has shown even greater love and compassion for humanity. Jesus had voluntarily descended to our world and our existence that he might die on a cross in order to absorb the penalty for our sin. People still reject him today. Don’t be like the man that witnesses the love and compassion of Jesus and yet rejects him as your Savior. Embrace him with your life and experience the spiritual healing only to be found in him.

Gimme Some Slack…

ImageMany people will have looked back on the year past and reflected on how life has been for them. For me apparently, looking back over the year was not enough. In a bit of a sleepless night, I managed to look back over much of my life and marvel at what has transpired and where I have ended up today. I could think of several illustrations to describe my life. But on this particular occasion I thought of fishing.

From what little I know of fishing, there is a strategy of allowing a fish to tire itself out before reeling it in. This is the purpose of letting out some slack in your fishing line. Many are tempted to simply yank a fish in when it gets on your hook. But this is often a good way of either snapping your line or losing the fish.

It is often said that at some point we will be able to look back and see how God has weaved a beautiful tapestry where we will see how he has utilized all of our life experiences – joys, sorrows, victories and defeats – into His grand plan. This is interesting to me because my life (like yours) has been full of ups and downs, and intersections with many people and many experiences. This is where fishing comes in.

Though I had experienced a church background and a turning to Jesus at an early age, I did not always pursue him as I should have. For some reason, I felt that there was a more rewarding life to be had elsewhere. In a sense, God had already “hooked” me. I belonged to him. From childhood, I knew that. Yet my sinful heart lured me away from following his ways. God was gracious and patient with me. He gave me slack. He allowed me to tire myself out by following the ways of the world and my selfish pursuits without ever letting me go.

So I had an opportunity to revisit my life and the many ways that God had protected me in my rebellion. I suppose I’m at that point in life where I become more reflective and puzzle over where all the time has gone. I’ve had many friends and influences in my life. I’ve experimented with more of the world’s pastimes than I care to admit. So when I think of how I ended up at this place in this time, I marvel. I marvel over God’s faithfulness, His plan and purposes for my life.

Though ultimately the trout does not benefit by a patient and wise fisherman, the person who belongs to God is the most rewarded. My simple advice to anyone who still desires to struggle against the God who made them is to give up the fight earlier rather than later. Though the world promises and delivers on temporal pleasures, their end leads to ruin. There is greater life to be had in obedience and pursuit of the God who loves you!

A Clean Slate

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We often enter the New Year with this notion of a “clean slate”. For many, this time of year provides us the opportunity to look back at the past year and assess some of our accomplishments and our failures. From this perspective we like to think of ways that we might improve our lives in this next year. We often focus on improving physical fitness or better financial management or healthier relationships. There is something about “January 1” that provides hope for change.

Sometimes the changes are subtle – like improving your time in a competitive event through better preparation or a more consistent and intentional savings plan . Other changes can be more drastic – like quitting smoking or drug addiction or an unhealthy relationship. But none can compare with changing your entire course in life. And this is what Jesus offers.

Perhaps in your year-end assessment you have concluded that life is not what you thought it would be. If you are not living for God, you are not living with your intended purpose. We were made to live for Him. And it is only as we do so that we experience ultimate satisfaction in life.  Whereas ‘religion’ may tempt you to “just try harder” this year in living a moral life, ‘grace’ offers a clean slate of all your sinful and shameful past. It matters not what kind of mistake-filled life you have had to this point. If you turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, he offers the forgiveness that none other can offer and a future that is truly fulfilling. Yes, it will cost you everything. But it is what you were made for! You cannot remedy all your past mistakes. It is impossible. Jesus offers you a clean slate.

No Ordinary Child

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The following words are sung repeatedly this time of year. Perhaps you too have joined in. They come from the popular Christmas carol, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Christ, by highest heaven adored,

Christ, the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold him come,

Offspring of the virgin’s womb.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate deity,

Pleased as man with men to dwell.

Jesus, our Emmanuel.

I would bet that many have sung these words without fully understanding their significance. This song in particular speaks of a child that comes on the stage of world history in a way that none other has. You see, this child is a fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

In this particular verse of this song, we learn some very significant truths about Jesus. This child, unlike any other, is divine. As such, Jesus has eternally existed in heaven. And he is worshipped by all who dwell there! Jesus came on the scene as was promised all throughout the Bible. A Deliverer was promised who would come and save his people from their sin. And in order to do so, he must become one with those he came to save. God had come to earth in the person of Jesus. The One who created the universe and all its inhabitants became a living baby! His was a supernatural birth. Jesus could not be tainted with sin, so a virgin birth was necessary. And this is precisely what happened! Jesus is Emmanuel, which means “God with us”!

Why is Christmas so significant? It is not primarily because we enjoy gathering as family and friends, experience the joy of giving, or resting from our work. These are all good things. But it is much, much more than that! In spite of all its trappings, Christmas is about the truth that God became a man in Jesus Christ! The story of the Bible is all coming to pass. Despite all of our shortcomings and failures, God has loved us so much to send us a Savior. The baby in the manger is not the completion of the story. It is the beginning of a mission. Jesus would grow to become a man who would suffer and die on a cross so that he could save all who would trust in him. Christmas is that glorious season that celebrates that God is demonstrating his great love for us by sending his Son.

Have a Blessed Christmas!