Who’s Enough?

who is enough

“I’m too fat; I’m too tall. I sing off-key and I don’t fit at all.”

So runs a rhyme I made up as a seven-year-old with a crippling case of self-doubt.

For several years, I chanted this merciless mantra under my breath whenever I did something wrong, couldn’t find friends to play with, or “messed up” in one way or another. Why I enjoyed replaying this negative self-talk remains a mystery. What I do know is that replacing it with Biblical truths about who I am as God’s created treasure I and many others struggle with to this day. Almost every day, the underlying currents of self-doubt—Am I beautiful? Am I lovable? Am I good enough? simmer in the back of my mind.

The North American consumer culture capitalizes on self-doubt. Advertisers design their commercials to make us feel not enough: not rich enough, not successful enough, not good-looking enough. The hope is that we will buy their products and services in the wild goose chase of becoming “enough.” Societal influences like pornography and misuse of social media platforms, which laud “perfect” and often unrealistic images, become key ingredients in recipes for self-destructive thoughts, harsh self-criticism, and depression. The discontentment that runs rampant in the adult world filters too easily into the teenage sphere: high school students can fall prey to the comparison game as they vie for good grades, brand name clothing, athletic ability, looks and popularity.  

What hope is there for those who battle with self-doubt? Here are three tools which have helped me in the past and which I am still learning to use:

1. Look to the Word.

God’s Word alone has the power to lift people from a spiral of mantras borne of fear, shame and guilt. Romans 12:3 reads, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” According to John Piper, Paul says through this verse that our pride is found in our valuing of Christ Jesus and therefore in our “faith.” Thinking of ourselves with “sober judgment,” we avoid both becoming puffed up with an inflated self-image and beating ourselves up with unnecessary criticism. Instead, we can learn to “look away from ourselves to Christ as our truth and treasure.”

2. Look to the Lord.

Praise the Lord that, when we look to the Word, we discover that “it is by grace we have been saved, through faith—and this is…the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The fact is, when it comes to salvation, everyone misses the mark. No one is good or smart or beautiful enough to win their own salvation—if we were, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross. Writer Andy Stanley sums up the gospel this way: “The good news is that good people don’t go to heaven—forgiven people do.” Thank God that Christ came not to save the healthy and righteous, and but the sick and the sinners.

Where we are not enough, His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9).  It’s funny how “I”-focussed my childhood rhyme was and how obsessed I was (and still am, sometimes) with my perceived shortcomings. When we take our eyes off our many limitations and shift our focus to Him, we go from saying “I can’t do this” to “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Our attitude turns from one of self-pity and fear to one of gratitude and worship.

3. Look to the world.

Shifting our focus to the Creator demands shifting our focus to His created. As a high school teacher, my focus is conveniently forced outward. Juggling students’ questions, reactions and needs, I have very little time to spare for berating myself on a less-than-ideal lesson and wondering if I can really teach (although, granted, there are days when that’s all I waste time thinking about!) Instead I can choose to wonder, What can I do better to help them now/next class/the next time we do this activity?

Sometimes looking to the world may take the form of intentional acts like:

-Encouraging someone else—a classmate, a colleague, a stranger

-Volunteering

-Doing a good deed for a family member or a friend

-Enjoying nature—garden, hike or play with a pet—and thanking the One who gives us these good gifts

How do we look to the Lord, the Word and the world to combat self-doubt? How do we replace the doubts niggling at the backs of our minds with words of thanks and worship:

“For you created my inmost being, You knit me together in my mother’s womb;

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

Doing Real Life Face to Face

Vancouver continues to be considered one of the loneliest places for people who want honest face to face relationships. The pressure to accomplish, to survive, to be significant can be overwhelming. Even if you’re proficient with social media – sometimes that flow of seconds between responses seems like an unbridgeable gap.

Have you had moments where you felt a tinge of loneliness lately? There didn’t seem anyone available to share in your joy, your challenge, your desire, your hope? The space around you seemed a little too empty?

Vancouver continues to be considered one of the loneliest places for people who want honest face to face relationships. The pressure to accomplish, to survive, to be significant can be overwhelming. Even if you’re proficient with social media – sometimes that flow of seconds between responses seems like an unbridgeable gap.

Most people have their eyes locked on a screen instead of locked on the eyes of another. The upcoming generation is considered the “connected generation” and yet they can sit side by side without even looking at each other. People have chirps, chimes, buzzes and tones streaming out of their pockets. These distractions keep them from getting to any depth with anyone they could be physically present with.

We’ve grown used to the delusion and deception that somehow the individual who is not here is more important than the one we are with – and the one left sitting alone while the other person leaves to talk is left to accept this reality. It’s a subtle message we don’t always realize we are delivering. This tension of always having to be available for someone else (where we say I have to take this) sucks at the margins we need to create healthy relationships.

Technology itself is no more evil than paper. It’s a tool for communication that can be used for good or harm. The issue of disconnecting from each other only accentuates our sense of loneliness.

Carey Nieuwhof, in his book Didn’t See It Coming (pp.71-71) sees that technology, as it is often used, has brought about the demise of genuine conversation and of confession. He says:

Great conversation is a beautiful art. It involves the exchange of ideas between two or more people who care enough about one another to listen as well as speak. Sadly, conversations seem to be devolving into an exchange of monologues among people who don’t seem terribly interested in one another. People today appear to be talking at one another more than they’re talking with one another. Next time you’re in a conversation with someone, wait to see how often you get asked a question. It might be as simple as “How are you doing, really?” or “That’s fascinating – can you tell me more?” Questions are the turning points for great conversation and intriguing connections with people.

Social media sometimes gets us focused on telling others what we are doing and our live verbal interactions follow suit to the point where we are simply exchanging chunks of information back and forth without the curiosity and communication we crave for in human relationship building.

Nieuwhof also notes that the loss of confession is also significant (he doesn’t mean Catholic). He says:

The type of confession I’m talking about has a much broader and far deeper meaning….Confession is a part of prayer and life where we come before God and one another to admit all that we aren’t: our shortcomings, our intentional sins, and myriad unintentional sins. When we confess our brokenness, we admit that we are not all we pretend to be, hope to be, or could be. We own up to the fact that we are a mess.

He continues: “We avoid confession because it requires us to look in the mirror. It demands revealing the real you that you don’t want anyone to see. This is the you God would love for you to bring to him, but you (and I) steadfastly refuse to surrender. The shift away from confession leaves most of us in a precarious state. Particularly younger adults, teens, and kids who were raised in a society that ignores sin.”

Something to think about. What keeps you disconnected from others? At Faith we are building a culture of grace where people can connect face to face. Through sacrificial hospitality, caring small groups, corporate worship and compassionate acceptance we trust that God is doing something special among us in a city that is filled with desperately lonely people. You can change all that by changing the focus from what is happening to you to focusing on what is happening to someone near you. It’s amazing what happens within you when you discover what is happening in someone else. For the health of us all, think of how you can engage another with questions and ask away. Whatever happens, remember that you are loved more than you can ask or imagine. Pastor Jack

Licking Frozen Flagpoles

Licking Frozen Flagpoles

Seasons have a way of bringing their own hazards. Spring and Fall can bring floods, summer can bring drought and heat stroke, winter can bring frostbite and frozen flag poles. Churches can have seasons with hazards and benefits but first let me share a story of the frozen flagpole. It reminds us that there are skeptics who question whether the wisdom of others could be true. They have to learn the hard way.

Jean Shepherd has written A Christmas Story of a different kind. In her story, Ralph, Flick and Swartz huddle with a handful of other students trying to stay warm. As they talk and watch their speech turn into vapor clouds, one of the boys remembers a warning from his father – “if you touch your tongue to a frozen flagpole, you’ll never get it loose. You could be stuck there for life.” Another boy chimes in that his father knew someone who put their tongue on a frozen railroad track and had to be freed by the fire department.

The boy name Flick is skeptical and so one of the boys challenges him to go ahead and try licking the flagpole for himself. It took a double-dare to prod him to think about it but when a boy named Swartz triple dares him there is no turning back. Flick may not have wanted to but his pronounced skepticism and the peer pressure of a triple-dog dare meant no turning back. He stuck out his tongue and licked the flag pole. Sure enough – he’s stuck. When the bell rings for school and everyone runs he stays. His teacher has to call the fire department to free him.

Our skepticism of God’s laws and principles get us proudly committing ourselves to foolish choices. A quick look at pornography or mature rated movies, because we don’t believe we could be stuck to that frozen flag pole, leaves us wrestling with unwanted images in our minds. A compromise at work or in a relationship gets us stuck in a situation with consequences we couldn’t imagine.

Sometimes, it’s the little consequences which grab hold of us. We stick the tip of our tongue out and think that we could get away from a frozen flag pole at any time we want. We eat a little too much, a few too many times, and the results are slow in accumulating. We bypass our exercise, our devotions, our prayer times, our small group accountability, our church attendance, our giving, our use of our spiritual gifts and, all of a sudden, we realize our spiritual laziness starts showing in all the wrong ways.   

Facing the peer pressure of our culture and society can push us into places of regret. Just as Flick couldn’t resist a triple-dog dare, we can easily fall to the pressure of the cultural, sexual, political, social, environmental, religious and educational voices around us. Technology and social media is a not so silent voice consistently pushing on our value of acceptance and inclusiveness. We are subject to a barrage of what is normal and tolerant and welcomed as one who belongs.

Scripture reminds us in Philippians 4:8 to focus on what the Bible considers to be true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy. This is the grid that is designed to protect us from the compromises which get us frozen to the flag poles stuck on all around us in the winter of our lives. There are other dangers in the summer when we get dry and burned. Staying alert so we avoid the impact and regrets of poor choices is an important disciple for believers of all ages.

May God encourage you in your choices.

And remember, no matter how many frozen flag poles you’ve tried out in the past, you are loved more than you could ask or imagine.  Pastor Jack

impatience and stubbornness?

This morning I look out at the winter wonderland, snow covering the whole city, and I am so grateful for my cozy slippers and steaming cup of coffee. Honestly, I hate snow, but unfortunately for me my kids love it.

Earlier this week they all woke up eager to go outside and start playing. I delayed as long as possible but inevitably I got everyone bundled up, a thermos full of hot chocolate and some cookies and we headed over to the park. I stood at the bottom of the hill, my toes shivering counting the moments until it was reasonable for me to say its time to go home. Then I felt my youngest son tapping on my leg, “Watch Mummy,” he said. He then proceeded to jump head first down the hill like a penguin in the artic. He slid all the way down yelling belly slide and giggling. As he reached the bottom of the hill he looked up at me  and said “ Me love the snow, this is the best day ever, ever.” I smiled and looked up to the top of the hill where the other two came barrelling down the hill laughing uncontrollably. I had been so busy waiting to leave that I almost missed enjoying the pure joy my kids were experiencing.

After a long day of school, play, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, naps, workout, reading, refereeing and so on I was anxiously awaiting bed time. Bedtime was the conclusion of the day as “mom.” Once everyone was in bed and settled, I was off the clock. I had successfully made it through another day and I could have a few moments to my self. The younger two were asleep, my oldest was settled and I was just tucking in my daughter, who is notorious for bedtime excuses. I gave her a kiss and said good night, she grabbed my arm and pulled me closer. “Mama,” she said, “do you know something…” Oh, great I thought, here we go. I just want you to go to sleep so I can have a break. I turned to her and prepared to tell her to go to sleep. Then she said to me, “ I love you mama, more then anything else. I’m so glad Jesus gave me a mommy like you.” My heart felt warm and I smiled at her and cuddled in beside her. She continued to talk through her day and shared her ideas and thoughts with me. She finally drifted to sleep and I was able to sneak out. I plopped down on the couch and smiled. I was so busy trying to get them to sleep I almost missed a precious moment that I will treasure in my heart for ever.

One last story, today my son was playing with a drill set. He was happily sitting on the floor drilling the screw in and out. He got to the end and began to get frustrated because he had no more screws left. I told him there was more in the playroom. But he sat there crying and angry trying to find more under the couch, under the table, and in the train basket. I continued to remind him that they are in the playroom. After about 20 minutes of frustration he finally conceded and went to retrieve the extra screws in the playroom. I thought, wow he is so busy being stubborn, he just wasted so much time.

I know not all of you have kids and so these stories may seem pointless, but stick with me for a minute. How many of you have been so focused in one direction, you missed the elephant on the road in front of you? How many of you have tried and tried to do what you thought was right, only to find out God had different plans?

On Sunday pastor spoke about Abraham. He tried so hard to have a baby his own way with Hagar. Although Abraham and God had the same goal, Abraham was trying to achieve that goal with his own impatience and stubbornness.

I have my own goals, my own ideas about how things should go, whether it be in a day or an evening, a month or a year. God used small events, like sledding and bedtime this week to remind me to stop holding onto my plan so tightly. If we are determined to do things our way we may delay the great blessings God has in store for us.

Sometimes the plan God has for us feels scary. When I was a child, I used to ask my mom almost every day, “What are we doing today?” I probably drove her crazy but I always wanted to know what was ahead. As an adult you would think I would have that control, but God has other ideas. He has placed me in a situation of unknowns. It’s a painful place to be at times. Anxiety so easily grips my heart. I have a plan, my own ideas about how the future should look but God wants to keep me utterly dependent on him as he unravels his plan for me.

Whether you are a control freak like me, or going with the flow comes naturally to you, God has a plan for each of us. As I have been challenged this week, I share with you…Keep your heart open to what God is doing in your life. Let’s not be so busy trying to get where we think we should be that we miss where God is directing us!

 

 

[quote title=”” Text=”Whether you are a control freak like me, or going with the flow comes naturally to you, God has a plan for each of us” name=”April Bakundukize” name_sub=””]

Singing Pigs

Have you ever spent a lot of time, effort and resources working on something that turned out to be a waste of time?

Charles Swindoll says he has a friend who has a plaque on his wall reading: “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

Swindoll focuses us on the efforts of Jesus to confront the Pharisees and their grace-killing ways (Simple Faith, p. 67). The more he exposed the hypocrisy of the religiously self-righteous the more hostile they became. No one likes to have their inauthenticity uncovered for all to see. We fight to keep the carefully crafted masks and reputations in place to guard our sense of who we want others to imagine us to be.

It’s amazing what sets of our sense of self-righteousness. Things as simple as the diet we are on – the foods we eat or don’t eat; the exercise we do – the lifestyle we choose to rest through or with which we challenge our bodies and minds; the travels we take or don’t take; the money we spend or don’t spend on ourselves; the fashions we would wear or not wear; the activities we deem acceptable to Christians and the activities we deem unacceptable – even if there is no specific scriptural warrant of prohibition; and of course the depth of our prayers, giving, witnessing, Bible reading, church attendance and service.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 Jesus sets up a higher standard of following for his disciples which takes us beyond the observable outward appearance and deals with the inside reality which only God sees. The true condition of the heart is what sets us apart with God.

Self-righteousness escapes its hiding place in our heart in ways we hardly recognize. It slips out in our speech in the way we quietly address the value, worth or character of another person to someone we consider on our side. It slips out in our attitude on who we would sit beside on the bus or in church; who we would invite to our homes for a meal; who we would help out in a time of crisis. It slips out in our humour and in our stereotypes as we watch the news, people watch in the mall, or determine who would make an appropriate relationship for ourselves or for some significant person in our lives.

The waste of time for us is expecting ourselves to just try harder when we mess up – which we will.

I was in a meeting yesterday where someone mentioned that they came from a family of racists and never realized it until they were confronted. They realized that the best way for them to defeat a racist heart was to build friendships with the people who they knew very little about. They said that made all the difference for them in building an attitude of acceptance, trust and welcoming.

Scriptures slay the self-righteous spirit by declaring that all of us are equally dead in sin without hope on our own. Unless the Spirit of Christ recreates us into new creations we will continue to experience the frustration of pigs trying to learn to sing.

Our church family is embracing the saying PBPWMGINFWMY. Please be patient with me – God is not finished with me yet. We trust that God’s Spirit in his time will mold us into the image of Jesus who alone perfectly embodies the character of God in its fullness.

What are some of the efforts you have spent your time on without significant results? What shadows of self-righteousness tend to sneak up on your heart when you let your guard down? What solutions have you found to deal with the character traits which fall short of what Jesus modeled?

Who is Unreachable?

Our church motto is to make disciples for Christ from all nations. The word ‘nations’ actually refers to ethnic groups even if we don’t have flags to represent them all.

The sign outside our church says “50 Nations – One Family.” Sometimes we might think that if we have one representative from within the political boundaries of a country that God’s vision is satisfied and we can check that country off the list where every tribe, tongue and nation is included around the throne of Jesus for eternity.

Nigeria is one country but it has 540 distinct ethnic groups. We have three of those groups represented in our church family. It looks like we have room to reach out further.

With 16,600 distinct people groups in our world we realize that people with “shared language, religion, ethnicity, residence, occupation, class, caste etc.” need to be reached with the love of God, the truth of his Word, and the life of his Spirit. 6,700 groups are still considered as unreached with less than 2% of their people knowing Jesus. Your neighbour and my neighbour are possibly in this arena.

20% of the world’s population live among the one-and-a-half billion people who embrace Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or other religions where there is no significant Christian witness. 80% of these religious adherents have no access to any follower of Jesus.

I’ve read data which says that if 2 ½ percent of innovators can latch onto a vision then there is potential for a whole culture to change. Our Technology businesses market their products with this in mind. At Faith, we may just have the percentage needed to take us across ethnic, social, and language barriers. Hospitality could be a key to overcoming boundaries.

Ethnic, religious, language and cultural boundaries aren’t the only things that might have us cross someone off of the potential convert list. Lifestyle choices might also have us giving up on someone.

A former lesbian feminist named Rosario Butterfield has become a prominent spokesperson in reminding us not to give up on people who are in the LGBTQ communities. She came to Christ have years of gentle relationship building by a Christian neighbour – who also happened to be a pastor. She was an articulate and intelligent University professor who finally understood the radical claims of Christ on his people.

Butterfield was recently interviewed by Lindsey Carlson in an online Christianity Today article on April 27th of this year. Here is one question:

How does radically ordinary hospitality look when you live in a community where people go to and from work, pull their cars into the garage, shut the door, and never speak to their neighbors? How do you engage people who seem completely uninterested and never accept your invitation?

Give open invitations, especially invitations for events that are outdoors. We will put an invitation on an app called NextDoor saying, “We’re going to have a cookout. Bring a folding chair and a friend.” And we’ve realized there’s a 10 percent rule. If you invite everyone out, about 10 percent will come. And I’d say be consistent about hosting. Be warm in responding to people. Cast wide nets. In some cases, if we’re responding to a crisis, we have our church there helping. That way, when neighbors show up, 30 people are already there. They’re grilling, talking, filling water balloons, handing out watermelon. It takes away the awkwardness of being the first to walk up.

We forget hospitality isn’t a nice add-on you do when you happen to have a spare Saturday afternoon. It’s the bridge that God is going to use to solve the biggest problems in people’s lives.

Realize your neighbors are struggling with things. I don’t care how meticulous the garage looks when the door closes. Nobody is doing great. I’m not doing great; you’re not doing great. We’re tired, we’re cranky, and we need help. And if that’s true of those of us who have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, how much more for those of us who don’t?

The ministry of open hearts, open hands and open doors makes all the difference no matter who is in our neighbourhood. Who do you think God might encourage you to engage with over these next few months? Is there anyone on that list who you used to think might be unreachable? What would it take for you to add a few more of those names for intentional interaction over the days ahead?

Secularism and Medicine in Canada

Dr. James Dobson, in his book Fatherless, envisions a society in 2040 where current Baby Boomers are pressured into transitioning out of life so that their wealth can be passed on to the next generations; expectant mothers undergo near mandatory screening of their unborn child to screen out potential burdens on society; even teens who are depressed or deficient in any way are encouraged to transition for the sake of society.

What Dobson envisions as future is closer in Canada than it appears. “Suffering children” are already being euthanized in some European countries and Canadian medical staff have now transitioned 3,714 individuals who average around 73 years of age. The number of assisted deaths, according to Statistics Canada records, has increased by 30% in the past six months. Almost half will die in their own homes.

The impact of secular humanism, individualism, materialism and utilitarianism in Canada has flooded into our professions so quickly that influential Christian leaders seem to have lost their voice. This is especially true in the medical field. 2400 years ago doctors began taking an oath to abhor killing but this oath seems to be losing its hold on the ethics of a sacred profession.

Physicians seem like they are being relegated to functioning at the whim of their patients under threat of litigation. Service on demand appears to be the new model. Bureaucrats call the shots, legislators set the moral boundaries, courts enforce the whim of the majority. Trends on abortion and medically assisted suicide are just two examples where the conscientious objection of medical professionals is being ignored.

Preston Manning, in a 2002 address delivered at the McGill University conference on “Pluralism, Religion and Public Policy”, stated that “people of faith – and there are millions of such people in Canada – need guidelines on how to bring faith perspectives to bear on public policy in a winsome rather than an offensive way. And public policy makers in our pluralistic society – many of whom regard faith perspectives with suspicion if not outright hostility – need to learn how to incorporate such perspectives into their deliberations rather than exclude them.”

Former president of Canadian Physicians for Life and the chair of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of British Columbia, Dr. Will Johnston, confirms that the materialistic and reductionistic world views of our society allow for some forms of spirituality as long as the secular religion is given control. He says that when it comes to abortion on demand, for example, “the hierarchy accepts the sacrifice of the unwanted unborn without question. The reason might be about the focus on absolute freedom for the individual, which is impossible unless you ignore other individuals like the baby.”

On the website consciencelaws.org Sean Murphy states that “Ethical differences between one theory of bioethics and another may be quite as dramatic as doctrinal differences between religions, though, like religions, there are also similarities. Problems for ethical minorities arise when one version of bioethics becomes predominant, and its practitioners attain positions of influence and power in government, academic and professional circles.” This is exactly what we see happening in Canada.

Doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, hospice administrators, family members, pastors, social workers, counselors, lawyers, judges and many more professions are getting caught up in the sweep of what is happening as people look to medically assisted death as a viable option. The examples of the Hebrew midwives in Egypt, of Daniel and his friends in Babylon, and of the disciples before the Sanhedrin prompt us to “obey God rather than men” – but how does this work out in real life?

Catholic leaders see birth control and the sexual revolution as the foundational force behind the changes. Johnston says that “the failure rate of the birth control pill far exceeded the unmarried pregnancy rate before the pill was introduced. Unrestricted abortion became desperately necessary for the whole project. There used to be social disapproval of unmarried pregnancy because of its effect on the child and the cost to society of single motherhood. With the reduction of the chance of pregnancy per sexual act the promotion of sex as primarily recreational gained acceptance. On the other hand, the vast increase in unmarried sex guaranteed a huge increase in single motherhood and a huge disadvantage to women who want to marry in a society where men won’t commit.”

As the world population grew, dialogue turned to view child birth as a form of disease needing to be brought under control. Johnston reflects that “with the rejection of Christianity came a rejection, for many, of some sense of ultimate meaning and permanent existence. The focus is on control, or at least the illusion of it, and power.” He adds that “the uncritical acceptance of death as a way to solve life’s problems became common.”

Johnston says that “the same unreflective bureaucratic efficiency is happening with euthanasia. The bureaucrats have been galvanized by this issue in a way never applied to the neglected cause of palliative care…. Assumptions from materialistic humanism and utilitarianism have been accepted and any Christians who speak up against the flow put their advancement and possibly their career at risk.”

As far back as August 2012 Johnston was sounding the heads up as he drew attention to the Carter vs. Canada “Judge-decreed legalization of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada.” Lee Carter, an 88 year old woman, was taken to Switzerland to die. In addition, Gloria Carter, a 64 year old ALS sufferer, drew public attention. Zealous ideologues had their anecdotal foot in the door of a society uncomfortable with pain and suffering.

Johnston’s point was that in 2008 a final plan had already been crafted by publicly funded euthanasia zealot Jocelyn Downie when she stated that “many individuals whose lives are no longer worth living… have not been diagnosed with a terminal illness. They may be suffering greatly and permanently but are not imminently dying. There is no principled basis for excluding them from assisted suicide.” Her principles are the catechism of secular materialism and follow naturally from the rejection of notions of people made in the image of God and life as sacred.

In 2016, Johnston wrote in his blog that “sadly, palliative care wards and hospices across Canada are, right now, in a hailstorm of administrative edicts to perform euthanasia inside their walls, in whispering range of those families and patients who had been promised a refuge of care.” He adds in an interview that “when you have people who have an unbalanced focus of life and you combine that with a horror of disability, some high-risk personality types can easily be convinced that they are more in control by orchestrating their own death… There is a delusional expectation of control at the end of life – that you will enhance your control over life by ceasing to exist.”

Several Christian doctors have chosen to retire rather than face having to refer a patient to someone else for medically assisted death. They also want to avoid conflict with their hospital administrations. Some don’t feel morally compromised through referral but Johnston feels this is short sighted.

Johnston concludes, “this isn’t only about doctors trying to keep their own integrity. The bigger story is the disenfranchisement of patients who don’t want to be caught in a system with exposure to pro euthanasia expectations and who want their doctor to be free to stay completely away from euthanasia… A Christian leader who accompanies congregants into suicide is problematic. Churches should be sympathetic to any suffering person but should counsel for hope. Christians should make strong statements that they don’t want palliative care hospices used for euthanasia.”

The medical, social and legislative community have no problems advocating for efficient care of able bodied persons with suicidal depression. It used to be a crime to kill people and offering suicide by doctor, because someone is physically, emotionally, psychologically or mentally disabled, is a dangerous path for our society. Johnston says the general public was gulled into allowing this takeover of the health care system because it was cloaked in the myth of untreatable terminal physical pain and presented as just another option in the palliative toolkit rather than a perversion of the most basic principles of care.

Now we have abortion on demand and are closing in on suicide on demand. The only demand not being heeded is the voice of Christian professionals conscientiously objecting and refusing to be part of the death culture. To assume that certain professionals function as soldiers without conscience, under the dictates of the state, is a notion designed to kill the very soul of a nation. It is tyranny, not democracy. It is time for the church to speak up on behalf of medical professionals everywhere.

At Home with Suffering

At Home with suffering-lonely,struggles,overwhelming,tears,burden,losing hope,carrying cross

“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him…” Philippians 1:29

Two weeks ago was devastating for my friend. She had lost her wallet and all her credit cards. The weight of the world was on her shoulders as she dealt with the police and made the calls to cancel her life and identity.

With her feet kicked out from under her, the rest of the world took on the form of a growing burden that overwhelmed her.

Fortunately, she had taught her son about Jesus and the truth he gives us. That son confronted her, told her to smarten up and deal with her attitude of getting stuck in an attitude that refused to change and acknowledge God’s control in all she had been through.

My friend had been born in a Christian home and gone to Christian schools in Pakistan. She had been taught the Bible from her earliest days. She was thoroughly marinated in Christianity but sitting across from me she declares “it was not enough.” She knew that life wasn’t meant to be a bed of roses and things have been hard. She knew it didn’t take faith to love God and follow him if the road was smooth. Now she declared again to me. “Every person needs a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and they need to keep walking in that commitment. It’s not enough to say a prayer or live on what you’re taught.”

My friend had always been in control of things. She was confident in her work with children. She was used to being independent. She was taught to be sure as a leader so children could look to her for their strength.

Now she felt helpless.

Previously, she had looked down on others who acted helpless. She didn’t understand the attitude. Now, in her own moment of emotional paralysis over a lost wallet, she began to empathize. She changed from within.

Every morning my friend takes out the Daily Bread and reads. Every morning it says exactly what she needs for that day. On this day it says the glory of life is to love – not so you are loved, to give – not so you get, to save – not so you are saved. This reading and all the ones before this rekindle hope to face another day in personal weakness and godly strength.

My friend says that “faith and life, if they’re smooth, are not functional and they’re not real.” She says “the closer I want to get to God the greater the challenges – the more challenges now the more blessed I feel.”

She know God is in control. She provides an insight when she says “God uses those close to us to probe the areas of our weakness. Because they are close we can’t walk away from them. God loves us and he wants the best for us.”

Her son hit her hard with this statement. “Mom, Jesus gave you a cross to carry. If you’re going to carry it then do it happily.”

What hits you hardest about my friend’s story? Can you relate at all? How do you live your life like Jesus is living in you? Do you think others who see you living are convinced that you serve a risen Savior who is in the world today?

A MAZE ING religions

A MAZE 'ing religions -God ,divine being,Sovereign-all religions make exclusive claims and do not believe the same things

It doesn’t take long to be in Canada before you realize that most Canadians honestly believe that if religion is a valid option in this tolerant society than all religions are equally valid. It is true that some Canadians believe religion is dangerous and not something for any sane person to pursue, but for many there is still some sense of spiritual sensitivity to something. It only takes a national tragedy to realize this.

The Chaplain of the Humboldt, Saskatchewan junior ice hockey team devastated in the crash that killed 15 of the 29 members on board the bus that was T-boned by a semi-trailer truck remarked that two questions haunt us in tragedies like this. Why? And Where? We ask Why did this happen? And we ask Where was God? He said that although he couldn’t answer why he knew that God was both on the throne in control of this and he was in the middle of the valley of the darkness with the broken-hearted and wounded.  He said the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus showed God’s commitment to help us fear now evil because he was with us.

Few other religions have this sense of Immanence and Transcendence so intimately tied together. Many of the existing faiths consider that we are all travellers finding our own trails up the mountain of belief to get to the top where we will all meet God as he is. They don’t think he is really knowable.

What if the world of multi-cultural faith options are really a maze created by men to try and answer the four questions of who am I? where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Since we all have the same questions it makes sense that we’re all trying to find the same solution. We just find different ways to get there. Like finding our own path to the local Starbucks or McDonalds.

The vision of a maze makes sense if you realize that there is only one true path even if it appears that there are many ways to enter and find your way to the center. In reality, all are dead ends except for the path of Jesus.

In reality all religions make exclusive claims and do not believe the same things, regardless of what we would like to imagine. Most religions, apart from Buddhism, believes in the existence of some divine being – already we have a major difference. While Judaism, Christianity and Islam claim that there is one God while Hinduism presents the divine essence as made up of millions of gods and goddesses who inhabit the physical images created to represent them. Islam and Judaism rejects that Jesus is God in the flesh and therefore shows more differentiation in what we believe.

Ravi Zacharias, in his book Jesus Among Other Gods (p. 7), states that “All religions are not the same… At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is or is not and accordingly, of defining life’s purpose. Anyone who claims that all religions are the same betrays not only an ignorance of religions but also a caricatured view of even the best known ones. Every religion at its core is exclusive.”

Most of us are committed to what we follow because we have come to believe it for one reason or another. Why have you staked your eternity on what you understand to be true? How do you share your truth with people who believe differently than you? What is the best picture you can think of as to how we present the various attempts of man to find his way to God?

Truth and Culture

Truth and Culture-comforts,values, morals, habits,lifestyles, beliefs

Many of us who are followers of Jesus grow up in a bubble of truth we assume defines reality as it is. To others being nurtured on the sap of secularism the arrogant, or even tentative, truth claims of Christians can only be condemned as intolerant.

The Christian World has just re-energized its foundational beliefs over these past weeks with a focus on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Our music, our liturgy and our focus on the Scripture stories appeal to our soul convictions that we are right in what we ‘preach’ to the world around us.

Our Canadian culture swirls a mix of beliefs, knowledge, laws, social media, art, morals, customs, habits, education, hopes and dreams together to establish what it thinks is acceptable. In this past week, 15 out of 29 members of a junior ice hockey team were killed in a bus crash in Saskatchewan. Only one boy out of the 29 passengers was able to be released from hospital with minor injuries. The whole hockey world deemed it acceptable to pause for moments of silence, for fundraisers, for memorial services, and even for prayers on behalf of the boys and their families.

Humans have a strange habit of dismissing the spiritual realm, life after death and thoughts of eternity as long as life is moving along ‘normally’. It is when something tragic happens that we wake up to something beyond ourselves. Some God-shaped space inside our ‘made in the image of God’ selves wriggles for attention.

Our secular environment has become as normal to us as a fish in an aquarium perceives the water around it. The pollution index and its evidences may be clearer to observers from the outside but for us the norm is what it is.

The one hope that infiltrates our carefully guarded secularism is the immigration of multi-cultural communities working to find a root and an identity in our country, our cities and our churches. Newcomers provide enough of an outside perspective on values, morals, habits, beliefs, knowledge and customs that we are slowly impacted. It might begin with a new food item, a new form of entertainment, a new style of dress, a new expression of music or a new rhythm of relationship.

Our sense of entitlement to the comforts and conveniences of our modern lifestyles is infectious, not only to ourselves, but to newcomers who see and desire. In a world where our mosaic has the possibility of bringing the bright colours of a rainbow, we begin to blend everything into a dull form of brown or grey.

There is a hidden danger here where nothing carries special worth or value any longer. Without a rational basis for holding onto anything as true, humanity has to face up to the numerous empty escapes it perpetuates to distract itself. Relativism captures the laws and moods of our land. Different religions are seen as something like different ways to communicate with a God if such a being exists. This pulls us toward inclusivism which naturally has no room for an exclusive ‘faith’ like Christianity claiming that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life.

In what ways do you feel the pressure from our culture in considering that no religious view is better than another? Do you believe something is exclusively true regardless of what others around you say? What basis do you have for establishing your truth as the ultimate truth?