R.I.G Rest In Glory!

Chris Ball

R.I.G – Rest In Glory!

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Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”
Luke 23:43

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This past weekend I received some bittersweet news. My friend and brother in Christ, Chris Ball, passed away from a drug overdose.

As many of you may have come to know through my writings, I am not the sort to dance around difficult topics. Neither was my buddy Chris. So because I know intimately of his great love to see others come to know the Lord, today I’ve chosen to use this opportunity as I truly trust that he would’ve wanted to, to address something rather difficult.

Now many of you might be wondering…

Brother in Christ? Drug overdose? How are these two things even synonymous?

Well, when you think of some distant person whom you’ve never met but only heard of, or some relative you barely see, many of you could probably find many justifications for writing off such relationships as toxic or hazardous to your own faith and growth. You may not view a faith that sometimes fails and even fails greatly as one of substance.

But luckily for all of us who have been so intimately graced with experiencing the love of Christ know, our Heavenly Father holds no such hesitations.

In fact, Jesus came to save sinners – just like Chris and I!

———–

Jesus said to them “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

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Just as love compels any good mother to stay up so late until the early hours of the morning praying and waiting for her son to safely arrive home, the Bible tells us that we serve a God who never sleeps or slumbers, and lives to intercede for us. (Psalm 121:4, Hebrews 7:25)

And just as a good father seeks beyond the “what” his son does, to intimately try and understand the deepest depths of the question ‘why‘ he does what he does, so our Heavenly Father intimately knows every last thing we’ve ever been through and why we are the way we are.

He knows the first time we were ever abused, and whether that hurt has ever had the chance to heal.

He knows our first loss, and how it sometimes causes us to reframe our personal view of self worth.

He knows our first let-down, and if that disappointment has diminished our hope in our future aspirations.

He knows our betrayals, and how that has significantly impacted our ability to trust.

And yes, He also perfectly knows our indifference, and how uncommon it is for us to demonstrate faithful, ongoing, loyal, unceasing love because we ourselves have not had examples of it demonstrated in our own life.

And some of you might be thinking of how you have failed in many ways in one or all of these areas in your own life for someone you love because of how you’ve let these outward circumstances come between you, but if your focus ends there, with some sort of selfish sentiment of self-abasement, then maybe you have never truly understood the true breadth of Gospel hope.

You see, it’s because our Heavenly Father so intimately knew all of these things about us – the repercussions of just one bad decision thousands of years ago that happened in a Garden, and it’s influence over all of us ever since – that he even sent Jesus to earth to do what He alone has done.

And you might think that if ever we had a person who was truly so perfect and sinless and spotless as we believe Jesus to be ever come visit earth that we would somehow know exactly how to treat Him and hold Him in highest esteem, but, well, you’d be wrong.

Because of our own brokenness and depravity, we only do what we know how to do best:

We’d slander him.

We’d tell lies about him.

We’d ridicule and mock him.

We’d hide ourselves from him.

We’d selfishly take from Him when beneficial to us.

Then we’d betray him.

And we’d be indifferent to His sufferings.

But because of His great love and intimate understanding of what the depths of our depravity produces, Jesus instead looked beyond it to the day when those who through faith would be made perfect, and He called it a joy (Hebrews 12:2) – and that joy was ever so great that He would gladly bear the sufferings of being beaten to beyond recognition and nailed to a cross by the very ones He came to save, since He knew that it was the only way to see the insurmountable hope He held in His pure and holy heart for all of us come to pass one day – a promise that extended even to my brother Chris through his faith in Jesus.

When we believe in this hope, the process of that change worked out into our present lives of our future glorified selves only begins.

For some of us whose hearts have been responsive and open, the change begins and carries underway very quickly. They’re hungry for the bread of life, and thirsty for living waters, and so healing can come like a rushing river, permeating many areas of their lives.

But for others whose hearts have been continually discouraged, continually let down, continually betrayed, continually unloved, with little or no healthy community, there poses far more obstacles to seeing the fruition of that work because so many other foundational stones that need to be in place in their lives to help them to find firm footing until they can stand for themselves.

Even in my earnest attempts to walk with Chris these past few years, and how privileged I feel to have been considered a friend to him and be a part of his journey, I know it hasn’t always been perfect, and that even I have let him down in so many ways.

But I know my friend Chris, and I know he believed in Jesus and was filled with His Holy Spirit.

One such occasion that made it clear to me was two years ago when I was stirred up in my Spirit with the idea to go and begin reaching out to families in prison waiting rooms. I did not have a vehicle to even get to the nearest prison, so I got on my knees one evening before the Lord and prayed and asked Him that if this idea was truly stirred up by Him, to please provide a vehicle for me to get there, and then I would know that He was leading it.

Well, across town Chris had just recently bought a new truck and got a call to pick up his mom one afternoon.

It was an unexpected call and if anyone knew anything about Chris, it was that he loved his family and never wanted to let any of them down – especially his precious daughter. So even though he had a few drinks that morning, he reasoned that it might be close enough to his home to go and get her.

Unfortunately, while Chris was waiting outside for her, he had also parked in a handicap spot by accident, and this drew the attention of a nearby officer who walked over and smelled the alcohol on his breath.

After completing a breathalyzer, Chris’s license was suspended for a year, he was fined, and now he had a new truck that he would not be able to use.

But Chris saw the truck as a blessing from God that he felt confirmed in his Spirit about buying after a long and arduous search and knew it was maent to serve a purpose. So he prayed and asked God “What should I do with this truck now?”

And the Lord said to him:

“Call Raymond, he needs it”

So obediently, Chris called me just two or three days after my prayers, and we met up and talked about it with each other, and since we recognized that it was truly the Spirit’s leading, I took over his truck for a year to pursue the beginnings of my own journey into prison ministry that accompanied where I am today.

What did I learn about Chris?

Without question, Jesus speaks to Chris.

Chris may not have always felt like he knew how to, but he was always more than willing to do his part among the community of believers.

Without question, the things that Chris were clear that Jesus was ever asking him to do, Chris was willing to do.

And who knows, maybe this was the only thing that Chris ever felt asked by our Lord to do since he came to faith, I don’t know.

But I do know that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Chris’s willingness to act on his faith, despite any personal issues he was going through in life.

Chris had faith.

And if I could only see these glimpses of Chris’s faith and recognize it beyond his obstacles… How much more does our Lord who intimately knows all that he has been through also know all of what Chris believed?

That’s why I am confident that just as Jesus said to the thief on the cross beside him, “today you will be with me in paradise” because of Chris’s faith, he is also now experiencing the fullness of God’s love and God’s peace in unhindered glory.

I am so grateful to have gotten to know him so well that I can be so absolutely sure of this today.

Today might be a sad day for many of you to know that he has passed away.

But today, even despite my many tears for my beloved friend, my heart is also so overwhelmingly happy to know that Chris can now experience the fullness of everything I’ve tried so earnestly tried to explain to him these past few years about the perfect love of our Blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus, the Christ!

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For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9
In memory of my friend, Chris Ball.

Uncertain about so many brother, this I know… we shall definitely meet again!

Trust 👑 Jesus!

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Justified By Faith

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Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

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A very dear friend and brother in Christ came to visit me the other day. We had some errands to run so I got into his truck and began on our way.

As we drove along, it was not long before I took notice of the awful state in which the inside of his vehicle was kept: Open chip bags on the floor. Three millimetres of thick grime on the dashboard. Smudgy stained windows. Empty beer boxes in the back. Seat covers that were barely hanging on from being ripped to shreds.

But the outside of the vehicle, from which I normally would see it, was in really great shape!

As I reflected on the difference from the outside to the inside, I began to ask some questions to see if there was something I was not understanding. But not knowing exactly how to begin a conversation about it, I found myself skirting around the issue directly.

“So, what’s been going on in your life lately bro? Has everything been okay?”

“Yep, God is good!” he replied.

But since that got me absolutely no where, I decided that since I had seen this sort of thing in my own life, that maybe a better way might be to share about my own journey…

“You know, you should’ve seen what my townhouse basement looked like when I used to live there before I came to know the Lord. The wall was stained from water rot. The ceiling was falling apart and unlevelled. The ground was cold grey concrete and it depressed and discouraged, but it was a pretty good indicator of how I was feeling inside at the time. But if you ever saw me out in public, I always wore nice clothes and hid my problems. You’d never know how I felt about life or how my living conditions looked by looking at me”

“oh really?” he replied, “yea, people hide their true problems all the time. I guess they don’t feel like they have anyone they trust that they can talk to about them.”

At which point I asked him again…. “so how’s everything been going with you? Are you doing okay?”

To which he replied, “God is good! All the time!”

Confused and now getting a bit frustrated, I felt like I needed a more direct approach so I said:

“So, I look around and I noticed that your car looks great on the outside, but the inside looks like it’s being occupied by homeless people on a regular basis. (jokingly) If everything is okay, I’m trying to understand why you would keep your vehicle this way?”

He laughed and said, “I don’t think there’s a reason. My mom has asked me about it too. I guess I just don’t think it’s that important.”

I realized that maybe I was just assuming too much, so I decided to let it go.

But a few days later, we got together again. This time with a few other friends.

While we sat there, one of the sisters commented on how nice his vehicle was while looking at it from a distance across the parking lot as we sat in a local coffee shop.

But what was most interesting to me was his reply:

“Oh that old thing… It was a really nice vehicle when I first bought it, but it’s been through like five accidents already and had to get a ton of things fixed on it. I’m just glad it’s still running. But really, I can’t wait to get a new one.”

It was then that it occurred to me…. His lack of desire to keep the inside of his vehicle clean was directly influenced by the way he viewed it in light of all the accidents it had been in.

Later on when we were alone since I was the last person he dropped home, I decided to ask him a new question.

“Hey bro, tell me something. When you first got this vehicle, did you use to keep it clean?”

“Of course!” he replied. “I cleaned it all the time!”

It was then that it all began to make sense.

You see, all of us do the same thing from time to time throughout our lives.

When we get a new job, start a new relationship, begin a new ministry, or buy a new vehicle, the value that we see those things with causes us to hold them in the highest esteem. We never think about what kind of terrain we will encounter in our journey.

But then as we begin to face hardships in our work, have a few fights in our relationships, have our first failure at ministry, or get into a few accidents with our vehicle, all of a sudden, the way we once looked at those things diminishes in our sights. We no longer see it with the same ‘newness’ and excitement that we once held for it.

And if we’re not careful, we can do this with our faith too.

After our first sin, or our first failure, or our first fall, or maybe after many, we begin to reframe in our minds how much we think we can be used by the Lord. We feel like disappointments and ‘less than’ what we should’ve been. And this can limit the capacity in which we think the Lord ‘can’ or ‘will’ use us in the future.

But the Gospel offers us something that completely shatters this false paradigm, and gives us a renewed perspective about what is possible for our futures.

We aren’t like bandaged animals with a broken leg simply limping along.

No. Instead, we’ve died! And what we are is completely brand new with never fading glories!

What was raised to life in us is like having a brand new vehicle that is driving off the lot for the very first time again!!!

It’s like being able to start over your job of thirty years with the wisdom of those year on your first day all over again.

It’s like a relationship that has carried along for twenty five faithful years with all of that wisdom and maturity while getting to know each other like it’s the first time all over again!

God Word tells us that the way He see’s us is just as if we had never even sinned before in our entire life!

Now THAT’S Gospel revelation!!!

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Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.
Micah 7:18-20

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Today, I sensed that it was time to remind you of the wondrous hope that we have through the Gospel.

Our God wants to give us all a renewed perspective about our cars, our marriage/relationship, our kids, and yes, even about our lives!

Despite our failures

Despite our flaws
Despite our imperfections…

He wants to begin stirring up hope that is necessary to take you and I into this next season of our lives.

But there’s one simple catch.

This gift of God’s grace can only be received by faith!

Not by giving

Not by effort
Not by works

Only by receiving what has already been accomplished through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

So if the enemy is trying to remind you of the ‘truth’ by saying,

“Look at how many times you’ve fallen. Look at how many times you’ve failed. Surely God has forsaken you!”

You remind him of the *whole* truth and reply back:

“Look at what great lengths my Saviour has gone to pursue me, to shower me in His endless love, to suffer on my behalf, and to purchase me back from death so I can be made white as snow before Him”

He is certainly worthy of all praise!

For which I implore you,

*Trust 👑Jesus!*

Off The Cuff(s)

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Off The Cuff(s)

 

 

“Lord!” …. I start all of my lyrics now

Cryin out to Him who hears the humble and oppose’ the proud

 

I’m nothing special, I deserve a cell beside my boy

But the Gospel taught me of the love of God who paid it all

 

So now my knees bow down in salute of the Father

My Abba got me so my sentence got revoked and barred up

 

I now exalt the King of glory for His blessed mercy

Drinkin from deep wells and finding I’m no longer thirsty

 

I am an artistic depiction of the sea of grace

A Rembrandt of salvation for a dying race

 

Even the public without their bars of incarceration

Are dying daily to religious bars that have them cased in

 

I’m tryna reach past ya fig leaf sentiments of love

If we could do it then why should we praise the man above?

 

Who bowed low and descended to this lower glory

Only to rise and change this horror to a love story

 

I’m shouting “Hail Jesus;” Mary will you join me?

Your son’s the Saviour’s and He’s moving with me blood deep

 

We visit prisoners and tell em now’s the time for freedom

And watch them break free; moving to another season

 

The paradigm is shifting watch how the slaves are rejoicing

Once known for killing now they killing sin with joyful noises

 

I’m screaming “Hallelujah” giving all praise to the Father

As the Spirit makes us willing to now answer the Caller

 

And through our worship of the Christ we find identity

That was originally lost when Satan tempted Eve

 

But we’re a new creation; though we’re a dying breed

Certain to raise to life and live with Him eternally

 

So now the hope that should empower you empowers me

I’m here to tell you – you no longer need the former things

 

His grace’ amazing the only challenge is come see and taste

This blessed love that makes us leave all of our lesser ways…

 

 

Trust Jesus!

When Justice Prevails

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At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, “This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, for John had been saying to him: “It is not lawful for you to have her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people, because they considered John a prophet.

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
John 14:1-14

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Have you ever been in a season where you’ve questioned if God really hears our pleas and cries in the midst of great oppression and injustice; Whether they are national, political, congressional, familial, or relational?

And if He hears, does He even care?

Well I think that today’s reading demonstrates something about how Jesus navigates these trying circumstances in our lives that will help us to begin to see His present care and concern for us if we realign our vision and focus in on where His efforts are actually being displayed.

To set the scene, John the Baptist had been wrongfully imprisoned. His only crime is telling the truth. But rather than receiving correction and changing his ways, Herod instead tries to snuff out the light as all evil men must do in order to continue on with their evil deeds.

John the Baptist is thrown into a dingy dark cell in an attempt to silence his testimony.

Through the course of his incarceration, John is then executed through the design of Herodias, at her daughter’s request of Herod – a mere puppet in this evil plot – to whom he promises upto half his kingdom in a moment of drunken folly which he would soon regret.

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Sidenote: This teaches us that evil can be forwarded in one of two ways:

1. When people act to maliciously forward their evil desires.

2. When we unquestioningly serve the evil desires of others without considering the nature/motives of their request.

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Either way, the deed is done, and the news of this execution-styled death of God’s forerunner  is reported to the Messiah, Jesus Himself, shortly after it happens.

And Jesus’ great heart of unfailing love is broken, and we know this for a few reasons.

If you’ve ever been asked ‘who was the greatest person in all of the Old Testament,’ there may be many people that would quickly come to mind:

– Moses, the Lawgiver and one through whom God parted the Reed Sea

– David, the beloved former greatest king of Israel who was commended as one whose heart was wholly after God

– Elijah, with his spectacular miracles and chariot of fire entourage into heaven,

or the many others who could easily be named.

But for Jesus, there was one who stood so far apart from the others that he was given the title ‘greatest‘ by Jesus himself!

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I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John.
Luke 7:28

Or as another writer puts it:

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;
Matthew 11:11

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So you can imagine how deeply broken the heart of Jesus had to be at hearing the news of John’s death at the hands of unjust systems and the plots of wicked men and women.

In fact, it affected Jesus so deeply that the writer is sure to tell us:

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When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.
Matthew 14:13

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Even Jesus knew that it was healthy to mourn the death of those we love when they passed away.

Death is such a foreign topic to eternal life, that even though He knew that He would one day see John again because of his faith in Messiah, even a temporary separation was enough to pain Jesus’ holy heart.

But what is even greater than Jesus’ love for John who He regarded as the ‘greatest’ was Jesus’ love and concern for all those who were still with him here on earth.

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Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, (believers who will resurrect unto life eternal) so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
1 Thessalonians 4:13

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We know this because in the very next verse, even though Jesus’ mourning is cut short, when He sees how desperate the people are to follow him amidst this national outcry of injustice, he turns and does something miraculous:

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When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.

Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Matthew 14:13-14

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You see, Jesus did not rectify the world’s injustices by starting a protest towards Herod outside of his palace for killing his friend, or by inciting a group of Zealots to retaliate on John’s behalf.

Instead, He forwarded the Kingdom of God in the only way that the Kingdom of God has ever been forwarded: by love expressed through sacrificial charity.

In fact, not only did Jesus heal their sick, but the following paragraph jumps right into a story about when Jesus then feeds all of them… At least five thousand of them!

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As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat…. ”

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he (Jesus) gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children
Matthew 14:15-16, 19-21

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Imagine that! John, the one that Jesus regarded as the ‘greatest born of a woman,’ is killed, and Jesus’ recourse was to heal the sick and feed thousands.

That’s like hearing that your friend is killed by murderers for fun and enjoyment one morning, and then your response is choosing to comfort others in their grief and volunteering your time at a local food bank that evening.

In response to this paradoxical wisdom of the Kingdom of God, G.K Chesterton writes:

“Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

—————

I write this today because sometimes I wonder what our personal recourse for injustice is? And do our ideas for justice resonate with those we see detailed in the Bible regarding the Kingdom of God?

How many times have worldly concepts of countering injustices been used by professing Christians to justify a different course of action than we see exemplified in Jesus’ life and teachings that instead brings reproach upon the Gospel through this misrepresentation of the true ways of righteousness?

Clearly Jesus is not the one leading things like the atrocities and violence of the 12th century Catholic crusades. Yet most of the unbelieving world would falsely believe this is true if you look at the lives of some who have professed to know Him.

No, Jesus is more likely to be the who sits with you to mourn a departed friend and reminds you of our common hope through the Gospel.

And He’s more likely to be working through that friend who was thoughtful enough to remember that you probably haven’t eaten in a few days, and drops off a meal for you and your family that is so abundant that you have leftovers for days to follow!

I pray that as we round this second half of 2018, we’ll continue to grow up in our knowledge to comprehend that deeper place in us that God wants to restore so we can better display our trust in God and the ways of His Kingdom that recognizes how present He is indeed always with us – even amidst the temporary trials and tribulations through the reign of unjust people and world systems – that matures us in our reactions to these things knowing that God is still in control, and will one day make all things right.

To this end I implore you:

Trust ♔ Jesus!

The Artwork of God

Earth Space View Clouds Desktop Wallpaper
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?
You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
Psalm 8:3-6

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In his book ‘Generous Justice,’ author Tim Keller points out:

The Jewish Scripture were virtually unique in their view of how the world began. Most accounts depict creation as the result of a battle or of a struggle between warring cosmic forces.

A Chinese account describes how the primordial giant Pangu emerged from the ancient cosmic egg, and when he died, the parts of his body became the world – his eyes the sun and moon, his body the mountains, his blood the waters, his muscles the lands, his beard the forests…

One African story tells of a giant who got sick and vomited out the world; first the sun, moon, and stars, and then vegetation and human beings…

The Gnostics taught that the high God was unknowable, and in contradiction to God’s will, some lower deity, a “demiurge,” created the profoundly flawed material world…

In Norse mythology, the god Odin killed the giant Ymir and used his body to create the universe and its inhabitants…

The Babylonian account, the Enuma Elisha tells a similar story of the god Marduk who defeats the ocean goddess Tiamat and produces the world out of her members.

In most ancient myths, therefore, the visible universe resulted from conflict; powers in tension with one another.

The Biblical creation account, however, stands in stark contrast.

Biblical scholar Gerhard von Rad has argued that, unlike any of its neighbours, Israel could conceive of no divine powers on par with those of the Lord.

Creation was therefore the work of a God without rival, who made the world not as a warrior digs a trench, but as an artist paints a picture or shapes a sculpture.

God is a craftsman, an artisan.

————–

He made you and I in His image which is why we, likewise, desire and craft His creation towards the beautiful – through music, design, architecture, food, hairstyles, dance – sometimes soft and gentle – sometimes aggressive and bold; speech, fashion, art – with sometimes with rich dark colours and sometimes with bright vibrant ones, and a multitude of various cultural expressions of each!

The trillion upon trillions of diverse personalities that have ever existed in all of human history are merely the unimaginably wide array of eternal combinations that God continues to breathe out.

Now, that’s not to imply that the ‘bad’ expressions of God’s creations doings were on account of His design. This is the nature of sin’s entry into the world on due to demonic deception and our own free will as we ‘missed the mark’ of God’s original intention  – and each of us are guilty of it in our own unique ways.

But through Jesus Christ, God has made a way to justified those who live by faith; He’s blotted out our sins, cancelled all our debt, and even though the fullness of His glory and of what that now means for us has future implications, it has already begun the moment we first believed. He has prepared for us an eternal dwelling where sin shall no longer hinder, death shall have no place, but righteousness, peace and love – along with eternal life – and all the beauty that exists in those precious moments when we get right, will do so… forevermore.

————

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

Revelation 21:1-7

Therefore, I implore you:

Trust ♔ Jesus!

Justice For the Poor

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Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure *justice* for those being crushed.

Proverbs 31:8

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In his book entitled ‘Generous Justice,’ author Tim Keller notes:

In Leviticus 5, there are prescriptions for making confessions and offering sacrifices to God at the tabernacle in order to seek forgiveness for sins. There is an eye-glazing number of diverse rules and regulations for how to make atonement for various sins – what the penitents must do, what kind of animal sacrifices they had to bring, what the priests had to do, and so on.

Then suddenly the text adds that if the worshipper ‘cannot afford’ the standard offerings, “he is to bring as an offering a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering…. in this way the priest will make atonement for him for any of these sins he has committed, and he will be forgiven” (Leviticus 5:1-13)

One Bible commentary responds to this:

A person who knew he could come to God with nothing more than a cupful of flour and a confession of his sin and still receive forgiveness was learning something fundamental about the grace of God…. even the most powerful in the land knew that God was not impressed by the most lavish sacrifices…

In the religions of the surrounding cultures, the gods identified particularly with the kings and others at the top of society. It made sense – the rich could build the gods magnificent temples and give sumptuous offerings. Why wouldn’t they be considered the favourites of the gods?

But the Biblical God is not like that at all. He does not call everyone to bring sacrifices of the same kind and value, for that would have automatically made it easier for the rich to please God.

Instead, God directs that each person should bring what they can, and if their heart is right, that will give them access to his grace.

For indeed, grace is the key to it all. It is not our lavish good deeds that procure salvation, but God’s lavish love and mercy. That is why the poor are as acceptable before God as the rich. It is the generosity of God, the freeness of His salvation, that lays the foundation for the society of justice for all.

Even in the seemingly boring rules and regulations of tabernacle rituals, we see that God cares about the poor, that his laws make provision for the disadvantaged. God’s concern for justice permeated every part of Israel’s life.

It should also permeate our lives.

Trust ♔ Jesus!

Philosophies That Undermine The Faith That Is Known By Its Deeds

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What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

 

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

 

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

James 2:14-18

 

 

 

 

In his book “A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge” it was famed philosopher George Berkeley who once made the statement:

 

“But, say you, surely there is nothing easier than for me to imagine trees, for instance, in a park […] and nobody by to perceive them. […] The object of sense exist only when they are perceived; the trees therefore are in the garden […] no longer than while there is somebody by to perceive them.”

 

An 1883 magazine called The Chatauquan later reframed Berkeley’s comment into a questions asking:

 

“If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?”

 

…and went on to answer the query:

 

“No. Sound is the sensation excited in the ear when the air or other medium is set in motion.”

 

This answer seemed to imply that the question posed not from its original philosophical nature, but from a scientific one. The magazine Scientific American then corroborated the technical aspect of this question a year later when they asked the question slightly reworded,

 

“If a tree were to fall on an uninhabited island, would there be any sound?”

 

And gave a more technical answer once again,

 

“Sound is vibration, transmitted to our senses through the mechanism of the ear, and recognized as sound only at our nerve centers. The falling of the tree or any other disturbance will produce vibration of the air. If there be no ears to hear, there will be no sound.”

 

Albert Einstein is reported to have asked his fellow physicist and friend Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, whether he realistically believed that ‘the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.’ To this Bohr replied that however hard he (Einstein) may try, he would not be able to prove that it does, thus giving the entire riddle the status of a kind of infallible conjecture—one that cannot be either proved or disproved.

 

 

At first glance, this might seem like a needless consideration. I mean, who cares if it makes a sound or not, right? Who cares if the moon exists after we’ve turned our backs, right?

 

Well, not so fast!

 

This question is predicated on assumptions that contain grave implications for the faith community if not wrestled with and rationally thought out in light of the truth of Scripture.

For one, it’s not asking whether the mere faculty of sound would be aroused, but whether sounds itself exist at all where no one is around to hear it.

 

For the believer, we affirm that the existence of sounds and sights are not in any way sustained by our human presence, but instead, by God who created them.  Since one of His attributes is that He is omnipresent – meaning, He is present everywhere in the universe at the same time – then this means that nothing in the heavens or the earth ever happens apart from His foreknowledge and very present presence!

 

Because He exists and is present, His presence gives value and existence to all things.

 

Or as Jesus said it:

 

 

What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.

Matthew 10:29

 

 

Yet some have wrongly speculated that because God has set in motion the things of this world in such a way so as to be able to be present for all, yet sometimes seemingly chooses not to act or interfere in ways that override our free will and the dominion He has entrusted to us to steward, that He must not be a loving God because surely a loving God would act to thwart the evils that abound.

 

But rather than this being an act of His indifference, this is actually an act of His mercy, for if God intervened to wipe out every evil at its root appearance in humanity – the thinking level – there would not remain a single human being left standing at the end of the first day! … But I digress.

 

The real intention of today’s consideration is to help us to see that the philosophical question at hand is far more than merely philosophical. For the believer, we must grow up in our faith – informed by God’s Word – to recognize that some realities – although seemingly transcendental – must be acknowledged as actually ‘more real’ than what can be resolved through the mere faculties of the senses if we stand firmly upon a faith that begins on the premise that asserts, ‘from the spiritual came the physical’ (Heb. 11:3) Or in other words, from God came everything; ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’ (John 1:3)

 

I mean, that is what we’re saying when we say that an eternal and invisible God created every physical thing.

In which case, who then is man to define the terms of reality, when his very existence and ability to think something through was part of a design given to him by the One who knew far more than he did (God’s omniscience: all knowing) in order to so intelligently design us in the first place?

 

That’s like programming an electric thermostat to recognize and beep when the temperature reaches a certain degree, let’s say, 25. And then concluding that the temperature is 25 because of the thermostats recognition of the temperature, as if the thermostat gives value and brings the substance of temperature into reality, rather than simply recognizing that the thermostat is merely acknowledging something that was true without its intervention.

 

When we are present – we observe what is true.

 

When we are not present – since reality is not predicated upon ‘our’ presence, but by God’s presence, it therefore still remains true.

 

If it were not so, God could never ‘justly’ accuse us of something like “neglecting the poor”, if we simple distanced ourselves enough so as to neglect and negate our responsibility.

 

As it turns out, some of the world’s most profoundly inconclusive science exists in the wonderful world of quantum physics. But rather than disproving my conclusions, the quantum world actually begins to expand upon our often limited human understanding to see that there are many scientific realities that are not in any way predicated on observation – and in some cases, precisely the opposite, yet they still exist!

 

Even atoms have existed for thousands of years, long before we were ever able to discover their existence, and no one today would ever say that they only came into existence once we discovered them. Especially since everything in the universe contains them!

 

 

So with that in mind, I now have a few questions for you. And although you might feel tempted to treat them as merely philosophical, in reality, we both know what the real answers are:

 

If a man is taken to jail for a ticket and dies while he is in police custody on account of neglect, does he make a sound?

 

What if a young man serving a short sentence in a provincial jail is beaten to death by his cellmate and never makes it back home to his family. When he cries out for help and no one attends to his cries, pretending not to hear them, does he make a sound?

 

Or what if a prisoner serving a sentence is locked in segregation and cries out for medical attention, and no one is around to hear his cries – or even worst – the people who are around ‘choose’ to disregard the sounds that he makes because their ‘superior’ philosophies have taught them that ‘out-of-sight’ means ‘its not really happening’ – and that man happens to die, does he make a sound?

 

I don’t think anyone in their right mind would ever fail to concede that the lives of Edward Nalon, Robert Landers, Adam Kargus, or David Stojcevski’s and countless others do in fact make a sound.

 

One we seriously need to stop ignoring.

 

 

On this Prisoner’s Justice Day August 10th 2018, we join with thousands of prisoners all across the world to fast and pray and call on the Lord for His wisdom to understand how to best reform our ideas of justice on every level: from prisoner communities, to law enforcement, to the judicial system and governments in remembrance of:

 

– those whose cries we have failed to hear,

 

– those whose cries we have pretended not to hear,

 

– and we also take it one step further and commit to make better efforts in the future to speak up and act in keeping with our profession of faith when we hear the cries of those in need.

 

For whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.

Proverbs 21:13

 

 

To learn ways that you can get involved to encourage and walk with prisoners, visit: www.prisonfellowship.ca

 

 

 

Trust ♔ Jesus!