For your free copy of my new single,
The Coming Storm Remix,
you can direct download the .mp3 here:
To listen to the track, visit:
Blessings to you all for your love and support!
For your free copy of my new single,
The Coming Storm Remix,
you can direct download the .mp3 here:
To listen to the track, visit:
Blessings to you all for your love and support!
Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
About fifteen years ago, long before I came to faith in Christ, a friend and I had planned a last minute cottage trip the Thursday afternoon before a long weekend. Since neither of us had made any plans for the weekend, we decided to go all out on our cottage trip.
We both had grown up with fathers who were outdoorsman and so we knew how to handle ourselves very well camping in the wild, but we also had no hesitations about availing ourselves to the modern amenities of RV’s and cottages now that we were able to plan our trips ourselves.
All of our paths we had quickly traced out:
– we’d need to season up a box of chicken legs, shrimps, steaks and burgers ready for the grill beforehand.
– we’d carry eggs, turkey bacon, toast, a frying pan, cooking oil, and various other seasoning and dishes for an extravagant breakfast, lunch & dinner.
– we’d need to pack a bag of extra clothes, hygiene necessities, and sleeping bags.
– we’d need to pick up firewood, lighter fluid, and be sure to have a lighter.
– and of course, (back then) we’d need a case of beer, a few packs of smokes, and a bottle of something as an alternative to beer, along with a couple bottles of juice and chaser.
As you can already tell, when we pursued something, we did so with great attention to detail.
Just like the same effort some people put into planning their birthdays, vacations, extravagant receptions or various other occasions special to them, we gave ourselves wholly to the task.
But with less than twenty four hours standing between us and the beginning of our adventure – a three hour drive Northeast of Toronto – my friend and I had much to get done to ensure all was in order.
So I set off to a nearby grocery store, liquor store, and Shopper’s Drug Mart to acquire the ‘necessities’ for our trip.
Meanwhile, my buddy had some vehicle maintenance that he had been putting off that urgently needed to be tended to if we wanted to get there safely. So he also set himself to task.
When I was growing up, we often used the word “missions”, but we never meant the same thing that I now mean when I say it within a Christian context today, but interestingly enough, a lot of the variables are the same as I hope you’ll soon see.
After a long afternoon of labouring from one store to another to gather our supplies, and my friend going from one shop to another trying to acquire both the parts and the installation of those parts to secure his vehicle, the day was long spent.
I didn’t give him the ‘it is finished’ call until late almost 2am, and he was still tending to his truck on the driveway when I did.
We had plan to set on our way at 7:00am that Friday morning which was now only a few hours away, in order to beat the traffic and get a good head start into our weekend.
When I awoke however, my buddy had not slept the entire night. He stayed up trying to resolve a mechanical issue and now at his wits end, needed to tow his truck to an actual mechanic to complete.
I took a cab to meet him with a duffel bag and two large coolers of food and drink.
We could tell the day was going to be a hot one as the sun rose, and we met around 8:30am at the mechanic shop who was only working half-day in anticipation of the long weekend.
We began with replacing the brakes and brake lines, and ended by uncovering that he also required a new gas tank, gas lines and gas pump.
We were able to acquire everything except the gas pump. And the only place in town that had it for his vehicle was now closed until the following Tuesday.
It was well past noon and we began to wonder if maybe we were not even supposed to go to the cottage this weekend. Like, maybe this was a divinely appointed thwarting of our determined efforts in order to keep us from some ‘unknown harms’ that lay ahead that we were currently unaware of.
It’s funny how our minds work sometimes. If we really want to, I’m certain that we can find a way to justify just about any course of action we take in life. (Something definitely worth reflecting more deeply upon.)
I, however, quickly put away the thought. We had put far too much effort into this day and far too much work into getting this far. Why should we give up now?
So I resolved that maybe we could rent a car for the weekend. After all, we were right at a busy intersection that had many rental car companies. So we began up and down both sides of the busy road from company to company only to be informed that they were all completely booked up for the long weekend.
When we finally found a place that had a car available, we ran into a new issue since my license was suspended but I had a credit card, and my friend had a valid license but didn’t have a credit card. Since the renter must possess both, our only glimmer of hope quickly dwindled away.
It was then that my sister called me. I had given her my car to use since she had been in a recent accident so she could get to school since my license was suspended.
She came to pick us up along with our coolers and bags.
As she drove us home as we recounted the details of our day, I suppose sympathy overtook her heart and she decided to let us use my car since she didn’t have class for the weekend, and could get around by other means if she needed to for the few days.
Greatly encouraged, we began optimistically believing once again that we might actually make it to the cottage after all!
My sister dropped herself home and we began on our way to the nearest grocery store to acquire some ice to ensure that the coolers were still holding up.
By the time we reached the store we had realized that the back tire was flat. In fact, we could see the two-inch screw that was gorged into the base of the tire that punctured it.
Once again despair began to rear its ugly face. Was this a sign? How could so many things go wrong in one day?
My friend called CAA who he said would come patch up the punctured tire right on the scene.
The only problem was that there was a three-hour wait time since long weekends were notorious for service calls.
Once again, my mind purposed to action. I only lived a block away and had four chrome rims with tires on them in my garage. If we could somehow just get back to the house, I also had the tools to change a tire, and we could be on our way in less than an hour.
So carefully, we slowly drove out of the grocery store parking lot, now on a completely flat from tire, and down the street one block back into my complex and onto my driveway.
Upon our arrival, I quickly opened the garage and threw three rims with tires into the trunk to make up for the spare tire I didn’t have while my friend jacked up the car getting it ready for me to replace the one flat.
That was the fastest I’ve probably ever changed a tire in my life!
We were back on the road in no time yet it was close to 7:30pm by now. Before leaving for our trip, my friend reminded me that he had worked from the day before right into this new day. He still needed to pack a bag and wanted nothing more than to take a shower before we left.
So we headed from south Mississauga up to the northern most part of Brampton to accommodate him.
As we crept through the post-rush-hour 410 traffic north, all of a sudden we heard a loud pop! This sound was now all too familiar to us. Another tire had blown out! This time in the front.
We couldn’t believe our luck, but we had anticipated such a problem and were adequately prepared to resolve it in no time. Or so we thought.
We pulled over and removed another rim from the trunk. But to our horror, we quickly realized that we had left the appropriate tire iron for my vehicle back in my garage at home along with the car jack after we changed the first tire!
In order to avoid feelings of shame that day, I think a thought far worse than mere self-inflicted stupidity crept in to my thoughts. Pride. Then my frustrations quickly turned into sheer recklessness.
We already knew the wait-time for CAA. We already had been through failure after failure after failure that day. The truck problems, the rental car hindrances, and the punctured tire difficulties. I was intimately acquainted with resistance, and now I felt like something or ‘someone’ was actually fighting against us – whatever it was, it was not going to win!
So I told my friend to get into the passenger seat, and against all sound judgement, without a valid license, with sparks flying from the rim, I drove that car at least four kilometres to the next exit, and then a few more blocks to a nearby coffee shop after we exited.
Once we got there, now almost covered in the darkness of the night, we waved down vehicles asking for a tire iron and jack – but it also had to be of a similar make and model as my car in order for it to work which greatly decreased our odds of both finding the right car, and then a driver of such a kind heart so as to avail these tools to two young men at the fall of night.
Surprisingly, about an hour later, an elderly woman pulled into the plaza who assisted us with the very things we needed and so we were on our way. By the time we pulled up on the driveway of my friend’s home, it was probably just past 11pm Friday night.
Exhausted, discouraged, and wondering what the long weekend might hold for us now, we cracked two beers and sat back reflecting on all that had transpired on this uniquely eventful day.
We threw a few ideas onto the table as we talked about possibly salvaging the alcohol and food by having a backyard barbecue Saturday night, but everyone we spoke to that evening already had long weekend plans. Long weekends were like a community staple among the circle I grew up with. To be found without plans on a long weekend was like committing social suicide.
Not long into our conversation I looked up at my friend with a second breath of unusual hope reignited once again…. “do you still want to go to the cottage?” I said.
He smiled. We were mostly the best of friends because of our unusual tenacity and resolve for going the extra mile in circumstances just like these.
It didn’t take long for him to concede. “I’m in if you’re in!” he said. And we didn’t need to say any more than that. We quickly finished off our beers and began a checklist of check ups on the vehicle to ensure we would not be met with any more surprises. Oil levels, washer fluid, tire pressure, gas, a jack, spare tire, tire iron; everything we could think of.
Then, at almost 2:40am now Saturday morning, we began on our way. But before we left, almost as a novelty, we decided that maybe we should pray and ask “God” – whoever He was, to help us to get there safely. I was a former Muslim turned quasi-agnostic at the time, and my friend was brought up as a Hindu. Yet we joined together in prayer amidst desperation and clearly unusual circumstances and asked “God” to somehow bless our drive down to the cottage so we’d get there safely.
It was no easy drive. We stopped often for coffee breaks and to just splash our faces with water just to awaken a little while longer for the distant drive.
By the time we arrived the sun was now rising on Saturday morning. Since it was too early to check-in at our cottage, we drove over to my father’s lakeside cottage and sat on the docks watching the sun illuminate the skies with a variety of marvellous colours dancing across the almost endless waters as it met the horizon.
My friend quickly fell asleep in his lawn chair as I sat there marvelling in silence at the beauty of this glorious picture that nature was painting at the end of all that had transpired in the past maybe thirty three hours.
The more I looked upon that sunrise this particular morning, I realized how glad I was that I never gave up; how happy I was to have a friend who would go the distance with me; and how privileged I felt to now behold such a beautiful awesome vision at the end of all these difficult trials of the days before.
Every second of our struggles were worth it!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The day when I first read these words, I closed my eyes and asked the Holy Spirit to show me the depth of its meaning, and oddly enough, the details of this experience I shared today came vividly flashing through my mind.
Now in a Christian context, this once seemingly foolish pursuit of a cottage weekend with the boys in my adolescent years now serves as a beautiful image of encouragement of the call all Saints have to perseverance and patient endurance in pursuit of our sanctification, the good we’re called to do, and to missions that bring the Gospel to the world!
It also reminds me of the winding roads we sometimes must traverse to victory. And that prayer has far more bearing on the outcome of our circumstances than we are sometimes willing to believe. And that whether we acknowledge it or not, Jesus hears our every prayer and intimately knows every detail of our lives – even when we didn’t know Him.
Amidst so many battles with doubt and fear, persecution, trials, adversities, and even our own struggle with sin, the driving force in our efforts to forge ahead – and encourage others to do so also – should be firmly footed upon the very absolute *hope* we have in what Jesus Christ has already accomplished by his death and resurrection that strengthens our resolve to not let anyone or anything steal our hearts visions of this glorious future whose beauty we sometimes cannot even begin to fathom; to which we can absolutely look forward to with all certainty of the wondrous brilliance of His appearing at the end of our journey!
Hope is essential because it is our ability to bring a piece of that very certain future glory into every trial that exists in the here and now that encourages us to press on to the end.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Which is why I’ll continue to implore you,
DOES PERCEPTION REALLY PRECEDE REALITY?
“If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
Astronaut Chris Hadfield’ Personal Commentary on Science And A Changing World*
When the very first balloon was launched that could carry people, it was in Paris in the late 1700’s, and it was Montgolfier the brothers, they had hydrogen balloons and hot air balloons and it was the cutting edge of science; it was the cutting edge of technology.
We had just learned how to capture a gas like hydrogen that would be lighter than air as you could make a balloon, and the first balloon rose, and Ben Franklin was there, and it was huge and magnificent.
It rose but it got out of control and it went and landed out in the countryside 15 miles away from Paris and the peasants there attacked it with pitchforks because they thought it was an alien coming from space.
The schism between learned understanding and the common perception of what was normal was that close…..
Just 15 miles away.
It was an enormous gap between what we knew and what we were doing and what a lot of folks knew yet, or what had become part of common knowledge.
So there’s nothing new about the speed with which we’re understanding things and the ability for other people to understand what is going on.
There’s a recent populous sort of wave of anti-science, as if that’s something new. It’s mostly because social media has given everybody what appears to be an equal voice.
On the corner of Hyde Park in London, there’s a Speaker’s Corner and that used to be the internet where you could go and yell any stupid thing that you wanted to, and if people wanted to gather around and listen – that was their choice – but if you weren’t interested in whatever that person was spouting then you didn’t need to listen.
But now, the internet has sort of turned everything into the Speaker’s Corner so you really have to just decide what are you going to listen to and what you’re going to disregard.
The true prevailing worldview among most religious and non-religious adherents alike today seems to be a sort of a modern agnosticism.
‘Gnostic,’ coming from the Greek root word: gnosis, from where we get the word “knowledge”, along with the preposition “a” meaning ‘not,’ or ‘ without,’ is in essence saying, God is ‘not-knowable,’ ‘not-known’ or that we are ‘without knowledge’ so that what agnosticism asserts is that He ‘cannot be known.’
But less than 15 miles away from everyone reading this message today is a local Bible believing church where Christians for two millenia have preached – even unto death – a very objective message about the very certain life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ!
He is the Messiah foretold of in the historical writings of the Torah and Prophets that pre-date His life on earth, and He is also the one now proclaimed and preached as the Messiah who we not only anticipated, but who indeed came as witnessed by those who walked with Him and gave testimony to this fact because they saw Him after His resurrection.
Even though Christmas may be rightly contested by some concerning whether or not it represents the exact date of his birth – an argument that also automatically presumes the reality of his life on earth – one thing is absolutely certain, that he ‘did’ indeed live two thousand years ago.
All of history has been fashioned so intricately around this truth that to deny it would be as poking pitchforks at a balloon and feeling affirmed in our own delusions for calling it alien, meanwhile those more adequately informed possess the knowledge to fly hydrogen air balloons in a field just 15 miles away.
This holiday season, I pray that you’ll venture into a local church and come see for yourself.
I mean, why should anyone spend another year denying such a well substantiated truth when the certainty of our eternal hope is less than 15 miles away?
Start this new year ‘with’ knowledge of the Savior who loves you and died for you,
Why do the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
He does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
In the field of psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a person’s belief clashes with new evidence perceived by that person.
When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort.
Leon Festinger proposed that human beings strive for internal psychological consistency in order to mentally function in the real world. A person who experiences internal inconsistency tends to become psychologically uncomfortable, and so is motivated to reduce the cognitive dissonance by making changes to justify the stressful behavior, either by adding new parts to the cognition causing the psychological dissonance, or by actively avoiding social situations and contradictory information likely to increase the magnitude of the cognitive dissonance.
This however has two dangers:
1. If you actively seek to avoid something that may be true because it makes you uncomfortable, you run the risk of living in delusion.
Or 2. If you continually live in the discomfort by subjecting yourself to truths that make you uncomfortable but are unwilling to consider their validity to ultimately yield to them if they actually prove true, you end up over time damaging your brain because of the conflict it creates and then can become even stronger in your resolve to believe a lie because the function of your brain that’s been internally designed to notify you that your beliefs are in conflict, cognitive dissonance, will become seared over time and less sensitive to notification.
But this is actually not new information.
Three thousand years ago, King Solomon – a man blessed with wisdom from God – recognized this reality where he wrote:
Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.
A thousand years later as the Apostle Paul further expounded on this wisdom you can see that he realized and then identified the far-reaching extents that it has over all of humanity when he penned the letter to the church in Rome:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Therefore, it’s not at all a coincidence that a society that rejects the true and living God will also be a society that supports and promotes every form of evil from social gossip to perverse sexual relationships.
A rejection of the knowledge of God is directly linked to the manifestation of ungodly behaviour.
But it’s also no wonder then why those who do surrender and submit themselves to receive God’s forgiveness through Christ, and learn God’s ways at the feet of Jesus can embark on the path to now live godly lives.
Plus, even unbelievers can find solace in this truth because it also explains the offences most hold toward hypocritical professions of faith… Because it proves that although a person can attend church regularly each week, if when the Holy Spirit impresses their spirit with conviction they choose to not respond to it, they further create this cognitive dissonance that over time can dull their senses to His prompting – thus not benefitting them from a knowledge of God, or even worse – they can begin teaching things that are false from the pulpit!
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.
Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
It is my earnest prayer then for 2019 that when we are confronted with uncomfortable truths that we would take the time to consider more carefully not only what the Holy Spirit is saying but also what our very own God-given senses are telling us as we grow up to maturity in a knowledge of the truth.
Remember, as long as you can feel the discomfort that a sobering Word can bring, you’re not too far away from change.
I bless you all with a wonderful, fruitful, adventure-filled year!
My children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…
I’ve grown to learn that it’s more often possible to have all the right information sitting plainly in front of us, just like the faithful stars are ever present in the sky each night – whether we can see them or not – and yet still have no real insight on how to logically connect each one to see the greater picture that exists in plain sight, hidden in the beauty of their design.
Author Richard Wurmbrand takes the liberty of connecting the dots for you and I so that we, along with our brothers and sisters of the Underground Church, may marvel along at the Majesty and Excellency of the wisdom of God and all that bears witness to His awesome Name!
If you were invited to a feast with all kinds of good meats, would you believe that there has been no one to cook them?
But nature is a banquet prepared for us!
You have tomatoes and peaches and apples and milk and honey. Who has prepared all these things for mankind?
Nature is blind. If you believe in no God, how can you explain that blind nature succeeded in preparing just the things we need in such plenitude and variety?
They prove that eternal life exists. I heard one [believer] pleading with an atheist: “suppose that we could speak with an embryo in his mother’s womb and that you would tell him that the embryonic life is only a short one after which follows a real, long life. What would the embryo answer? He would say just what the atheist answer to us when we speak to them about paradise and hell.
He would say that the life in the mothers womb is the only one and that everything else is religious foolishness.
But if the embryo could think, he would say to himself, ‘Here arms grow on me. I do not need them. I cannot even stretch them. Why do they grow? Perhaps they grow for a future stage of my existence, in which I will have to work with them.
Legs grow, but I have to keep them bent toward my chest. Why do they grow? Probably life in a large world follows, where I will have to walk.
Eyes grow, although I am surrounded by perfect darkness and don’t need them. Why do I have eyes? Probably a world with light and colors will follow.'”
“So, if the embryo would reflect on his own development, he would know that a life exists outside of his mother’s womb, without having seen it.
It is the same for us.
As long as we’re young, we have vigor, but no mind to use it properly. When, with the years, we have grown in knowledge and wisdom, the hearse waits to take us to the grave.
Why was it necessary to grow in a knowledge and wisdom we can use no more? Why do arms, legs, and eyes grow on an embryo?
It is for what follows.
So it is with us here.
We grow in experience, knowledge, and wisdom for what follows. We are prepared to serve on a higher level that follows death.”
– Excerpt taken from ‘Tortured for Christ’
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.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
If you’re willing to consider and connect the dots, it’s all to clear to see why all of creation declares it, and why I continually implore you,
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.”
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!
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.
Uncertain about so many brother, this I know… we shall definitely meet again!
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!!!
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.
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
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
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:
For which I implore you,