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September 21, 2009

Americans are debating the future of their nation’s health care and as they do so, they keep looking beyond their borders to the systems in place in other countries. And, very often, their attention rests on Canada. More often than not, at least today, it is conservatives focusing on Canada, telling stories of woe, describing the utter breakdown of health care. You hear of people who have been forced to mortgage their homes and travel to the United States in order to receive basic care; you hear of people forced south of the border by hospitals that have no free beds; you hear of people who are utterly unable to find even a family doctor. Believe the press and you’ll think the Canadian system is in utter disrepair.

Now I am not much of one for politics, and especially so when those politics span two nations. Neither am I an economist who can talk about how Canada’s health care system impacts the nation financially (though obviously it’s a significant burden on the taxpayer). But what I do want to say is this: the truth about Canadian Health Care is that it’s really stinkin’ good. As a nation we are hard-wired to complain and we do tend to complain about our health system as we grumble about our politicians, hockey players and donuts. But we also like to boast and when we talk to Americans, one of the things we like to boast in most is the health care system (or the beer, depending on your personality type).

And it is good (the health care, that is—I’m not qualified to comment on the beer). When I hear Glenn Beck talking about the Canadian system as if it is hand-in-hand with Cuba, well, my blood boils a little bit. Of course I have little to go on beyond personal experiences and those of friends and family. But my experience is uniformly good. If I need to see my family doctor, I can call him and get an appointment usually the same day and, if not, shortly after. If I don’t care to wait, I can go to a walk-in clinic where, depending on the day, I may be seen immediately or after a couple of hours of waiting (there are at least four of these clinics within a fifteen minute drive of my home). Hospital emergency rooms, especially in cities, tend to be a little busy, but only if you have been triaged and determined not to need immediate care. If you need a couple of stitches, you may be waiting a little while; if you have a heart attack, you’ll receive much higher priority. I have only known one person who has gone to the US for treatment and, in her case, she chose not to wait a week for a mammogram. Living within minutes of the border and wishing to free her mind from worry, it was an easy choice for her to expedite things by driving to the US. When I speak to friends and family I generally hear the same things. Sure, we might like wait times to be a little shorter here and there; elective surgeries can come with long waiting times and in some locales there are just not enough doctors to go around. But overall, I do not know of a single Canadian who would trade our system for that of our neighbors to the south. I know of many more people who travel from the US to Canada to receive health care than vice versa. In fact, I hear there is a bustling business in forging health cards so Americans can pose as Canadians and be treated as them. If the health care is that bad, why would people be crossing the border to enjoy it?

It is worth nothing that in 2004 Canadians voted for the Greatest Canadian (yes, I know it was run through the liberal CBC, but still…) and winner was Tommy Douglas, the man who engineered the whole system. Though few Canadians would share his socialist political ideology (sitting as we are under a Conservative government), fewer still have any desire to dismantle the system he created. Is it a perfect system? No way. I don’t think there is a single nation we can point at as having a perfect system. But Canada’s system has to be as good as just about any of them.

Now it must be admitted that health care falls under the domain of the individual provinces, so care will differ from province-to-province. It is likely to be better in the Greater Toronto Area where I live than it is far to the north where towns are few and far between. Is it sustainable in the long term? I don’t have an easy answer. We could probably provide endless caveats. But for the average Canadian, the health care system is entirely adequate and we really have no good reason to complain. Take the time to ask Canadians and I am sure this is what you will find. There will always been exceptions, but for the majority of Canadians the majority of the time, our health coverage is exceptional.

I do not mean this as a defense or endorsement of what President Obama is proposing in the United States. Admittedly, if I were American, I’d be highly suspicious of the plan, especially when looking to the economics of it. Instead, I write all this simply to remind you, “don’t believe everything you hear.” This is as true when the rhetoric is coming from a conservative mouthpiece as when it comes from a liberal.

(For further reading, here are just a couple of useful articles: The Truth About Canadian Healthcare and Healthcare: Public vs. Private.)

November 30, 2008

It is my intention to primarily use email to update the participants in the Memorizing Scripture Together effort (click here to learn about the program). However, this morning I logged in to the software I use to send those emails only to find that it is down for maintenance until 9 AM tomorrow morning. And so I’m going to post this on the blog today just to keep people in the loop. The email blast will go out as soon as the software is available again.

As we began the program last week I received some immediate feedback. Much of it was of the “this is tough!” variety. And I tend to agree. Memorization does not come easily to most of us, so we are only going to commit passages to memory through long, hard work and through endless repetition. Speaking personally, though, I can say that already I’ve found these times to be a blessing. It has been a worshipful time as I’ve repeated God’s praises again and again. I’ve emphasized different words and phrases as I’ve gone through it and have repeated it with different focuses. This has kept it fresh in my mind and has kept me seeking the “heart” behind the passage.

Every week I want to offer a tip, a suggestion, an interview or something that will help us in our efforts. This week’s tip is very simple but very effective.

Use Index Cards. Choose a portion of the verse that you’d like to master that week, and either write or print it on an index card. I wasn’t able to find printable index cards at Staples so instead purchased cards meant to be inserts in name badges (Avery #05392). They are slightly different dimensions but work just fine. Print the verse on one side and the citation on the other. Put this card in your pocket or in your Bible or in some place where you are bound to come across it at least once or twice a day. You may also wish to print up several of the cards and place them around the house—on the bathroom mirror, above the kitchen sink, below your computer’s monitor, on the fridge, and so on. That way, at any time, you will have the verse near you and can recite it a couple of times between other activities. As the program continues you will build up a collection of these cards and you can skim through them every week or two to ensure that the verses stay fresh in your mind. This is a memorization technique “classic” but one that continues to reap benefits.

This Week’s Fighter Verse

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Philippians 2:3

This Week’s Passage

Those of us who are working on the longer passage are focusing on Psalm 8. This is a three week project, taking us until December 14.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Psalm 8

Join Us!

We would love for you to join us. I plan on sending out weekly emails (every Sunday) to remind you of the commitment and to tell you about the new verse. If you’d like to participate in the program, I ask as well that you sign up for these emails (though you certainly do not have to if you don’t want to). Otherwise, just keep an eye on this blog and dedicate time to memorizing the Scripture passages.






July 01, 2008

canada_flag_sunset.jpg

Today is Canada Day and I, like just about every other Canadian, am taking the day off from work. But it does give me a good opportunity to add a new article to the “It’s a Fact, Eh?” article archives.

Every year on July 1, Canada pauses for one day to focus on our nation. Though often compared to America’s Independence Day, Canada Day celebrates something quite different. The day marks the anniversary of the joining of the British colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Province of Canada into a federation of four provinces. At this time what had previously been the Province of Canada was divided into Ontario and Quebec. This all happened on July 1, 1867. However, even at this time Canada did not become entirely independent and it was not until 1982 that Canada fully and finally severed political ties with Great Britain.

Though Canada Day (or Dominion Day as it was known then) was first instituted in the 1860’s there is no record of any substantial celebrations being held at that time. The Canadian citizens still considered themselves British and saw little reason to mark the occasion. In fact, the day really only became an important national holiday in the middle of the twentieth century. The centennial celebrations in 1967 really kicked off the tradition of marking the day in a special way. This year marks the 141st anniversary of Confederation and also the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City, which also marks the founding of Canada. It is a good day to celebrate Canada.

Today many Canadians will mark the day by attending public events or celebrations—parades, festivals and the like. Most towns will hold public fireworks displays when night falls (around 10 PM in this area). The “official” ceremonies will be held on Parliament Hill on Ottawa and this is where our Prime Minister will make his Canada Day appearance. The province of British Columbia is celebrating in a very strange way by instituting a carbon tax that will raise the already-high gas prices by 2.4 cents per litre (10 cents per gallon) this year, rising to almost 8 cents per litre by 2012. Personally I prefer our plans, which involve heading to a local park and watching the kids have fun in the splash pad over there. Then we’ll probably enjoy lunch at McDonald’s (well, the kids will enjoy it) and head on home for a quiet afternoon. Because the fireworks are so late and because my girls are absolutely terrified of them, we’re unlikely to take in any of the local shows. We’ll have to wait until the kids are a little older before we do that. And, of course, we’ll pause to celebrate one of the greatest things about being Canadian—we’re not American.

Enjoy your Canada Day!

May 19, 2008

Today is the day that I and my fellow Canadians celebrate Victoria Day. It is a day in which we, at least in theory, commemorate the birthday of Queen Victoria (and Queen Elizabeth II, though I suspect most people are not aware that she piggybacks in her birthday as well). Most Canadians, I’m quite sure, do not know or care what the day commemorates, though they are happy enough to enjoy a day away from work and school. I will attempt to remedy this shocking ignorance today. It gives me an opportunity to share another fact in my “It’s a Fact, Eh? archives.

It was in 1845 that Canada’s Legislature first declared May 24, Queen Victoria’s birthday, a holiday. After Victoria’s death in 1901, Parliament passed an Act that established a legal holiday on May 24 in each year (or May 25 if May 24 fell on a Sunday) under the name Victoria Day. Since then, the birthday of each of the subsequent kings and queens has been celebrated on or around that same day. A later amendment to the Act of Parliament established the celebration of Victoria Day on the Monday preceding May 25. And this is why we celebrated Victoria Day today, even though it is only the 19th. While the official name of the holiday is Victoria Day, many Canadians refer to it as “May Twenty-Four.” The queen’s birthday has largely been forgotten and instead the day tends to mark the unofficial beginning of the summer season.

The traditional way to celebrate the day (or more often the whole weekend) is to head to a cottage or campground and to drink oneself into oblivion—a fairly popular Canadian pastime. For this reason the holiday has become known colloquially as “May two four.” (A “two four” is a Canadian term for a case of beer that contains, of course, twenty four bottles). For many Canadians it is the weekend they open their cottages after spending a winter away. The long weekend concludes with fireworks displays as soon as it is dark enough to see them. Many people find themselves unwilling or unable to remain awake after dark on Monday night, so it’s not unusual to find firework displays throughout the weekend. Some towns host “official” displays while in others neighbors get together and fire off their own. Victoria Day is one of only two days where Canadians tend to use fireworks (the other being July 1 or Canada Day).

Like most Canadians, I know little about Queen Victoria. She is just that dowdy-looking queen who is always shown wearing black and who presided over a period of explosive growth of the British Empire and of the popularity of romantic novels. I understand, though, that she was a Christian. I have often heard a rather stirring quote attributed to her. “O how I wish the Lord would come during my lifetime,” she once said. When someone inquired why, she responded: “Because I should so love to lay the Crown of England at His feet.” And what a moving picture that is, of a ruler who would be so willing and eager to submit to the lordship of the One who rules all.

My plans for this Victoria Day involve a lot of writing. We have a busy week ahead and it leaves me needing to use at least part of this day to try to meet some writing deadlines. Hence I’ll take it easy, but still try to get some work done. If it gets warmer, brighter and sunnier than it is right now, I’ll probably take the kids to the park and spend some time with them there. But since it looks like we’re going to have rotten weather today I think it’s going to be an indoor kind of day. I guess that means we may watch a movie and play some board games. Sounds like an okay day to me.

March 29, 2008

We are just a couple of weeks away from Together for the Gospel—undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated conferences of the year. I first mentioned a few weeks ago that at the conference there will be a small gathering geared specifically to Canadians and to people with an interest in ministry to Canada. This is a ministry of Grace Fellowship Church of Toronto and there are no expenses involved. It will be lead, at least initially, by my pastor Paul Martin and myself. We simply wish to invite all of the Canadians in attendance as well as anyone who has an interest in ministry in Canada, to meet with us for a short time after the day’s proceedings wrap up on the Wednesday of the conference.

We will be meeting in Room 112 at 9:30 PM on April 16 (or as soon as the day’s final session ends). This room is right within the convention center immediately below the main hall where the conference will be held. We know this will mark the end of a long day, so we will not keep you for long.

The purpose of this brief gathering will be to help network Canadian pastors and church leaders with a shared love of the Gospel as well to enable the flow of information on events and happenings between our churches. We do not wish to create another association or denomination or publication or anything of the sort and we are not formally associated with Together for the Gospel! Our goal is to help Canadian pastors network with each other at today’s event, as well as to begin a small website devoted to highlighting information of the Lord’s work that would be of interest across our country.

We will start by creating a database of names that will receive regular email updates as information is sent to us. We hope to allow your church to alert other like-minded Christians of events or needs as they arise.

If you are interested in attending, please mark the date and time on your calendar. If you’d like to ask questions, if you would like to let me know that you will be attending, or if you cannot attend but would like to be added to the email list, you can send me a note by clicking here. I have already received plenty of such notes and will be sending a brief email to everyone by way of reminder. Meanwhile, please spread the word to anyone you know who will be at the conference and who may be interested in attending.

We hope to see you there!

March 12, 2008

Some time ago I was talking with a friend who pastors a church in this area and we discussed how much we enjoy what is being accomplished and modeled through Together for the Gospel. We talked about how we wish something like that could happen in Canada. And from there we realized that maybe, just maybe, it can happen. There are going to be plenty of Canadians attending Together for the Gospel and it seemed to us that it would be wise to try to gather them in one place, even if only for a few minutes.

And so the purpose of this post is to announce a small gathering by and for Canadians during Together for the Gospel (Louisville, Kentucky - April 15-17). This is a ministry of Grace Fellowship Church of Toronto and there are no expenses involved. It will be lead, at least initially, by my pastor Paul Martin and myself. We simply wish to invite all of the Canadians in attendance as well as anyone who has an interest in ministry in Canada, to meet with us for a short time after the day’s proceedings wrap up on the Wednesday of the conference.

We will be meeting in Room 112 at 9:30 PM on April 16 (or as soon as the day’s final session ends). This room is right within the convention center immediately below the main hall where the conference will be held. We know this will mark the end of a long day, so we will not keep you for long.

The purpose of this brief gathering will be to help network Canadian pastors and church leaders with a shared love of the Gospel as well to enable the flow of information on events and happenings between our churches. We do not wish to create another association or denomination or publication or anything of the sort and we are not formally associated with Together for the Gospel! Our goal is to help Canadian pastors network with each other at today’s event, as well as to begin a small website devoted to highlighting information of the Lord’s work that would be of interest across our country.

We will start by creating a database of names that will receive regular email updates as information is sent to us. We hope to allow your church to alert other like-minded Christians of events or needs as they arise.

If you are interested in attending, please mark the date and time on your calendar. If you’d like to ask questions, if you would like to let me know that you will be attending, or if you cannot attend but would like to be added to the email list, you can send me a note by clicking here. Meanwhile, please spread the word to anyone you know who will be at the conference and who may be interested in attending.

We hope to see you there!

May 22, 2007

A couple of years ago I got thinking about the idea of putting God in a box. This is a charge people often level at conservative Christians and Reformed folk in particular. It is not unusual for us to hear that we seem to feel that we have got God figured out, stuffed and mounted on the wall. And to some extent this may be true. I began to write about this and soon came up with a short series of posts. I’ve been thinking about this again recently and wanted to take the opportunity to revisit this series, tear it apart and try to do it again. So over the next few days I want to talk about our propensity to put God in a box, see how this is happened and what we can do to escape this temptation. I hope you’ll find the series both interesting and useful.

My family used to own a beautiful cottage in the woods near one of the most picturesque villages in Ontario. This village was once a center of commerce along the Rideau Lake system - a series of canals and both natural and artificial lakes that span the 200 kilometers between the cities of Kingston and Ottawa. The canal system was built in the early part of the nineteenth century to provide a quick avenue of travel should hostilities once again break out between the United States and Canada. Today it stands as a part of this nation’s history and as a peaceful and beautiful vacation destination.

This village, named Chaffey’s Locks after Samuel Chaffey, one of its first inhabitants, now has a population of only a hundred people. Yet it was once a bustling town centered around a series of rapids flowing between two lakes. Because of the thirteen foot difference in elevation between the lakes, a dam and a lock had to be built in this town. The dam held back the water and created a fast-flowing series of rapids that provided the energy to run Chaffey’s mills. Farmers from miles around came to the town to use these mills, and it grew, quickly becoming one of the most important towns along the Rideau. Though Chaffey died of malaria only seven years after founding these mills, by the time of his death his milling complex consisted of grist, carding and saw mills and a distillery. The town was prospering.

The importance of the town was inseparable from the dam. It was this dam that held back the water, confining it and then allowing it to be released with the power to drive the mills. Without the dam the town would have been no more important than any of the other villages dotting the length of the system of lakes and canals.

Most Christians, whether they will admit it or not, have dammed God in much this way. We have erected barriers around Him, seeking to constrain Him within a system of theology. We often seem to think that the tighter we box Him in, the greater the power we will be able to bring to bear when we release Him. In the same way that water, when placed under enough pressure can drive the wheel of a mill, or can even cut through steel, so we believe that God is at His most powerful when He is most constrained within a system of theology.

In this article series I would like to examine some of the ways we have put God in a box and suggest ways we can free ourselves from this box. It is worth noting that while I suggest we are the ones who put God in a box, we are also the ones who need to be freed. That is simply because we may put God in a box in our minds, but this in no way affects His character or His ability to act. God cannot be bound except in our minds.

Before we begin, we need to reconcile God’s revelation of Himself with our ability to understand Him. In other words, has God put Himself in a box? God has given us knowledge of Himself, both through Creation and through the Scriptures. But the Bible is clear that this is not complete knowledge — it is only and exactly what we need to know about Him. He told us no more than we need and no less than He considered beneficial. Whenever we study God, we need to acknowledge that He defines the limits of our study. James White writes, “If we wish to know God truly, we must be willing to allow Him to reveal to us what He wants us to know, and He must be free as to how He wants to reveal it. He has given us a treasure trove of truth about Him, but He has not deemed it proper to reveal everything there is to know (if such is even possible). We dare not go beyond the boundaries He has set in His Word” (James White, The Forgotten Trinity, page 34). As Francis Schaeffer pointed out, God has given us true knowledge but of Himself, but not exhaustive knowledge. God is the one who sets the limits as to what we can know and how much we can know.

Thus while God reveals Himself most fully through the Scriptures, this does not place Him in a box. He gives us His Word so that we can know and understand Him, but only so far as finite humans can understand an infinite God. “He defies our categories and our feeble attempts to comprehend Him. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t be God” (The Forgotten Trinity, page 42). God is not contained in Scripture — He is merely revealed in part and in a way we can understand.

There is a difficulty inherent in attempting to define what is indefinable. The barrier is language. How can a finite mode of communication such as words, do justice to what is infinite? In truth, it cannot. Words cannot adequately express who God is and how He works. Humans communicate by means of examples. We compare one thing to another and compile a database in our minds of like objects. Many years ago I used to work at a Starbucks and people would often ask me what the different types of coffee tasted like. To answer I would try to determine whether the person often drank high quality coffee or if he usually drank coffee from the local donut store. If he was accustomed to donut shop coffee, I might say “this coffee tastes like a very strong cup of Tim Horton’s coffee.” Of course there may be other varieties of coffee that taste more like this new one than Tim Horton’s, but those flavors have not yet been inputted into his database. As he continued to visit the store and as his knowledge of coffee increased I was able to provide more concise and more accurate descriptions based on closer comparisons. “It has a lighter, smoother taste than the flavor you drank last time you were here.” Or “this coffee has a strong, earthly flavor much like the Sumatra.” In either case I still use only use comparisons but I can draw more accurate comparisons because his frame of reference has increased.

This process works quite well. Or it does until we attempt to define something that is truly unique. Much of God’s revelation of Himself, even the portion of it that He has given to us, is truly unique. There is nothing we can use to adequately compare with God’s omnipresence or with the Trinity, to provide only two examples. And so our language limits us from true understanding. (For more on this, see chapter 2 of The Forgotten Trinity).

Thus we need a spirit of humility as we approach the Word of God, knowing that it tells us many things about God, but not everything. And while we can truly know God, we cannot know Him fully. We would do well to keep several passages in mind. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Again, we must remember that while what He has revealed of Himself is entirely truthful, it is by no means complete. In Psalm 131 David affirms that there are some things that He can never understand. “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.” David’s response is important. “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.” David is at peace, resting in his understanding that God does have full knowledge and that He is fully in control, even of those things we do not understand. This leads him to exhort his people to “hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” David’s understanding of his own limitations leads him to worship the One who knows all.

It may be helpful to view God’s revelation of Himself as the framework that defines the edges to a box. God has revealed Himself to us within this framework. While what He has told us is surely truthful, it may not be complete. When God tells us within Scripture that “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5) we can have confidence that He means it. He will never leave nor forsake those who believe in Him. When Scripture assures us that God is not the author of sin, we know that the words are true and that God is in no way culpable for the sin in the world. And when we read “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28) we can have confidence that God does mean “all things.” He does not send us purposeless calamity. These things that God tells us He will not or cannot do serve as a framework around which we can understand Him. The fact is, if God did not provide us with a framework within which we can understand Him, we would be unable to comprehend Him in any way. To repeat an important point — God is not contained in Scripture — He is merely revealed in a way we can understand.

I would now like to move on to show how we are prone to place God in a box. Within the Reformed tradition there are three major emphases that have flourished in the past. I believe they provide a helpful framework through which we can understand the ways we box God.

The first emphasis is the doctrinalist. This emphasizes adherence to doctrine and theology as taught in the Bible and in the creeds and confessions of the church.

The second emphasis is the pietist. This emphasizes God’s work in one’s daily life and a close, personal walk with God.

The third emphasis is the transformationalist. This emphasizes the importance of relating the message of the Bible to the world.

These three emphasizes may overlap to some extent, and there is a sense in which we are making false distinctions, yet they provide a helpful breakdown. We will examine each of these three in further articles.

October 12, 2005

In the past several days I have found myself turning time and again to a particular song, a song that has been in my collection for many years and which I have always enjoyed. Sung by a short-lived band named “Doulos,” the title of the song is simply, “Again.” The song seems to capture something that has been precious to me recently.

my mouth is empty
shame surrounds me
I feel what I say can’t be heard or shouldn’t be
again I’m jumping into darkness
not knowing if my feet will land again

again I’m caught and made innocent
as I land in a pool of blood
how many times can the gift of life be given
I stand still and weep again

As we would expect, the song is tied together in the chorus. It is a simple chorus, containing only one line. “How long till I become holy.” But the line is not sung with great joy and excitment, but rather almost as a groan or a cry. “Oh, how long till I become holy?” I assume this song was inspired, at least in part, by Romans 8. As I looked at that passage this morning I was struck by the sheer volume of groaning we see in the verses. It is not just believers who groan, but rather it is Christians, Creation and the Holy Spirit who are said to be groaning.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” The world was made perfect and holy, but through the sin of our first parents, Creation fell with us. And now, as if to show that this is an unnatural state, all of Creation cries out to God for the end of such sin and torment. The hills wait for the day when they can sing praise to God and the trees wait to clap their hands in joy and freedom. This personification of nature, as found in Isaiah, shows just how much the whole world waits for redemption and the end of sin.

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Christians, those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, also groan as we wait for the final consumation. We groan inwardly as our spirits cry out to God. We know that sin is foreign to us as beings created in the image of God and our hearts cry out for an end to sin. Some also cry outwardly, eagerly anticipating the end of pain, suffering and physical affliction. It is this cry that is the subject of the song. “Oh, how long till I become holy?” How long must it be, Lord, before you take away this death and this corruption? How long before you make me who I so badly want to be? How long before you take me to the presence of the One I long to see?

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” But we do not groan alone. No, for we have Divine aid. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in our cries to God. When I feel weak in prayer, the Holy Spirit is there, helping me. Even when I do not know how or what to pray, the Spirit knows, and stands between myself and the Father, presenting to Him prayers that express what is best. Where I am limited by limited knowledge, the Spirit is not. He takes my prayers and conforms them to the Father’s will before bringing them before the Throne of Grace. When I pray in Jesus’ name, humbling myself before His sovereignty, I offer my will and desires to Him, and truly seek “the good” that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:28. I acknowledge that in my humanness I would make a mess of even the most trivial decisions, and trust that God knows best.

And so until that great day when the world is finally perfected, the Holy Spirit groans with the Creation and with believers, as together we cry out for the new heaven and the new earth. And with the songwriter and with Christians through the ages, I groan at the burden of my own sin. But despite my hatred of sin I do the very thing I least want to do and jump once again into the darkness only to find myself caught again in a pool of blood. I am forgiven again and wonder within myself just how many times God can forgive me and just how long His patience can last. Often I pause to weep, either at the depth of my own depravity or at the height of God’s grace. And all the while I cry out, “Oh, how long? How long, oh Lord, before you make me fully, truly, purely holy?”

September 07, 2005

My favorite class in high school was Latin. Strange choice, is it not? The reason I so loved the class was that the teacher, Dr. Helder, formed the lessons in such a way that he made a dead language come alive. He showed us how Latin is alive and well in many areas of our culture, either in terminology or in the roots of other languages. I think he touched on an important principle - that for teaching to be interesting it must also be shown to be relevant.

Theology can often seem abstract and uninteresting. You may remember the article I posted a couple of months ago in which I discussed the doctrine of Open Theism. I said “What began on the fringes of scholarship has quickly gained a popular following, in part because of the publication of entry-level titles such as Gregory Boyd’s God of the Possible and in part because of the acceptance of the doctrine by various popular authors.” The first point I made about Open Theism is “God’s greatest attribute is love. God’s love so overshadows His other characteristics that He could never allow or condone evil or suffering to befall mankind.” If you have not read the article, you may wish to do so. Click here.

This morning I found an example of this teaching in action, and thought I would share it to prove that we need to understand Open Theism so we can call it for what it is. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina some of the adherents to this doctrine have stepped forward to espouse such false teaching. Perhaps the most blatant attack on the traditional, biblical view of God has been launched by Tony Campolo, a man who has been teaching dangerous doctrine for many years now. To see that he believes in Open Theism we need look no further than the title of his article: “Katrina: Not God’s Wrath—or His Will.” Here are a few quotes:

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad answers. One such answer is that somehow all suffering is a part of God’s great plan. In the midst of agonies, someone is likely to quote from the Bible, telling us that if we would just be patient, we eventually would see “all things work together for the good, for those who love God, and are called according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28)”

“Perhaps we would do well to listen to the likes of Rabbi Harold Kushner, who contends that God is not really as powerful as we have claimed. Nowhere in the Hebrew Scriptures does it say that God is omnipotent. Kushner points out that omnipotence is a Greek philosophical concept, but it is not in his Bible. Instead, the Hebrew Bible contends that God is mighty. That means that God is a greater force in the universe than all the other forces combined.”

He concludes by saying, “Instead of looking for God in the earthquake or the tsunami, in the roaring forest fires blazing in the western states, or in the mighty winds of Katrina, it would be best to seek out a quiet place and heed the promptings of God’s still small voice. That voice will inspire us to bring some of God’s goodness to bear in the lives of those who suffer.”

This it outright, blatant heresy. It is unbiblical and dangerous. Avoid this man and his teaching! You can read the complete article here.

September 03, 2005

The following was sent to me by Lighthouse Trails Publishing:

At around 1:15am (EDT), Steve Muse’s wife, Catherine, passed away quietly and peacefully. She was 49 years old.

The outpouring of prayers, concern and compassion have upheld Steve and his family during these past few difficult days. He is comforted to know that Catherine is in the loving arms of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Catherine never waivered in her concern for others, nor in her defense of God’s word. She remained steadfast to the end of her earthly life.

Above all, Catherine loved the Lord, and would want Jesus Christ to be glorified. While she will be missed by her family and friends, let us all rejoice, and look forward to the day when we join together with the the King of kings and the Lord of lords, in heaven, forever and ever.

And what a glorious reunion that will be.

For those who wish to contact Steve and his family by regular mail, his mailing address is:
Steven Muse
PO Box 232
Delanson NY 12053

You can also reach by email at smuse@erwm.com.