Saturday, May 22, 2010

Do We Need Sound Doctrine?

My previous post has generated quite a discussion in the comments section. It seems too big, and too important, an issue to leave there. So I am posting this one. My conviction is that we DO need sound doctrine, and will find it in the written word of God, as revealed by the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, we might end up following people like the one above, or like this one

or any one of a plethora of false prophets/teachers that abound today. Not to mention the multitude of scriptures that tell us how necessary the written word is. Yes, Jesus Christ is the Word in the flesh, but He speaks to us through the Bible. If I don't know what He is saying there, I will believe anything my itchy ears want to hear. The proof of that is out there; it is happening just as He said it would:

"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgement from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." (2Peter 2:1-2)

Contrary to post-modern belief, there IS such a thing as truth. And yes, it is black and white. Jesus prayed a beautiful prayer on our behalf in John 17. This is part of it:

"But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth." vs. 13-17

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Halting Between Two Opinions

How long will you halt between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him. (1 Kings 18:21)

Ahab was King of Israel, and the Kingdom was in a most deplorable condition, perhaps a condition darker than any other in history. Ahab was the incarnation of evil, and his influence combined with that of Jezebel, had been blighting and spoiling everything of potential greatness for God’s people.

There were clouds of darkness all over the land. Images of Baal and Ashtaroth were everywhere. Temples of idolatry had been erected and the altars of God torn down. Just when evil seemed to be at its height a most remarkable man appeared on the pages of history. He was one of the most outspoken and fiery of all the prophets; Elijah the Tishbite. That is how he is introduced in the previous chapter, “Elijah the Tishbite.” That’s all we know of him.

So, this man from somewhere, no one knows where, somehow, for what reason we do not know, broke in upon the scene with a message that was fiery and forceful, a message from God, a message of judgment, a message for which he made no apology, and offered no conditions, and suggested no compromise.

The message was briefly this; As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before Whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years but according to my word. And having delivered that message, Elijah vanished.

But the Word of the Lord, which is ever powerful, which never returns to God void, but is brought into actual fulfillment, that there should be no rain and no dew for three years, came to pass. And the people, who in their material prosperity had not only forgotten their God but had actually rebelled against Him, were now brought back face to face with God through this process of judgment which had been foretold by the prophet.

Our story is that of the hour in which Elijah faced Ahab. It is a wonderful story, dramatic and startling. Ahab at last stood face to face with the man whose predictions having been fulfilled, had brought such havoc on the nation.

Ahab asked him, Is it you, you troubler of Israel? And with quiet, calm dignity, he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but you, and your father’s house, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and you have followed Baal.

We view this event in history through the lens of time and distance and feel pleased that we are not caught up in idolatry of any kind. We do not, in our generation, in our culture, worship idols of golden calves or pagan gods. We leave that to other times and other lands. But are we free from idolatry? Isn’t an idol something, anything, that takes the place of the One True God in our affections? Isn’t it anything that is more important to us than God Himself? Therefore is it not possible for self to become an idol, when, in this generation, we spend our days in search of finding and fulfilling only ourselves?

I wonder if individual freedom and human rights have become the idol of this generation when we set aside the pursuit of God and replace it with the pursuit of self. We want to be free to follow our passions and desires that flow from self wherever it may lead. And so we question the necessity to have values that are founded in anything else than ourselves, and so the people of our time, live as though the essence of morality and behavior is to be free from any values that do not fulfill their own desires.

Even in evangelical churches, at times, there seems to be a bias against the intellect and against theology, and a subservience to personal fulfillment. The reason that the people of Elijah’s day fell into idolatry was that they didn’t or wouldn’t differentiate between revealed truth and pagan belief and made decisions based on desire rather than truth as revealed from God. Our biblical faith is about truth. God has revealed Himself through the Scriptures and has spoken concerning our responsibilities to Him, and to disregard that is presumption and disrespect of the highest order.

Without this teaching in the church, there can be no church, because the teaching of the Scriptures defines the church. When we empty ourselves of an interest in the Scriptures we have emptied ourselves of any serious consideration of who we are. We have lost the vision of God as holy and are being consumed by a world that hates Him. When we have emptied ourselves of serious theology and serious worship then we have allowed popular sentiment to define truth. In our culture there are all kinds of groups and organizations involved in raising money for this and that cause, and good works are seldom offensive to anyone. It is belief in the truth that is troublesome.

Lord help us to be faithful to Your word and define truth according to Yourself. Even though our lives may be an enigma to others help us to be faithful and learn that self denial is the prerequisite for discipleship. We cannot serve ourselves and You as well. May we learn to deny ourselves daily, take up our cross and follow You.

May 2010
Arthur Franklin

This article was written by a member of my writing group ( see our blog here: ) and he was gracious enough to give permission for me to post it here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Promise

The farmer straightened up from his stooped position, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. He squinted up into the sky to check the sun’s position. It was almost time for the midday meal. He hoped that his wife would bring it to the field; lately she was doing this less and less, and time was taken up by his walking back to the tent to eat.

Laying his hoe aside, he took a drink from the skin water bag that he had set nearby in the dirt. For so much work, the return seemed meagre. Again, for perhaps the thousandth time, he thought back to the days “before,” when everything had been so incredibly different. In those days, work had seemed a pleasure, and the fruit of his labour had been immediate and plentiful. Now, he scraped and dug the earth in an almost desperate manner; if the rain did not soon come, the harvest would be scant at best. Nothing was a sure thing anymore, least of all the weather.

He fought the old urge to blame his wife. If only she had done the right thing, and obeyed their instructions. He knew it was no less his own fault, as he had succumbed to the same temptation, only with a clearer understanding of what it meant. He knew that his was the greater responsibility. But he was finding it hard to bear her presence. She was changing from the gentle helper that she had been into a bitter and complaining woman. They both knew the reason for their present plight, and it remained a huge stumbling block between them. They often resorted to blaming one another with cruel accusations that left wounds for days. He seemed to have no control over the things he thought, and so often he would blurt them out, horrified that he could even think such things, let alone hurl them at her like stones.

Everything was different now. Before there had been peace, and a feeling of security, of being “right” that had completely evaporated. Their days were now spent trying to survive in this harsh wilderness. In the garden, there had been much contentment, and a sense of purpose. That had disappeared, and time was now spent in getting by and dealing with the many difficulties that arose each day, from the bad weather, to physical ailments, to the fights and squabbles that broke out almost daily amongst their family.

Most of all, he missed the relationship that they had enjoyed with the Master. There had been nothing between them but the sweetest companionship and trust. That was gone, totally obliterated now. And he knew that there wasn’t anything that he could do to restore it.

In his mind’s eye, he looked down the long years ahead, seeing what might have been, and what the reality was now. Everything had been spoiled, tainted, ruined. Even the air was less fresh, the sky less blue, and the trees not as lush and green. Before the sun had gently warmed; now it burned with a fierce, oppressive heat. The rain that had softly fallen to refresh and renew would now sometimes pelt down with a force that threatened to wash away any frugal start that his planting may have made.

The farmer forced himself to leave this train of thought. It only ended in a sense of utter futility that sometimes immobilized him, and he had to keep going for the sake of those who depended on his efforts.

“Ah, there she is,” he said to himself as he saw his wife approaching, a basket over her arm. He put a welcoming smile on his face as he took the basket from her.

“How is your day going?” he asked, peering into the basket. “It is hot, isn’t it?”
“Yes, too hot,” she grumbled. “I have spent the morning down by the stream, bathing the younger children and letting them frolic about. They don’t seem to mind the heat.”

“Will you join me for the meal, or do you have to go back now?” he asked.

“I guess I could stay,” she answered, almost reluctantly.

They sat down on a patch of grass nearby, under the small shade of a sycamore tree. He looked at his wife, noticing the new lines forming around her mouth and eyes, and the look of weariness that was now her constant demeanour. He felt shame and remorse for the cruel words he had spoken during their quarrel the night before. Now seeing her with pity, he wanted desperately to somehow cheer her.

“You seem so sad,” he commented in a soft voice. “Have you been to the burial place?”

Looking downward at her lap, she answered with a choke in her voice. “Yes, I was there just now. I know I shouldn’t go so often. It is so difficult, yet at the same time I find a small scrap of comfort there.”

He broke off a piece of the loaf and handed it to her. “I wish I could make it better, take away your pain.” He would have gladly borne it for her. “I am sorry,” he said. “I have wished so many times that things could be different.” He stopped speaking, and stared blankly into his bowl of stew. There seemed nothing more to say. They both ate in silence for several minutes. For the moment, at least, they refrained from the old dialogue of bitter blame that had become their usual discourse.

They had lost two children. One as an infant, from a fever, and the other as a young man. He had been murdered by his elder brother.

There had long existed a rivalry between the two boys, mostly on the part of the elder. He had a jealousy of his brother that had become apparent even as he was a toddler and the younger not yet crawling. The rivalry had increased as the years went by, and climaxed one day, when bitter envy and rage erupted into violence that left the younger man dead in a nearby field. The farmer himself had come upon the body. Confused, he had turned his son over, trying to rouse him, thinking at first he was only asleep. Then he saw the blood, and the great sunken wound on his head. The pain from that memory was as intense today as had been first realizing that his son was dead.

As well as losing their son to a violent death, they had lost the elder as well. He had run off, and they had not seen him again. Eight years had passed since then, and it seemed that their grief grew no less.

“I will be going back now,” said the woman, gathering up the remains of their lunch. “Don’t stay late today. The sun is too hot.” She touched his arm, and taking his hand, gently placed it on her abdomen.

He looked questioningly at her, and then realized what she was telling him. “Another?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said with a shy smile. “I have known for some time. I know it is soon after the last one, but I am glad. They bring me such pleasure; they are like an ointment to my broken heart.”

“Then I am glad as well,” he said, taking her in his arms. She returned his embrace, and trembling, began to weep.

“I’m sorry,” she said, looking up into his face. “I really am happy. I know the children are gifts from God. He continues to bless us, even after our disobedience. He is so kind to us.”

“I know what you mean,” replied her husband. “I am thankful, truly thankful. I only wish I could change everything back to the way it was before. I know that is what you want as well. I am so sorry that I cannot make it happen for you. Please forgive me for my cruel words. I forgive you; I do not blame you for what happened. I take the blame for myself. Please, let us not quarrel any longer. It is done, but we go on. God has not abandoned us. Remember His promise......’the Seed of the Woman’. I will walk you back. Here, I will take the basket.”

As he was speaking, his wife had slowly relaxed into his arms. Now she wasn’t holding back her tears. They came in torrents. “I do forgive you, and I have been waiting for so long for you to say that you forgive me,” she managed to say between sobs. “Every day has been full of pain and regret. But if you forgive me, and God can forgive me, then I can once more know some hope and joy.”

As her tears abated, she handed the basket to him, and they walked slowly back toward their tent, arm in arm. Peace, long absent between them, settled in their hearts, as each said a silent prayer of thanksgiving.

Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
The man said, "This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man."
For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:18-24 NASB)

Maureen Breakspear

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What Are You Waiting For?

Do you find that you spend a lot of time waiting? Perhaps not consciously, as waiting for a kettle to boil, but unconsciously we are all waiting for one thing or another. For the weekend, for retirement, for graduation, for the birth of a child….the list is endless. We wait in lines to be checked out at the supermarket. We sit in doctors’ and dentists’ offices, waiting for appointments. We wait for the all-important phone call or cheque in the mail. We wait in hope, in fear, in excitement, in expectation of good or bad results.

I recently spent a whole year at home, waiting to be well. I waited for appointments, test results, answers, and new treatments. In hindsight, it feels as if I lost that year. But the reality is that life carried on, even though I was unable to live it the way I would have liked to. And if I did “lose” any time, it was because I lost it by focusing on that thing that was in the future, and not on the things that were taking place in the present.

I am back to work now, and grateful to be there. Yet I find myself falling into the old habit of counting the days till the weekend. I suppose we all do it. We might love our jobs, yet our lives outside of work are more important. That is only natural. But in the meantime, during those five days at work, there is much life to be lived. I don’t want to simply “put in time” at work; I have realized that during that 5 day period, I spend as many waking hours at work as I do at home. That is a big part of my week, and of my life. I want it to count too, not just be something that I endure until my “real” life can resume.

It’s easy to do that, to get caught up in what is yet to be, and to let it overshadow everything else. To allow that one hoped for yet unrealized thing rob you of living in the moment, stealing joy, opportunities, or sleep.

It’s good to have goals, and to save for retirement, plan families, education and careers. But in the meantime, there is so much life to live. Are you waiting for that one thing? Are you hoping that when you retire, graduate or meet that “special someone” that life will be so much more worth living? Don’t wait till then. Live all the life you can right now. Every moment is a gift from God. You see, life is what happens, while we wait.

“I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.” (Psalm 146:2)