Do you know that God loves you?

When Jesus’ disciples returned from a particularly exciting mission trip – one on which they had overcome demons and seen God’s power at work in major ways – He first rejoiced with them in their victory, but then gently reminded them that the thing to get really excited about is that they had a place in the Father’s heart and that they were citizens of Heaven.

Near the end of his long life, the aged apostle John, who had been a young man while Jesus was on earth, wrote these words to his followers :

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God !

This morning while I was waking up, I tuned my spirit in to the Spirit of God and asked Him to speak to me.  He reminded me that He loved me.  It sounds simple, but it makes all the difference.  We are made for relationship with God – we were never designed to live without it.  Long ago St. Augustine wrote “He has made us for Himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Him”.  That, fundamentally, is why Jesus came – so that we could be reconciled to our Father and be at peace with Him, secure in the knowledge of His love.

Do you know that God loves you?  There is no more precious gift, no greater knowledge.  If you already know God’s love, maybe this is just a reminder to stay tuned in to His channel.  I need those remainders daily.  If you’re not confident of His love, get hold of a Bible and try reading the gospel of John.  Ask Him to reveal His love and goodness to you.  Be prepared to have your life changed.

God bless you!


Let your conscience be your guide ?

We had an interesting discussion last night at our small group meeting.  We digressed from our topic of prayer and got into the issue of whether Eastern meditation, yoga, etc.,  are neutral, beneficial, or inherently wrong and to be avoided by Christ-followers.   Some in the group said that such practices are intended as worship to pagan gods and that as Christ followers they would not participate in such practices.  Others said no, there’s nothing wrong with being involved in these practices – as long as your own devotion is to the true God, you can’t be harmed by pagan religious practices.

Rather than addressing this issue directly, I want to reflect on one of the statements that one often hears in such discussions.   Because our culture is rapidly moving away from the idea that there is any such thing as absolute truth, many Christ-followers, in an attempt to be tolerant, will say that we have to let our conscience be our guide.  But is this true?  Is our conscience a reliable guide in determining what to avoid and what to embrace?

Conscience is a wonderful gift from God but it is not infallible.  To take an extreme example, Hitler’s conscience allowed him to arrange for the murder of 6 million Jews.  Our conscience is a reflection of our belief system and our experiences.  It can be defiled or seared (hardened) even though we are Christian believers.  If you are used to a certain way of thinking or behaving your conscience may not recognize it as sin, especially if you have not worked through the implications of your Christian faith.  A Biblical example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 5 where the Apostle Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian Christians for practising incest.  Even though these people had become Christians, their belief system still heavily reflected the sexualized culture of Corinth in which they had been immersed since childhood, and they were actually proud of what they saw as their maturity in Christ which allowed a man to have a sexual relationship with his father’s wife.  This may seem to be an extreme example but it is proof that your conscience is not an infallible guide to right and wrong, and it’s an example that is actually very pertinent to our situation where Christians live in a culture whose predominant value system is rapidly moving farther and farther away from the beliefs and values of Christianity.

So, should you let your conscience be your guide?  Yes, if your conscience has been properly shaped and guided, it can be a reliable guide to behaviour, but an uninstructed, hardened or dulled conscience can also lead you astray.   For these reasons I find it more helpful to say that as Christ-followers we need to make our decisions with a mind that has been instructed by the Word of God, a will that has learned to surrender to God, and a spirit that has learned to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.


Christianity : tolerant or intolerant?

When it comes to spirituality, we Canadians live in a culture that prizes tolerance above all else.  Our culture has rejected the idea of absolute truth in the name of tolerance.  Nowadays we tend to blame many evils on religious intolerance, and it’s become quite popular to smear Christians as narrow-minded, bigoted, and responsible for many of the problems of our society.

Of course it is possible to find examples of intolerance, bigotry and hatred in the history of the Christian church, just as it’s possible to find examples of nobility, generosity and selfless servanthood.  But these examples prove nothing about what the Christian faith actually teaches.  To understand that, we have to look first at Jesus himself, and secondly at the example of those who knew him best – the first generation of Christian leaders.

Based on that evidence, I’m going to go out on a limb and assert that Christianity is both the most intolerant and the most tolerant of faiths.

Intolerant because our founder made it clear that there is no other way to peace with God but to receive Jesus as Lord.  His insistence on being the only Saviour was what got him crucified.  He made it very plain that He is the way to the Father and there is no other way to be saved.   Anyone who has truly experienced the life-changing power of Jesus has no problem with this claim.  His first-century followers were so convinced of who He was that when asked to renounce Christ and confess Caesar as Lord, they would insist “Jesus is Lord” even though this insistence meant certain death.

Tolerant in the sense that as a Christ follower I have no right – and should have no desire – to condemn others for their sins, or to force my beliefs or convictions on others.  I want to serve Jesus with conviction, without apology, and with a pure heart.  I want to represent Jesus well, and be ready to give an answer to anyone who wants to know more about my Lord.  But when I surrendered control of my life to Jesus, no-one forced me; I made a free choice of my own will, and I must allow each other person that same freedom.  I’m not ashamed of the good news about Jesus – on the contrary, I’m profoundly grateful to belong to Him.  But ultimately it’s only good news if you get to choose it for yourself.

If I live this way, will I avoid the charge of intolerance?  Probably not, but it will be a false accusation.  What I need to be concerned about is not tolerance or intolerance, but lack of love.   Sometimes love compels us to take a stand that is not popular, and may seem narrow-minded to some.  After all, Jesus did tell us to choose the narrow way if we want to enter life.  So as Christians our goal should not be to avoid the accusation of intolerance.  It should be to love our Lord with all our heart, and to love those around us as He does – whether or not they understand our single-minded devotion to Him.


The atheist bus campaign

Today I left a comment on the Atheist Bus Campaign web site.  For those who haven’t heard of this campaign, it involves placing ads on buses in cities throughout Canada with the slogan “There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”.

I’m not at all distressed by this campaign.  It shouldn’t surprise us in the least if we understand the Bible, because we are clearly told that in the last days there will be an increase in unbelief.  We’re also told that Jesus will return for a glorious Bride.  I believe that we can expect the line between faith and unbelief to become much more visible as the Lord’s return draws near.

I see this campaign as a great opportunity for Christ-followers to consider why we believe and how we can give an intelligent defense of our faith.  Of course, when you try to do this you soon discover that many atheists are not really all that rational or logical in their arguments.  Still, it is a good thing for us to be able to give reasons for the hope that we have.

What arguments would you use if you were trying to get atheists to re-think their position – keeping in mind that our goal is not simply to win a debate, but to speak the truth in love so that some may have their eyes opened and come to know the God who loves them?

If I were having a conversation with an individual atheist who was open to a dialogue, my response would depend on where they were coming from, and what stumbling blocks they were dealing with.  In my comments on the atheist web site, I pointed to the incredible complexity of the creation, which is totally contrary to the entropy principle (the Second Law of Thermodynamics).   Basically this law says that left to itself, everything in the natural world always tends towards more randomness.   We see this in the inevitable process of decay that affects all living things.   But the question for atheists to consider is how the complexity of life could have arisen in the first place.   The idea that life arose spontaneously, by evolutionary processes, is not supported at all by the most elementary logic or probability theory.  By the way, contrary to popular belief, the idea that life arose spontaneously has never been proven by science because it is unprovable – it is simply a faith position.

So what would you say to someone who holds an atheist position, but was open to talking about it?  Don’t be afraid of the dialogue.  Remember, you don’t have to defend God – His existence and His sovereignty aren’t affected one bit by the delusions of those who do not believe.  But for the sake of those who are open and searching, we need to be able to articulate a response.

There are many good resources for those who want to grow in their ability to give reasons to believe.  Personally I have found the web site of Creation Ministries International to be an excellent source of help over the years.   Feel free to post your own favourites in a comment.


Seeing your small group as a TEAM

The Wikipedia definition of a Team :

A team comprises a group of people or animals linked in a common purpose. Teams are especially appropriate for conducting tasks that are high in complexity and have many interdependent subtasks.

A group in itself does not necessarily constitute a team. Teams normally have members with complementary skills and generate synergy through a coordinated effort which allows each member to maximize his or her strengths and minimize his or her weaknesses.

If you leave out the part about the animals, that’s a great definition of a small group!  A healthy small group is not just a collection of people, it has a vision and a purpose!  The purpose of every healthy small group will in some way be related to the Great Commission and the two Great Commandments, but the details will differ from group to group.  And, because God has designed the Body of Christ so that we all need each other, a small group can only fulfil its purpose as each person plays his or her part.

For small group leaders – here are some really good questions to ask your small group :

  • What is our vision and purpose?
  • Are we a team?
  • If we aren’t currently functioning as a team, what can we do about it?
  • If we are already functioning as a team to some extent, how can we improve?