Tag Archives: faithfulness

Nuggets of Hope 11 – Complete in Christ

Yesterday afternoon, as I came back from a long Saturday walk, I saw a small crowd gathered in front of the house diagonally across from ours. At least, it was a crowd by COVID-19 pandemic standards. People were standing on the lawn and the street in clusters of twos and threes, each cluster well separated from the next one (for the most part anyway). I arrived home just in time to observe the festivities with Marion. Standing on our front deck I could faintly hear the bride and groom say their vows. They had come together as a couple some months ago, and now they were committing themselves to each other in sacred promises. A beautiful little girl was in the wedding party, the offspring of a past relationship.

It would have been easy for this couple just to continue living together without exchanging vows, but something in them made them want to make a covenant. I believe they are hoping for a fresh start. As I listened to their vows and thought about all this, I asked God to pardon their past failures, bless their intention to have a lasting marriage, and help them stay faithful to each other. The poignancy of the moment was heightened by the uncertain times in which we live. As we move from childhood to adulthood and begin making our own life choices, many of us start out with hopes, dreams and good intentions, but we don’t always know what will come our way on the path of life. Marriage, perhaps more than any other major life choice, tests our resolve. Will we be strong enough to keep the covenants we have made?

The classic symbol of marriage – the gold wedding band – speaks of the unbroken perfection of God’s love. It has no beginning and no ending. It is perfect in its simple beauty.

It’s only the love of God that can help a marriage truly succeed. And whether or not you are married, we all need that perfect love living within us to live a life that bears good fruit for eternity. We simply can’t do it on our own.

Like the couple across the street who exchanged wedding vows yesterday afternoon, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t have good intentions. But we need more than good intentions to fulfill our hope of living a life that is blessed by God, pleasing to him, and endures to eternity. We need the power of God.

The good news is that God has made that power available to us in Jesus. Writing to a group of new believers who were in danger of being led astray by other philosophies and practices, Paul pointed them back to the simple truth of Christ in them (Col 2:8-10 NLT)

Don’t let anyone capture you
with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense
that come from human thinking
and from
the spiritual powers of this world,
rather than from Christ.
For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.
So you also are complete through your union with Christ,
who is the head over every ruler and authority.

We live in challenging times. In the face of COVID-19, all of us are tempted to feel powerless at times. We recognize the need to walk in wisdom to safeguard our health, but we can’t control the actions of others. The news is full of stories of people descending into behaviour motivated by selfishness, hopelessness and panic. Truly, fear has the power to make us do very stupid and short-sighted things.

In the midst of all this, those who have put their hope in Jesus don’t just have an example to follow. We do have that, but we have something far more. We have Jesus living inside us. And so we can have peace. He is our hope, for the present and the future. He is able to do miracles, and often does, but our hope is more than just that we won’t get sick. Eventually we will all die. That’s the reality of our life in this age. But we know that we who believe in Jesus will be with Him forever. He lives within us and is changing us day by day to make us into a better reflection of His beauty, glory and goodness – even in the face of COVID-19. And no matter what happens to us in this crisis, we know that if we stay faithful to our covenant with Jesus, we will share His glory in a world made new.

What a hope. What a promise. We are complete in Christ. We have hope for eternity. Thanks be to God.


P.S. This will be my last Nuggets of Hope post for a few days. I am sensing the Spirit telling me to pause for a time, to spend some time resting and meditating on the hope we have in Jesus so that I have fresh bread to share when it’s time for me to resume. God bless you. 


Knocking on heaven’s door

This morning at church, I did something perfectly ordinary. I left my seat and stood in the aisle to let Grace pass by so that she could sit with her older sister and her parents.

We had just finished singing three beautiful songs of worship and adoration, and faith was stirring in my spirit. As I stood there in the aisle, watching this pretty pre-teen girl child make her way to her seat, my eyes were opened and I was given a vision from heaven. In my spirit, I saw Grace standing in front of a large wooden door. She had her right hand raised and her knuckles formed into a fist. With childlike confidence, she was poised to knock on the door.

As I briefly pondered the meaning of this vision, I immediately realized that it portrayed the teaching of Jesus about faith-filled prayer.

Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.

Matthew 7:7

Grace is a wonderful young woman, the beloved youngest daughter in a warm, loving, faith-filled family. I concluded that this was a message from God about her developing character, and I made a mental note to share the vision with her and her parents to encourage them.

But my internal dialogue with God didn’t end there. As I prepared to sit down, I sensed that this vision wasn’t just for Grace. My thoughts immediately turned to my own daughter Bethany, also the youngest in our family. Although she is married now and no longer living in my household, Bethany knows – like Grace with her Dad – that if she needs something from me, all she has to do is ask me. If I can do it for her, I will.

I realized that Father was showing me something about His heart towards His beloved people. The vision was not just about Grace. It was a picture of the Bride of Christ, His beloved, knocking on the door of heaven and asking the Father for favour.

Grace is still a child. There is much she doesn’t understand about life, but she does know that her Dad loves her. Even if he doesn’t always give her what she wants right away, she knows that he will always answer her in love. She knows that she can trust him.

The message was clear. Knock boldly, knock with confidence. Even if the answer is delayed, it’s for a good reason. Keep on knocking. The One behind the door is faithful, and in His good time He will answer.

We live in times when many things are being shaken. There is trouble all over the earth, there are wrongs and injustices everywhere, and in many places God’s people are hard-pressed. But there are also signs of the Kingdom in many places for those with eyes to see.

In times like these, some will be tempted to shrink back and become discouraged and fearful. Others will press on boldly, knocking on the door of heaven and trusting Father to answer.

The ones who press on are the ones who understand the character of the One behind the door. They know they are His beloved, they know He has a glorious destiny for them, they know that Jesus will partner with them to rule the earth in the age to come. And so they keep on knocking.

This is how the Bride grows up and comes into her glorious maturity. She keeps on knocking, standing and waiting in faith and hope and love, until she hears the Father’s answer. She will keep on knocking until her Bridegroom returns to reign on the earth, and invites her to reign with Him.

O glorious day.



Living like a winner

Being an Ottawa Senators fan can be discouraging. The best you can say is that it is an up-and-down experience.

Last night’s game was an example. The Sens started the game full of enthusiasm against the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning. They outshot the Lightning in the first period and were leading 1-0 when the period ended. The Sens were playing like a team who believed that they could win the game. They looked as though they were in it to win it.

But then, little by little, the Lightning began to exert their superior speed and skill. First they tied the game, then they took a 2-1 lead.

Up until this point the Sens had still been competitive, but once the Lightning began pulling in front, and especially after their third goal, the Sens began to look as if they knew the game was lost. Although there was still enough time to turn things around, they were no longer playing like a team that believed in themselves. They were still exerting an effort, but you could tell they were frustrated and discouraged. Predictably, they lost.

What happened?  The Lightning knew that if they didn’t get rattled, but just kept playing their game, they would win. And they did. Of the two teams, it was the Lightning who were in it to win it. The Senators wanted and needed to win, but (from my perspective at least) didn’t really expect to.

If you see it differently, I won’t argue with you, because my point isn’t really about last night’s game. It’s about the nature of hope, and how it functions in our lives to keep us motivated.

The Bible frequently depicts our life in this age as a battle with the forces of darkness. At times (like the Senators) it seems as if we are destined to lose. It seems as if the powers arrayed against us are far greater than our ability to overcome them.

This is how the Israelites felt when they faced the Philistines in the days of King Saul. The Philistines had weapons of iron, and horses and chariots – none of which Israel had. The Philistines also had a great champion, a giant of a man. His name was Goliath. Who could stand against him? The situation was hopeless. Or at least, so it seemed. Yes, God had delivered Israel from Egypt centuries before, and led them into the Promised Land. Yes, he had given them the promise that if they were obedient and faithful He would always be with them to deliver them, and that Israel would be the first of nations through whom all the earth would be blessed. But all that seemed far away now. They knew they hadn’t always been obedient and faithful – far from it – and their enemies had gotten the better of them. The situation was hopeless. They saw themselves as a beaten people.

But in the midst of that time of despair, God raised up a champion in the person of the young boy David, the youngest son of Jesse. Against all odds, David defeated Goliath in what has become a classic metaphor of the underdog stealing victory from the jaws of defeat.

Why was David successful?  Because he knew his God, and he expected God to give him the victory.

We, of course, have a far greater champion than David. We have Yeshua (Jesus), Israel’s Messiah and the Redeemer of the whole earth. Like his ancestor David, against all odds He faced death on behalf of his people – and won. But the victory he purchased was not just for that time alone. It was for all people of all places and times.

Yesterday Marion and I, along with hundreds of others, were richly blessed as we shared in the memorial service for Teresa Narraway, a wonderful woman of God who left this life earlier than most. She died of cancer at age 58. But although she succumbed to death at an earlier age than her family would have hoped, she lived like one who expected to win the race of life. In fact she knew she had already won. All she had to do was stay in the battle, and keep her eyes on Jesus. Marion and I weren’t close friends with Bob and Teresa – our paths parted after only a couple of years in the same church family – but as I followed the saga of Teresa’s final few months on Facebook, and then heard story after story at yesterday’s memorial service, I was deeply moved at the testimony of a life well lived.

It wasn’t that Bob and Teresa never made any mistakes. But from the time they met Jesus, His life became their life, and His victory their victory. There were still ups and downs, but they knew the victory was theirs in Christ, and they followed wholeheartedly wherever He led. Throughout their lives they have served Christ through serving others, and they have done so with all their heart.

That is why Teresa’s memorial service was such a celebration. Yes, there were tears, but there were also many hugs, much laughter, singing, dancing and many wonderful stories. Why? Because she lived her life like the winner that she was.

That’s how I want to live my life too. Thanks, Bob and Teresa, for being such a wonderful model to so many. The story is not over. Your legacy – and your reward – will be greater than you know.


Are you ready?

A few days ago, our friend Shannon recounted a wonderful story about her twenty year old son James. Driving to work on a cold December day, he stopped to help a young woman whose car had spun out of control on the snowy roads. He calmed her down, gave her a warm place to sit (in his car) and waited with her until the police came, before continuing on to work.

When James saw this scenario playing out in front of him, he didn’t have to work out what he ought to do. He knew how to respond, and he did it without hesitation.

James was ready. He had been prepared for this moment. His character had been shaped by a lifetime of training. When the time came, he knew what to do.

Two millennia ago, in the village of Nazareth, a young Israelite of the tribe of Judah, a carpenter by trade, was engaged to be married. Joseph was most likely looking forward to a quiet life as a family man and respected tradesman in his village. Both he and Mary were descendants of the great King David, but there was nothing to suggest that their life would be out of the ordinary. Then one day Joseph learned that Mary was expecting a child, although they had not yet come together in marriage. Understandably perplexed by this news, Joseph considered his options.

Before he could take action, an angel appeared to him in a dream, explained the situation, and gave him very specific instructions. Joseph’s response was immediate and unquestioning. The gospel writer records that when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.

Joseph was ready. He had been prepared for this moment. His character had been shaped by a lifetime of training. When the time came, he knew what to do.

God did not choose just anyone for this assignment. He chose someone who had been carefully prepared. We are perhaps more used to thinking this way about Mary, but it’s equally true of Joseph. Imagine the thoughts that must have been going through his mind. I am going to be the father of the Messiah?

This would not be an easy task. Among the many character qualities that would be of key importance in this mission – integrity faithfulness, compassion, humility, patience – surely one of the most important was Joseph’s responsiveness to the voice of God. Having heeded the angel’s direction to take Mary as his wife, he would again have to be quick to obey so as to protect his young son from the murderous King Herod.

Joseph was ready. When the time came, he knew what to do.

Only a few people in Bethlehem recognized the Messiah at his birth. It was the same throughout his lifetime. Many were affected by him but most continued to follow their own agendas. But to those who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.

Our Christmas celebrations are so often focussed on the trappings of the season rather than on the Person at the center of it all. He is coming on the clouds, and every eye will see him. But when He appears a second time, there will be no time to change our minds about Him. Now is the time to give Him the central place in our lives that is His by right. Now is the time to pay careful attention to Him, and respond daily to His voice with willing obedience.

Are you ready?


In season and out of season

September is not the season for beans – at least not in this part of the world. Beans are usually picked in July, maybe in early August, but by September they are long gone.IMG_20130909_081942_961

Let me introduce you to my amazing pole bean plant.

I planted pole beans twice this year. The first time, none of them germinated. It wasn’t just that the tender green shoots got eaten by nasty critters, as some of my gardening friends helpfully suggested. They didn’t come up at all. The seed was a few years old, and it was a long shot, but most of our local stores no longer carry pole bean seed so I used the old seed. My second planting didn’t do much better, but one lonely little plant did eventually germinate, weeks after one would normally plant beans. I finally decided to plant some bush beans to keep it company.

The bush beans did what bush beans usually do. They bore for a couple of weeks and then tailed off. Since then, there have been a few beans here and there, but barely enough to mention.

My lone pole bean plant, on the other hand, is still producing. On the weekend I filled a three litre basket with its produce. Today I did so again. This was at least the fifth harvest from this wonderfully productive singleton plant. And there are still more beans coming – lots of them.

Most years, the three trellises that grace my back yard fence support the vines from four or five pole bean plants. This year, my lone surviving pole bean plant made the most of its opportunity and spread out to cover a full two thirds of this support structure all by itself (with a little help from my guiding hands, placing the vines where I wanted them to go).

A bean is not very impressive. It’s quite small and unspectacular – just like most average Christians, who tend to think that they don’t have a lot to offer. Yet this one little bean, planted in the ground, undaunted by the failure of its colleagues, has quietly gone about its business and produced a truly prodigious harvest, simply by consistently doing what it was made for, day in and day out.

The apostle Paul, toward the end of his life, wrote a letter of encouragement to his young protege Timothy. One of the gems of wisdom in this letter is the advice to preach the word in season and out of season. In other words, don’t quit when circumstances seem unfavourable. Just keep going about your Father’s business. Be who you were made to be, do what you were made to do, and you will reap a harvest.

Today I am thankful that God used my one little bean plant, so quietly yet consistently productive, to remind me of this simple but powerful truth.



Life on the beach – or on the farm?

Over the years I have had many conversations with colleagues at work about their goals in life.

I remember one man in particular who made it quite clear what he wanted. His goal was to build up a nice financial nest egg so that he could retire, relax, and enjoy life. As he saw it, the good life is “life on the beach”, or “life at the cottage”, or some other form of permanent vacation, and the purpose of work is to build up enough wealth so that we can spend the rest of our days doing exactly as we please, with no-one to answer to but ourselves.

More recently I had a conversation with another colleague. In addition to working as an IT consultant, she and her husband own and operate a small farm where they raise goats, beef cattle and horses. Marion and I like buying meat from her because we know it’s not laced with antibiotics and hormones. This colleague told me recently that she had considered giving up farming but she couldn’t do it, because she doesn’t want to live without a purpose. For her, farming is a way of life that embodies purposeful and therefore satisfying activity. She enjoys finding cost-effective and inventive ways of meeting the challenge of raising animals organically. Her dream isn’t “life on the beach”, it’s “life on the farm”. She does want to have sufficient freedom to be able to take a vacation with her husband every now and then (a challenge for many farmers) but she can’t stand living without a purpose.

Life on the beach – or on the farm? A permanent vacation – or a life of purposeful activity? Serving yourself, or serving others? Which would you choose?

I’d pick life on the farm any day.

Let me be clear. I love vacations. I know I need rest. It was great to go to Florida for a week last year, and Marion and I loved our holiday at a cottage on Drummond Island with children and grandchildren the year before. I thoroughly enjoy weekends with their (somewhat) more relaxed pace. But I can’t stand the thought of living without any purpose but to satisfy my own desires. That kind of life would kill me. The beach is great for a break from the farm, but give me the farm over the beach for a satisfying life that’s well-lived.

No, I’m not considering another career change, nor a change of location. I am now thoroughly and happily transplanted from my former life in rural Russell Township to my current life in inner-city Vanier, and I have no regrets about the change. Although I do have a small garden, I have no plans to take up farming. I know that I am exactly where God wants me to be.

But like my farming colleague, I don’t want to live without a purpose. And like her, I see myself as a type of farmer. I’m not raising hay, grain, goats and cattle. I’m tending people’s hearts. The farm isn’t mine, it’s God’s. But I am one of his sharecroppers. Other servants have planted the seed of His saving, lifegiving truth in many hearts, and my job is to tend and nurture the seeds that have sprouted into young, growing plants.

On God’s farm there are lots of jobs to be done. Some people do more planting than anything else. These are the ones who love telling complete strangers – everyone they can find – about Jesus. Others spend more of their time fertilizing and watering the crops. These are the ones who love to help others understand the word of God and how it applies to their life. Some people spend most of their time feeding and looking after the other workers. That’s just as important. There are other jobs as well. Like on most farms, everyone does a bit of everything at times, but some people specialize more in some areas than in others.

In my years of working on God’s farm I’ve planted seeds, and I’ve also watered and fertilized them. But what I love to do most is to make sure that the young plants can see the Son. That, to me, is what the ministry of worship and prayer is all about. Plants don’t grow if they can’t see the light. Believers need to be able to see the Son so that they can become like Him. God has an enemy who is constantly planting weeds in the midst of His good crops. Sometimes those weeds threaten to choke the life out of the crops that God’s servants have planted. Sometimes the weeds seem to get so thick that it’s hard to see the Son. When that happens, the ministry of worship and prayer has a wonderful way of clearing spaces in the undergrowth so that we can see the light of His face. In fact, the more we worship, the more the weeds seem to just disappear, and the crops of God’s planting begin to flourish and thrive and reproduce. It’s amazing.

All workers need rest. I’m glad that on God’s farm there are refreshing streams and green pastures where his servants can be renewed and restored. But I’m so glad that God has made me for fruitful labour in his fields.

The day of harvest is coming. When that day comes, I want to be found faithful in the labour to which He has assigned me.



Was blind but now I see

Yesterday I met a man who prayed for my salvation over thirty-five years ago, when we were both students at the same college.

Until yesterday I had not known that he had been praying for me, and he had not realized that his prayer had been answered.

Back in the 1970s, I was a spiritually hungry but very confused young man. I was studying theology at Queen’s Theological College in Kingston, Ontario, which only served to increase my state of confusion. Most of the faculty and students did not really know what they believed. However, they were quick to mock anyone who claimed to be born again, or who articulated a simple faith in the Lordship of Jesus and the Bible as the Word of God, or who said they had been “saved”. Sadly, I joined in the general chorus of mockery. How foolish and arrogant we were in our presumed wisdom.

I do remember, though, that there were a few students at QTC who were different from the rest. Ken was one of the ones who stood out. He had a confident faith which he expressed with respect but without apology. I wouldn’t have said so at the time, but looking back I realize that Ken scared me. It wasn’t that he himself was a scary guy. He was intelligent, polite, and well-spoken. It was his confident, well-grounded faith that scared me, because it challenged the core assumptions of my life. In particular, Ken challenged my prideful assumption that I did not need anyone to save me. I thought I knew so much and had so many answers, but in reality I had no answers at all, and knew nothing about the things that really mattered. I wanted spiritual truth, but I wanted it on my own terms. I was not yet ready to surrender my will to anyone. Still, I remember being hungry for the peace and assurance that I saw in people like Ken, even though at the time I would not have had the words to say so.

I was part of the graduating class of 1977 at QTC, although I hung around for a couple more years and did further studies while my wife finished her degree. Ken likewise graduated, and having been refused for ordination in the United Church because he was unwilling to compromise his convictions on baptism, he was ordained as a Free Methodist pastor. We had not been close while at college, and I never expected to see him again.

Fast forward ten years to 1987.  By this point I was married with two children, and trying to be a pastor, all the while still trying to convince myself that I had answers. The truth was that I had no answers at all. Any fragments of truth or wisdom that I did understand were of no real value to me or anyone else, because I lacked the One who holds all things together. But God had prepared salvation for me. Through the loving ministry of the Anglican pastor in our village, a faithful and intelligent man of God, I finally surrendered my pride and accepted Jesus as Lord of my life.

Fast forward another twenty-five years to 2012.  Through a mutual friend I discovered that a fellow by the name of Ken Roth was pastoring a Free Methodist church in Stittsville. I remembered his name from college and decided to contact him.

It must have been the Holy Spirit that prompted me to get in touch with Ken, because when we finally got together for coffee and a chat at the One Way Ministries office, both of us were encouraged, humbled and amazed at the goodness of God.

Ken told me that back in his days at Queen’s he used to go into the chapel almost every day to pray for the other students and faculty at the college. As one of the only students at QTC who honoured the integrity and power of the gospel of Jesus Christ, he must have been incredibly lonely. Life at Queen’s must have been a huge battle for him. Yet he didn’t give in to the temptation to become bitter or arrogant. He remained gentle, humble and truthful in his dealings with his fellow students and faculty, and (as I learned yesterday) he remained faithful to the hidden ministry of intercession.

As one who has been waking up to the realization that intercessory prayer is one of God’s major callings on this season of my life, I found this tremendously moving and motivating. I was humbled and amazed to realize how faithful Ken had been in praying for all of us so many years ago, and even more so, how faithful God had been. I had the amazing privilege of telling Ken that at least in my life, the prayers he had prayed more than thirty-five years previously had found an answer.

I believe he was encouraged. I know I was.



Refined by fire

Yesterday Marion and I took some time to visit old friends.

It’s been over twenty years since we first got to know Brian and Lynn. Their life was not easy then, and it’s still not easy. They have been through more troubles than most people, and they are still dealing with numerous challenges. But through it all, they have grown stronger, their faith is better established, they have grown in understanding of God’s ways, they are governed by the peace and joy that come from the Holy Spirit. In the midst of ongoing tests in health, finances and family relationships, their lives manifest the goodness of God. I am full of confidence that they will come forth as pure gold on the day of the Lord, and that they will be among those who shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43).

As I was reflecting on this visit, I was reminded of these words of the Apostle Peter, written long ago to Christians suffering persecution.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade —kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire —may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:3-9 NIV84

I am so thankful for those whose lives remind me of the faithfulness and goodness of God.



Last week at the gym I was dressing after my shower when I overheard a young man talking to his buddy about his sex life.

Before I continue, let me say that I don’t make a habit of listening in on the details of other people’s private conversations. This dude, however, wasn’t exactly going to great lengths to keep his private life private. Eavesdropping may not really be the applicable term here. He was broadcasting his reflections quite openly, for everyone in the change room to hear.

I only heard a few sentences before the two of them were out the door, still talking about their sex lives — but to me, those few sentences spoke volumes.  At first I didn’t want to believe that what I had just heard meant what I thought it meant — but the message was unmistakable and heartbreaking. I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since.

The guy was telling his buddy a story, not about some great sexual conquest, but about what it was like to have sex with a girlfriend whom he already knew he was going to dump because “it” was over. The girl, he said, seemed to want sex all the more — as if  she could tell something wasn’t right and she wanted to make everything good between them. As he reflected on what it was like to have to pretend for his girlfriend, he sounded genuinely surprised to discover that at such times he no longer had an interest in sex. It didn’t seem to occur to him that perhaps they could do something to improve their relationship and prevent a breakup, or maybe he just didn’t want to pay the price. What bothered him, seemingly, was not the fact that he and his girlfriend were about to break up, not even the fact that he was being deceptive towards her, but the fact that he was no longer enjoying sex.

What was perhaps most troubling to me was the inference that he had already had several such relationships, and would likely have several more. He spoke about this experience as if moving from one sexual relationship to another were an accepted way of life among him and his friends. It seemed that to these two guys, serial monogamy is a “given” — just the way things are, not only normal but inevitable. Like the fact that the sun rises every day, that’s just the way the world works. In this view of life, faithfulness no longer means a life-long covenant with one husband or wife; it means only having one sexual partner at a time. You can have as many as you want – just not all at once. Although you know that breakups are painful and somewhat messy, you deal with this unpleasant possibility by not thinking about it, hoping that it might be different this time. You enjoy the relationship while it is easy, and move on when it has turned sour or grown old – after all, “it would be dishonest to stay together when the love is gone”. When you and your latest partner have grown tired of each other, you find some other cute guy or girl who seems attracted to you, and without thinking twice you initiate another sexual relationship, hardly knowing each other except as bedroom partners. When you find out what an imperfect person you are shacked up with, you move out and chase another illusion which is really the same illusion in a different form, and jump into the sack once again as soon as you think you’ve “really found it this time” — only to be disappointed by reality once again. On and on it goes, each cycle bringing more misery, more mistrust, more shallowness and dishonesty, more broken dreams.

Judging by his recitation, the young man in the locker room had probably already been through several iterations of this cycle.  He was troubled by his own feelings and the behaviour of his girlfriend, and was coming to see that he had a problem. All was not happy in happy-free-sex-land. Perhaps it was beginning to dawn on him that sex is more than just a mechanical function that feels good. My young locker-room raconteur was perhaps beginning to sense that casual sex — which is essentially what serial monogamy becomes — does not satisfy. Tragically, though, he seemed to have no idea what the real problem was, and even less of an idea how to solve it. What he almost certainly didn’t understand is that a sexual relationship can only be truly satisfying in the context of lifelong commitment to a covenant marriage. Finding a different girlfriend would change nothing, because he himself was the one who needed to change.

Contrast this with another young man of my acquaintance, who has decided to wait until marriage before having sexual relations with his bride-to-be. This alone, of course, will not make the marriage a happy one. Like all young couples who commit to life-long faithfuless, Mick and Sue (not their real names) will have many challenges to face as they work out what it means to live in genuine emotional, physical, mental and spiritual intimacy. Living in a fallen world, and growing up with a imperfect parents and a built-in inclination towards selfishness, none of us can expect an easy road to the Kingdom of happily-ever-after. As a young couple, Marion and I found that our own marriage only began to work after we gave up trying to control each other and surrendered our wills to the only One who could repair our wounded hearts. A satisfying marriage takes life-long sacrifice, and a willingness to humble ourselves, giving and receiving forgiveness over and over again as we let our hearts be restored until we reflect the servant heart of Jesus. But as I sat with Mick recently and listened to him tell me of their decision to wait, I said to him “I’ve never heard of anyone who regretted having waited for marriage before having sex, but I’ve heard of lots of people who bitterly regretted not having waited”. Mick and Sue have chosen the hard but rewarding road of faithfulness. My prayer for them is that they will walk that road in dependence on the Faithful One – the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God, who thinks so highly of marriage that he uses it as an analogy of his own passionate, redeeming love for those who have received Jesus as Lord and surrendered their lives to Him.

My locker-room encounter has motivated me to pray for the young couples in my life. It has also rekindled my desire to do more than just pray. Marion and I want to be encouragers to young couples who are seeking to walk the path of faithfulness and intimacy in a world that does little to encourage them. Couples who have learned to walk in faithfulness not only bless each other and their children, they are a great resource to the Body of Christ by providing a safe place for those – married and single alike – who need to experience the covenant love of a faithful God.


Reflections on Tiger Woods

We have probably all had our fill of news reports and speculation about the deeds and misdeeds of golf star Tiger Woods.  Tiger-bashing suddenly became a popular sport early in December as his life came under the spotlight of scrutiny after a bizarre car crash and revelations of numerous extra-marital affairs.  The one-time hero, his Mr. Clean image forever tarnished, suffered a dizzying decline in just a few short days from the heights of adulation to the depths of public ridicule, scorn and rejection.

It’s interesting to me how quickly people condemn Tiger – as if the rest of us were innocent.  Not that his actions don’t matter.  If indeed he did commit adultery – not just once but several times, according to the stories – this is a very serious matter.  If there is a hierarchy of sins, betraying the trust of a spouse is surely near the top.   However, those of us who are quick to condemn Tiger would do well to remember Jesus’ response to the crowd that had assembled to stone the woman caught in adultery: If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.

Am I saying sexual faithfulness is unimportant?  Not at all.  I would be the first to contend for the importance of faithfulness in marriage.  I’m merely pointing out a fact that we love to forget in our haste to condemn and mock such an easy target: none of us is innocent.  When we condemn Tiger Woods we are in effect condemning ourselves, because although most of us may not have done what he has done, none of us has a pure heart.  Only those who have had their eyes opened to their own broken condition and their need for a Saviour are capable of responding appropriately to a tragic story like this one.  It is only as we surrender our pride and come to the foot of the cross that we even understand what purity is.  We need to learn to see such events through the eyes of Jesus, the Lamb of God – the only one who was truly pure, the only one who has the right to condemn anyone – yet who willingly bled and died for those who rejected him, so that they could be forgiven, healed and set free.

So what do I think about the Tiger Woods saga?  I think it’s tragic that his wife and children have had to undergo such betrayal.  Children need fathers who are trustworthy.  I feel sadness for Tiger and his wife Elin Nordegren as the most intimate and sordid details of their lives are displayed openly for the world to see.  Was it naïve of them to expect their privacy to be respected?  Of course.  Do they deserve this?  Maybe.   Are we any better?  No.

Does that mean Tiger is innocent?  Not at all.  Unless he comes to repentance, he will face the wrath of God.  But if we persist in our superiority and judgments, so will we.   So rather than condemning him, I choose to pray for him and his family.   Yes, they are rich and famous, but they are still lost and broken like everyone else – as this unfortunate saga surely demonstrates.  I take no delight in their misfortune, however deserved – Lord knows I’ve made enough mistakes in my life – and I sincerely hope and pray that they both have their eyes opened to their need for a Saviour and that they get their lives back on track.

It’s easy to condemn those who mess up – and it seems to be especially popular to point fingers at the very public failures of the rich and famous.   We live in a culture that is preoccupied with celebrities.  We worship them until their image becomes tarnished, and then we love to hate them.  We do this because we are blind.  If we understood our true position before God, we would instead ask Him to grant them mercy and the gift of repentance.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  It is the one gift that all of us need – rich or poor, famous or unknown.  When we look at the fallen Tiger Woods, we are in reality looking at ourselves.  The sooner we realize that, the better.