Tag Archives: wholeness

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. 


My life as an addict

I admit it.  I am an addict.

I just can’t get enough of HGP. No matter how often I get a taste of it, I always want more.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Hard Rock after work on a Friday for drinks with a group of my consultant friends, and I only had two beers. That’s one more than I usually have, but it’s still not much as some people’s Friday night drinking goes. Judging by the stories that were going around the office after the weekend, it would seem that some of my friends kept the bartender busy for quite a few hours that evening. I didn’t stay around to watch, but I’m guessing it was only fun if you were hammered too.

I’m also guessing that some of my friends may find it a little weird that I stopped at two. I mean, the booze was free – our consulting firm paid for everything – so why not indulge?

Why not, indeed? I suppose if all I had to look forward to was a life of no real purpose and gradually-diminished capacities, followed by old age, sickness, and a possibly miserable death, I’d get hammered sometimes too. But as it is, getting drunk has no real appeal. I can enjoy a beer or a glass of wine, but I don’t need to go crazy, because I’ve got better things available to me.

HGP has given me a life of purpose and promise. I am headed for a glorious future, a new age when HGP will fill the earth, the enemies of HGP will be forever banished, and all HGP lovers will be able to have all they want. True, along the way there will be some pain, but that’s a small thing when you are destined for something so incredibly awesome.

But that’s not all.  In the meantime, I can enjoy HGP as often as I want, have a completely clean ride, and wake up without a hangover every time. With HGP, I can still function normally, but colours are brighter, pain is diminished, pleasure is enhanced, and I am happier, more loving, more hopeful, more peaceful. I don’t get sick as often, and I get better faster. And though at this point my body can’t stand the amount of pure, unadulterated HGP that it will be able to handle in the Age to Come, even the amount that I can handle now is wonderful.

Unlike many addictive substances, HGP doesn’t make people violent – it actually makes them more peaceful, happier and productive. In spite of that fact, most Islamic and Communist governments have made HGP illegal.  That’s because once people get addicted to HGP, the government just can’t control them anymore. Even so, in some of those countries, more and more people are getting hooked on HGP. Amazingly, once people are truly hooked on HGP nothing can get them to break the habit – not even prison or the threat of death. It is without a doubt the most powerful addiction known to man.

I have to admit that I do know people who have tried HGP and haven’t found it satisfying. That’s because they only took a small taste – they didn’t really give it a chance. Sadly, what some of these people don’t seem to realize is that with HGP, you can’t sit on the fence. To really appreciate HGP you have to give up your old habits and make HGP a regular part of your life. If you don’t become an HGP lover, you will eventually become an HGP hater. You either become an addict or you eventually become completely allergic and can’t stand HGP at all. It’s completely your choice, but the future for HGP haters isn’t pretty, so you don’t really want to go that route.

On a more positive note, have I told you that HGP is completely free? Truly, it won’t cost you a penny. You can have a lifetime supply for free. It’s all been paid for by JC. If you want to have some, just talk to anyone in JC’s family and they’ll be glad to hook you up. You do need to know, though, that once you truly develop a taste for HGP, you will become part of JC’s family too, and your life will never be the same again. A lot of things that seemed really important to you won’t be all that important anymore, and some of your friends will think you’re a bit weird – that is, until they try HGP too. Once they’ve given HGP a shot, they’ll wonder why they didn’t try it sooner. It really is the greatest thing in the world – it’s what makes life worth living.


Jesus and the pain of Jamie Hubley

A little over a week ago, Ottawa was rocked by the suicide of fifteen-year-old Jamie Hubley, a gifted, outgoing, but also troubled teenager who had battled depression for years.

By all accounts, Jamie was a compassionate, sensitive, caring young man.  He had often helped his father (Allan Hubley,  who represents Kanata on City Council) in various community service projects.  He was also a talented figure skater and theatrical performer.  His death was a shock to the entire community.

A few years earlier, when he was in grade seven, Jamie had suffered rejection and taunts for his choice of figure skating over hockey. Whether because he didn’t fit the typical macho image of masculinity, or for other reasons, at some point Jamie had adopted a homosexual identity, and had gone public with this choice. Judging by his blog, both his depression and suicide were influenced by the rejection he suffered at school for being openly gay.

One of the most common responses to Jamie’s death has been an appeal for greater tolerance and acceptance towards those who choose a gay identity and lifestyle. At first glance, this is an understandable response. But as a follower of Jesus, I can only go part way down this road.

Let me be completely clear. The pain that led Jamie Hubley to end his life is something I do not want to trivialize. As a young man I went through an episode of depression, and am familiar with the dark thoughts that can result. Nor do I have any sympathy for bullying or taunting. I was myself a shy, sensitive child, and suffered from bullying for a time as a young schoolboy. It was an experience I would not wish on anybody.

Early in my walk with the Lord, one of the verses of Scripture that leaped off the page at me and became embedded in my consciousness was this nugget: Do not envy the oppressor, and choose none of his ways (Proverbs 3: 31). As a believer in Jesus, I am called to honour all people, who are made in God’s image and of high value to Him. When I think of Jamie Hubley’s decision to take his own life, I feel nothing but sadness for him and his family and loved ones.

And yet.  As a believer in Jesus, I do not and cannot believe that the “gospel of tolerance” is an adequate response to the tragedy of Jamie Hubley’s death.

People make many choices and draw many conclusions in response to the pain of life. Not all those choices are in line with what God intends for their lives.  I do not believe it was God’s will for Jamie to commit suicide, even though he was fully convinced that it was what he had to do. In the same way, I do not believe it was God’s will for him to adopt a homosexual identity, no matter how profoundly he believed that this was his true identity.

Time for a bit of personal history here. When I was a young United Church minister in the 1980s, I had a number of colleagues who were living a homosexual lifestyle but had not yet gone public with this choice. At the time, the United Church had not yet approved the ordination of openly-gay clergy, though this was under discussion. I used to meet with a support group of six clergy, of whom one (I’ll call him Gord) was gay. We were all in scattered rural parishes, and our meetings involved long drives.  On one of these drives I had listened to Gord talk at length about his life and its struggles, including his adoption of a gay identity.  There were other gay clergy in our wider regional caucus, and I knew something of their stories as well.

I myself was struggling, not with my sexual identity, but with my spiritual identity.  At that time, I moved in very liberal theological circles.  I had not yet surrendered my will to God, received the gift of the Holy Spirit, or truly understood the gospel that I was attempting to preach. Even so, I took my Bible seriously, believed that it was authoritative, and found the teaching of Jesus extremely compelling. I was sympathetic to the struggles of my gay friends, but found myself unable to accept all their conclusions.  In particular, I found myself unable to accept their reinterpretations of Scripture, nor their conclusion that homosexuality was God’s intent for their lives. Still, I listened respectfully and rarely differed openly with their positions, preferring to express my reservations privately, and only to a few people. Even then, 25 years ago, to openly question the validity of pro-gay ideology in that environment would have been a very difficult and costly choice – a choice that I was not yet prepared to make.

The support group of six clergy with which I met regularly was supposed to be a non-judgmental, accepting environment. There came a point, however, where I experienced the limits of this acceptance.  I had been undergoing some profound changes since the pastor of the Anglican church in our town had reached out to me and offered the gift of friendship. He was a highly intelligent, thoughtful, caring and well-spoken man who was a great listener. He was also solidly anchored in Scripture and filled with the Holy Spirit. Under his influence, my struggle to surrender to Jesus was being resolved. One Sunday evening, I responded to an altar call on the last night of a three-day mission in the church he pastored. A few months later, I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I was discovering a new hope and confidence that Jesus really was alive and held the keys to life. But my liberal United Church clergy friends were less than enthusiastic about the changes that they were observing in my life and ministry. I distinctly remember that when they questioned me about these changes, the tone of their questions was quite hostile. Gord, my gay colleague, became extremely angry with me and accused me of judging and rejecting him, although I had said nothing at all to indicate this.

So what’s my point? Simply this. I was not rejecting Gord. All I was doing was attempting to express my newfound conviction that Jesus truly is alive, that He is able to heal and restore the lives of those who turn to Him, and that He is the living Word of God who has legitimate authority to determine how our lives are to be lived. If anything, I cared about Gord more than ever, but my newfound confidence in Jesus was offensive to him because it challenged his belief that his homosexual identity was a gift from God.

Since then, my convictions on this issue have not changed. If anything, they have become clearer, and have been confirmed by experience. Jesus is Lord, and He is able to transform all areas of our life, including our sexual identity. He will do this for anyone who surrenders to Him. Because his transforming work is completely a gift, and because I myself am very much still a work in progress, I am in no position to condemn anyone who is broken, no matter what choices they are making. Still, for those who insist that their current way of life is completely valid and needs no change, Jesus’ message will not seem like good news. He doesn’t offer blanket acceptance of every lifestyle – and as His follower, neither can I.  He does offer mercy, compassion and restoration to all who turn to Him in humility – and as His follower, so must I.

That’s why I say that the ideology of tolerance is not good enough. Tolerance may prevent some bullying, but it has no power to set people free. Jamie did need acceptance, but not the kind of acceptance that says everything is OK.  Like all people, he needed to surrender his life to the only One who could restore him and set him free.  How different his life might have been if he had been introduced to the Jesus that I have come to know.


A double life: reflections on Russ Williams

Canadians heard more details today about the unspeakable suffering of two of the victims of Col. Russell Williams, the once-respected Canadian Forces officer who was convicted on two murder counts, two sexual assault counts and 82 counts of break and enter.  In recounting Williams’ career, one reporter used the telling phrase “a double life”.  This is an apt description of the character and conduct of a man who operated for years as a competent, respected, decorated and successful military officer by day, and a perverted, violent and apparently unfeeling sexual predator by night.

In a strange sort of way, it can be comforting to look at an obvious villain like Williams.  The more judgmental among us can point our fingers at him and say to each other “Now there is a really evil man.  Decent folks like us would never do anything like that.”  Those with more politically correct attitudes might say, with appropriate concern and sensitivity, “It’s not really his fault; the poor man was just very sick”.

I’d like to propose a third way to look at this story.  Once we get beyond the shock, the outrage, the fear and the pity, a story like this one can serve as a wake-up call for the rest of us.  Yes, a wake-up call, because – much as we might want to deny it – the truth is that we’re not so different from Williams.

Really?  “I could never do what he did”, you gasp.  Maybe not – but if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to lay money that Williams didn’t start out as a violent man.  Whatever the influences on his life, he made choices to think, respond, believe and act in a certain way, and over time those choices shaped what he would become.  He became a man whose whole life was a lie.  He began by deceiving himself, and ended up deceiving and harming many others.   That’s the way deception works.  It becomes a way of life, until deceiving yourself and others is so much a part of your thinking that it becomes natural to your character, a pattern of behaviour you can no longer control.  In one sense, people like Russell Williams have to be viewed as fully responsible for their own actions, and cannot simply be let off with the lame explanation that they are “sick”; yet in another, equally true sense, I’m convinced that people like Williams are also deeply wounded victims of the Deceiver, the enemy of our souls.  This conviction has been reinforced by years of ministry to some very wounded people.

Most people aren’t as deeply divided as Williams, but all of us are self-deceived and divided to an extent.  Self-deception, in the words of the late Jack Frost, founder of Shiloh Place Ministries, is “the easiest thing in the world”, and if unchecked it can lead to a deeply fractured life.  All of us are heirs of the decision made by our first parents to walk independently of our Creator.  It would be easy for us to blame Adam and Eve, were it not for the fact that we have willingly chosen the same path of independence.  We want our own way too, just as they did, and we are susceptible to the same delusion that the only person you can trust is yourself and that you can do a better job of running your own life than God can.   Russell Williams may be an extreme example of the bad fruit that comes from this way of thinking, but rather than seeing him as a freak, we would be wise to recognize his story as a warning.  I can’t imagine a more selfish, ego-driven, or tortured way to live, and I would never want to go down the path he walked.  However, I can recognize that my thoughts and actions have often been far from completely pure and innocent (something we don’t usually like to admit of ourselves, but it’s true of you too), and that I’ve been subject to many temptations that could have led me down dangerous and destructive paths. If it hadn’t been for the healing mercy of Jesus, who knows where I’d be or how I would have ended up?

There really are two very opposite Kingdoms, with no middle ground.  Ultimately, we all end up in one Kingdom or the other.  Lives of exceptional beauty and goodness, like that of Mother Teresa, or of exceptional ugliness, like that of Russell Williams, remind us of what we will become if we walk down one path or the other.

On the one hand, we have a Kingdom characterized by division, suspicion, ambition and mistrust, peopled by tragic characters like Russell Williams, and ruled over by Satan – the ultimate Deceiver.  On the other hand, we have a Kingdom characterized by unity, peace, freedom and light, populated by those who are learning to walk in the light, and ruled over by Jesus – the most integrated, consistent and faithful man to ever walk the face of the earth.

How can we be set free?  How can we walk in integrity, truth and goodness?  There is only one way.  Jesus has purchased forgiveness for us, and he has also provided a way for our hearts to become free from the control of evil.   If your eyes are good, he said, your whole body will be full of light.  What does he mean by “good eyes”?  He’s referring to eyes that have been trained to look at only one thing.  If we focus our attention on the One who gave His life for our freedom – the One who alone is entirely trustworthy – we will become like Him; we too will become people of integrity, people who are trustworthy, people whose service is motivated by genuine humility, people full of gratitude and mercy, people whose whole life is characterized by His light.

I can’t change what happened to Russell Williams – or his victims.  But I do have a choice about which Kingdom I want to live in, and so do you.  Do you want to live in a house of lies or a house of truth – a house of deception and disappointment or a place of light, freedom and hope?   I know which Kingdom I want to live in, and Russell Williams’ story increases my motivation to seek the Light while I have the opportunity.


What’s in your cup?

Picture yourself in a crowded room, holding a cup full of hot coffee.  You are having a conversation with someone you have just met.  You want this person to like you, so you are doing your best to come across as the pleasant, competent, wise, compassionate and knowledgeable person that you really are – or want to be.  Just then someone in the crowd bumps against your elbow, the hot coffee sloshes out of the cup all over the person you were trying to impress, and you are thoroughly embarrassed.  So much for your image!

Now apply that picture to your emotional state.   You are calm, cheerful and positive as long as everything is going your way.  But what happens when you get bumped by events you can’t control, circumstances that mess with your plans, or people who don’t treat you as you think you deserve?   That’s when what’s in your cup comes spilling out, and you find out what you are really full of.  That’s when you find out whether the image you project matches the reality of what is actually in your heart.    As Jesus put it, out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

Come on, you say, that’s not fair.  I can’t be responsible for how I react to annoying people, unfair decisions, shoddy service, and the many other aggravations that life puts in my path.  Do you expect me just to put up with all that stuff?

Let me ask a different question.  If Christ lives in you, can’t you do better than just react to others?  No doubt there are genuine wrongs and injustices in life, and there is a place for addressing them.  But as long as we are bound up on the inside with anger, judgments, guilt, fear, pride and other baggage, our most constructive contribution may be to clean up our own junk first. As Jesus said, How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

The Christian life is intended to be a process of life-long growth in which the character of Jesus shines through more and more in our lives as the image of God is restored in us.   Ironically, one of the keys to this process is not to get too preoccupied with our own growth.  We’ll get farther if we fix our eyes on Jesus than if our gaze is always fixed on ourselves and our own perceived failures.   Still, learning to understand ourselves is valuable, especially when understanding leads to specific and focussed repentance.  Each of us comes into God’s Kingdom as damaged goods, and we can co-operate better with the Holy Spirit’s work if we allow Him to shine his light on the areas of greatest damage for the purpose of restoration.

I have found that if I am honestly and humbly seeking self-understanding for the purpose of growing in grace, the Holy Spirit is more than willing to give me insight. A good question to ask Him is not just “What’s in my  cup” but “How did it get there?”. Although we may be very adept at condemning ourselves, frequently we don’t have a very good understanding of why we are the way we are.  When we consider that deception is one of the Enemy’s favourite strategies it shouldn’t be too surprising that he would do his best to blind us to the root causes of destructive patterns of thought and behaviour.

This is a big topic, and a blog post is not the place to lay out a complete methodology for the restoration and healing of the wounded and polluted soul.  But as one who has needed – and received – much grace in this area, let me encourage you not to believe the lie that you cannot change.   Why should you be any different than anyone else? All the power is on our side – the blood of Jesus, the liberating truth of the Word of God, the instruction of the Holy Spirit, the power of repentance and forgiveness, and the help of friends in Christ.   All the enemy has going for him is deception.  True, he is a master at it, but the Father of lights is greater than the father of lies.

Our spirits are born again when we receive Jesus Christ into our lives; the redemption of our bodies will take place when He returns.   In between those two events, we have a lifetime to allow Him to work out the restoration of our souls. Let’s commit ourselves to pressing forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us – the fulness of life which He said was our inheritance. And lest anyone think that all this attention on healing of the soul sounds a bit selfish, consider that the more healed you are, the better equipped you are to help others find healing.  The more free you are, the better equipped you are to help others get free.

What’s in your cup?  I want to be clean on the inside, not only on the outside, so that fresh, life-giving water bubbles up from the core of my being.  How about you?