Tuesday, 10/5/21 – Pressing on… A Matter of Reparations…

A Matter of Reparations…

Last Friday residents of the six-plex in which we live gathered in a huddle along a boundary of our properties adjacent to where a newly constructed apartment block had been built. We gathered there to meet with the contractors of the new development which was now in its landscaping stage. Apparently in grading his development for drainage the sloping of the soil had inadvertently buried our property boundary stakes and encroached upon our land.

The apartment complex had already been built. Tenants had already begun to move in. Clearly what had been done could not now be undone. The contractors sincerely apologized, but the question was what now could be done about it? What reparations could be made so that all parties concerned could move forward in harmony?

They listened with empathy to our concerns and eventually an agreement was reached. The developers would build up our land with new soil to divert water pooling, they would channel this water to a nearby ditch and hire a surveyor to install new boundary stakes — and they would do all this at their expense.

This, on a much, much smaller scale, is similar to the situation Canada’s indigenous people faced when early settlers encroached upon them. But our ancestors did far worse than encroach…

“North America’s indigenous peoples were systematically uprooted from their traditional homes and villages, either through war, forced relocation, or threats of violence, and pushed into remote areas where they wouldn’t get in the way of European colonization. …uniquely susceptible to European disease, the vast majority of Canada’s aboriginal population quickly declined to a small minority as their death rate skyrocketed and European immigration increased.” [Source: https://thecanadaguide.com/history/early-history/]

Oh, what a different history Canada might have enjoyed had we approached this land’s inhabitants with kindness and with gratitude! In these days as more and more injustices are being revealed it behooves us all to make great reparations indeed!

As Christians we ought demonstrate the greatest love and compassion of all! Within us dwells the Holy Spirit of God Who grows in us the Agapé Love of God. This God is the One Who created all races and has determined their placement (Acts 17:26). He is the One to Whom in eternity all races will gather to praise (Rev. 7:9-10) – One kingdom, One Body, brothers and sisters all!

Oh Lord, help us to behave as One now!

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 10/4/21 – Pressing on… But, don’t I have a “right” to…

But, don’t I have a “right” to…

I got to thinking the other day about this whole idea of personal ‘rights,’ the rights we have as human beings, and the rights we have in Christ as Christians. What are our “rights” for, anyway? And what exactly is the best thing to do with them?

The first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, set out and establish many of them: the rights of borrowers, the rights of the needy, the rights of slaves, of strangers, and man-slayers, of husbands and wives and firstborn sons. But as I read through these records something peculiar stands out about them: virtually every one of them has to do with our obligation to ensure these rights to others.

When I look to the New Testament I find something similar. In the first 14 verses of 1 Corinthians I see Paul setting forth his rights: his right to food, and drink, to a wife and remuneration. But what does he say about his right to these ‘rights?’ He says, “But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me” (v.15). Paul was not writing the Corinthians to assert these rights but to tell them that in surrendering them he found his greatest reward: “What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.” (v.18).

Jesus had rights too! Jesus came as the only begotten Son of God, as a member Himself of the Holy Trinity of God. “very God of very God” as the Nicene Creed (325 AD) puts it. All power and all authority belonged to Him. But what did He do with it? Paul answers this in his advice to the believers in Philippi:

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:5-8)

Someone once said to an irate brother, “Your ‘right’ to punch me in the nose ends where my nose begins!” Have we forgotten as brothers and sisters in Christ that we belong to one another, that each of us to one another is as a “little Christ” – a ‘Christ’-one, a Christian, as the early onlookers first called us. Did not Christ Himself say, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40)?

Brothers and sister what you decide do with your rights is freely yours to determine. But I urge you first to consider Christ… and I ask: For what are one’s “rights”: asserting, or surrendering? / Which is more noble? Which is more selfish?

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Wednesday, 9/29/21 – Pressing on… Disputable Matters

Disputable Matters

Throughout Romans chapter 14 Paul urges believer’s to accept one another… “without quarreling over disputable matters.” “God has accepted them,” he says, and asks, “Who are you to judge …? …Each… should be fully convinced in their own mind. …why do you judge your brother or sister?…each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

In Paul’s day one of these “disputable matters” was about which day to keep holy: the traditional Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) or the new Christian “first day of the week” (Sunday) in recognition of the day of Christ’s resurrection. Some Jewish believers held to the former while others held to the latter.

Another “disputable matter” had to do with whether or not it was OK to eat meat previously offered to an idol. A meat would be offered in ceremonial sacrifice to an idol, but of course the idol being made of stone or wood could not consume the meal, so it was afterwards sold for cheap in “the shambles,” a sort of discount back alley of the markets. This meat would often prove a bargain, so the question was whether or not it was appropriate for a Christian to purchase it.

In both cases it was Paul’s strong advice that Christians should not be quarreling over these matters, not judging one another based on their own particular preferences. He writes,

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. …do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. / Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Rom. 14)

It’s a funny thing about disputable matters: either option could be “right” or “wrong” depending upon the individual believer’s conscience. Crossing the line determined by one’s conscience is the real transgression.

I believe this is the way we should view those who feel comfortable receiving a vaccine and those who do not. Though statistics appear to indicate that the vaccinated are safer from harm, a brother or sister may by reason of conscience feel so strongly against it that they are willing to accept that risk. To force them to cross this line would be to force them to transgress. Others may feel so strongly that they should protect their bodies as “temples of the Spirit” by accepting the vaccine that to force them not to would be to force them to transgress.

So what are we to do? Beyond perhaps a little educating or reassurance Paul’s priority is this: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” As always, the Lord’s primary interest is in what goes on in one’s heart.

Press on…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Tuesday, 9/28/21 – Pressing on… We Walk, Work & Worship – as One

We Walk, Work & Worship – as One

At our service this past Sunday I shared with the church family the words to this lovely song of affirmation of our unity in Christ. It was written by Peter Scholtes and dates back to 1966, but it’s simplicity and truth still draw the people of God to oneness today. I reproduce it here for your continued contemplations…

They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love  (1966, F.E.L. Pub. Assigned 1991 Lorenz Pub.)

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord; We are one in he Spirit, we are one in the Lord; And we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand; We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand; And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will work with each other, we will work side by side; We will work with each other, we will work side by side; And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

All praise to the Father, from whom all things come; And all praise to Christ Jesus, His only Son. And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Monday, 9/27/21 – Pressing on… 70… to Infinity

70… to Infinity

In Psalm 90 the psalmist muses on mankind’s guilt, the ultimate justice of God and the brevity of human life. In verse 10 he writes, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Ps. 90:10). In light of this, two verses later he prays, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (v.12).

Yesterday I turned 70 (“threescore years and ten”). Rigidly following the above Scripture, one might say I am now living on “borrowed time”… or, more accurately, by the grace of God. But really, our entire lives are “by the grace of God.” From the get-go this “free will” creation of the Almighty rebelled and went awry. We proved ourselves faulty, made ourselves marred, and did not repent (change our minds and course).

But our Maker did not destroy us… crumple up our clay and discard us. No, he decided to reshape us… remake us… not en-masses, but one at a time… not by force, but by wooing. He maintained our freedom of minds and allows us each to choose… Will we to be pliant in His Hands? Or not?

If you have recognized your need of Him, yielded to Him as softened clay, then He is already at work in you. He has particular design in mind for each of us… for you, and for I. He is giving you a new mind and a new heart; He has set you now on a new course.

In Galatians 5 Paul urges the Galatians to stay that course. Some had begun to stray from it and these he urges to return: “You were running a good race,” he writes (5:7), but someone cut in, tried to mar the race that remained. He says, don’t let that happen to you. Our good Father wants us each to finish well our race.

Paul, now aged, wrote the young and vibrant Timothy, “…my departure is near…I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).

For those who have commited their souls to Christ the future is not tragic but joyous!

“To infinity and beyond!”Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Wednesday, 9/22/21 – Pressing on… God rules all things!

God rules all things!

Pixabay

“God rules all things by His power,” wrote Cyril of Jerusalem (310-386 AD). “He rules over the idolaters… rules over the heretics… He even rules over the devil…”

God has this astonishing knack of contorting evil into good. Take, for example, the life of Joseph. Sold into slavery by his envious brothers God twists it into good as Joseph remains faithful. He raises Joseph to great power and by his management of a great famine saves the lives of many including his evil-plotting brothers. Joseph, trusting the hand of God through all this, in the end assured them,

You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:20, NKJV).

In these days we face great opposition from our true enemy, the devil. He hopes to sow discord among us. Our job is to shun him as Joseph shunned the temptation to vengeance against his brothers. It is for victory that this foe exists.

Cyril elaborates,

“God has allowed the devil to exist, for two reasons: first, that he might shame himself all the more in being overcome; and second, that humanity might be crowned with victory over him… God allowed the devil to make war, that we might be crowned victors! When our victory is gained, the devil is even more shamed, conquered by the weaker party; mortal humans are mightily honoured, having defeated a fallen archangel!”

The psalmist David praised, “Your faithfulness continues through all generations; You established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve You. (Ps. 119:90, 91).

All things serve God. His end purposes will prevail. Our job — your job as a Christian — is to hold steady against the devils wiles, to maintain unity and harmony amongst your brothers and sisters in Christ and “as far as it depends on you… with everyone.” (Rom. 12:18). God is in control and His purposes will prevail!

I like the way Max Lucado puts it:

“Everything will work out in the end. If it’s not working out, it’s not the end.” – Max Lucado

Press on…

Tuesday, 9/21/21 – Pressing on… Hearts and Heads in Equilibrium

Hearts and Heads in Equilibrium

Pixabay

The Apostle Peter became a great leader of the early church. His epistles and testimony have continued to inspire, encourage, comfort and warn all believers after him. But Peter had his season of rashness. He was the first – and only – disciple to step out on the angry sea, his reflexes acting faster than his faith could follow. He blurted out the incongruous notion to build huts for the miraculous guests at the transfiguration. He thought he knew best by first refusing and then requesting more as Christ washed the disciples feet. He, in his rashness, denied his Christ in three instances of unanticipated consequence.

But Simon (the stone) became Peter (the rock) just as Jesus had seen in him upon their first meeting (John 1:42). Satan had desired to sift Peter, as he does all of us, but Jesus had prayed for him (Luke 22:31-32). He knew the man that Peter was to become.

And Jesus continues and prays on today, for us… for you… and for I (John 17:20; Heb. 7:25). We are all journeying home. We must not by our convictions on disputable things quarrel and toss others from the ship. We are all our Father’s Family… His Forever Family.

Rashness is a thing to be guarded against in the heart of every believer and it is best guarded by fostering a heart of prayer and love. As Peter learned, and warned,

“…with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you… The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply” (1 Pet. 1:13; 4:7).

“Judge nothing before the appointed time,” Paul cautioned the rash and argumentative Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:5). Choose your battles wisely and when you must fight, fight not one another with the weapons of the flesh but fight that true enemy of the Church with the weapons of the Spirit, “mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Cor. 10:4). Do so especially now as we face great challenge and transition.

In times like these I appreciate the words our now long-departed brother in Christ, Martin Luther, who, urging sobriety during the great plague of his day wrote,

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.” – Martin Luther – On “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague”

Pray, and Press on…

Monday, 9/20/21 – Pressing on… “Elected”

“Elected”

Today is Federal Election Day in Canada. Today every Canadian of voting age has the opportunity to “elect” to choose whom from among its citizens may govern (“conduct the policies actions and affairs of,” or, more harshly, “rule”) them. We call this system a democracy [dēmos = the people; kratos = rule] – government of the people. The Christian knows a further sort of rule, a theocracy [theos = God; kratos = rule] – government of God.

We do not elect this God, for there is but One God, and, as the scriptures teach us, it is He Who has “elected” us!  He has chosen us to be His own, His people. His rule further tells us that He has established lesser authorities which we ought also to obey.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God... For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good.” (Rom. 13:1, 4.)

And why did He put these powers in place? He put them in place because He knew not all would receive His rule. Some would refuse Him… some would even deny His Being, forming instead other “gods,” things of their own making or the making of other mortals, to guide them.

Besides these, there is but one other way to run a people and that is to let the people run amok! Chaos! We see this result in the last statement of the book of Judges: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” (Judges 21:25). Anarchy ruled.

To all who are under the Lordship of Christ has been given the great privilege of being among the elect of God, Ambassadors, Lights in darkness, living in this world as testimonies of the Agapé Love of God.

Whatever your vote this day, be cognizant always of the Love and Lordship of Christ. He would have “all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4), and has said, “judge nothing before the appointed time (1 Cor. 4:5), “Live in harmony… Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. …overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:16-18, 21).

Then, when this day is past, be careful also to follow this rule:

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4). 

Pray and Press on…

Wednesday, 9/15/21 – Pressing on… An Echo from Carthage

An Echo from Carthage

Cyprian of Carthage (200-258) was one of the great early fathers of the Church of God on this earth. He died a martyr under the persecution of his age. When told of his soon to follow fate he replied, “Thanks be to God,” so honored was he at being chosen to give our Lord such a final sacrifice.

On the incarnation, self-emptying, sacrifice and resurrection of Christ, Cyprian wrote, “What humanity is, Christ was willing to be, that humanity may become what Christ is.”

Now, the Christian is called to that same self-emptying and sacrifice of one’s own life in exchange for Christ’s life throbbing through him. Paul captures this duty and confesses,

I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Cor. 9:19-22).

Of Christ Cyprian extols, “He was proclaimed as the Illuminator and Teacher of humanity. He is the Power of God, the Reason of God, the Wisdom and Glory of God. He enters into a virgin. Although holy and spiritual in His nature, He is clothed with flesh – God made one with Man. Behold our God! Behold Christ! He is the Mediator between God and humanity. He put on human nature that He may lead humanity to the Father.”

Can you see it? Now, if you have received Him, Christ has inhabited youyou are the flesh He has put on, that He indwells … and one in whom He desires “to live and move and have His being.” Through you… and you… and you… many ‘Christs,’ doing many “greater things” allowing Him through each to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [He] might save some.”

This requires you too to die — to die, at least, to ‘self.’ Can you shout with Cyprian “Thanks be to God!” ?

Press on…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.

Tuesday, 9/14/21 – Pressing on… Aborted, Adopted, Adapted…

Aborted, Adopted, Adapted…

There is a passage in an Old Testament prophetic portrayal of God ransoming His people which sounds very much like the Lord Almighty coming upon an aborted fetus,

On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, ‘Live!’” (Ezek. 16:4-6)

Garbage! Birth discharge! Worth no man’s attention but to be tossed aside, made fodder for scavengers. But God sees hope in this bloody issue! His creative voice and life-giving breath speaks to it and command “Live!” And what happens? “Paul says it in Romans: “the Spirit you received brought about your adoption… by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15). He says it again in Galatians: “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” …you are His child” (Gal. 4:6,7). You cry out, “Daddy!”

The above Ezekiel passage continues to describe God growing and nurturing this child, washing and perfuming her, clothing and jeweling her to a creature of great beauty!

From aborting to adopting – this is God’s plan for our redemption. But that is not all! Not only does God seek to restore us to wholeness, but He desires fellowship with us. And not only does He desire fellowship with us, but He also desires to make us like Himself. He desires not only to adopt us, but to adapt us – to fit us for Heaven — to make us holy as He is Holy, for we must be holy to be in His Presence (see Heb. 12:14).

This is the miracle In which John marvels when he writes, “…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2).

Aborted, Adopted, Adapted!

The Law was just a step along this way. God has much bigger plans in mind.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11).

What an amazing, marvelous and gracious God!

More tomorrow…

To hear this past Sunday’s message, go to the Facebook page of Lincoln Baptist Church, or link to the livestream from the church website.