9/5/16

Is God Good?

I have often heard the question asked, "Is God Good?"

When I answer in the affirmative, the follow up tends to be, "well then why does He allow suffering?" Or even, "Then how can He send people to Hell?"

It would seem that everyone wants to experience His grace, mercy and love but no one wants to hear His truth!  We want the good and none of the bad. The Bible clearly says the God is love (1 John 4:8), but it also says that He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).

So if God is good, then how come He punishes those who refuse to repent? I appreciate this quote from Salvation Army officer,  Samuel Brengle (1860-1936): In his book Love Slaves he writes that "Fire will not only bake our food, but it will burn us. Water will not only quench our thirst and refresh us, but if we trifle with it, it will drown us."

God is good, but He is not to be trifled with. He has given us the freedom to choose eternal life in Heaven or Hell, to follow or reject Him. We can accept His wisdom and submit to His will, and live in true joy and peace, or, we can reject His offer of life in Christ, and pay the eternal consequences. Holding  us accountable for our sins does not negate His goodness.

God is good, loving, compassionate and slow to anger, but He is also holy and righteous. We can't continue on a path that breaks His laws and not expect to be disciplined anymore than we can continually break man's laws and not expect punishment. I can choose to obey the law of the land and enjoy the privileges of being a citizen in good standing, or violate those laws and reap the consequences...the choice is mine but being punished in the courts is not the fault of the ones who set the law in place, it is the fault of the lawbreaker.

Is God good? Absolutely.

Is He fair? Undoubtedly.

The question isn't really is God good but Who will I follow and obey, my own idea of truth or His?

For me, Psalm 84:10 says it best, "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

9/3/16

This Changed Everything


This Changed Everything is a new DVD that comes out this October. I received a advance copy from my friend John Armstrong, author of Your Church is too Small and president of the Act3 Network.

The three-part documentary looks at the rich history of the Reformation, examining its good parts while also asking the tough questions about what went wrong in the aftermath. Could division have been avoided? Is the fractured and divided church of today beyond hope for reunification? Jesus spoke about unity, does it still apply today?

Hosted by actor David Suchet, church historians across the religious spectrum share deep insights and ask those tough questions about unity and the future of the Christian church.

As a history buff I fell in love with this DVD. The transitions through this period of time were smooth and lead the viewers deeper into the past then the average believer may have gone before. I learned things I never knew and found myself wondering and asking some of the same questions that the historians address.

Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and beyond are examined in a fresh light. We in the church today hold the reformation in such high regard. Have we ever counted the cost? With all of the good that came from this transformative period of history, we cannot ignore the problems it wrought as well.

Is there still hope for unity in the body of Christ? I believe there is.

I recommend this DVD to every student of church history, to every Pastor and leader in the body of Christ and to every Christian who truly believes that we should love one another!

8/4/16

Culture

I love me some A.W. Tozer. He is one of my all-time favorite authors. I have the majority of the books he wrote during his lifetime. I also have many of the ones released after his death. These latter ones are culled from his sermons and magazine articles.

So when I saw that Moody Publishers were putting out a "new" book by A.W. Tozer I immediately requested a review copy.

I started digging into the book as soon as it came.

Culture is a collection of reflections by Tozer on the nature of the church, counting the costs of following Jesus Christ and the hope of Heaven. It is everything I expect from a Tozer book. There are hard-hitting, uncomfortable truths that make the reader sit back, pause, reflect and pray.

Sadly, it has all been said before. This was not a "new" collection of thoughts but parts taken from previous books that all centered around the main theme. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book and any fan of Tozer will as well. It is just not "fresh" words but leftovers put together to make a new meal.

Having said that, as today's believers seem to focus on our place in culture more and more, this is a book that is a must read. At times prophetic, it is also a call back to the Truth. A Truth we all need to rediscover in times like these.

7/15/16

5 Books That Changed My Life

I love to read.

I love to curl up with a good book and will stay up late into the night if I find a real page-turner.

Over the years I have read more books than I can count.

Five of those books changed or impacted my life in significant ways.

Those books are:

1. Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret


This book was handed to me when I was 15 years old. I had talked to one of the Deacons in my church and told him of the call I felt to missions. He gave me this book and I devoured it in a little over a day. I read this book every year for the next 12 years!  I learned so much...the biggest lesson being what Hudson Taylor's secret was. That secret changed my life and set me on the course to where I am today.

2. The Pursuit of God


In 1994, while attending a YWAM DTS in Lindale, TX, I chose this classic for a book report for school.  I had never heard of A.W. Tozer but was intrigued by the title.What I discovered in these pages challenged me in a way I had never been challenged before. This old school Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor wrote a book that rocked me to my core. All these years later I am still pursuing God and this book played a part in that decision.

3. What's So Amazing About Grace



I received this book as a gift while living on the mission field in Croatia back in the late 90's. As I read this book I was greatly disturbed. In fact I tossed the book aside and counted it as rubbish. I could not agree with Yancey's conclusions. I vehemently disagreed in some places. Then in a bored moment I went back to the book and got a little further before tossing it aside. No clue why I did not just toss the book out but on the 3rd read I finished the book and wrestled with its themes. I now count it as one of my all time favorites and have seen, received and attempted to show grace in ways I never did before thanks to this book!

4. Classic Christianity


I came across this simple little book shortly after the Yancey one mentioned above. I was frustrated and then intrigued by it's simple message of Identity in Christ. I read it with excitement, prayed through its pages and have recommended it to many over the years. I can only say that the Biblical truth found in the pages of this book can change your life!

5. Spiritual Rhythms


I picked up this book while in the midst of a spiritual low point. Talk about timely. What Mark Buchanan wrote in this book was nothing short of life altering. I never looked at my faith through the lens of seasons before and yet it resonated with me so completely that it formed the underpinning of many of my sermons over the next year. I soon discovered spring time again and still refer to this book when talking to others in the winter of their faith.

So there you have it. Five books that changed my life. If you have never read these titles I mentioned you should grab them, set aside some time and dive in!

Have you been significantly impacted by a book you've read? Feel free to share.

6/17/16

Finishing Well

Twelve years. It has been 12 years since my family moved back to the Bulkley Valley in northern British Columbia. My wife and I were married here 21 years ago. Both of our children (18 and 6) were born here. We love our community.

Now we are leaving.

This September, we will be moving to Winnipeg for the next two years. My wife and I will be training to become Salvation Army officers. It is a new adventure and we are excited to see what God has in store for us next.

Over the next 2 months we will be planning, packing and then departing. All this has gotten me to thinking about how I will finish here in the Valley. It would be easy to “check out” and leave the work to the next man/woman. However, I look at work as I do life. We should always strive to do our best. It has been said that the Christian life is like a marathon, not a 100-yard dash. I want to finish as well as I started.

In 2 Tim. 4:7, Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I want to finish well in the Bulkley Valley just like I want to finish well in life. I want to honor God with my life, my conduct, my work and my relationships with others. Jesus told a story in Matthew about a servant who pleased his master greatly.

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Matthew 25:21)

When I leave this world for good and stand before our Heavenly Father, I long to hear those words. It starts now. I need to choose each day to walk with Him, to honor Him, and to strive to finish each day well.

I want to leave the Valley encouraging you to make that make that choice as well.

Finish Well!

5/19/16

Finding God in the Hard Times


I missed Finding God in the Hard Times the first time it came out in print. Previously published in 2005 under the title Blessed Be Your Name, this book by Matt and Beth Redman is an encouragement to praise God despite the circumstances. 

Using the Matt Redman song, Blessed be Your Name, as a lead in, the couple look at life and all it's hardships. They don't shy away from sharing their own story and they address serious issues of pain, suffering and death. Throughout the book there is a sense of hope in the God who sees! 

Each chapter ends with reflections questions and the book closes with an effective study guide for use in small groups.

Having personally dealt with a lot of hard issues this year, I found this book to be inspiring and encouraging. It actually arrived in my mailbox at the perfect time. I devoured the book in just a couple days. I finsihed with a renewed sense of God's love and care in the midst of hardship.

I would encourage everyone to have a copy of this book on their shelf!

"This book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Publishing in exchange for an honest review."

4/24/16

We Pray For You

"We pray for you often!"

With those words, spoken by a gentleman in the congregation near the tail end of my sermon, tears began streaming down my face. I choked up and my voice cracked as I finished off my sermon and closed in prayer.

My message this Sunday had been on the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22).  I was drawing my message to a close and had just shared Matthew 22:36-40 where Jesus calls us to love God with everything we have and to love our neighbor as our self.  As I spoke briefly on that passage and it's meaning, I mentioned the sense of community within our fellowship and how touched I was by some of our street entrenched congregants who reached out with compassion when they heard of the recent passing of my dad.

It was then that one of the men, a homeless individual, spoke up. His words brought those aforementioned tears.

"Rick every day we all gather behind the library. We join in a circle and pray. We pray for you often during those times."

I cried.

I was humbled.

As my daughter said shortly after, "This is the side of homelessness people don't see."  It is true. Many will reach out and help but just as many will pass by, silently judging those on the street for their addictions. I have heard to many people say, "They brought it on themselves, the should just get a job, etc."

Today I heard their heart....and I wept.

Unashamedly.

Loving our neighbor has never been more concretely demonstrated to me than today.