An Unencumbered Gospel

Paul strenuously advocated for an unencumbered Gospel. Any other ‘gospel’ was anathema! He opposed the ‘Judiazers’ who would insist on the legal requirements of Judaism. This ‘addition’ to the simple Good News was not to be the last. In our day there are fresher encumbrances. These are mostly cultural, one of the over riding ones is Patriotism. A strange mixture of ‘God and Country’ grips the landscape. It is but a fresher form of the harmful Judiazers. This is important to remember as July 1st and July 4th loom.

This year is a particularly painful one as Canada faces the historic abuses of the past. The voices of hundreds of children seem to cry out from the grave, “Look at what you have done!” An oxymoron comes to mind. This was a benign genocide! Perpetrators were imposing a language, a culture, a religion that they held as superior. The horrific abuse was carried out by Church and State in lockstep. Both had a ‘good’ in mind, never thinking that their ‘good’ could be so evil. The Church had added culture, language, to the Good News and it became very bad news indeed!

The answer lies not in orange ribbons but in repentant hearts. I belief God would invite us to a place of lament for this sinful anti-biblical attitude. This lament is to include an examination not just of past wrong but current wrong attitudes. What am I adding to the simple Gospel?  

The early Church did not use coercive tactics or additions to the Good News but simply proclaimed and lived out the Lordship of Jesus. The unadulterated Gospel proved attractive, while our version is so often repugnant.

True repentance does not stop at lament but in changed hearts. While there may be corporate actions to make amends, our individual response can be about never again adding to the invitation to believe and receive the simple Good News of Jesus love.

Perhaps patriotism has a place but if it does it must be in its proper place in submission to our primary allegiance the Jesus as Lord and to His Kingdom.

Happy Canada Day!

Dogs & Defaults

The story is told of a small boy explaining to his mother, “It is like there are two dogs inside me. One is pulling me to do bad things and the other pulls me to do good.” “Which one wins, dear?” “The one I feed most.”

This is very much in line with what Paul describes as our struggle with sin. We may want to do good, but sin is right at hand! It is a never-ending struggle in this current expression of life. We are faced with many decisions each day and our inner dogs do battle!

The boy’s story does reveal hope, to us, in these situations, though. The bigger, better fed dog pulls harder and so wins the day. I would suggest, as a twist on this thought, that a different pair of dogs enter this critical tug of war for each changing situation. I may have a Malamute sized puller in one situation. It is muscular and well fed and temptation is easily overcome. The tug might be so short that I am not even conscious of a struggle. In other arenas I have a Chihuahua sized champion on the side of good and I quickly am overcome. This dog needs feeding if I am to change the outcome.

To do this I first must admit that my Chihuahua sized strength is powerless to stand against a given temptation. I require empowerment from a source outside myself. Put simply, I need God. As I pray and read  my ‘inner dog’ supernaturally grows. As I live in grateful reliance on Him my Chihuahua grows. I never get beyond the need of God without him my malnourished Malamute becomes no more advantageous than my Chihuahua was. As the old song goes “I need Thee every hour.”

A prescription for victory over temptation is daily: daily prayer (morning and evening), reading and meditation on the Word, and thankfully serving Him throughout the day. This feeds us and sets us up for the myriad of ‘tug of wars’ that day. We can not survive on ‘yesterday’s’ manna but must seek fresh food each day.

Adding to this thought (and bringing further hope), is the idea of default systems. My computer has certain default systems including type fonts. If I want to type in a different font I must consciously change it, but over time I have established my preferred font and other preferences as defaults. I no longer have to even think about these issues. They are programmed in.

As I develop a default system of devotion and grateful living I can overcome much temptation without stress or strain. In the areas where I still too easily fall, such as pride, I need to consciously go to God. I do so in the hope that by habitually doing this I will develop humility as my default system. After which I will certainly have to engage temptation on yet another front. There is no cessation in the conflict with: sin, the flesh, and the Devil.

So today I encourage myself with thoughts of Dogs and Defaults.

I had a couple of really good meetings, this week, with a gentleman who may be the answer to our prayers in search of a “Night-time Pastor” for our Threshold House ministry. We continue to seek God’s will in this.

I also met with a local Youth Pastor this week as we planned a community barbecue at Threshold House July 10th. We are inviting our Street Hope friends, making a point of personally inviting people from a low income housing area near Threshold House, and church members. We pray for good weather, as there is no possibility for a rain date (the young people are a part of a regional gathering “Under Current”) and meaningful conversations. If you could add this to your prayers I would be grateful.


“Now I know my ‘ABCs’ tell me what you think of me!”. I was three when I mastered the alphabet. I was so pleased with myself, and yet there was so much more to learn. Those twenty-six letters are the sole building blocks for the English language, but I was to learn that they could be grouped in myriad of ways and that those grouping of letters (words) could be arranged in an even greater variety of ways. My rudimentary knowledge of the alphabet was not exceeded by William Shakespeare himself, but he could arrange those same twenty-six letters in ways that captured imaginations, told epic tales, made us laugh or cry at his whim, and generally thrilled readers.

At the same age I attained yet another academic feat. I learned to count to ten. I learned these numbers and could count my chubby wee fingers. These ten numbers make up the whole of our system of mathematics and I had mastered them by the age of four! My rudimentary knowledge of these ten numbers was not exceeded by Albert Einstein himself, yet he used them in groups and pattern, inexplicable to me, to create his ‘Theory of Relativity. He used numbers imaginatively and creatively and his brilliance with those ten numbers is held in awe to this day.

I was a bit older when I learned the musical scale. These notes make up all of the music we enjoy and at an early age I was taught them. Wolfgang Mozart used those same notes in an intricate creative way to compose some of the most complex and beautiful music ear has ever heard. He took my rudimentary knowledge to heights of genius unsurpassed before or since.

At an early age I learned my colours. (Are you catching a pattern here?) I could name all the colours of the rainbow and my Crayola pack. I was a master of colour. Vincent Van Gogh had no more colours than I when He painted the starry night sky or irises, yet still today his works of brilliance inspire and amaze!

I am glad that I was taught the rudiments of: the alphabet, numbers, musical notes, and colour but I have come to learn that none of these are ever truly ‘mastered’. This kind of knowledge is not a world to be conquered but a ladder to be climbed. Each rung is an achievement and another one lays ahead.

All of this occurred to me this week as I was reading the Beatitudes. My Grandmother gave me my first Bible and on the fly leaf was beautifully scrolled rendition of the Beatitudes. I memorised them shortly after, because they must be most important, to hold such a prominent place. Soon I had mastered them! I was treating them as a world to be conquered. Now I realise that like the alphabet, numbers, musical notes and colours, the Beatitudes are a ladder I can climb. As I progress in learning and creatively living these out in my life, another rung lays in front of me.

Too often we Christians can feel like we have mastered the Word of God. We may be able to name the books in order and know New from Old but this rudimentary knowledge, though important, ought not to be the end. Rudimentary knowledge is but a means and no end. It is meant to become a tool in our hands as we get on with the great goal of life.

Paul articulates this great goal of life in Philippians 3:10 “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the sharing of His sufferings by becoming like Him in his death if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Knowing Christ is the goal. The Beatitudes are like the rest of the Bible a means or rung by which we may attain. Knowing Jesus is very different from knowing of him just as knowing the alphabet falls short of great literature.

I have been spurred by these thoughts to a renewed commitment to ‘knowing’ Jesus in a deeper and deeper way. Rather than mastering a subject I would rather resemble the Master

The Highly Resistible Church

Jesus seemed to be pretty well liked. The crowds were drawn to him. The sick and the sinner alike flocked to him. The only ones who did not ‘take a shine’ to him were those of the “temple” and the “empire”. The religious world had a vested interest in the status quo. The ruling powers of the world did not want their ‘apple cart’ upset.

The early church was much the same. Daily it grew, as the Lord added to its numbers, but there was opposition. Those of the ‘temple’ and the ‘empire’ resisted. Despite such opposition the Church grew from a handful to an ever-increasing movement! In the face of hostility from the two most powerful forces of the day irresistibly the church thrived.

As I reread the above paragraphs I am struck with the question, “What in the world happened?”. In a day when the powers of ‘empire’ do not persecute the church. I say this despite the oft heard whining of people about “cancel culture” and other attacks on long-held values. Comparing these experiences to the out and out opposition of the empire of old is beneath us! The religious world in the west (the temple) is dominated by the church. In such friendly circumstances rather than thriving the church is withering.

This withering may be the result of a most tenuous relationship with “the Vine”. Where Jesus (the True Vine) identified with the least and the lost, and resisted temporal means to accomplish spiritual ends. The temptations in the wilderness are a testament to this. The church like Judah before exile is looking to make an alliance with Egypt. The Church has become so cosey with the empire in the west that we have adopted the world’s values and the world’s methods.

Jesus was well-liked and his Body is disliked or seen as irrelevant. This is the saddest of all ironies! The way back is a radical realignment of our allegiances. We can not give first place to the ‘empire’, nor to the ‘temple’. The first Commandment is still in force. “Thou shall have no other gods before Me.” If power, either religious or secular society is our prime focus we will remain unattractive to the least and the lost. But as we regain vigour through our radical identification and emulation of Jesus, we may again become the irresistible Church of the first few centuries.

Lately things have begun to move with our Threshold House project. Out of the blue I got a call from a gentleman who is in leadership with a large local ‘Celebrate recovery’ program, and he would like to volunteer with us. Another leader of a ‘Celebrate Recovery’ group from the inner-city called and we met for coffee to plan ways we might work together. I am meeting Monday with another person who may be a key piece of our project going forward. Expenses are about to escalate significantly but God is supplying, through the generosity of his saints.

Next month we are holding a barbecue on the grounds of Threshold House. An area-wide youth outreach program will be helping with this venture. Our hope is this will bring energy and awareness of of our mission.

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!