Monthly Archives: July 2015

Philippians 3

Paul at his best.
1 And that’s about it, friends. Be glad in God! I don’t mind repeating what I have written in earlier letters, and I hope you don’t mind hearing it again. Better safe than sorry–so here goes.
2 Steer clear of the barking dogs, those religious busybodies, all bark and no bite. All they’re interested in is appearances–knife-happy circumcisers, I call them.
3 The real believers are the ones the Spirit of God leads to work away at this ministry, filling the air with Christ’s praise as we do it. We couldn’t carry this off by our own efforts, and we know it–
4 even though we can list what many might think are impressive credentials. You know my pedigree:
5 a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law;
6 a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting Christians; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book.
7 The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash–along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ.
8 Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant–dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ
9 and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ–God’s righteousness.
10 I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself.
11 If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.
12 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.
13 Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward–to Jesus.
14 I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
15 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision–you’ll see it yet!
16 Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
17 Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal.
18 There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross.
19 But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.
20 But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

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Frontier Ranch – An Arnprior Story

When I was 11 and 12 years old, my parents sent me to Frontier Ranch two summers in a row for a 2 week camp holiday.  Frontier Ranch was a western cowboy camp where we learned to ride real horses and sing Koombia around a camp fire. Located on 400 acres of land on Loney Lake near Arnprior, in its heyday, Frontier Ranch had 120 brood mares and three stallions, any boy’s dream.

It was run by Lyle and Florence Jeffrey.  It was a real Christian camp, the Jeffrey’s being Baptists, were very serious about their faith.  Florence grew up in Westboro, and at 15 left high school to look after her mother.  When she was 16, Florence began working as an inspector at Modern Containers. At 20 she married Lyle Jeffery, a man she had met when she was 15.  Before the birth of their second child, Lyle enlisted in the Navy. Serving in the North Atlantic, he was gone two years.

When Lyle returned from the war, he created a line of suitcases called Jeff Flite out of the basement of their Ottawa home. Recognizing a promising and growing business for Arnprior, Mayor Bob Simpson invited Lyle to build a luggage plant. Jeffrey Luggage Ltd. was built on McNab Street, and the business grew to employ 23 people.  Following a family trip to the Calgary Stampede, Florence and Lyle decided to create a Christian ranch camp for children. In 1957 they bought wooded land on Loney Lake, and opened the ranch in 1958.  Lyle, who was such a resolute Christian that he thought nothing of telling off strangers if they took the Lord’s name in vain. Mostly, people apologized, but a few snarled back and, once, it earned him a bop in the chin.

My mother was connected with the Ottawa Presbyterian church community and must have heard about Frontier Ranch.  So off I was sent for a week in 1961.  Well after getting over my fear of horses, I learned to ride and quite fell in love with “Black Sambo”.  Black Sambo was a smaller gentler horse that did not try to rub your legs off on the fence posts nor take your head off by running under low hanging branches.  I made some new friends and liked the food and crafts.  When my parents came to pick me up I pleaded to be allowed to stay a 2nd week, and they let me.

The next summer I came back for a 2nd stint.  On the first day I think it was, I was swimming to the raft in the lake with a new friend.  He started to struggle and when I went to help him he pulled me under.  I thought I was going to drown.  One of the Jeffrey boys came to our rescue and properly grabbed my friend from the back of his body and pulled him to safety.  I was very shaken by this.  Another time I was in the motor boat and who ever was driving (I think it was one of the Jeffrey boys again) made a series of sharp turns.  The motor fell right off the boat and sank to the bottom of the lake. Well, that was an adventure too that I will never forget.  I can still hear the gurgling sound the motor made as if disappeared below the boat. Ha!

I learned a lot about my fears at Frontier Ranch and also how to overcome them.  It was a tremendous experience the county side was extraordinary.  I can still see those circular low growing juniper bushes and the horse trail that ran through them.  One of my childhood experiences I will never forget.  The irony is now I am living in Arnprior, not too far from where all this growing up occurred.

The following article about Frontier Ranch appeared in the Canadian Weekly in June 1962, the Toronto Star weekly magazine Scan0034

I am also indebted to a February 2014 article in the Arnprior Chronicle-Guide about Florence Jeffrey:

http://www.insideottawavalley.com/opinion-story/4354533-tales-from-island-view-florence-jeffrey-has-enjoyed-a-fulfilling-life/

Finally, one of the Jeffrey boys – David who I must have met – went on to become a famous professor at Baylor Univeristy in Waco, TX.  Here is his story worth reading:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/observer/story.html?id=ac36c9bd-0b96-4915-a575-d3b4444246ff

In the moment, I am very grateful for everything Lyle and Florence Jeffrey did for me and for my friends.  I still love you Black Sambo.

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Escape from Reason

Is the title of the small book I lost and have now found again.  It is by Christian apologist Francis A. Schaeffer.

It is a thin book that traces how the 20th century mentality (secularism, pornography, substance dependence, atheism, existential nothingness) came about.  Trends in philosophy and art have reflected a dualism between nature and grace in Western thinking from Thomas Aquinas to the early 1960s.  So how can the Christian faith be made meaningful today?

The story line starts with Thomas Aquinas who in explaining the Fall of man due to original sin (i.e., our separation from the personal God creator), had left man’s intellect intact. This was a fatal error according to Francis which set off a chain of events that has led to many of society’s problems today.

An endless stream of philosophers then took up the challenge of  trying to use their intellect to find a unified theory of truth and knowing and failed. Hegel came along and said the method being used was the problem.  He recommended thesis-antithesis-synthesis.  According to Francis, this explains why parents and children do not understand each other.  Their frames are totally different and the methodology has changed.

Nature (below the line) ate up grace (above the line). So in today’s world, advances in science have led many people to give up any notion of a supreme being. Man is the supreme being for many today. There is no God hiding in the shadows any more. Life is ultimately meaningless and has no purpose. Our intellect is the only thing we can be sure of. However, increasingly society despairs of the strictly rational approach to thinking that has led us to this kind of life.

He then talks about “the leap”. For Francis, the Bible is the only “system” that points the way to a purpose in life, namely reestablishing our lost unity with God the personal creator. One must let go of one’s intellect to allow grace to due it’s work in each of us to permit faith in the irrational to bloom.  Fortunately we have the Gospel that enables us to make this leap and reconnect with the personal God creator who gives reason and meaning to our lives.

Churches are full of middle class “believers” who have no way of communicating with their children, intellectuals and the working class who are outside of the church. These latter have been so bombarded (smashed in the face he says) with worldly messages so that they no longer think the same way as believers do.  It is difficult to communicate.
He finishes by saying that his little book is not only of interest to academics for intellectual debate, it is crucial for those who are serious about communicating the Gospel in the 20th century.  The triumph of Faith over intellect for some is due to timeless Truth which does not change with the times. Relativism and existentialist nothingness are routed when one makes the leap.

Rather than try to explain any more what this book is about, I give you two reviews.  One positive, one not so positive.  These are from people much more able than I am to situate Schaeffer’s thinking.

The first is from Stephen Sawyer of AZ at:

http://www.amazon.ca/review/R2WSHUBKGWWI1F/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R2WSHUBKGWWI1F

The second is from David Haines of QC at:

http://www.amazon.ca/review/R2R7G2OZRH0L8F/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R2R7G2OZRH0L8F

In the moment, I think am going to have to read this book again to grasp its full meaning.  4 out of 5 stars.

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Book Review – A History of God, Karen Armstrong

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I found this book somewhat difficult to read and absorb.  Karen Armstrong traces in detail our concept and thinking about God over 400 years.  She does it by referring to the specific writings, teachings and thinking of dozens of philosophers and theologians in the Christian, Jewish and Islam religious traditions.

Very thorough and engrossing at times, I found it very dense in places and difficult to sustain my attention and to understand.  In different chapters she goes into great length on The Trinity, The God of Islam, The God of the Philosophers, The God of the Mystics, A God of Reformers, Enlightenment and the Death of God.  Each one of these chapters could easily become a book in itself.

To try to understand the trends in our thinking about God over the ages, I had found (and have since lost) a tiny little book by author unknown.  In it he said that originally there was Grace (above the line) and Nature (below the line) i.e., wo(man) in the physical world recognized his permanent separation from God who is beyond any limit we can think of (as he told Moses simply, “I am”).  Over the ages nature has ate up grace totally so that wo(man) became the upper entity (above the line) and nature (everything else is below the line). i.e, (wo(man) is now “God” and the mythic God of the Bible we knew is dead or nothing.

We all certainly do not believe this, but for those who do have Faith, there is a distinct group (the mystics) who believe God is within each of us and our goal in life is to reach divine unity with Him in us through meditation and contemplation. i.e; heaven on earth.  There is also the more recent Universe Story where believers believe we are made of stardust (matter is created in super nova explosions or black hole implosions so that is where we ultimately come from if I understand this correctly).

Back to Karen’s book.  For some reason Islam mystic Mullah Sadra’s theology stands out for me https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulla_Sadra.  As does the famous Jewish coming of the false messiah Sabbatai Zevie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbatai_Zevi  Similarly what she says about the heroic athiesm of Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings stands out:

“The Christian God, was pitiable, absurd and a crime against life.  He had encouraged people to fear their bodies, their passions, their sexuality, and had promoted a puling morality of compassion which had made us weak.  There was no ultimate meaning or value and human beings had no business offering an indulgent alternative in “God”. It must be said that the Western God is vulnerable to this critique.  He has been used to alienate people from their humanity and from sexual passion by means of life-denying asceticism.”

The Protestant reformation and its claim of salvation through faith alone and revelation through scripture alone changed the Christian world forever.  There was no longer an obvious need to “live a good life grounded in charity” in order to be saved some had argued.  One merely had to accept the gift from God of having Faith in Him to know that one had indeed been saved.  The lives of the Saints, “the Pope and the “Church”, intercessional prayers for others and Mary Immaculate were all “wo(man) made” traditions and no longer worthy of our attention or devotion.

Is there a future for God Karen asks?  Yes.  “Human beings cannot endure emptiness and desolation; they will fill the vacuum by creating a new focus of meaning.  The idols of fundamentalism (instant charismatic religious satisfaction) are not good substitutes for God; if we are to create a vibrant new faith for the twenty-first century, we should perhaps ponder the history of God for some lessons and warnings”

A monumental well researched survey of our changing concept of God, I would rate this book 3 stars out of 4 or 5.

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Living God’s Way

Galatians 5: 19-26, (The Message)

19 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;
20 trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits;
21 the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.
22 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments,
23 not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way.
24 Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good–crucified.
25 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.
26 That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

Paul sums up for me what I have struggled with in my own life and what I see others struggling with around me. Call it the curse of freedom. I have a choice to live God’s way. Why do I not consistently choose God’s way. Something to reflect on in the coming days.

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Unresolved Conflict

Unresolved conflict is at the root of many troubles in today’s world. Look at the Teachers’ work to rule campaign, the wars in Syria and Iraq and closer to home the turmoil in our own families and between couples.

It is easy to brush conflict under the table by pretending it is not there. Conlict is bad and something we don’t speak of.  Why deal with it, just ignore it and it will go away.

But at what cost? Unresolved conflict leads to bullying, harassment, scapegoating, more pain, unhealthy behaviour, broken relationships and violence. We have all seen the fruits of unresolved conflict and the damage it brings.

So why do we not deal with conflict when it arises? A little short term pain for long term gain. Right? Quite simply because we don’t know how. By raising the issue we fear we open up a can of worms and make things even worse.

We lack the capacity to resolve conflct, the tools, the trust in each other and the faith that we can succeed. But not the will. After all who wants to live in conflict?

Each of us is worthy with our own views and values. No one’s view should prevail over others. We need to listen to each other and not feel threatened or diminished by the others feedback or feelings of our lesser hood.

Dear Lord, give us the strength, wisdom and courage to help us resolve our conflcts. Help build our capacity to listen and give honest feedback to each other. Help each of us to take our rightful place in our families, our worplace and in our communities.

“Put on the new life from Jesus, transparency, goodness of heart, compassion, putting aside all malice and resentment.” (Jean Pierre Medaile)

Amen.

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