Tuesday, October 30, 2012

God Never Says Oops

"A man's steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand." Psalm 37:23-24
God is Sovereign, God is Lord. Through the entirety of scripture we see over and over again, the Supreme Majesty (Hebrews 1:3, Psalm 145:5), Ultimate Power (Psalm 62:11, Job 26:14, 1 Corinthians 6:14) and Complete Authority (Romans 13:1-7, 2 Timothy 3:16) of the God of the Universe. We, very clearly, see through Creation (Genesis 1), the awesome Greatness of God (Ephesians 1:19, Revelation 11:17).
"Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you." Jeremiah 32:17
God breathed into mankind and gave us life in His own image (Genesis 1:27).
"then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." Genesis 2:7
And God was pleased with His creation, He saw everything He had made and it was good. (Genesis 1:31). But not only that, He knew us before the foundations of the World (Ephesians 1:4, Luke 11:50). God has carefully and with purpose, created each and every human being ever to walk on the face of the Earth throughout history (Romans 9:21-24).
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:14
"But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." Isaiah 64:8
God created us, He created each and every one of us, purposefully, our personalities, spirits, souls, and bodies are of His specific design. We are created in God's image and with purpose. What that purpose is, is entirely under the authority of God.
"who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." Philippians 3:21
And yet, to spite the fact that we are created in God's own image, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, with purpose; there was a tragedy, a tragedy that became the very first act of humanism in the history of mankind. Eve, along with her husband, Adam, the first created man and woman, sinned. It is the lie that Satan told that so often is forgotten or misunderstood, as it continues to be the most aboundingly potent weapon in the devils arsenal (Genesis 3:1-7).
"For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5
The first lie, the serpents lie, is that Adam and Eve might become like God, knowing good and evil. They were already created in God's image, and already had some idea of good and evil, because they knew they were not to disobey God and eat from the tree. The seduction of the knowledge of good and evil was in the implication that Adam & Eve would then become free to choose one or the other, outside of the authority of God. God had clearly commanded obedience, yet there it was, an opportunity for freedom implied. Thus, the great deception, and the fall of man into the bondage of sin.

It is this great lie that continues to burden mankind, to our death. It permeates society, culture, family and church. The idea that we now have the freedom to choose between good and evil and exist outside of the Ultimate Will and design of Almighty God.
"But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:3
Yet, none of this was a surprise to God, He placed the trees in the Garden, He created Lucifer, He created mankind, the Earth and the universe. He has complete and perfect knowledge in His position outside of time (Isaiah 46:9-10, 2 Peter 3:8) and knowing of the fall of man and the sin of mankind, He created us. He was not surprised by the fall, He did not sit back and say oops. All things are subject to Him.

An Illustration.
We're going to explore anthropology for a paragraph or two. It is very clear in scripture that God cares very much about genealogy. It can be seen throughout scripture that there are very detailed genealogies. (Genesis 1:1-31, Genesis 5, Numbers 26:1-65, Nehemiah 7:1-73, Ezra 8:1-15, Matthew 1:1, Luke 3:23-38, 1 Chronicles, Numbers) I've often heard people wonder just why there are such boring passages of scripture and what "practical" application they might have. There is nothing in God's Holy Scriptures that is of no value. God has placed every Word as a way for us to see His Holiness, a way for us to recognize our sinfulness and need for reconciliation to Himself.
"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11:36
God has outlined for us the genealogies because they are important, they show us how fragile we are and how perfectly sovereign He is, how mind blowingly complex His design for humanity is. As we've already seen, God has designed and created each and every one of us, individually (Isaiah 64:8, Romans 9:21-24).

A generation is generally considered to be a period of time between twenty and thirty years; that is, the period of time between the birth of a child and the subsequent birth of that child's offspring. This then affords every century between four and five generations. For each generation of your ancestry, you exponentially increase the number of direct ancestors that you have - that is to say each generation of ancestry doubles. Every child that is born (with the exception of Christ) requires a mother and a father, so then you have two biological parents. Your father and your mother each have two biological parents, meaning that you then have four grandparents. This is a mathematical and biological imperative that exponentially grows from generation to generation.

In the image it shows that by the time you are four generations back, you have eight great-grandparents. if you follow this through mathematically you will find that by the time you dial back thirty three generations, you have at that point 4,294,967,296 direct ancestors (thirty first great-grandparents), mathematically speaking. This does not account for inbreeding, disease, war, famine or natural disasters. The biggest problem that arises with this mathematical formula is that 33 generations ago was approximately the year 1300, when the population of the world was presumed to be between 360 million and 432 million people. A far cry from the well over 4 billion ancestors that we just came up with.

What this points to is the fact that we are all far more closely related to one another than we may like to think. It also means that every person who was alive on the earth 700 years ago is imperative to our existence. If even one of those people were to have "chosen" differently in their lives, even in a small way, then we would not exist as God has created us, because we would have different ancestors from whom to draw genetic, biological and social attributes - we would be, in effect, entirely different people.

By way of example; a man saves a young girl from being run down in the street by a horse, had he not done so and she were killed, she would never have mothered the man who would marry your great great (etc.) grandmother, making it impossible for you (and dozens of generations before you) to even exist. Yet here you are, by God's Grace and Sovereignty. This means that, if God is the Creator of each and every individual, that it is impossible for us to commit any action that is outside of His design; otherwise there would be chaos and a complete divergence from His Will and Sovereignty. To suggest otherwise is to bow to the traditions of Darwinist evolutionary thinking, survival of the fittest and the serpents freedom.

But God Hates Sin
God hates sin, (Psalm 5:5, Romans 6:23), sin is separation from God (Isaiah 59:2) in His perfection (Psalm 18:30, Matthew 5:48). God hates incest, rape and adultery (James 2:11, Romans 13:9, Luke 18:20). Yet, these things have happened again and again throughout history, in many cases producing children. Yet, these children are not a surprise, nor a mistake to God. God does not gasp in shock at the conception of a child in sin, in fact all mankind is born into sin (Ephesians 2:2-3, genesis 8:21, Proverbs 22:15, Psalm 14:2-3)
"Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 51:5
As we've seen, Scripture teaches us that God is the Creator of all mankind, even though we are all born in sin. God did not abandon His creation at the fall of man, quite the contrary, he sent His son to come as a substitutionary atonement for our sins. Christ came to make a way for us to be reconciled to God. The sacrifice of Christ at that time in history was not a reactive move on God's behalf, from the beginning it was always a part of God's Master Design (Revelation 13:8).

But, of these children born of rape, incest and adultery, one of two things is true;

One; that God, the Author of all, created these individuals and in His Sovereignty and power choreographed the history of mankind to make possible each and every specific human being to come to conception, to spite mans alleged free will.

Two; that the ultimate free will of mankind allows for each individual to choose with whom they will mate, ultimately allowing that free will choice to cause the creation of new beings, outside the will of God, and aside from His authority and design.

If option two were true, then shortly after creation and then again shortly after the flood the entire world would be populated by beings that God had nothing to do with creating and are not a part of His will or plan. If it were possible for mankind to commit actions outside of the Ultimate Will of God, it would make us "Like God" (Genesis 3:5), which is precisely the serpents deception. God would no longer have control over the creation of individual human beings, their parents would, in whatever circumstance that might mean. Even those children born to monogamous Christian parents, living rightly before God, would be the product of a previous generation that was not. Ultimately leading to an entire planet outside of God's control or Will. If we could parent children outside of God's Ultimate Will, those children would not be purposefully designed and created by God. They would be the random chance of our own alleged free choice.

The great deception of the serpent in the garden would have us believe that these children are the result of the free choice of people to couple with whomever they chose; that the children born of these circumstances are created outside of God's will because of the method of their conception. Certainly God hates sin, but this does not mean that children born of sin are born apart from the authority of a Sovereign God. Scripture teaches us that all authority is God's, so these children must be born under His authority, according to His Word. And, if they are born outside of His will, how could they have been known before the foundations of the World? Their existence would be the result of the authority of the freedom of mankind.

But what of God's Foreknowledge?

God is outside of time, and perfectly and completely aware of all things in all times. yet, the idea of the free will of mankind does not negate His authority to the point that it is relinquished to merely knowledge. If God is simply aware of the creation of individuals and not personally responsible for their creation, He is not Sovereign, nor is He the Creator, nor is He the God of Scripture, nor is Scripture true.

I've often heard young people labouring over whether or not they will ever find God's one person for them; or if they will choose a career that is in His will. Yet, scripture teaches us that we do not possess the power or authority to operate outside of His perfect design. This should impress upon us the importance of seeking Him daily and living with his guidance in every aspect of our lives, but should not make us feel that He is somehow not in control.

We like to assign authority and control to God when it is convenient and not when it is difficult for us to understand in a circumstance. Yet, scripture is the highest authority, and we must find the Truth within it's pages.

But God Wouldn't Cause Sin!
The fall of man, Adam and Eve's decision to live a life in constant and perpetual sin (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23, Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18) has left us all in a state where we must choose daily to follow Christ and strive daily (Luke 9:23), by the strength of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16) to live Christlike lives(Philippians 1:27, 1 John 2:6).

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children." Ephesians 5:1
Our natural predisposition is to self and to sin, God exercises His perfect will in spite of our sinfulness, and this is something we will never completely comprehend (Proverbs 20:24). But Moses explains it rather clearly.
"When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them." Genesis 50:15-21
The actions of the brothers were sinful, yet it was a part of God's design. This truth applies to the massive complexity of the entirety of the Unvierse. Paul helps us understand it as well:
"Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?" Romans 9:21-24
The extent of mankind's "free will" extends only to that which falls under the Ultimate Authority of God's Supreme Sovereignty. Although the serpent would have liked Eve to believe it and would have all of us believe it, we cannot act outside of God's Ultimate Will and design for humanity.
"The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 16:9
"A man's steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?" Proverbs 20:24

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Skype 2.0: The People's Church

Tonight we had the privilege of having a Skype call with our friends at The People's Church in Truro. It was fantastic to be able to chat with them this way and share a short update about our summer and fall at Arrowhead!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

There's Always Skype

We were scheduled to fly out of Moncton at 12:30 on Wednesday afternoon. We got up good and early, packed up the van and got all of our travel necessities ready for ourselves and Ivy and drove to the Moncton Airport. We arrived, checked our bags and discovered that the flight was delayed by an hour. No problem. We had a 2 hour layover in Toronto anyway, so it shouldn't be a problem to catch our flight. So, we went to the cafeteria and relaxed for about an hour as we awaited our plane. No plane arrived, so I checked the board. Our flight was now delayed until 3:35. The friendly airline agent offered to transfer our tickets to the next available connecting flight out of Toronto, which wasn't until 10:00pm Atlantic time, a five hour layover. This change would have landed us in Prince Albert at about 3:30am ATL, IF we were able to get a ride at midnight - which was unlikely, meaning that we would have missed the first half of the meetings. As the camp meetings for Monday had already been cancelled, we decided to call Len and see what his thoughts were. It just didn't seem practical, so we elected to cancel our flights, and NCEM was refunded the cost of our tickets (which was good).

BUT, all was not lost, I was able to take part in the second day of meetings via Skype. Andrew Siebert made his computer available to connect to. With the help of Jonathan Yeo I was able to interact with the meetings and take part. It was great to be able to still be a part of the meetings, and they were very informative. I am always encouraged to see NCEM striving to be as effective as possible in achieving it's mandate and vision as a part of the great commission.

Jonathan Yeo... the face of the PR meetings for me this year... and my voice in the room...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ACSI World Concerns Day

Last Wednesday I had the privilege to take part in World Concerns Day at Kingswood University in Sussex, New Brunswick. The Association of Christian Schools International hosted this event for it's schools in Atlantic Canada at the University. It was well attended with over 400 students from Christian Schools in PEI, NS and NB. I was asked to give two sessions and share some of the need for ministry among the First Nations People in Canada. There were several break-out sessions throughout the conference and I had between 30 and 40 students at each of mine.

I had the opportunity to share about some of the History and culture of the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people and some of the challenges that exist in Cross Cultural Ministry. We talked about Worldview, Chronological Bible Teaching and Church Planting.

It was a blessing to be able to share with these young people in this way. I was excited to find out that one of our campers from Nova Scotia is a student at a Christian School that was attending the conference...

Tomorrow Liz, Ivy and I fly West to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan for meetings. We'll keep you posted as the week progresses!

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Victorian Christmas Tea Party

It's amazing how our annual ladies retreat at Arrowhead seems to come around the calendar year so quickly! And yet, here it is come and gone already.

It was with great excitement and anticipation that I prepared for the weekend. Venus Coté was slated to speak, Crystal Welch and Dianne DeNuke were going to be our special music. Plans were made well in advance, things were coming together. And then, the day before the retreat started, Crystals father was being rushed to the hospital with chest pain. Upon further observation it was a blockage and major surgery would be required. Crystal made the right decision to remain with her family at that difficult time. So, the duet became a solo. Dianne carried on and all were blessed by her beautiful voice and song of praise to our God.

No doubt, some may have come to our retreat especially to hear Venus Coté speak. Our experienced NCEM missionary shared her testimony on Friday night, the first of the four sessions at which she was to be speaking. During the first session, she began to experience a tightness in her chest, and great discomfort. She finished speaking, but afterward it was decided that it would be best for her to go to the hospital to be checked out. She was kept over night and the rest of the weekend for observation and tests. Based on her symptoms, the doctor said it looked like Venus had suffered a heart attack. More tests would need to be done Monday to determine just how severe a heart attack that it had been. Venus told the doctors that people all over the country were praying for complete healing and that she believed the Lord could heal her. And then, a miracle. The test showed No damage to her heart and that she had actually not suffered a heart attack at all. The doctor called what she had suffered, "broken heart syndrome", which mimics the symptoms of a heart attack? Thankfully all that was required for recovery was lots of rest!

Isn't it something how you can make all the plans in the world and think you're prepared, but really God has His own plans in mind!?! Even before Venus left for the hospital Friday night, two of our very faithful NCEM missionaries, Cathy Hill and Gracie Welch, came to me and said they both had messages prepared and were willing to fill in if needed. God had laid on both their hearts these messages and had said that they would be sharing them sometime! And what a blessing it was to hear what God had lay on their hearts They both shared as if they had been preparing all along for that weekend! Certainly God had been!

Our 'theme' was a Victorian Christmas, and so we enjoyed many a Yuletide decoration and even a lovely Christmas tree to sit by. Our Saturday afternoon was spent working on some lovely Christmas crafts, facilitated by hostess extrodinare, Tracy Burgess. She also gave us some great decorating tips on small touches that make Christmas extra special.

We also had our second annual tea. Irene VanAsperen baked us many delicious sweets to go with our tea. She always makes sure we get well spoiled with her goodies!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention all the men that cooked in the kitchen. What a wonderful job they did! Thanks to Todd Neilsen, Zack Neilsen, Justus Neilsen, Jonathan DeNuke, Andrew Ardern, Len Breen and Grant Fawcett for providing such lovely meals. Especially the lovely candlelit dinner Saturday night in which we were served our food! Todd even serenaded us during our desert!

It truly was a wonderful time. But not because of the planning, not because of who was going to be there or what we were going to be doing. Yes, those are all good, but because God is in control. And it was wonderful to see Him work everything out. Although He had nothing to work out, He had it planned that way all along.

The Victorian Christmas Tea Party

the kitchen help

Christmas craft time

special music with Dianne DeNuke

proudly displaying our Christmas wreathes

a couple of "cabinet cards" from our Victorian photo booth