Repentance

Three crossed

As we approach Easter, that most important of all Christian holidays, I am reminded of the thing that makes Christianity different from any other religion. Other religions are about humankind trying to reach God. This may be through good behaviour, acts of sacrifice, ritual prayers, strict dietary observances, or other laws and rules. It all comes down to the same thing—somehow trying to make yourself worthy, to somehow be good enough to be accepted by God. But we will never achieve this. We can never be “good enough.”

Christianity is different. It is all about God trying to reach us.

The problem here, of course, is that we have fallen so low, turned out so bad, that God has to reach down very far to touch us. We have rejected God and tried to behave as if we belong to ourselves. C. S. Lewis points out that this means that we are not just imperfect creatures needing improvement, we are rebels. We need to lay down our arms, turn completely around and surrender completely. It is more than just eating humble pie. It means “unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death.”

Lewis goes on to point out that only a good person can repent, and only a perfect person can repent perfectly. But they don’t need to. The worse you are, the more you need to repent, and the less that you are able to do so. And, he states, “repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back . . . it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like.” Without it we cannot take the hand God hold out to us, but we cannot do it on our own.

What then? Is there no point to it all? No hope? Without God, that would be the case. But we cannot ask God to do it for us. God will not and cannot do something contrary to His nature. He can and does put love and reason into our beings because He loves and reasons. However, to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die—these things are not part of His nature. Lewis concludes with this. “But supposing God became a man—suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person—then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if god does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at the dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.”

Jesus on the cross, crucified for me . . . . and for you.

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Lest we forget

Poppy

I had two uncles who fought in World War II with the Canadian Army. My father, the eldest, was needed to stay and work the farm but his two younger brothers enlisted.

Louis Dautremont was with the Canadian Scottish Regiment as they pushed their way through Holland in the spring of 1945 and he took part in one of the battalion’s last actions of the war, the clearing of the Dutch village of Wagenborgen. The regiment had taken part in the D-Day landings, and had advanced farther inland than any other unit of the British Second Army. As they continued operations in April of 1945, the commanders became somewhat complacent with their long and easy advancements through the Dutch countryside. A feeling had developed that the war was almost over. They were wrong.

“D” Company was sent forward on early on the morning of April 21st toward Wagenborgen. The terrain was flat, unobstructed by dense foliage, and criss-crossed by numerous canals and drainage ditches. Over the previous nine days, each encounter with the German forces had met only token resistance and a quick withdrawal of the enemy troops. On the 21st, things were different.

The men of “D” Company found that the roads leading in and out of Wagenborgen had been blocked, and covered by machine guns and 2.0cm anti-aircraft guns. The Germans also had support from mortars and artillery. The morning attack bogged down but was renewed just after noon with support from sections of the anti-tank, carrier and mortar platoons. The Germans had been reinforced however and they met heavy resistance and suffered numerous casualties. Among the fallen, was my Uncle Louis.

The next day, the Canadian Scottish attacked once more, but this time with three companies as well as tank support. Wagenborgen was liberated on the 22nd despite heavy counter attacks and declared secure on the 23rd.

Louis Dautremont died on April 21st, 1945 and was buried in the Canadian War Cemetery at Holten, the Netherlands.

My other uncle, Rene, survived the War. He had served with a different unit as a forward artillery spotter. He never spoke of the War and never shared what he had seen or done. He wasn’t the same man who had left Canada in his early twenties. Today he would have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He would have been treated and he might have gotten better. He did not.

Uncle Rene lived in the old farm house with my grandmother until she died. He had been hospitalized for a time on a psychiatric ward but with little benefit. He would come to family functions but seemed to spend the rest of his time alone in the old house. He never married and he never travelled. He seemed to have few if any friends. I used to go over to play chess with him and while he let me see some of his things from the War, he never shared anything of what he had gone through.

In many ways, both of my Uncles were killed in the War, it just took longer for Uncle Rene to die.

Lest we forget.

 

“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:2-4

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The Sacrament of the Moment

Untitled

Human beings have a very bad habit of not really paying attention to what is going on around us at any given moment. We tend to get caught up in focusing on one of two things—the future, or the past. All too often our thought processes are an endless, (and futile), cycle of “I’ll be happy when . . . .” or “I was happy when . . . .”. The result? We are rarely happy right now.

It is a habit we can break, however. We can teach ourselves to adjust our thinking, to adopt an attitude of watchfulness or mindfulness, to learn to pay attention to what is happening to us in the moment, and to be content with it. In doing so, we learn a different way of dealing with stress—God’s way.

When Moses was being sent back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of captivity, he asked God who he should say had sent him. God did not tell him to say that “I WAS” sent him, or that “I WILL BE” ordered him forward. Rather, He told him to say that “I AM is who has me to you”. The past is done. The future is a mystery. The present—this very present moment—is where God dwells, and where He wants us to focus our thoughts.

When we do just that, we can receive the joy that the present has for us. We can learn to enjoy it, to be content in it, and to trust God in it. We can learn to listen to God, and to receive from Him. We can be blessed.

You may have heard of the Serenity Prayer. Simply put, it is a prayer to have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. It is a worthwhile prayer, especially if we couple it with gratitude and thankfulness. If we start each day by thinking of our blessings and focusing on at least three things we are thankful for, we can face the day more easily with courage and joy.

Creating a habit of thankfulness, of gratitude, and of mindfulness, can allow us to be joyful even in the midst of trials. Even when we suffer, we can still create a habit of laughter and happiness, and not a habit of worry. We can chose to think of others, to bless others, to finish well.

We can be surprised by joy.

 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” James 1:2-3

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:1-5

(Much of the above has been blatantly plagiarised from Pastor Owen Scott when he taught at Kedleston Gospel Camp.)

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Old Friends

Friends hands

 

There are lots of different kind of friends. Childhood friends. Family friends. Casual friends. They’re all important. But maybe the two best kinds are old friends and new friends. New friends are the unknown. They hold the possibility of adventure, and excitement, and mystery. But also the risk of disappointment and failure.

Old friends are comfortable. You know what to expect, how they will respond. The need to perform, to preen and strut, to impress is not there. They already know what an idiot you can be, but they’re still your friend. Even with all your failings, quirks, and mistakes, they still accept you.

In the past couple months, I have been able to reconnect with some old friends. Some, I literally had not seen or spoken to in years. Reconnecting with them was not completely easy. It took time, effort and commitment, but, man, was it ever worth it.

It was just like we had seen each other a week ago, not a decade or two. We were able to share and even pray together. It was a great encouragement to me and I hope it was too my friends. I hope and plan to be a lot better at keeping up with them in the future.

I have another friend. He’s always around when I need him, but he never pushes himself on me. He knows and wants what is best for me, and he encourages me to strive to be a better person. Sometimes, he corrects me, admonishes even, but, he is never condemning. I know that he loves me enough to die for me. He already did.

Maybe you know him, too?

Proverbs 18:24b – But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Luke 5:20 – When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

 

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The Loneliest Journey – Part 8

Long Hallway

Oops.

Not sure why, but everyone seems quicker to share bad news than good news. I guess that I am included considering how long it has been since I last posted anything. I’ll try to fix that.

Everything has been going very well. It has been over a year now that I was diagnosed with a Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I feel fine. My CT scan is clear and I am symptom free. It is still a waiting game but each day that passes improves my prognosis. God has truly blessed me.

I appreciate, desire, and need your ongoing prayer and support through the rest of this journey. Thank you for making it not so lonely after all.

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The Loneliest Journey – Part 7

Long Hallway

 

Good news.

When you have cancer, good news is great news. I finished my chemotherapy in November and then had a full body CT scan in early January. The results were excellent with no sign of any active disease. That is good news.

Of course, my journey is not over yet. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and especially the type I have, is not considered curable. However, it can behave more like a chronic disease, like diabetes or emphysema, and be controlled. My response to the initial treatment has been very good and this significantly improves my prognosis. I need to continue to trust in God and in the power of prayer, and continue to do all the things I need to do to stay healthy.

The results of my CT scan were good news. But it’s not the best news I’ve ever had. Lisa saying yes. Each of our four children being born. Being accepted into medicine. These were all huge, but they weren’t the best news either.

“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

Best news.

 

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The Loneliest Journey -Part 6

Long Hallway

It’s not very truthful.

In fact it’s not truthful at all.

I call it “The Loneliest Journey” but it’s not. This journey that I am on with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma may at times seem lonely but in actual fact, I am never alone. The people around me are great but they can’t be there all the time. My kids and extended family are praying me and supporting me but try as they might they cannot real understand fully what I am going through. My wife, Lisa, is simply amazing. She is doing everything possible to help me through it all but even she cannot always be with me.

But someone else is.

This time of the year reminds us of that fact. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14. Immanuel is translated “God with us.” Not over us. Not ignoring us. Not watching us from a distance. With us.

Pastor Dave Wicks recently spoke on this. Then he brought up that most difficult of questions people often ask. If God is with us, how can He allow all these bad things to happen? Pastor Dave replied with some rhetorical questions. Did He allow us, (you and me) to sin today? Did He allow us to have a bad attitude, to think bad thoughts, to do wrong things? Free will is a wonderful and terrible gift and it has wonderful and terrible consequences.

Not the least of these consequences is that death and disease entered into the world. The world as God created it was changed by the sin that followed humankind’s free will. Nature was disrupted and corrupted, becoming dangerous and deadly. All of us were affected. Hebrews 9:27 confirms that “man is destined to die”. It will come to all of unless God returns.

But that is not the end of the story, nor the end of God’s interaction with us He did not create us, give us free will, and then depart. He remains here. He remains with us!

This was the other thing Pastor Dave emphasized. God is not just with you. He is not just with me. He is with US. This is vitally important. It means that to truly and fully experience God’s power and His presence, we need to be in community. We can and do feel Him with us no matter what the situation or circumstance, but we miss the full nuance and scope of His glory when we fail to seek Him in fellowship with others. It is worth the effort.

He is with us. “The Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6 And if we fully grasp how much He is truly with us all, together in community, we will remember that others walk with us on this journey.

It may seem lonely.

But we are never alone.

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