Life Is Waiting

Life at this age is waiting. Waiting on the phone to get an appointment. Waiting in doctor’s offices. Waiting at the lab to get a blood test. Waiting to hear the results. Waiting for the back pain to ease. Waiting at the therapists. Waiting at the Pharmacy.

Yesterday we waited at a lab for Mary Helen to get a blood test. The room was full when we arrived about 9:30. By 10 it was packed and people were coming, peeking in the door and leaving.

What an interesting cross-section. A bearded old-timer with his long grey hair done up in a pony tail. What a story he must have to tell. A slim teen with green hair. Matrons staring into space. A grizzled senior reading novel. A fashionable senior with a Louis Vuitton look-alike purse pacing up and down, in and out, unable to sit. Seniors predominated; some with canes, one or two with walkers.

Today we waited at the physical therapists. Life is waiting.
This week-end brings Good Friday and Easter. But as Mary Helen found out by using the ancient greeting, He is risen, no one seems to know what this holiday is about. Easter eggs and bunnies?

But to those who believe, this Easter is another statement of affirmation. He has come. He taught. He healed the sick. He delivered from demons. He raised the dead. He was crucified. He rose again and is alive for ever more.

Easter, however, introduces another kind of waiting. Waiting for the Return of Christ. How long O Lord? Please come soon.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––)

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Why Does Christ Have Such A High Standard For Marriage?

In the previous blog on this subject, I objected to our unchristian habit of stigmatizing divorce more than other kinds of behaviour. This is especially hypocritical when we restrict divorced people from serving in the church when they have demonstrated by their life the transformation redemption brings.

Why is this hypocritical? Simply because every single Christian is a sinner by action and intent. Whether a person is the guilty party in a divorce or not, he or she is the object of God’s love and a candidate for transforming forgiveness.

Does my outrage at this hypocrisy mean I do not value marriage as instituted by God? By no means.

The marital standard of Jesus Christ is commitment of a man and a woman to a lifelong covenant of love with each other. Having made that clear, I must add that the subject is complex.

During his final journey to Jerusalem, the Pharisees sought to trap Jesus on this very subject. They said, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?” Jewish interpreters held two opposing views; Shamei held that divorce was only possible if adultery had taken place while Hillel and his followers felt that even serving slightly burned food could be grounds for divorce. What would Jesus say?

Jesus rebuked them for their emphasis on divorce instead of marriage. “A man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (See Matthew 19:1-12). Marriage is a divine gift that is meant to be indissoluble.

The Pharisees pounced on His response. “Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate and divorce her?”

Why? Jesus explained that it was because of their hard hearts. He went on to clarify God’s standard; “Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The disciples were aghast at this high standard. They should have been prepared. In the Sermon on the Mount He had already raised the bar, for example, from a prohibition to murder to condemning anger. But they responded, then, “It is better not to marry.” In today’s context they might have said; “But what if two become incompatible? What if two stop loving each other? What if the husband or wife is abusive?

In seeking to understand the Christian approach to marriage and divorce we need to address four questions. This blog cannot do more than touch these areas.

1. Why is maintaining a high standard of marriage important?
2. What can be done to decrease the incidence of divorce?
3. Under what conditions may Christian divorce occur?
4. How should divorced believers be treated?

First, maintaining a high standard is not designed by God to make life hard on married couples. Nor it designed to keep people from all the supposed fun of sleeping around. The LORD cries out to Moses, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it

might go well with them and their children forever.…Walk in all the ways that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land you will possess” (Deut. 5:29,33). Abstinence from sex before marriage and faithful love in marriage leads to greater enjoyment in marriage.

The moral laws of God, including those concerning marriage, were given to promote blessing, prosperity, harmony in society and general happiness. As I’ve already quoted in the previous blog, “Divorce breeds poverty, particularly for women and children. With fewer economic resources, most children of divorce experience disruptions—changes in child care, living arrangements and schools—that create turmoil in their lives. Long-term effects of poverty from divorce are most obvious in girls.” (https://info.legalzoom.com/effects-divorce-society-20105.html) Divorce injects an enormous array of problems not only into the lives of the husband and wife and their children but into society. Society’s stability and harmony itself is affected.

No-fault divorce, which currently results in the break-up of almost 50% of marriages harms society. By contrast, stable marriages promote a healthy and stable society.

Secondly, the incidence of divorce and marital unhappiness can be reduced by teaching young people the joy of maintaining godly standards, by careful pre-marital counseling, and by the counseling of those in troubled marriages. In choosing a partner, wisdom beyond a passionate sense of romantic attraction is vital. Proverbs is right, “in the multitude of [godly] counselors is safety.” Couples need to realize that consciences polluted by affairs hinder the enjoyment of marital intimacy.

Churches need to have a support-structure in place. While we can do little to change society, we can ensure that those in our churches commit themselves to wholesome marriages. Churches can also work toward the restoration of damaged marriages. After all, redemption and healing are the hallmarks of a genuine church.

Thirdly, Jesus said, “Not all men can accept this statement” [about indissoluble marriage]. (See Matthew 19:6-12). In the text He points out that some have been created for singleness. In the case of the adultery of one party of a marriage, divorce and remarriage is permissible for the innocent partner. Paul also explains, “To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): a wife must not separate from her husband but if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband…But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances” (1 Cor. 7:10,11,15).

In most cases of tension or separation in marriage, reconciliation should be sought. However, Christians have grounds for divorce in the case of adultery or abandonment by one spouse.

When abuse occurs in marriage the victim has a right to seek divorce. Why?  Among the moral commands of God, the threat of murder or harm trumps the threat of marital breakup. Civil authority has a responsibility to protect its citizens. Abused spouses cannot be protected if they are not urged to separate from their abuser.

Fourthly, Christians who are divorced should be treated like any other sinner being sanctified. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin. That Jesus deals compassionately with our failures and offers to forgive us is seen in His tender treatment of the woman caught in adultery. In our churches we must not vilify the forgiven divorced any more than we do the forgiven thief, liar or cheat. All of us are sinners taking the cure through the application of the blood of Christ who bore our sins on the cross.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright –– )

Divorce and the church

As humans we have an irrational habit of inflating our own image and rationalizing our actions while denouncing the conduct of others. That seems to be why, even in our churches, we single out certain kinds of behaviour as particularly bad. Consider, for example, divorce.

Before I approach this touchy subject, let me remind ourselves of a sobering statistic. One hundred per cent of us are lawbreakers; that is, we are sinners. We have broken the moral laws of God. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” the image of God in which we were created. (Romans 3:23) We have fallen short of His standards. A sincere re-reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 will demonstrate this reality. Without exception, we all need redemption and transformation.

Christ came to earth to establish a redemptive community. It is called, the Church. Those whom by the Holy Spirit are imbued with faith in the redemptive death of Christ are ushered into the mystical body of Christ, the Church universal. All such become the object of God’s sanctifying work.

Redeemed addicts, for example, become the focus of God’s sanctifying work. Likewise, gossips, thieves, liars, adulterers, gluttons, murderers, idolaters, the promiscuous, deceivers, hypocrites, the greedy, and even abusers. The list is almost unlimited.

And yet in spite of being part of a redemptive community, those who are divorced Christians are often stigmatized. Many evangelical churches will not allow a divorced person to become a deacon, elder or pastor. But why? Divorce is not the unpardonable sin nor is it as clear-cut who is at fault as it would be in the case of a thief or a glutton. Divorce may be precipitated by the adultery or abuse of a spouse. No one but the cruel or foolish expect a person to stay in a relationship where they or their children live in danger and fear.

Some years ago, a gifted man in a church we know was forced to step down from his ministry after his wife abandoned him for another. While determining guilt or innocence is difficult in a two-sided relationship, in this case, his innocence was quite clear-cut. I’m still struggling to understand this church’s decision.

I’m not arguing for us to lower the marital standards of Jesus Christ. (I will consider in the next blog.) All God’s laws are good and written for our individual and social benefit. The free society where divorce is rare is, in most cases, a blessed society with fewer social ills than others.

The breakup of the nuclear family, has a very debilitating affect not only on those affected directly, but on society at large. Ever since “no-fault divorce” became legal, the rate of marital break-ups has sky-rocketed. In Canada 38% of marriages end in divorce. The average length of a marriage is 14 years. In the US it is estimated that 50% of marriages will eventually end in divorce. In both Canada and the US, 10% of households are led by a single parent.

Of course, lawlessness of any kind, sends hurtful shivers through society. But marital break-up adversely affects children and thrusts single parents into a crucible. Divorce makes problematic children’s education, a family’s health care, the earning capacity of the single parent, the mental health of the family as well as their spiritual development. “In the first 18 months following divorce, between 77 and 83 percent of mothers and their children live in poverty.”(https://info.legalzoom.com/effects-divorce-society-20105.html)

“Divorce breeds poverty, particularly for women and children. With fewer economic resources, most children of divorce experience disruptions—changes in child care, living arrangements and schools—that create turmoil in their lives. Long-term effects of poverty from divorce are most obvious in girls.” (Ibid)

Clearly, we must do everything in our power to encourage couples to believe in and work toward indissoluble marriages. We must discourage divorce.

BUT, as Christians we are to go out into all the world and make disciples of all people, all sinners. That includes those who are divorced. And instead of ostracizing those who are stigmatized by being in this particular state, we should offer them the love and support of Christians who have learned to forgive. There is no Christian grounds for stigmatizing forgiven sinners, including those who are divorced. So, let’s embrace them and their contributions to the Church.

But what about the teaching of Christ on divorce. It may seem severe. I’ll deal with that in the next blog.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––)

Why Do We Talk About The Weather?

We’ve really got something to talk about now. Can you believe it? Today, Tuesday, we are supposed to get snow, ice pellets, freezing rain, and ordinary rain! A few days ago the temperature was above freezing now its plunged well below zero centigrade.

Weather is one of the first things people talk about after asking how we are. Why? Well, it’s one of the few things we all share in common. If it rains, it usually rains all over town. If the thermometer goes down to minus twenty, we all feel the chill. Weather affects all of us—even in our climate-controlled homes. Comments about the weather enable us to meet others on common ground.

And since we all share weather, stories about torrents of rain in Vancouver, tornadoes in the Mid-west, or minus 40 degrees in Whitehorse arouse empathy. After all it could have been us whose roof blew off or whose car slid into the ditch. We feel compassion for those who suffer the ill effects of extreme weather.

Why talk about weather? It’s a safe topic. A discussion of religion or politics might raise our blood pressure. But who’s going to disagree when we comment on the seesaw nature of our winter weather. Of course, if we get into global warming, the discussion may heat up. If we start with today’s weather, we can ease into more serious matters later.

Why weather? We can usually complain about it without being thought of as a negative person. Of course, there are always those perennially cheerful people who would have found a silver lining in the forty days rain in Noah’s time. No, really, don’t we all need a little harmless outlet for our frustrations? The weather just is. It doesn’t have a voice. It can’t fight back or complain to our therapist. Now, if we start moaning about bunions, aching backs, creaking knees, acid reflux or any of the myriad ailments most of us struggle with, we’ll be branded with a scarlet ‘H’. He or she is a hypochondriac. Horrors! Save me from wearing the scarlet letter.

Charles Warner, not Mark Twain, said, “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.” Well, isn’t that good? Weather is substantially beyond the reach of human manipulation.

Now that is controversial. We are told that global warming has been caused by human irresponsibility which in turn has unleashed extreme weather. I agree that we ought to stop deforestation and commit our industries to ecological responsibility. But on a micro-level, where we live, there is very little we can do but plant trees and buy more environmentally friendly cars.

A little grumbling about the weather probably doesn’t hurt us as long as we maintain an overview like that of John Ruskin. “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of weather.” And above all, let’s remember, God sends the rain and snow. (See Psalm 147:12,16,17; Matthew 5:45.)

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––

The Truth; it’s all relative–or is it?

Back in 1955, when I was an freshman at the University of Toronto, I enjoyed talking with fellow students about how all truth was relative. I was an agnostic who, with others, confidently affirmed that one could be a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sikh, or a Muslim. It made no difference. There were many paths to heaven or whatever.

That view of truth now prevails very widely throughout the western world. People believe that truth is whatever is true to you. There are as many truths as there are people. In last week’s issue of our local community paper, a columnist asserted that the meaning of life is YOU. Whatever you choose. Such a view sounds so appealing.

In a recent article on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, the questions was asked, should Facebook be the arbiter of truth and decency for two billion people?

But in my second year at the U of T, I was confronted by the claim that truth was not relative but fixed and absolute. Gil Dunkin, an engineer on the design of a supersonic jet called the Avro Arrow, gave me examples. Truth is not relative in mathematics. Two plus two never equal five but four. Gravity exists and so buildings cannot be designed to ignore gravity. Neither can random principles be applied to aircraft design. And what about the law of contradiction; that two contradictory ideas cannot both be true?

He pointed out that if consistent principles apply in all areas of the physical world, why would truths about life and ethics be relative? Can we just pick and choose what we want to believe about the purpose of life, where we came from, where we go after death, what is right and wrong, good and bad? Why would all these areas of life be flexible and relative, when gravity and math and the trajectories of the moon and stars are not?

My friend pointed me to the claims Jesus made in John’s gospel. When Jesus was brought to Pilate, John 18,19 tells us that Pilate was troubled. Pilate asked him where he was from and whether or not he was a king. Yes, Jesus replied, My kingdom is not of this world…for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (18:36,37) Pilate scornfully replied. What is truth?

Ah, that is the question! What is truth? It’s no minor question. It is a question that has profound relevance to who we are, whether or not there is a God, what our destiny may be, what is good or bad, and much much more. Wise men realize the importance of truth. Winston Churchill said, The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. Zacherof, inventor of the Russian atom bomb said, The greatest power in all the world is not the atom bomb but truth.

It is crucial that we embrace the truth that is above and beyond all subsidiary truths, such as that of mathematics. Jesus made the astounding claim in John 14:6: I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

When we consider truth claims, it is important that the source be reliable. Someone has said; if you want to know what water is, you don’t ask a fish. If you want to know what truth and life is all about you don’t ask a time-bound; space-bound human. NOT Buddha, Confucius or Mohammed; you ask Jesus. Why? Because as he explained to Pilate, He came from beyond this world, from outside of time and space. He came from the Father to tell us the truth about what life and death is all about.

Jesus came to show us the WAY into the kingdom, the way to be forgiven for our sins, the way to everlasting life, the way to live a fulfilling life.

Jesus came to teach us the TRUTH about life and death, the triune God, origins, the nature of man, how to live now, and so much more.

Jesus came to give us LIFE, fulfilling life, eternal life, the energy through the Spirit to live productively, joyfully, peacefully, and hopefully.

We all have a crucial challenge; to settle the Christ-question. When we do that, we will settle the Truth question and the purpose of life question. The answers are all found in the Bible. If you are not familiar with Jesus Christ or the Bible, I’d suggest you start reading in John’s Gospel. Do not let another day go by without settling what you will do with Jesus Christ. The TRUTH MATTERS; IT IS ABSOLUTE. IT IS NOT RELATIVE.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––

Our restless, unhappy culture

The ocean is never still. Its tides rise and fall, its breakers crest and dissipate, and its waves roll on and on until they crash against a rocky shore or roll up on a sandy beach. Its waters collect and propel unto the world’s beaches all the flotsam and jetsam of the ocean world: broken shells, shattered boats, bottles, broken plastic spoons, splintered trees and cast-off Styrofoam. The more agitated the ocean becomes, the more it stirs up the whole mix of broken shells and mud that in calmer times settles to the ocean floor. After storms shorelines are littered with mud and debris.

How appropriate that the prophet used this image to describe the condition of men and women who jettison God and His moral standards in their struggle to find their personal nirvana. “‘The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. There is no peace,’ says my God. ‘for the wicked'”(Isaiah 57:20,21).

We cannot expect a tranquil mind if our lives are a graveyard of broken promises, shattered morals, and shady practices. Instead, nefarious schemes will occupy our minds. Thoughts of past dealings with others will provoke bitterness, anger and thoughts of revenge. Unless we have denied the voice of our consciences long enough to dull their injured cries, we will be fretful, restless, and unhappy.

God has given everyone a conscience imprinted with a set of moral principles. But the more we listen to the siren song of our culture’s ‘new morality,’ the more our innate sense of right and wrong will be blunted and distorted. Sadly, our culture has jettisoned belief in absolute truth. Truth has become what is true to me. But this does not jib with reality. Whatever we think, two plus two equal four, not five. Nor can we suspend the law of gravity and jump from a building. Nor can we deny spiritual the spiritual reality enshrined in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. If deny real truth, the result will be: restlessness. Inability to find peace of heart. Broken relationships. Emptiness. And tragically, the epidemic of suicide we read about in our papers.

Paul writes, “My conscience is clear” (1 Cor. 4:4). Can you and I say that? If not, the only remedy is to bow to Jesus Christ, confessing our moral failures, and asking him to forgive us our sins and bring peace of heart. Jesus promised, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”(John 14:27).

When we confess our moral failures to Jesus Christ, He will forgive us and soothe our troubled hearts. Then the Storm-Calmer will reside in our hearts to calm the storms that sweep through our lives.

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––

Broken Resolutions and Imperfect Goals

All that is left of Christmas are happy family and church memories…and the makings of a pot of soup. Oh, and too much chocolate! We’ll soon be taking down the Christmas decorations and storing them for next year. We’re beginning to mark up a new calendar. It’s time to look seriously at the New Year ahead. Resolutions anyone?

How does it go? I resolve to eat less, to exercise more, to be kinder, more generous, and to pray more. Resolutions are easy to make but easier to forget. Easier still to break. And yet we need to do something. Without laying out a path for the New Year, we may end up with a year of zeroes. Nothing important accomplished. No progress in our Christian life. Relationships stalled.

For this reason, at New Years, I make up a list of goals—not really too different from resolutions. In my mind at least, resolutions have a make or break quality while goals define a direction. Even if we don’t move very far in the goal’s direction, we will make progress.

For that reason, I write the current year’s list of goals on a three by five card which I keep in the front pocket of my diary. By checking it occasionally, I can gauge my progress.

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Goals give me a sense of direction, defining for me areas where I want to improve. So I set goals in the areas of, for example, reading, Bible study, prayer, exercise, writing, developing relationships, hospitality, ministry, etc.

Since my goals, although fairly general, are somewhat measurable, I can tell if I’m making progress. For example, my goal is to read one non-fiction book for every three or four books of fiction I read. Since I love entertaining stories, that’s a hard one, but I do keep a careful record of the books I read on Goodreads.

My objective to walk at least 30 minutes a day, four days a week has had to be curtailed due to arthritis. But I can still set a walking goal that is realistic.

Every New Years I modify my prayer list to fit new goals. Some aims are ill-defined early in the year, but become clarified as the year advances. A degree of flexibility is important. At this point, I’m not sure how far I’ll get with writing my memoir, Surprises of Grace, but I must have a goal or I’ll just vegetate.

As a Christian, my main goal is to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How do I measure that? Galatians 5:22,23 and other passages can give me help here. Of course, every day we need a balance between striving to please God with the help of His Spirit and resting in His grace. After all we are still sinners taking the cure. If we are saved, it’s not because of our righteousness but the perfect righteousness of Christ.  Pride in our goals will sully our walk. But having no goals doesn’t strike me as very wise. What do you think?

(Let me know your thoughts on this subject. Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright ––