American Dream? – What about the Christian Dream?

We hear a lot about realizing the American dream, a dream which is shared by their Canadian neighbours. This dream involves having the opportunity to succeed; get an education, a good job, a house, money in the bank, being able to travel, live in comfort and security. Besides these, everyone longs for good health and friends. Who can discredit these as desirable goals?

But are these aspirations enough? Jesus promises his disciples abundant life. “I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b, NIV). The New KJV translates
it “have it more abundantly.” What is meant by abundant life?

No matter how close we are to achieving our dreams, we live with uncertainty. We cannot predict our future health, the stability of our jobs, or even the permanence of our relationships. We share common fears and anxieties. Something unpredictable may wait just around the corner.

But in the context of John ten, Jesus explains to his disciples that he is responsible for their care. As their shepherd, He promises to protect them from both a world full of thieves and the uncaring agents of all the institutions that affect our lives. In the Good Shepherd’s hand, what seems to us uncertain about the future is known and determined to work out for our good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbundant life, in Christ, is a life that can be free from anxiety and fear. Jesus urges us, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body…but seek first His kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:25,33). Peter challenges us to “Cast all your care upon Him who cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus promises, “Lo, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

Also in the context of John ten, abundant life is life that is eternal in extent. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus gave his life for the sheep, securing for us life that continues beyond the grave into eternal bliss. Abundant life includes a home in heaven and a place in the new heavens and the new earth.

Sadly, this abundant life is not for all. Jesus explained, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved” (10:9). Only those who admit they have been wandering sheep and desire safety in Christ will enter. Only those who believe in Christ as “the way, the truth and the life” and receive him as their Lord and Saviour belong in this place of safety. There is only one door and one good shepherd.

Abundant life is only possible—not by works that we do—but through receiving “the fullness of his grace…one blessing after another” (John 1:16). It is enjoying rich, lavish grace what teaches us we are forgiven and loved (Eph. 1:7,8). It is to know “overflowing joy” (2 Cor. 8:2), peace that passes understanding, the fellowship of the redeemed, answered prayer, spiritual armour to live a victorious life, and so much more.

The promise of abundant life surpasses any democratic dream of success. Once we are in
Christ
, everything is brighter and more hopeful.

Heav’n above is softer blue,

Earth around is sweeter green!

Something lives in ev’ry hue

Christless eyes have never seen;

Lupinsclose(I Am His And He Is Mine, Wade Robinson)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

I’ll Do It My Way -the terrible harvest of moral relativism

The anthem of western civilization for the last 100 years could well be Frank Sinatra singing, “I did it my way.” Morality has become a matter of preference rather than principle. As the Creator God has been either denied or relegated to the closet of human thought, the Ten Commandments as absolute standards have also been rejected.

Indeed, if madscn1336-1nkind had an impersonal beginning there is no basis for absolute standards of right and wrong. If we are nothing more than an evolved combination of forces and elements, then we must do what our genes tell us to do. Why question any action? Cruelty will occur in some cases and generosity in others and there is no difference. As a result of such thinking, we have fluid and ever-changing ethics. Abortion is justified. Euthanasia will shortly be acceptable. Sex in any combination and situation is promoted. How can rape be defined? How can pornography in a free-speech society be curbed? Gender becomes what I feel I am, male, female, transgender, whatever.

Moral freedom defined by personal preference rules. Hugh Heffner, founder of the Playboy empire who brags about having slept with 1000 women, told the Daily Telegraph “I’m dscn4172a very
ethical guy. I’ve managed to live on the edge. But I’ve done it with a lot of class.”
Without a glimmer of irony, he said, “Moderation is the key.” When individuals like Heffner manipulate morals these ethical choices become nothing more than subjective personal preferences. The results are outrageous.

When Woody Allen was challenged about having an affair with the adopted teenage daughter of his live-in partner, Mia Farrow, he defiantly replied, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”  In other words, his heart’s desire determined what is good and his decision was no one else’s business.

As someone has said concerning letting feelings define sexuality: “Shouldn’t a 16-year-old teen-ager who identifies as a 21-year-old be allowed to purchase alcohol? Shouldn’t a 40-year-old who identifies as a 70-year-old receive social security and get a senior’s discount at the movie theatre? If we are going to identify people by their feelings, doesn’t anything go?”

But is moral relativism really morality at all? If there are no absolute, unchanging standards of right and wrong, why or how can we condemn human cruelty? On what basis can we condemn Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or ISIS?

These approaches to morality fly in the face of the innate sense among people of all Greece, Parthenoncultures that certain things are right and others wrong. As Scripture declares, [Those] “who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law [of God]…they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness , and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:14,15). There are, whatever society might say, absolute, unchanging standards of right and wrong written into the consciences of all mankind and into the fabric of the universe.

Moral relativism has led to the horrific events of the twentieth century and continues to create a harvest of misery in our day. Millions of unborn people continue to be killed. Sexually transmitted diseases continue to thrive. The number of single mothers increases as does the number of fatherless children. Pornography and addictions will surge higher. Wars will increase.

If we are to see the disastrous results of moral relativism curbed, we must re-instate the Ten Commandments personally and socially. What may be impossible in society, without
revival, must at least be the absolute norm in the Church dscn1243-copyand in our Christian families.

We were created in the image of God as moral creatures responsible to him. And we should remember, “As it is appointed onto man once to die, and after that the judgement”.

(Much of this meditation came as a result of re-visiting Francis Schaeffer’s “He Is Not There And He Is Not Silent”.)

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1; on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Christmas Traditions, Religious Ritual, and Christian Freedom

Country Inspiration

Most families have treasured Christmas traditions. The sending and receiving of Christmas cards. Buying Christmas gifts. Searching for and decorating the perfect tree. Attending the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. Gathering the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhole extended family together for a turkey dinner.

But it must seem strange to those from other religious backgrounds that evangelical Christians have no rigid religious rituals that they must observe. This will be especially so for Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Shinto friends for whom external rituals are prescribed. Our Orthodox, Ukrainian or Roman Catholic friends may even consider this lack of ritual as an erosion of faith. And for some this dearth of fixed traditions may indeed indicate disinterest or a lack of faith in the reality of Christmas.

But to understand gospel freedom from ritual, we must consider the differences between the Old and New Testaments; the old and new covenants. Out of a pagan culture rife…

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Irrational Choices Versus Common Sense.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m neither a philosopher nor the son of a philosopher—as you can easily discern. My dad and one of my brothers were engineers, the others skilled in the building trades. I took forest engineering. We were taught pragmatics, something most profess but few practice.

Why do I say that? Well, legislators seem to be abandoning common sense. They propose practices that run counter to reality: replacing his and her pronouns, adopting multi-sex bathrooms, financing sex-change operations, legalizing some drugs and on and on it goes. It’s time to ask why? Where have these ideas come from?
In my search, I’ve returned to Francis Schaeffer’s book, He Is There And He Is Not Silent. In the 1950’s and ’60’s he challenged the irrationality of atheism and agnosticism as philosophies. Today irrationality rules.

As Schaeffer pointed out, our world view (philosophy) must explain the reality and dscn4172complexity of our universe. There are two main answers given. One, there is no answer. All is chaotic and irrational. No one has been able to live with this answer in real life. They daily depend on gravity and a thousand concrete and unchanging realities.

Answer two, there is a rational answer that can be communicated. Among those who accept this thought, there are three possible sub-answers.

1. Everything that exists came out of absolutely nothing—no energy, no mass, no motion, and no personality. No one has ever been able to sustain this answer. It is unthinkable. Those who maintain this as a view embrace other irrational ideas. But empirically, everything we enjoy practically, comes not from zero but from already existing matter.

dscn39502. Everything had an impersonal beginning whether from mass, energy, or motion. However, if we start with an impersonal something, how do any of the particulars that now exist have any meaning? No one has ever demonstrated how time plus chance, beginning with the impersonal, can produce the needed complexity of the universe, let alone the personality of man. If we subscribe to this answer, human love is just an impersonal chemical reaction. And if everything arose from impersonal “things” why have values. Why worry about pollution, poverty, or injustice? Indeed, why ponder questions at all? The dilemma of modern man is simple: he does not know if or why mankind has any meaning. He is lost. Man remains a zero.

3. Everything had a personal beginning in a personal-infinite God. This choice alone explains value, complexity, and personality. Schaeffer comments, “I would

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

be an agnostic if there were no Trinity. Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.” Man, created in the image of God, has personality and in his complexity he has unity. God expresses in his being, the unity and diversity we see in the universe. There is no other answer that explains reality.

If, as most in the west do, we reject answer number three, we are left at sea without direction, purpose, moral principles, or goal. By choosing to ignore our divine origin and accountability, our society runs either by consensus or according to whoever has the loudest voice or the most influence. Whether a policy fits with reality doesn’t matter. Society just does whatevdscn1336-1er it wants; whatever feels good at the time; whatever gets the most votes; whatever is most convenient.

Is this any way to live? You be the judge. As for me and my house, we accept the third choice and thus embrace the description of reality and values as revealed in the Scriptures.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1; on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Our Home; Castle, Idol, or God’s Provision

dscn3692Being homeless must be one of the most difficult experiences humans can endure. Imagine wandering from place to place with no expectation of adequate shelter let alone a place to call home. Divorce, illness, or unemployment has caused many to lose everything, casting them onto the street. Many have seen their hopes rise only to be shattered again and again. They are left in despair, self-respect gone.

The despair of the homeless is compounded among refugees forced from familiar homes by war. They gather with others in camps and erect plastic shelters against rain and dust and cold. One month. Two. A year. Two. Five. Again and again they’ve attempted to flee to a congenial country only to be rebuffed. Despair must corrode all their expectations.

By and large most people, be it ever so humble, have a home. Whether constructed of concrete, stone, brick, wood, or mud; most have a place to which they can go to find shelter and warmth. A place where they feel safe and at peace, a place they can decorate dscn3925with their keepsakes.

In many places in the world, including Canada, we take having an attractive house for granted. It is our basic right. Our houses become a mark of our “success” as measured by their size and luxuriousness.

It is almost impossible for us to feel with those who are homeless. Indeed, the description of Christ sounds unbelievable. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58) Then Jesus said, “Follow me.” Clearly, being a disciple who follows Jesus wherever He leads has priority over having a comfortable place to call home.

Baby Robins, 2012In truth, we idolize our homes or take them for granted. It’s extremely hard not to. During the last four or five months, God rocked our world. He gave us a little—very little—insight into being a homeless disciple. The apartment where we planned to spend our twilight years was sold. We were given notice to leave with no certain place to go.

Frantically, we beat the bushes for another apartment to rent or a reasonable condo to buy. We quickly found that those migrating from Toronto’s super-inflated real estate market had bid up house-prices and filled available apartments. Our offer for an adequate condo was instantly submerged by much higher bids. For a month or two extreme anxiety stalked our lives. Would we be forced to go far afield, join a new church, find a new doctor? Would we be able to find anything?

Fortunately, memories of how God has protected and provided for us over 56 years of marriage kept smothering our worries. Our daughter and others in our loving family kept reminding us of God’s care.

God also used Scripture during that challenging time. “Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (PsalOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAm 90:1,2). He, not bricks and mortar, is our eternal dwelling place. Cannot He who created the world and continues to govern it provide for us?

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I
will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’” (Psalm 91:1,2). Oh, Lord, are we resting in you as our shelter and fortress, or in a condo or house? Deepen our trust.

Finally, under God’s marvelous providence we found a condo amenable to our limitations and within our price range in a nearby town. But even at the last minute, complications arose that almost sMovingcutled that provision. It was as if God was saying, “Do you really trust me?” His provision has been so amazing and so timely, we still shake our heads in awe.

Yes, we are very fortunate in our housing but we try to remind ourselves daily not to idolize our home but to rest in the Almighty who is our real, and eternal shelter.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca –Follow him on Facebook: Eric E Wright; on Twitter: @EricEWright1; on LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

 

Musings of a Short-term Nomad

Have you ever seen pictures of Tuaregs or other nomads going from place to place with a string of camels? Their tent and its supports, bedding, rugs, cooking pots, pet dogs are all tied to the back of their camels.

dscn3926Well, for five weeks now, our car has been our camel. Everything we might need has been stuffed into the trunk, back seats, and even under the front seats. Bedding. Foodstuffs. Clothing to adjust to both warm and cool weather. Important documents. Books to read. Our computer. Too much stuff.

We’re homeless. Okay that’s not quite accurate. We’re between homes; waiting to get into our little condo. Meanwhile, we’ve been traveling from place to place, staying a week here, five days there, two days another place. In rented locations we had to provide our own bedding and cooking paraphernalia. We’ve been to some wonderful spots. It’s been great, yet quite stressful.

Friends and family have been phenomenal. The opportunity to visit different places has dscn3925also been great. But after four or five moves and sleeping in different beds, we’re tired of the gypsy life. How do they do it? How do nomads handle having no fixed address? Where do they get their mail? What address do they put on their camel-driving license? What if they can’t get email or log into Facebook?

When I was young; much, much younger, I thought wandering all over God’s creation would be cool. But now, I long to settle down, to have a fixed address, to be able to ease into my favourite recliner. I blush to admit I can almost empathize with the wandering, grumbling Israelites. I guess I’m grumbling a bit and after only six weeks. Yeesh. As to Syrian refugees. I can’t even begin to imagine their trauma.

dscn3950I think there is something in us that yearns for stability. A place to put down roots. A home. A roof over our heads. A connection to stable family and friends. A country to call home. A citizenship.

Fortunately, one constant reality during our frequent change of location has been our connection to the changeless God. “I am the Lord, I change not” Malachi Of course, we know that, unless the lawyers abscond with our money, we have place that will be ours very soon. But more important, we have an eternal home that is not subject to taxes, the whim of landlords, nor the wear and tear of use and weather. “In my Father’s house are many mansions if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1,2).

Spiritually, we are strangers and pilgrims on a journey to our heavenly home. But! No real estate transaction can secure this glorious home. Our sins estranged us from God, our heavenly home-builder. Someone must mediate between us and God, whose gracious laws DSCN1326 (1)we have thwarted. Ah, there is a mediator—only one, Jesus Christ who has for us a hearing with the Builder. How did he do that? He bore our sins in his own body on the cross. He rose from the dead and who has gone on ahead to mediate our forgiveness from God and prepare a heavenly home for us.

How do we inherit this home? No money changes hands. No lawyer is involved. No commission must be paid. We receive this home freely. But first, a transaction must take place between us and God. We must from the depths of our hearts cry; “Lord, we believe in your Son, Jesus Christ. We confess our sins. We trust in his sacrifice on our behalf. We believe in the salvation He offers. Come into our hearts. Be Lord of our life!”

Are you sure of a heavenly home?

When subtraction equals multiplication

dscn3701-2We find ourselves in this 55th year of our marriage extremely wealthy. Oh, we don’t own a yacht, or many stocks and bonds. We are struggling to fulfill the conditions for one small mortgage on a little condo. We have a car from 2004—which runs very well, by the way. We don’t winter on the Riviera nor take round-the-world cruises; but we are extremely well-off.

How is that possible? Let me go back a few years. Back to when we were about 19. When Mary Helen and I didn’t know the other existed. We separately, a thousand miles apart, were moved to faith in Jesus Christ. We confessed our sins, bowed to the Lordship of Christ and were born again.

My growth was slow; two steps forward and one step back. But early on, due to the godly mentor-ship of more mature Christians, I was led to become a committed follower of Christ. Although different in detail, Mary Helen’s experience was similar.  Both of us independently felt the call of God to give up our secular pursuit of success and prepare for overseas missionary service. (This, of course, is not the experience of all Christians, many of whom He calls to demonstrate godly discipleship in secular occupations. He doesn’t call all to missionary or Christian service.)

But in our case, he led both of us to go to Columbia University in preparation for missionary service among Muslims. It was there we met, sensed our similar callings, and fell in love.

In the course of our Christian walk, we both had been confronted with the challenge of Jesus Christ. “If any man would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross DSCN1448daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). That means subtraction. All genuine Christians have to learn subtraction—to subtract from their lives a passion to fulfill the desires of the world, the flesh, and the devil; to subtract selfishness; to subtract choices that contradict God’s revealed will; to subtract a determination to follow a course of life that leads us to our own glory…and so on. We cannot be followers of Christ without serious subtraction.

Like other disciples, Mary Helen and I independently and together, repeatedly sought to surrender our wills to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Surrender, subtraction, was often a struggle. It scared us to think of leaving North America as missionaries but the burden would not leave us. We often failed to be courageous and submissive to his leading. But ultimately, he led us to serve in Pakistan and then later in Ontario in a pastoral and writing ministry.

That meant we had to give up the dream of a home and retirement plan. But God had other OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAways of providing for us. An English woman, who had offered my father hospitality during the First World War when he was pilot, included us in her will with a small bequest.  When we were led from missions into pastoral ministry, we discovered that my mother had left us the family home in Toronto knowing we would never be able too own one. God provided in a multitude of ways.

God is no man’s debtor! As Paul reminds us in Romans 8, “He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)?

As we look back now, we realize how much Jesus’ principle has proven true.  Jesus said, “No one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life” (Luke 18:29,30).

We have received many times more than we could ever have expected. What a return on a tiny investment. We enjoy connections with a huge missionary family. Love for Pakistan, a beautiful but needy country. Pakistani friends. Scores of friends in Australia, England, the US, and Canada. Wow, we are wealthy. In the kingdom, subtraction does mean multiplication!