Archive for February, 2011

FOR THE FIRST TIME since I started preaching, I didn’t … for three consecutive Sundays.

Since April 1997, the longest I had gone without preaching was two consecutive Sundays. Even then, the two-Sunday-hiatus has only happened a handful of times.

During a stretch of several years, I preached fifty Sundays per year, and the two Sundays “off” were not consecutive. This was partly because I was a “single-staff” guy, and partly because I believed that the pulpit was where I was meant to be and preaching was what I was meant to do.

So not preaching for three Sundays in a row was, for me, unprecedented. And quite honestly, these three weeks and Sundays have been awkward and freeing, disorienting and wonderful, and strange and refreshing.

And I’ll do it again, gladly.

Several months ago, our Church Council Chairman, Dr. Neil Craton, shared with me that he was sensing the Spirit ”nudging” him to preach a series of messages on Jesus’s teaching from John 15 that we can do “nothing apart from [Him],” apart from our “abiding in the Vine,” and apart from His “abiding” presence in us.

The impetus for Neil was reading Bruce Wilkinson’s excellent little book Secrets of the Vine: Breaking through to Abundance. (If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Vine-Breaking-Through-Abundance/dp/1576739759.)

Wilkinson’s little book had a profound impact on Neil and others in his weekly accountability group, and he believed that the Lord Jesus would have him share some of what he was learning with our congregation here at Bethesda.

According to Bruce, there are three ”secrets” (or “lessons,” as Neil put it) from Jesus’s teaching about the Vine. Three secrets … three lessons … three messages … three weeks off for me!

Only, not really …

Importantly, shortly after I arrived at Bethesda in August 2007, we elders began talking about our need to create some space and find some time for me to do two vital things for our future:

     1- Do some forward-looking, vision-casting work that a weekly preaching/teaching schedule and administrative duties make difficult, or even impossible; AND

     2- Visit other churches from time-to-time to see what they are doing in our specific context here in Winnipeg.

So, over the last three weeks, I focused my “office” time, energy, and attention on new statements of vision, mission, and Biblical core values – along with Biblical and theological explanations for each – and visited other churches on Sundays.

I also fit in a three-day trip to Minneapolis for the Desiring God Conference for Pastors (www.desiringgod.org).

On the first of these Sundays (Jan. 30), Neil shared the first of his three messages, while I stayed on at Bethesda to shepherd the service, as well as to make the transition into Neil’s series and my next couple of Sundays away.

Then over the last two Sundays (Feb. 6 and 13), I visited four different churches – two per Sunday – in our beautiful city for one of their weekly, Sunday morning worship services.

Here at Bethesda, we have a mixture of older and/or more “traditional” folks (about a third) and younger and/or more “contemporary” folks (about a third).

Those two demographics and characteristics – older and “more traditional,” younger and “more contemporary” – often correlate. They also often reflect competing, perhaps mutually exclusive values among our people.

Our churches, it would seem, have difficulty seeing or admitting the correlation between various demographics and “styles” of preference, unfortunately, and making necessary adjustments.

But Bethesda also has a middle group (oddly, also about a third) that is open to, values, even embraces a variety of approaches to worship – traditional, contemporary, contemplative, and other “styles” of personal and congregational preference.

Accordingly, for my two Sundays “off,” I selected two more ”traditional” and two more “contemporary” style services in churches known to be doing those things well – at least, in the sense that they have significant constituencies for each.

Finally, the two churches whose “traditional” services I visited also have more ”contemporary” alternatives at other times, and the two churches whose “contemporary” services I attended have an identical service at another time.

So, what did I learn (an interim report)?

1- God is (clearly) not dead, Jesus is still Lord, the Holy Spirit is still working, and the Church is still alive in Winnipeg! Perhaps I’m stating the obvious. But in the media, in some of our local churches, and among some of our congregants, one might get the opposite impression ….

     Some churches are closing their doors. Importantly, most of them are older, most of them are more “traditional” in approach, and the times are – quite literally – passing them by.

     Some congregants are losing their hope – personally and congregationally. I believe this to be the case, because at some point along the way, they tied their hope to their way of doing things.

     For sure, this will be the most controversial thing that I say in this post, but I would be less than honest if I didn’t say it: In the more “traditional” services that I attended, there seemed to be less hope for today and more of a sense of holding on to the end.

     Now, even a cursory reading of both Scripture and history reveals that this has always been true, throughout the history of divine-human relations. God’s people have always tended, at some point, to stop reaching hopefully and joyfully forward into the unknown and unseen work of God and turned our gaze backward to the familiar ways of old.

So this is not a new phenomenon, but it’s also not the whole story – in Scripture, in history, in Winnipeg. Not even close …

     (There was an excellent opinion article that appeared recently in The Winnipeg Free Press, “Shrinking churches preach incomplete message,” and that spoke into this reality. Check it out at http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/fyi/shrinking-churches-preach-incomplete-message-113752224.html.)

2- Worship “styles” are largely cultural and seasonal, which is to say that they are not intrinsically (or even particularly) Biblical or spiritual.

     That’s not to say anything goes, when it comes to what constitutes “worship.” It’s just not as easy as we might think or assume to separate our methodology from our message.

     Indeed, much of what is called “worship” today is man-centered rather than God-centered. This means that much of what passes for “worship” comes closer to idolatry – even false worship of the self – than the authentic worship of the One True and Living God.

     And neither pole of the worship-style-continuum has more of a tendency toward such idolatry than the other ….

     Not too long ago, at a gathering of local ministry leaders, a prominent local pastor and his worship leader publicly reminisced about their “epic Rock’n'Roll Sunday,” when their “worship music” was drawn from Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and other “classic rock” bands.

     Now, I’m a “classic rock” kind-of-a-guy – coming of age, as I did, in the 1970s. But I see no correlation between these groups, their music – both their style and their lyrics, and worship of the One True and Living God!

     In fact, precisely because I am a “classic rock” kind-of-a-guy, and know the content and context of that genre, my first (and persisting) thought was, “WHAT COULD YOU GUYS POSSIBLY BE THINKING?!?!”

     But anyone who reads the Old Testament – particularly, the Prophets – knows that the “contemporary worship” folks aren’t the only ones with an idolatrous tendency toward self-worship or worship according to “our” style.

     Rarely do most consumers of “worship” pause to ask, “What does God want in our worship of Him?” Some seem even to equate mere personal preference with what God prefers and what constitutes true worship.

     I’m not the first to observe that there are no orders of worship, or any sort of style indicated anywhere in the Bible. This makes it very difficult to frame arguments for, or against, any particular worship style from the Scriptures.

3- There is a place – a niche, if you will – for any local church with a clear identity, deeply held values, and a distinctive style – of worship, of preaching, of fellowship, and of ministry.

     My most exciting discovery, as I visited these four other churches in our city, was this: None of these churches are alike … at all!

     One was Pentecostal, and one was Baptist; one was charismatic, and one was Mennonite Brethren. And if I had the time, I would have visited other churches of other traditions and denominational affiliations.

     Yet, each manifested a vibrancy in their ministries – not necessarily reflected solely in their “worship service,” I must note – and there was clearly no formula for their success. Any vibrancy went beyond any one worship service or style, of course.

     And none of them were any more like Bethesda Church than they were to each other, which was not at all! To me, this indicates that the Lord Jesus [still] has a place for us, but only so long as we are willing to be who and what He continues to create us to be.

     So long as we remain open to His Spirit’s calling upon us and His work in us, among us, and through us; we have a bright future and a sure hope, indeed!

     But if at any point we choose to close ourselves off from His renewed activity, becoming settled in “the way we do things around here” – either personally or congregationally, then our flame will surely and sadly and slowly and painfully diminish.

And Jesus will just as surely remove our lampstand from His power and His presence.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t need to happen; we have a choice in the matter ….

God’s grace and peace from me and mine to you and yours!

Pastor Mark

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The dysfunction of atheism — overt and otherwise

SOME YEARS AGO, I had occasion to speak at length with an atheist.

He was also the attending psychiatrist for one of my family members in the hospital.

It was one of those bizzaro-world-where-am-I-and-how-did-I-get-here-anyway conversations.

Maybe you’ve had one of these experiences, or something like it.

It’s one of those conversations, when we think we’re speaking the same language; we might even be using some of the same words. But at some point, we realize that we’re talking past each other, through each other, and over each other.

Despite our many words, the one thing we are not doing is communicating.

After about twenty minutes in this non-communication-repeating-loop, it became clear to me why:

     Doctor-I-know-everything-and-you-know-nothing-worth-knowing thought that I was as delusional as the family member I was trying to help … maybe even more so.

Literally. He literally thought that I needed help, and here’s why: I’m a person of faith in God.

The decisive moment came, when the good doctor asked me if I thought my family member should be in the hospital and, if so, why.

I shared my own observations, including that my family member had manifested ‘religious ideations’ – that is, attaching spiritual meaning to everything and using heavily religious language, inappropriate to the situation.

     “You mean like you?” said Doctor-I-know-everything-and-you-know-nothing-worth-knowing.

What are you talking about?” said I, in utterly sincere shock ….

     “Well, aren’t you a priest?” said the expert.

Almost breathless in unbelief of another kind, I responded, ”No, I’m not a priest. I am a pastor.

     “Same thing,” said the knower of all knowledge worth knowing – except, of course, that priests and pastors are not the same. He continued, stunningly, “Religious belief is a delusion; people who believe are delusional. The only difference is one of degrees.

I’m sure he thought he was being helpful – being the doctor, but I was about to come unglued.

I simply could not believe that this person was a medical doctor, and especially that this “doctor” was “caring” for my family member. How could this be?

But I said as calmly as I could, “Doctor-such-and-such, doesn’t the standard of care require that healthcare professionals work with loved ones for the benefit and well-being of their patients?

     “Yes, it does,” he responded – resisting, I’m quite sure, the urge to lecture me (again) on my use of the technical terminology ‘standard of care,’ because I couldn’t know what I’m talking about, because … I’m not a psychiatrist.

Could you tell me how lecturing me about my lack of knowledge of my own family member’s situation – apparently, on the single basis that I am not you – and calling me delusional, for no other reason than that I’m a person of faith, achieve the standard of care in this case?

     ”You’re right; I apologize.” A glimmer of humility and compassion! Oddly and unexpectedly, we were able to have a productive conversation after that. (I promise; I am not making this up!)

This remarkably memorable event was brought right back to mind this afternoon, when I read an outstanding article by Jim Spiegel in the latest e-edition of Christianity Today (CTDirect).

His article, ”Unreasonable Doubt,” draws from his recent book The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (Moody, 2010), which surely will make it to my bookshelf soon.

The basic premise of Spiegel’s article – supported by surprisingly strong evidence – is this:

     Moral and psychological factors may contribute as decisively in the faithlessness of atheists as their acceptance of rational argument and “proofs” – maybe even more so.

Here’s how he gets to the point, early, in his second paragraph (with my emphasis added):

     “Most atheists would have us think they arrived at their view through cool, rational inquiry. But are other factors involved? Consider the candid remarks of contemporary philosopher Thomas Nagel: ‘I want atheism to be true …. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God, and, naturally, hope that I’m right about my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.‘ Could Nagel’s attitude—albeit in a more subtle form—actually be common among atheists?

After that, Spiegel’s article only gets better, more challenging, more helpful, and more hopeful – hopeful in the God who Is and His gospel and helpful insight into the forensics of unbelief.

Here’s another gem (my emphasis added):

     “The 20th-century ethics philosopher Mortimer Adler (who was baptized quietly at age 81) confessed to rejecting religious commitment for most of his life because it ‘would require a radical change in my way of life, a basic alteration in the direction of my day-to-day choices as well as in the ultimate objectives to be sought or hoped for …. The simple truth of the matter is that I did not wish to live up to being a genuinely religious person.‘”

The Bible is consistent in its insistence that God exists; that there is One and only One True and Living God; that He created and sustains all that there is by the power of His Word; and that He is a good, gracious, and loving God – despite our unbelief.

The Bible is also clear about another thing:

     “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ – Psalm 14:1

But let’s not get carried away with the foolish faithlessness of atheism and atheists. I have seen and practiced something possibly more foolish, and if I might say, more delusional even than the subborn and relentless refusal to believe in or admit or acknowledge the God Who Is:

     A functional or practical atheism.

How many ‘Christians’ or ‘churches’ say that we believe in the God Who Is and have doctrinal statements loaded with Bible verses to support our contention that we believe in the God Who Is. But practically speaking, we live and think and speak and behave … as if we are on our own?

     Mannnny of us and mannnny of our churches, I would venture to say, including me and my own church from time-to-time.

Our Elder Brother James, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus, got right to this point, and he was speaking to ‘Christians’ when he wrote: You believe that God is One; you do well! The demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?“ – James 2:19-20

Do yourself a favor and read Spiegel’s article. You may even consider getting his book. As for the article, you can find it at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/january/35.48.html.

God’s grace and peace to you and yours from me and mine!

Pastor Mark

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ABOUT TWO YEARS AGO, a small group of men graciously invited me to join them, as they had been meeting weekly for a number of years, to process life and faith together.

Since then, I have met with these five other men — and they with me – nearly every Tuesday morning at 7:30am at one office or other of our group members.

I am grateful for these men, for their welcome, and for the contributions each has made to my life in the relatively short period of our time with each other.

Sometimes I call our group “my accountability group,” and we do some of that – especially when I arrive late to our meetings, which is, well … often.

But primarily, we meet for the simple purpose of walking together, as we negotiate the waters of this life and these times in the Christian context.

You should probably know at this point that I am the only pastor/preacher/minister-guy in the group, which is both a potential benefit and a potential liability.

Being a preacher is a potential benefit, of course, when some practical application of Scripture or theology will help us to see our way through some issue – you know, from God’s perspective.

On the other hand, preachers can be … preachy. That’s altogether a liability in virtually every context! So, I have need to moderate in my tendency toward super-spiritualizing preachyness ….

We also have two engineers (one retired), one sales-and-marketing guy, an IT-management guy, and a business-executive consultant. (It’s that last guy who gives me the most consistent grief when I’m late.)

But I digress …

Today, we picked up on an important and potentially transformative conversation that we had begun several weeks ago.

The topic of our conversation was the new and diverse pathways of “doing business,” brought about, largely, by the many changes in how people communicate, relate, make decisions, and buy stuff these days – especially our younger people, say, 40 years old or younger.

Of course, we talked about the Brave New World of Twittter, Facebook, Linked In, instant messaging, hand-held devices, and other “social networking” forums and tools.

For many of us 40+ guys (and some of us +er than others!), this is literally another universe! We acknowledged, however, that we either get linked-in (so to speak), or we get left behind.

And it makes no difference whatsoever that this is not the world in which we grew up, or the plan we signed on to, or the paradigms we learned as we came up through the ranks!

So, the question is NOT whether we can be or will be, more or less effective, as we do what we do into the foreseeable future – as businessmen (and women), leaders, consumers, and churchmen (and women).

     The questions are more like: Will we even be relevant? When we talk, will there be anybody listening at the other end? Will we be able to relate (to anyone) in a meaningful way?

During this discussion, our sales-and-marketing guru showed us an incredible video, entitled “Social Media ROI: SOCIALNOMICS” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypmfs3z8esI).

I STRONGLY recommend watching it! But it was something he said, which was likely obvious to him in his universe, but to me it was one of those rare revelatory moments. He said:

     “Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody wants to buy.”

Nobody likes to be sold, but everybody wants to buy“! In my mind, I went straight to the gospel, and how we go about proclaiming and witnessing and leading people to the God of the gospel.

Could it be that some of us – myself included – have missed the gospel-boat on both ends of the gospel-message versus means-of-delivery, Christianity versus churchianity, sound-doctrine versus good-works spectrum?

On the one end, could it be that some of us have so valued the message of the gospel as we received it that we have a misplaced value in our methodology and our traditions and our preferences, because we believe our methodology is intrinsic to, embedded in the gospel itself? So, in our effort to conserve the past, could we have turned the gospel into a self-serving extension of ourselves and our own staid preferences?

Consequently, we may tend to resist or reject necessary and needed changes in our means that seem to be implied by these words from Paul:

     For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the Law, I became as one under the Law (though not being myself under the Law), that I might win those under the Law. To those outside the Law, I became as one outside the Law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ), that I might win those outside the Law. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. – 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

On the other end, could it be some others have altered, even corrupted the message – almost always out of a deep concern for those outside the family of faith, for sure – by adopting means that oppose it’s true message, as well as the One who gives it? By giving in to “the spirit of [this] age,” by becoming virtually indistinguishable from the world around us, could it be that we have made “the gospel” into something else? Could we be making it about someone other than the God who raises the dead and His once crucified and now risen and exalted Son?

These are words of Paul that I first thought of, when I heard my friend’s sales proverb:

      “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God, we speak in Christ! – 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

So I see here a dual need, a dual obligation: We must employ contemporary means to get a hearing from a contemporary audience, but we must never become “peddlers of God’s word.”

God does not want or call us to sell the gospel. Rather, He calls us to proclaim the gospel:

     I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’“ – Romans 1:16-17

     “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God!“ – 1 Corinthians 1:18

God’s grace and peace to you and yours from me and mine!

Pastor Mark

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Providence and our cluelessness

[As I mentioned, I was out of city and country earlier this week, as I attended the Desiring God Conference for Pastors for the third year. I had hoped to blog from Minneapolis. However, in the fullness of my heart and mind, the discovery of new relationships, and the going-from-dawn-to-dust, it just didn't happen. But I didn't want to lose momentum, as I did last year. so, this is my first posting, since I returned to Winnipeg. As always, let me know what you think ....] 

DID YOU EVER wonder how many times the One True and Living God has acted on our behalf –directly, personally, providentially; but we didn’t have a clue that He was aware, interested, or even around?

If we think about it for a second, would we even know the Invisible God has acted for our tangible benefit? I seriously doubt it – except, perhaps, in the most sensational and obvious examples.

And there are clear and compelling examples. Check out these representative Biblical passages on God’s historical intervention into human affairs:

     The LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey … Behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’ But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’ He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.‘” – Exodus 3:7-10

     “He ordered some mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. These men were bound in their cloaks, tunics, hats, and other garments, and thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed the men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. But King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste, and declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men, bound, into the fire?‘ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men, unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt. And the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’“ – Daniel 3:20-25

     Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.“ – Matthew 1:18-21

     “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!‘ But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.‘” – Luke 1:26-33

     “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.‘ So we can confidently say: ‘The Lord is my Helper. I will not fear; what can man do to me?‘ Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever! – Hebrews 13:1-8

Okay, so earlier this week – Thursday to be exact, I had an appointment with Dr. August ‘Gus’ Konkel, president of Providence College and Seminary for breakfast at 8:30am. (Providence College and Seminary is in rural Otterburne, Manitoba, about an hour and ten minutes (or so) away from my house in Charleswood, a burrough in Winnipeg.)

Gus and I were meeting to discuss how a once strong and substantial relationship between Bethesda Church and Providence might be renewed.

We also talked about my own desire and long-sensed calling to teach in a more formal educational setting at some point, investing in the next generation of Jesus-disciples and leaders in the church.

I normally have trouble getting out of the house in the morning. Admittedly, part of it is my own fault: Simply put, I’m just not a morning person.

But when I have an early morning departure, my daughters are usually just getting up and about, and it’s very difficult for me to pull away without first connecting with them, before we go our separate ways.

So, I was leaving for my appointment a full ten minutes after I had planned. TEN MINUTES LATE.

I must have still been half asleep, when I took a longer, slower route to get out of town. FIVE MORE MINUTES LATE.

Now I’m on my way and heading south on Highway 59 toward Otterburne. But the farther I went, the more I became convinced that I must have passed the Otterburne intersection.

I pulled over to the side of the road, and turned around – only to realize that I hadn’t gone far enough. (In actuality, I probably could have seen my intersection from where I turned around, if my vision was good enough!)

Anyway, I turned around, and just a couple of minutes later, I was turning onto Otterburne Road. FIVE MORE MINUTES LATE.

I’m guessing that the distance between the Highway 59/Otterburne Road intersection and Providence College and Seminary is just over a mile, straightaway.

About halfway there, I came up on people in the road and something going on at the side of the road. As I got closer, I realized that an accident had just happened, only a few minutes before.

A red car was smashed up pretty bad, but upright. A white car seemed not as severely smashed up, but upside down. Four people stood shivering on the side of the road — no doubt, shivering from both cold and fright.

As I stopped to find out if anyone was hurt and/or needed assistance, an ambulance – which I had seen and heard approaching in the distance as I turned off of Highway 59 – pulled right up behind me. I got out of the way by continuing on up the road to Providence.

But ten minutes here; five minutes there; and five more minutes when I was just on the cusp of my destination, and who knows: Though no one seemed seriously injured in the crash, what would a third car in the mix have done?

Was I just half asleep, as I went east across South Winnipeg? Was I simply confused, as I approached my turn off to Providence? Was I merely late, again, as I left the house, giving my kids an extra hug and our usual daddy-daughter-banter? 

     If God exists, if He is all-knowing, if He is Almighty, if He is everywhere-present-eternally, AND if He is infinitely good, infinitely loving, and infinitely merciful – all of which the whole of Scripture, from Genesis to maps, makes abundantly clear; why then should we think it strange, or unusual, or improbable that the One True, Living, and Invisible God should act from time-to-time in tangible, historical ways on behalf of His children?

That God doesn’t always act – as we would like, when we would like – is no argument against God’s sovereign and merciful action in history, according to His own timing, wisdom, word, and will. The God of the Bible is the God who intervenes into human history by His sovereign action.

One more thing. On Thursday, I arrived at my destination – Providence College and Seminary … 15 minutes early! And no, the math just doesn’t add up ….

God’s grace and blessings to you and yours from me and mine!

Pastor Mark

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