Yesterday afternoon I dropped my daughter off at work in town. Near the place she works I saw two Aylmer police cruisers behind the vehicle of an elderly women who looked to be in some distress. Recognizing the woman as a friend I felt it was my place to help, so after driving by I turned around and parked a hundred or so meters back, donned my mask, and set out on foot to see if I could be of assistance.
There had been a very mild fender bender and the other vehicle had already left. However, there was some unfinished business with my elderly friend. I said hello to my friend and introduced myself to the officers.
What happened next? I’ll tell you, but first allow me to admit something I’m a little embarrassed about in hindsight. As I was turning around, I paused as I considered getting out of my vehicle. I second guessed whether I should try to offer assistance. Why? Well, I discovered I was worried about how my offer of assistance might be received. How would the officers respond, in these tense times, in the middle of a state of emergency and a stay-at-home order, to me entering this situation? I wondered if they’d be angry and if their response would be hostile.
I actually thought these things, and I’d like to say I’m not sure why, but the reason is kind of obvious to me. If you start a sentence with “It’s been a hard year for…” there is no end to the options for how to finish the sentence. But it really has been a hard year for police officers in North America. Closer to home, I haven’t heard much good about the local police in the past year either. Some even believe they are so awful that they’re worthy of intimidation and mistreatment. And so I discovered that my view of police officers has been tainted not by my personal experience, but by the events reported in the news over the last year.
What Happened Next?
But I got out anyway. I offered to help anyway. And I was immediately welcomed with open arms (I say that figuratively, of course). There was not a single negative note in their reception of my assistance. In fact, it was all gratitude and eager cooperation.
As I continued to enquire about what had happened, I discovered that these two officers had been models of leniency and decency and compassion throughout the encounter. For the sake of my friend’s privacy I won’t mention specifics, but I will say this: the officers, rather than ticketing her hundreds of dollars as they rightfully could have, instead issued three summonses for a court appearance where she will be able to explain her mistake and probably come away with no financial penalty.
Are You Still With Me?
I titled this post in such a way that your assumptions would be tested, as mine were yesterday. Be honest, you probably clicked here expecting a negative report, didn’t you? Because that’s almost exclusively what gets reported. That’s what is deemed newsworthy.
After the encounter I began to reflect on the other interactions I’ve had with police officers in my lifetime. There haven’t been many but there have been a few: an interview when I was 10 or 11 after it was suspected that a friend of mine had committed arson; a couple of speeding tickets over the years; more recently, being pulled over due to a misunderstanding. Every encounter I’ve had with police officers has been positive.
Now, I know other people have different experiences – experiences that would lead them to an appropriate skepticism and even legitimate fears in the same circumstances I encountered. I don’t fault them for that, but I should not discount my positive experiences on the basis of their negative experiences. Someday perhaps I will have a negative encounter with the police, and then I’ll write about that.
Are there bad-apple police officers? Yes.
And there are bad-apple massage therapists and bad-apple doctors and bad-apple pastors? Yes.
And I hate to tell you this, but there is even a “bad-apple-whatever-you-are” too.
The problem is that at this point we’ve heard so much bad news about so many people that we’ve exchanged the benefit of the doubt for the assumption of hostility… and that’s not good.
Let’s make it a good news day! In the comments below, feel free to share a positive experience you’ve had with law enforcement.
Below are Dr. Fowler’s thoughts on the current restrictions and a word of caution and encouragement to fellow pastors and church leaders.
Some of you have led your church to disobey governmental restrictions that suspend your public gatherings, and others of you are thinking about it. Some of you have suggested that those of us who accept the temporary restrictions just don’t understand the nature of the church. As a friend and brother in Christ, I appeal to you to dial back the rhetoric and reconsider your choice.
Many thoughtful people have argued that the lockdowns are not really the best way to balance all the legitimate interests during the pandemic, and that is a debate that needs to occur, but good people differ on that question. If you accept the idea of a declared emergency, then you should admit that whether the current governmental choices are right or not, it is not a case of tyranny. The governing officials have to decide which “experts” to listen to, and they may have picked the wrong group, but let’s admit that we don’t have a word from God that identifies the right “experts” on this complex question.
The temporary inability to gather is a frustration to all of us. We all understand the good reasons why Scripture instructs us to gather, but the normative practices can’t all happen in their normal way in abnormal times. We are the body of Christ in the world whether we are able to gather in the same room or not. My pastor’s sermon livestreamed to my computer is still his faithful word for this time and place, no matter how it is transmitted. Baptisms do not have to occur in the gathered church, and in fact, there is no such example in the NT. Individuals can be counselled and encouraged via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or telephone.
We all recognize that none of this is the norm or the ideal, but perhaps we can just be grateful that technology enables us to carry on with most of our ministries in unusual ways. I recognize that there is animosity toward traditional Christian values in various forms in our cultural setting. Various judicial and legislative actions have challenged our teaching of the truth as we understand it and our practice of our faith.
This is not the place to list all of the particulars, but I agree that there are current threats that may well lead us to civil disobedience. There are culture wars that are worth fighting, but temporary restrictions in the interest of public health are not persecution of the church. Giving up our right to gather as usual to serve the common good looks like one example of the good deeds that we should be known for as opposed to being known as rebels (1 Pet 2:13-16).
We may not make the same choices on this point, but you are my brothers and sisters in Christ, and this is my small contribution to the family discussion.
This is an invitation to you – church-goer or not, Christian or not – to read through the New Testament with me over the course of the next year. I’m starting on January 1 with a plan that includes short readings, opportunities for dialog, and helpful videos like this one:
In the New Testament, in Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12 (NLT) it says that, “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
Because I believe that to be true, and because I have seen the difference it has made in my own life, I keep reading. I am inviting you into that experience, believing that the same can happen for you. There are no strings attached to this. I am only interested in reading the New Testament together with you and having conversations that include your questions, objections, struggles, and insights.
I have found the last 24 hours quite difficult. Aylmer is the town I grew up and went to school in. It’s the town I returned to as a pastor a dozen years ago now. Ours has always been a pleasant and friendly town, and not particularly newsworthy. But now we are newsworthy, receiving local, regional, and national coverage regularly. It is safe to say that the events of 2020 have done (likely irreparable) damage to the reputation of our community. And we seem to be reaching a new threshold of concern.
It grieves me to see our town on the verge of violence, but that is where we’re at. You could see hints of this at the rally/march in November. There were several heated moments that almost boiled over. Things have been tense ever since, and the events of this past Sunday morning should raise the alarm for all residents of Aylmer. It’s only a matter of time before we see real violence break out in our town if this is not addressed.
Why is the tension in our town escalating?
The church north of town has clearly been spoiling for a fight for some time. While I am sympathetic to some of their principles, their practice of drowning these principles in waves of incendiary rhetoric is something I detest. This escalates tension.
The police, early on at least, seem to have handled the church’s provocations with inconsistency at best, leading to more opportunities for publicity for the church. This escalates tension. (It should be noted that in the video evidence that exists of Sunday’s events, the officers seem to be a model of courtesy and restraint under very trying conditions.)
We have the counter-protesters who are equally angry, equally outraged and in some cases, equally willing to take the confrontation to the next level. Included with this lot is the creepy, mysterious, and anonymous “Plague Pastor” video star, who decries the church’s condemnable actions while promoting his/her own xenophobic biases and implicit calls for violence. This certainly escalates tension.
The protesters – a combination of locals and out-of-town “protest tourists” – lack focus but not anger, outrage or disrespect. So many varied grievances gathered under one tent is like so much dry grass around a shortening candle. This escalates tension.
Where does all this tension go?
All this escalated tension is on full display every minute of the day on social media, where every conversation seems to end in conflict, where the benefit of the doubt is never given, and where judgments are made before both sides of the story are heard. From there this tension works its way into our stores and restaurants, where people are short on patience, often assuming the worst about each other, and sometimes openly serving up abusive insults about the ethnic heritage of some of their fellow citizens.
These are not normal or acceptable boundaries for civil disagreement, least of all among those who claim to be followers of Jesus. We have what seems to be a cult of protest on one side and a cult of counter-protest on the other. Neither one represents the majority while both scream at the top of their lungs, staking their claim to be, apparently without irony, the silent (or silenced) majority. I suspect neither one would win an open vote with the townspeople if given a third choice somewhere – anywhere – between the two.
What a mess.
More Than a Mess
But now it is more than a mess; now it’s a public danger. What has come to be a weekly circus north of town is quickly evolving into something far more serious. There is a real potential for open physical conflict.
Back to the events that unfolded this past Sunday, some of which you can see here or below.
The “protest tourists” are the main accelerants of this fire. I want to draw your attention to one moment that should cause us all grave concern. After the ticket was issued and the officer returned to his vehicle, the agitated crowd of angry men were instructed to not allow the officer to leave. One of the protestors shouted at the officer asking, among other things, where he lives and where his kids go to sleep. I would certainly feel threatened to have those words screamed at me, wouldn’t you?
Others stood behind his vehicle blocking his way. When the officer gets out his vehicle to ask those blocking his vehicle to move, someone near the camera seems to say these words around the 2:40 mark of the video:
“There’s more of us than them…” That’s a lit fuse right there.
Listen, anyone who would say such a thing needs to be uninvited from future protests. And if they come uninvited they should be notified that they are not welcome. They should certainly not be encouraged in any way. If this is not addressed this will turn from local to national to international news. That might be good business for the news outlets of our region, but it will be no good for the people of Aylmer.
We need to be reminded that we can disagree and still be friends. All but a few seem to have forgotten this fact. Friends can speak to each other bluntly but with care and respect, even when they disagree. It’s time we all start practicing this. There has been enough trauma to go around in 2020. If we don’t take quick action 2021 will be even more traumatic.
Words for my friend, Arthur Cairncross, who is now in the GLORIOUS presence of the Lord.
I am a pastor, a husband and a father. And I am a better pastor, husband and father because Arthur made time to mentor me over the last decade.
It’s been such a year of loss for us all. We’ve lost various freedoms to a virus called COVID-19. And these are not insignificant losses, but they seem insignificant to me this week when I compare them to the loss of our dear friend, brother and father, Arthur.
When I heard of Arthur’s passing from my dad by a text message on Monday, I sat in the parking lot of No Frills in Aylmer and wept. My heart felt like it was in a vice. My throat thickened with sorrow. Arthur was not a young man but I thought we’d have him for many more years. He seemed, indeed, like a permanent fixture in our lives.
We will, hopefully soon, regain our freedoms, but this loss, the loss of Arthur Cairncross, is permanent (with an asterisk of course – we WILL meet him again), while all these other losses are temporary. As I’ve been reminiscing this week I have repeatedly come upon memories of Arthur and enjoyed those memories for a moment, and then the crushing weight of the fact that there will be no new memories lands like a cannon ball to my chest right below my heart.
God’s word says that the sorrows we experience in this life are but light momentary afflictions, and we believe that by faith, but in these moments we find that hard to believe, even with faith, and it must be impossible to believe without faith.
The Restaurant Table
For the remainder of my life on earth I will never again sit across the table from Arthur at The Country Charm restaurant. This is where most of my best memories were made….
The beloved idiosyncrasies:
The long, eyes-closed pauses as he looked for the next thought.
Those classy Hilfiger sweaters and the newest iPhone – he was always ahead of me in the phone game.
The way he would use the salt and pepper shakers as props in something he was explaining.
The every-breakfast comment about whatever shirt I was wearing that would serve as an illustration for something related to church leadership. “Let’s say for whatever reason I didn’t like your burgundy shirt with yellow buttons…” And then at the next breakfast, “Let’s say for whatever reason I didn’t like the [whatever shirt I was wearing]…” I think he may have just disliked my entire wardrobe…
And the deeply rooted care and correction:
I will never again receive another direct and very helpful sermon critique. ‘Things, Michael, you keep saying things,” he would state emphatically, “What are THINGS?! It it an emotion you’re speaking of? A list, an event? Not things – be specific!”
When a passage was too hard, it was a long phone call. The one time I was really stuck. It was late in the week and I could not get my head around the passage. And, not coincidentally, that passage from Colossians was my scripture reading on the morning he passed away, and so I thought of him fondly then and had no idea he was already gone.
Arthur preached in our church, spoke at my ordination, helped me through a full burnout, and provided counsel and training to my church elders. He ministered to our deacons at their retreat one year and this was greatly appreciated. He taught a session on time management to our denominational leaders during our convention. Not many men in the 70s could effectively lead a session called “Time Stewardship: Learning to Manage Technology Before it Manages You!”
At the very beginning of our mentoring relationship, Arthur made it clear that our meetings would include hard questions. How is your relationship with your sweetheart? How about your girls? Questions about financial integrity, sexual integrity, and my daily disciplines of prayer and reading. At the outset he wrote to me that, “Relationship building is a process which takes time; when that time is invested, trust and vulnerability grow. When these questions are used in love and wisdom, they will help men open their hearts to each other.” And then a few years into our relationship he took time to write, “Thanks Michael: Our times are so fruitful for me. I trust you gain something from them as well. Blessings as you press on for Him. Peace and hope fill you. Arthur”
He cared deeply for many people and he had quick access to genuine emotions. Sorrow for me when I was experiencing some loss, but also great joy with my victories and accomplishments. He was the epitome of someone who weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice, of bearing one another’s burdens, of speaking the truth in love.
And if fills me with sadness to think that I’ll never again experience the joining of our hands across that breakfast table as he prayed for me before I left.
As I’ve been collecting my thoughts and memories of Arthur this week and as I’ve watched and read others do the same, it has caused me to reflect deeply on how I will be remembered when I have finished my time on this earth. If in the end I am not remembered as warmly, as kindly, as admiringly as Arthur is remembered, it will not be because Arthur didn’t leave me an example of how to be both remembered as a great man and yet be secondary in people’s minds to the one who really matters, the one to whom Arthur constantly pointed, Jesus Christ.
In Titus 2 we are instructed as follows: “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”
Applying this to Arthur – to be regarded highly not only by those who know you well, but by those who barely knew you is a high honour that can be won only by a vast, faithful, and consistent love for people over a long period of time. And so my mother remarked to me the following this week as a condolence to me: “Even though I didn’t know Arthur that well, I loved him for the way he helped you!” That sentiment has been expressed by many around me this week, and is surely felt by multitudes more.
Arthur ran the race with all his effort and finished well. Because of his love and care, many others will have a chance to do the same. I am determined to be one of them.
An Honour and a Challenge
I haven’t wept this way in 27 years, when my grandfather passed away just as suddenly. But now that I feel I am through the early, brutal stages of grieving this loss, the bottom of that chasm of grief is already beginning to fill with gratitude. What a privilege to know a man like Arthur. What an honour to have access to him. What a joy to be in his presence so many times. What a benefit to be the recipient of his love and concern and his corrections. What a ministry to all our wives to have a man so interested in the integrity of their husbands.
And then to know that I was by far not the only one to have this access to his care fills me with a desire to be the same kind of man, to pick up the work where Arthur left it off. Many men are needed to continue this one man’s work – and that is about as high a praise as one could hope to receive at the end of his days.
So, to the many men that Arthur mentored, let us honour his legacy by carrying on his work. Look around you for other hurting men, lost men, broken men, and men who are not yet hurting, lost or broken (but will be eventually). They are all around you, yearning for connection, longing to be loved, desperate for kind, caring, biblical guidance.
And to Beth and the rest of the family, you already know but let me say again: Arthur was not just a good man; he was a great man. This was a man who was small in stature but a giant of faith. He was a man who, without a large platform, had a wider, deeper influence than many of us on a platform have. May we all seek to live as devoted followers of Jesus Christ. And may we all give thanks to God for faithful servants whose examples we can follow.
And as Arthur was so fond of saying/yelling: GLORY! and amen.
P.S. – below are some of the helpful and edifying words Arthur wrote to me by email over the years. I trust you will find them both helpful and edifying as well.
“The key is faithfulness. Love for God and love for those you meet on a daily basis. This world is so shallow and empty.”
“Our definition of an authentic man: one who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, loves and leads responsibly, accepts social responsibility and looks only to God for the greater reward.”
“Spiritual maturity is moving along the continuum toward total dependence on God. It is saying to God, ‘I’ll take all the help I can get.’ It is learning to live in daily dependence upon God. And sometimes it takes a shipwreck or a snakebite to get us there.”
“A prayer, ‘Lord, thank You that You want us to get where You want us to go more than we want to get where You want us to go.’”
“Col.1:24-29 – ‘Rejoicing in suffering’ The idea seems strange. How can affliction lead to joy? Problems bringing happiness? Paul is not masochistic or stoical towards pain. He is stating a spiritual principle… he was suffering for others – ‘for your sake.’ This puts a different complexion on hardship. His missionary travels were filled with danger. Yet he rejoiced over those who were reached with the Gospel… Paul was charged with the responsibility to make known God’s Word. He sees this as a divine office NO MATTER whatever hardships were involved in it.”
“The way to avoid being deluded by the false is to be thoroughly saturated, acquainted with the genuine, the authentic, the real.”
“The knitting together of Christians in love is a safeguard. Note love here is coupled with understanding. Also the understanding must be assured. Mutual understanding is a necessary part of Christian stability… God’s mystery is a treasure. (WOW – what we do not see clearly is so precious… I’m learning this issue slowly). In Christ are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Christians possess the key. That KEY is Christ Himself. GLORY !! what a passage.”
“There is a certain type of evangelism that has much to answer for. It says, ‘Come to Jesus and you will find rest and peace and joy.’ That is a dangerous half-truth. Through Jesus, God is our friend, and the fear of God is banished by the love of Christ and God. But it is also true that when a person accepts Jesus Christ then the struggle begins.”
“When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential – and the essential is God. It is hard to believe but trouble is good for us. May The LORD give you strength to remain under the pressure as He refines you for His Kingdom work. Some men walk through life and leave only footprints – others leave a legacy!!! Love you greatly. Best to Anne Marie and family. Arthur”
I live in Aylmer, Ontario. I’m a resident, a father, a youth soccer coach, and a pastor here. I have been saddened this week to see my town in the national news with our squabbles on display. I would be happier if this was not what we are becoming notorious for.
I am fully “awake” AND I wear my mask regularly. I am not afraid of my government. In fact, I’m thankful for and I pray for my government, as I am instructed to do in 1 Tim. 2:1-2. I don’t agree with all of the decisions my government makes, but I also don’t have to make decisions for 14 million people, and I don’t have all the information I need to make decisions of that magnitude.
There’s a protest planned for Saturday. It is legal to protest and express your opinions, and that’s a good thing. We need greater diversity of opinion on how to navigate our way through this difficult time. I won’t be attending, but that doesn’t mean I don’t agree with some of the points that will be made.
It seems likely at this point that many from outside our town are coming to join this protest. Our mayor wants everyone to be safe and has taken appropriate action to ensure that’s the case. That’s also a good thing, but because she has done this, she has reportedly received threats to her safety. This is evil and cowardly.
Defiance and Obedience
Over the last months as I have prayed, pondered, observed, and lived through this time of upheaval and uncertainty, a number of thoughts and commitments have become clear to me.
Defiance is sometimes necessary, but blind defiance is no better than blind obedience. Blind defiance and blind obedience are both unhealthy, knee-jerk reactions. Informed defiance and informed obedience can have a conversation; blind defiance and blind obedience can only have conflict. I will stay informed, enter many conversations, and follow the laws of my province while at the same time making it known that I think there are better ways. This is how a healthy democracy works.
Of all the things Canadian Christians could be at this point, I think grateful ranks near the top. We have more freedoms than people in most other countries do, our governments, while imperfect, are responsive as they adapt to a situation that is still developing, and our worship spaces have fewer restrictions than almost all other similar spaces. (Thank you, Premier Ford)
I do not believe that freedom means I don’t have to submit to anyone’s authority. God has placed people in places of authority (Romans 13:1-7) and it is my privilege and duty to submit to their authority (1 Peter 2:13-17) unless they compel me to do something that God considers sin (Acts 5:27-32). If I was convinced that this is what’s happening right now, I would be the one organizing and leading the protests. (I am, after all, a PROTESTant pastor.)
I will not use my platform as a pastor to grandstand, collect followers, encourage rebellion, or make myself feel important. I will not confuse my calling as a pastor for an unexpressed but obvious aspiration to enter politics. I have no desire to be Aylmer’s most influential unelected politician. If I want to be a politician, I should run for office in the next election.
I will look first to the Bible to guide my thought and behaviour, not to the constitution of the great country in which I live. As I use the words of scripture, I will use them responsibly and according to their context. Parachuting out-of-context biblical passages into a speech doesn’t make the speech stronger. All it does is bring dishonour and disrepute to the scriptures.
I will not use the language of peace while hinting at insurrection. Inferring that those who abide by the mask mandate would have been Nazi supporters in earlier times is a dangerous and disgusting tactic. And after all, if your enemies are Nazis then violence is warranted, isn’t it? If anything, forcing a derogatory label on other community members – as if it were a visible badge – is the behaviour that needs to be called out. (I know that protest organizers can’t control every element of a public protest, but I do hope they will publicly rebuke this element of the protest if it is again on display, as it was at the last protest. See picture below.)
I will continue to do what I can to love and remain in conversation with the people in my community, regardless of what they believe about masks or vaccines or any other hot topic.
If you’ve been monitoring the situation for long, you might assume that the one Aylmer pastor you see constantly in the limelight represents the other pastors and churches in our community. As far as I am aware, he represents no other church except his own. In his many speeches and broadcasts, he frequently attempts to goad other pastors into joining his crusade. So far, no pastor that I know of has taken the bait. And that’s because the gospel is STILL not under assault in Aylmer, Ontario.
All the pastors I know in my community are working hard to care for people both inside and outside their churches.
Like me, they are not afraid. Like me, if they were convinced that the government was trying to pressure us to sin against God, they would speak out.
“So when I watch a video like George Floyd’s, it represents for me the fresh reopening of a deep wound and the reliving of layers of trauma that get exponentially compounded each time a well-meaning white friend says, ‘All lives matter.’ Of course they do, but in this country, black lives have been treated like they don’t matter for centuries and present inequities in criminal justice, income, housing, health care, education, etc. show that all lives don’t actually matter like they should.”
“For me, ‘life as usual’ means recognizing some people perceive me as a threat based solely on the color of my skin. For me, ‘life as usual’ means preparing my sons for the coming time when they’re no longer perceived as cute little boys, but teenage ‘thugs.’ Long after George Floyd disappears from the headlines, I will still be a black man in America.”
“’Black lives matter!’ is, in itself, not only an innocuous claim but a statement of absolute, ontological, moral truth. It is a claim implicitly made on page one – page one! – of God’s holy word (Genesis 1:26-27). The foundation upon which this value claim properly rests and rises, that every human being bears God’s image, is stressed throughout Scripture (Genesis 9, Exodus 20, James 2 and 3). So what does it tell us when, as Bible believers, our first or strongest response to the statement is defensiveness, reacting as if we or other kinds of people have been insulted or excluded?”
“After a particularly trying event, most people prepare for a repeat of whatever challenge they just faced. From the micro level to the macro level, we succumb to the availability bias and get ready to fight a war we’ve already fought. We learn that one lesson, but we don’t generalize that knowledge or expand it to other areas. Nor do we necessarily let the fact that a disaster happened teach us that disasters do, as a rule, tend to happen. Because we focus on the particulars, we don’t extrapolate what we learn to identifying what we can better do to prepare for adversity in general.”
“In the aftermath of a disaster, we want to be reassured of future safety. We lived through it, and we don’t want to do so again. By focusing on the particulars of a single event, however, we miss identifying the changes that will improve our chances of better outcomes next time. Yes, we don’t want any more planes to fly into buildings. But preparing for the last disaster leaves us just as underprepared for the next one.”
“And so it is not whether we will have police, but rather which police we will have. Not whether certain actions and words will be policed, but rather which actions and words will be policed. The choice is between a police that is generally accountable to elected leaders, who in turn are accountable to voters, or a police force who are accountable to no one except themselves and their own disordered ideology.”
“Americans have never more desperately needed reliable knowledge than we do now; also, Americans have never been less inclined to trust experts, who are by definition the people supposed to possess the reliable knowledge.”
“My suggestion to journalists, then, is simple: Never use the word ‘expert.’ If you are tempted to say ‘We talked to an expert,’ say instead that you talked to an immunologist, or an epidemiologist — and then take a moment to explain what an immunologist or epidemiologist actually is.”
“Many people who experience a rodent infestation will stop feeding their cats, assuming that this will encourage them to hunt more. The opposite occurs: well-fed cats are better hunters than hungry ones. When the British government offered financial rewards for people who killed and turned in cobras in India, people, reacting to incentives, began breeding the snakes. Once the reward program was scrapped, the population of cobras in India rose as people released the ones they had raised. The same thing occurred in Vietnam with rats…”
“God is sovereign, which is why you can speak in terms of purposes. God is sovereign over these things. He foresees them all. He causes or permits them all. And when he foresees and he causes or permits, it is always by design. So, whatever comes to pass comes to pass by God’s design, however it comes to pass.”
“Have we forfeited the opportunity of silence in our pulpits by becoming new heroes of the story in an online realm? Ought we not to have cried out to God to show us what he would have us do in our souls, before we called in technology to show us how to run our services? Have we rushed to solutions when our first note ought to have been sorrow?… Shall we leave lockdown more technically competent, and no more spiritually sensitive?”
“According to the survey, one-quarter of Canadians are experiencing moderate to severe levels of anxiety. A similar proportion felt lonely occasionally, or most of the time, in the past week; 20 per cent reported feeling depressed. Women, parents with children at home and younger adults, the 18- to 39-year-olds, are faring worse than others. Nearly one-quarter of the 1,005 people surveyed between May 8 and 12 reported binge-drinking in the past week. Significant numbers reported feeling nervous and edgy, or having trouble relaxing. We’re feeling easily annoyed and irritable, the survey tells us. We’ve spent an unhealthy number of days over the past two weeks worrying ‘something awful might happen.’”
This blog is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. I have not yet looked deeply into its background, but I like what I’m seeing. For example…
“Maps are necessary, but flawed. (By maps, we mean any abstraction of reality, including descriptions, theories, models, etc.) The problem with a map is not simply that it is an abstraction; we need abstraction… To solve this problem, the mind creates maps of reality in order to understand it, because the only way we can process the complexity of reality is through abstraction. But frequently, we don’t understand our maps or their limits. In fact, we are so reliant on abstraction that we will frequently use an incorrect model simply because we feel any model is preferable to no model.”
“Christianity was not launched in a world of comfort, and it was not designed to flourish in a world of comfort. If the Lord is doing anything in overseeing this season, perhaps it is a refining, a sifting. Things are going to get weirder, more difficult, more trying. Maybe the true church will rise to the surface. And with her, the true pastors.”
“Christians seem disproportionately susceptible to misinformation and conspiracies about COVID-19. That is due, undoubtedly, to the way ideas are packaged in the culture wars in our country. Scientists and their expertise have been lumped together with other academics and left-leaning causes. And all of us are hard-wired to find affinity with the groups we identify with.”
“As we steward the power of our influence through every Facebook post and every retweet, we should remember that we’re not following Jesus’ command to be “wise as serpents” if we’re swayed by the emotional manipulation of a conspiracy theory or a slickly-produced video. And we’re not “harmless as doves” if we spread misinformation or sow confusion in the midst of a global health emergency.”
“Why would anyone find a family unit taking care of its members a “disaster” for feminism? How childish—and frankly un-feminine—has feminism become that it must see childrearing and nurturing a family unit as a step down during a time of crisis? A step down from what? It often seems like it’s mostly feminists who disparage female work and praise so highly the world of corporate and professional success.”
If you are regularly making and spending money and not investing in gospel partnerships, then you’re really not participating in gospel partnerships and you may need to conclude that the gospel is not actually all that precious to you.
Extreme Poverty Overflowing in a Wealth of Generosity
Paul writes to the church in Corinth describing the Philippian church’s passion for the gospel and their eagerness to be in a gospel partnership with him:
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints…” (2 Cor. 8:1-4)
The people in Philippi didn’t have a lot of extra money lying around. There weren’t surplus funds they were looking to give away as a blessing to the less fortunate. They were the less fortunate, and yet they still possessed a desire and a compulsion to joyfully give to others. Of this ethos among the Philippian Christians, Ralph Martin says this: “We today might take the lesson to heart that the sign of our professed love for the gospel is the measure of sacrifice we are prepared to make in order to help it progress.“
Let’s press ourselves on that idea. What sacrifices – specifically, financial sacrifices – are we willing to make because of our love for the gospel and our desire to see it go out into all the world?
Now, you should never feel an obligation to give to any ministry that doesn’t have the progress of the gospel as its core mission. With that said, let me ask you this: Should you find a ministry worthy of your financial contributions, especially if those contributions would come as a considerable sacrifice to you, what is the measure of the sacrifice you’re prepared to make? In concrete financial terms, what is the sacrifice?
Let’s go beyond the theoretical. If I ask you this as a statement with a blank space at the end, what goes in the blank?
“You know, if I didn’t give so much to gospel ministry partnerships, I could __________________.” What is it?
Take one more resort vacation each year?
Afford a bigger house?
Drive a much newer vehicle?
What is it for you?
The Last Can in the Cupboard
And then once you’ve done that calculation, realize that for most of us we’re still only talking about how much we give out of our excess, not out of our poverty as the church in Philippi was doing. For most of us, we’re still talking about skimming some of the extra cream, where they were giving of the last cans in the cupboard.
But once you’ve done the calculation, once you see on paper how much more money you could have for yourself, how much you could have had over the last 10-15-20+ years that you’ve been faithfully giving, I hope that you can say this: “I will gladly go without these luxuries in order to support the progress of the gospel!”
Now, on the other hand, if your statement goes something like this: “You know, if we didn’t give so much to gospel ministry partnerships, we could… buy an extra bag of chips…” In other words, if you are regularly making and spending money and not investing in gospel partnerships, then you’re really not participating in gospel partnerships and you may need to conclude that the gospel is not actually all that precious to you.
Remember: where your treasure is, that’s where you’ll find your heart. What you most value is where you’ll most heavily invest. Where you invest determines what you value. Give that some thought.