My post today will have some specific Canadian content. I know that many of my readers live in the United States and other parts of the world. This post will still be relevant to you, because the issue crosses all borders, and because the lessons we can learn from the Word of God apply to all of us. So, please keep reading.
I don’t usually get involved in political discussions. Most issues in politics don’t have a right or wrong answer. They just have my opinion and your opinion answers. This issue is, in Canada right now, a political matter, but it is above all a matter of justice. The issue is human trafficking, and specifically human trafficking for the purposes of prostitution.
This week, Bill C-36 was adopted by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. It still has a couple of steps to go through before it will be passed; these will take place after Parliament resumes in September.
This Bill is only the beginning of dealing with the issue of sex trafficking in Canada, but it puts us steps ahead of most places in the world. As citizens who believe in justice, you really need to take time to be informed about it. Many have said that prostitution should be legalized, and that people should be able to make their own choices about what they do to earn a living. The problem is that more than 90% of the people who are offering sexual services for money are being forced to do it either because they are in debt to someone, or because they are being threatened by someone. And there are others who do it, yes by choice, but only because they are desperate for money to feed their family or pay their bills. Is a last resort really a choice? If prostitution is legalized, the legal authorities no longer have the same degree of power to protect those who are being exploited. Research some of the places that have tried it—The Netherlands, Germany—and you will see that it didn’t really work out as well as they had hoped. Criminal activity increased rather than decreased.
In Proverbs 31:1-9, King Lemuel’s mother is giving him some advice on how to be a good and effective ruler. In Proverbs 31:8-9, her advice is to speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves. Literally this means to speak for those who don’t have the physical capacity to speak, but it is a figure of speech known as hypocatastasis. It implies a comparison. In other words, if we are to promote justice as we are required to do according to Micah 6:8, then the ruler, the judge, needs to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves whatever the reason may be. In our democratic society today, we are actually the rulers; it is our votes that choose our representatives. We need to speak up for those who are being oppressed, who are being silenced by threats, who don’t have any power to stand up and speak for themselves. We need to let our voices be heard by those who hold the political power, and who make the laws that govern our land. What kind of society do you want for your children?
Please, get informed about this issue, and then let your Member of Parliament (or other political representative) know how you feel.
In Canada, you can find contact information for your Member of Parliament, by entering your postal code here.
To help get you started on finding out more, here are some links that might be helpful:
When you are ready to get involved to make a difference, check out Marilyn Luinstra's blog.
There is a prayer I have been praying for many years, decades even, and it hasn't been answered yet. Well, it hasn't been answered with a yes anyway. Now I was brought up to be unselfish, to not keep asking for what I want, to take no for an answer. But because of the story of the persistent widow, (Luke 18:1-8) I feel I should keep asking.
Over the years I've tried to reconcile that parable with my upbringing. Whereas it is not okay to ask your parents for the same thing over and over again, it is okay to ask God. Not only is it okay, but He invites it; He recommends it. And frankly, this is the kind of prayer that He wants to say yes to, but He has also granted the members of the human race the right to make their own decisions.
So I've been wondering lately: what value is there in my continuing to pray? God already knows my request. He knows the desires of my heart. Will my prayers change anything? The story of the persistent widow tells me they will. But maybe the subject of my prayers is not the only thing that will change.
Yesterday I read Proverbs 17:3. Perhaps, God is working on changing me through this process too. This proverb talks about refining precious metals by heating them up and removing the impurities. God purifies us through the tests we endure. Similarly, James 1:2-4 says that we become perfect by going through trials. It’s not instantaneous. It takes time, and I’m guessing that, at least where people are concerned, some impurities take more time than others. Sometimes we have to work through anger, resentment, unforgiveness. The harder we hold on to something, the longer it will take. Sometimes we have to realize that God may be doing something that we don’t understand. Just because we don’t understand it, doesn’t mean that it isn’t for the best.
Thinking through this brought to mind the words of a worship song by Brian Doerksen: "Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy." It’s possible you have sung that song yourself. I hope you meant it, because it is inviting God to bring the heat of trials into your life. We will be better for them in the end, but it could be a little uncomfortable along the way. Be encouraged though; God does this because He loves us, and because He wants what is best for us. (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:6)
Do you have a dream? Something you really want to do? A plan? A course of action to follow that will lead you to a better life? Perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you are just taking one day at a time, working, trying to make ends meet. I know of people who have been given a terminal diagnosis by their doctors. They aren’t doing much planning for the future; they are just living each day to the fullest and being thankful for every moment. Some people use Proverbs 29:18, which in the King James Version reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”, to suggest that if you don’t have a dream, a plan for the future, your life is worthless, or at least not meeting its potential. If you’re not the type to plan ahead, this might be quite discouraging.
Here’s the good news. That is not what this verse means. Other versions, including the New King James, more clearly translate the Hebrew word “hazon” as revelation. The NET Bible and the English Standard Version clarify it by specifying that it is a prophetic vision. In other words, where there is no guidance from God, transmitted through someone on the Earth, the people… well, “perish” isn’t the best translation there either. Most versions now say “cast off restraint”, but what it generally means is to live in chaos. They are living without structure. There are other verses in Proverbs 29 that say very similar things. (e.g. Proverbs 29:2, 6, 8, 11, 16) The overriding theme is that there is much more benefit when we live according to God’s mandates than according to our own selfish desires.
There is some debate among Bible scholars as to whether the “law” in the second half of the verse, refers to the written law only, the Torah, or whether it includes prophetic revelation. As I see it, either way, following God’s principles is required. We have so much more revelation than the people did when this proverb was written. We have Jesus and His teachings to guide us as well. Having the revelation is not enough. Following the revelation is what will bring blessing and help us to avoid chaos.
Here it is: the end of another summer. Not technically as far as the seasons go, and certainly not everywhere in the world, but here in North America just about all students have ended their summer vacation and have returned to school. Where I live, there are hints of autumn in the air lately too—wisps of coolness in the breeze, and leaves are starting to turn colour and fall from the trees. Our summer was dry and hot. It was wonderful for those who spent their time at the beach, but after a winter with very little snow, and spring with very little rain, the farmers were having a hard time getting their crops to grow. We have already been warned of higher food prices to come because the fields have yielded less fruit this season.
The same principal holds true for the fruit of our lives as well. What we feed our hearts and minds will determine the fruit we produce. Proverbs 11:30 says that the fruit of the righteous is like a tree producing life. Just as a tree produces fruit that sustains physical life, the fruit of a righteous person can sustain or improve spiritual life. We can be an encouragement or a comfort to others, but only if we have been fed enough ourselves. If we are weary, sick or disheartened, how can we find it within us to give hope to another?
There are several ways to feed your soul. You can read uplifting and educational books that will help your mind focus on the right things. Spend time with good friends who encourage you (but remember that they can’t give continually to you without being recharged themselves). Take time to talk to those who have walked your path before you and allow them to share their wisdom. But the two most important ways are through Bible study and prayer. Spend time with God, and let Him replenish you. Let Him help you to grow into a tree producing life.
Today, in many parts of Canada, is Family Day. It is a holiday that was established in 1999 in Alberta, 2007 in Saskatchewan, 2008 in Ontario, and will begin in British Columbia in 2013. Family Day is also celebrated at various other times in a few other countries and American states. In Canada, as holidays go, it’s a pretty recent addition to the list. I can understand why people thought it would be a good idea to have a day off in February; most years it feels like the longest month even though it’s the shortest. What I can’t understand is why they chose to call it Family Day. Holidays usually have a reason to celebrate, something to commemorate, and if not they are called civic or bank holidays. Why is this one called Family Day? Is it really necessary for the government to institute a day to spend with our families? Is it that unlikely that we would spend our time with them if the government didn’t make it sound like that was the purpose? Perhaps.
Family has certainly taken on different forms in recent decades. When people talk of traditional families, they are usually thinking of a mother, father and children. Maybe a family pet. That was pretty much the norm in the 1950s. These days, however, the combinations are much more varied. Depending on the make-up of your family, it may be more and more challenging to find time to spend together. As a teacher, I was faced with students from many different family situations. Some children had the attention that they needed, and some didn’t. Despite the changes in family dynamics, however, this problem has existed since the time of Solomon. In Proverbs 22:6 he advised parents to teach their children to live Godly lives, with the assurance that when they grew up they would remember what they had been taught. This is an activity that requires time and attention. And discipline. Children don’t naturally know right from wrong; they have to be taught it, and if it becomes part of their training when they are young, it will be part of their lives long after they leave home.
Children don’t forget how they’ve been brought up, but sometimes they choose to ignore it. Proverbs 22:6 is a principle, not a promise. Sometimes children choose to do things in a way that completely disregards what they have been taught, but that is a freedom that God has given to all of us. He has made known to us what is right, and we can choose whether we want to live by it or not. He gave parents the responsibility to teach those things to their children. If parents don’t instruct their children to do what is right, it will be much more difficult for them to figure it out later in life. If parents train their children to be godly, it is likely that the children will continue in that way for the rest of their lives. Even if they rebel for a time, they will know the way back to the right path.
It has now been 14 months since I was hit in a motor vehicle accident, and I am still in pain every day. Although the pain is not as excruciating as it was at the beginning, I no longer have the strength or endurance to do the things that I used to do. I often find myself thinking that I just want to get better so that I can get my life back. But I also believe that God is trying to teach me something through this experience. I ask Him in my prayers, “What do you want me to learn from this?”, but in my heart that usually ends with “so I can get back to my life”.
My first thought about what God’s lesson for me might be was rest. It seemed to be a common theme in sermons I heard a few months after the accident and now in a book I am reading for my Bible study group. It is the answer that is most often suggested by my friends, and it is certainly something that God advocates. (Exodus 16:27-30, Exodus 34:21, Matthew 11:28) But God also advocates working, (John 5:17, John 9:4, James 2:22, Ephesians 4:11-12, Acts 18:3) and I had already started prioritizing where I put my energy, so I’m not convinced that rest is the answer. The second reason most people suggest is this blog. Perhaps God wanted me to write this blog, so He took away everything else I could do so that I would write it. That might sound good in theory, but the truth is that I had intended to start writing this blog on January 1, 2011 before the accident happened. I do believe God called me to do it, and I do hope that some day I will see that it has been of value to people, but God didn’t force me into it. I do it willingly, and I’ll leave the results up to Him. So what is the answer? I think I’ve finally figured out that my problem is pride.
Different people probably have different ideas of what pride looks like. Some may imagine someone who is arrogant and conceited and thinks he is better than anyone else around him. Others may imagine someone with great self-confidence, a person who knows that she can do what she needs to do. The second version doesn’t really sound that bad, does it? But as the popular, abbreviated version of Proverbs 16:18 tells us, pride goes before a fall. Pride is trusting in yourself alone. For me, it boils down to this—wanting to be self-sufficient. I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, and I certainly don’t want to be a burden to anyone. Currently I am both, and I really don’t like it! In the book, The Sacred Romance, Brent Curtis says, “Part of my smaller story has been to use my gifts as a teacher and thinker to win people’s admiration—to be someone’s hero.” I have a similar desire. I like to be appreciated. I like to hear people say Thank You. I find myself doing what I can for others, so that they will think that I have some value.
The truth is, that without the grace of God, I am nothing. All good gifts in this world come from Him, (James 1:16-17) including our abilities and good health. How much He chooses to give us is up to Him. We can work and strive and plan and pray, but unless He is willing to allow it, it will not happen. That is not to say that He does not allow us to go our own way, because He has given us free will, but I had been praying for months before the accident that I wanted to do whatever was His will for my life. That’s truly what I want, but the pride of being self-sufficient is obviously deeply ingrained, and needs to be eliminated first.
Have you ever heard the expression that the best way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans? I have found in my life that many of the plans I have made have not really worked out as I thought they would. I’m not the only one.
The Apostle Paul had intended to persecute Christians, but his goal changed on the road to Damascus. (Acts 22:6-10) That was a sudden change of plan. Joseph’s brothers had intended to get rid of him by selling him to the Ishmaelites. They wanted to eliminate the competition for their father’s affection and having to listen to Joseph’s dream interpretations which I’m sure they found to be rather arrogant. (Genesis 37:5, Genesis 37:26-28) This change of plan took a little longer. It was many years later that the brothers became afraid of and then grateful to Joseph for saving their lives. The brothers had meant only harm for Joseph, but God had a plan to use their actions for good. (Genesis 45:5-8, Genesis 50:20)
I’ve known people who debate whether we truly have free will or whether our actions are predestined by an all-powerful, all-knowing God. I believe that we do have free will, but God also has a will, and He is sovereign; His plan will be accomplished. God gives us the opportunity to be a part of it, but we can choose whether we want to cooperate or not.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us that a person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps. We have the privilege and the responsibility to make our own decisions, but God has a plan and a purpose for each one of us, (Jeremiah 29:11) and in time He will work circumstances out the way He chooses. If our plans are aligned with His, we might not be frustrated by unexpected changes quite as often. If we commit our ways to Him, seek His will through prayer and Bible study, our plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)