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RIGHTEOUSNESS

A Proverb makes this important statement:  “When the righteous increase, (are in authority) the people rejoice, but when the wicked man rules, people groan.”    Right on!     There are hundreds of references in the Bible to right and righteousness.   That God-breathed Book is about righteousness; what it looks like, how it acts and how it becomes ours.   God alone is righteousness in essence, so it is to Him we go to understand and to find it.    The true righteousness that might mark us is a gift of God, given to us by Jesus Christ, who died “the just for the unjust to bring us to God.”   He clothes us in robes of His own righteousness.

Do I need to make the comment that such righteousness is in short supply these days?  Nothing illustrates it more than the recent trial for rape of a famous television star.   Once the charge was laid, dozens of women lined up to accuse him of forcing himself upon them.   The trial failed for the jury could not agree on whether the sex was forced or consensual.    Consensual sex, other than by a married man and woman, may not be illegal, but it is certainly wicked; so in fact, all were guilty to one degree or another.   But the whole incident  indicates something very serious – the blaze’ attitude people have toward sexual deviance.

Little, if anything, has been said about the underlying issue – adultery.   What was a man or woman doing in circumstances that involved such behaviour?  Obviously, rape must be dealt with quickly and suitably.   But, unfortunately, we live in times when the general public glibly accept and practise adultery or fornication as if they were meaningless.  Marriages are damaged and families are torn apart, but the perpetrators face little public shame or condemnation.  The attitude seems to be, “Do what you please; just don’t rape!”

Unrighteous deeds abound, almost inundating our society; in some cases supported by public funds and legal resources.   It is tragic that government officials, civic leaders and the curious, committed masses alike bow in a public display of adulation before the gods hedonism, unbridled lust.   The display across this country of crass immorality bears no shame or reproach, and no fear of consequences.   God will have the last word on that!

A holy God has another point of view – a righteous one.   His word declares, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.”

It is a moral, social and spiritual tragedy that so many in our culture involve themselves in, or treat with nonchalant indifference, that which God condemns.    The standards of righteousness are clear, but we have allowed famous moral derelicts, abandoned laws and public acceptance to whitewash evil.   Thank God, because of His mercy, there is a solution:  “And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”

The evidence is: we live in a fallen world and all of us are vulnerable.  The solution is –  “The blood of Jesus (shed on Calvary’s cross) cleanses us from all unrighteousness.”    Because of that glorious truth, accepted with humility, repentance, faith and obedience, we can live in moral purity in an immoral culture like ours.  The poet helps us understand.  “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed it white as snow.”

Crucial to the survival of our nation and to the blessing of God is the visual and inner righteousness of God’s redeemed children.  We are called to be light in dark places and to be salt where culture decays.   “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”   Are we so blind or indifferent to God and His laws that we can blithely turn away as if none of this matters?  May it never be!  The Lord our God will not let it be.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

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FATHERHOOD

How I wish I would have been a better father.   It is not that I was a total loss; to say that would not be honest or right.   Thankfully, no one in the family would say I was a bully, abusive, unloving, unfaithful, unfair, mean or hypocritical.   God, Who looks on the heart, could add another point of view, which is best left in His hands for now.   But, I  could be characterized as a workaholic – too many hours in the office, too committed to the needs of others, or just consumed with the distracting thoughts of obligations and duties that always seemed to be important, demanding, time-consuming and intrusive.  Without a wonderful, caring, understanding wife and mother, things could have been much worse.  She is, and has always been, a jewel of infinite value!

Oh, I could make excuses.  My Father rarely spent time with his family of eight children.   He worked day and night, when he was in town.  By the time I was ten years old he was traveling from Victoria to Thunder Bay, and often gone for weeks at a time.   He was too tired to give us more than a hug and a kiss, or the occasional spanking at Mother’s behest!  (Beyond question, I deserved more than I ever got!  And, though it is not politically correct in today’s weird world, I am a better, more disciplined person because of it.)

Unquestionably, my parents loved all of us and sacrificially provided for us as best they could.    They modelled marital faithfulness to each other, and diligent family rules of order and management.   In our Mother we had presence but not time!  We also had clear spiritual guidance, biblical discipline and essential prayer support.   All of us consider ourselves blessed because of them.  Mother was the Sargent Major and Father the affectionate visitor and faithful provider.  A great combination.

Though late in the game, what have I learned over the last sixty years?   Genuine, nurturing love needs time and attention.   Effective wisdom requires careful listening and insightful questioning.   Good comradery demands real physical participation and broad, practical experiences.   Spiritual nurturing/teaching needs understanding, openness, observable example and honest humility.   Add to that mix the foundational truths of Scripture, the valuable fellowship of the church and its programs, the careful oversight of friends, a strong sense of decent humour, the gracious, but firm correction of error and the wise, positive counsel of experience.   Add to these things lessons on disciplined, frugal financial management

There is good, comforting reason the Scripture declare:  “Train up a child in the way he/she should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Do these things work?   Yes, because they are rooted in the Word of the living, almighty God.   Are there exceptions?  Possibly, because each of us must bring to the effort faith in Christ and submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.   Lacking that makes life empty, often misguided and sometimes very painful.   Transforming faith and earnest prayer refuse to let go or to lose hope!

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

 

UNSHAKEN?

It is hard to remember a time in world affairs more unsettling than this present one.  When the greatest economic and military power seethes with division, indecision, hateful accusations, political stagnation, worrisome threats, and moral decay,  then international angst soars.  It is possible that some foolish enemy might take advantage of the situation , when respect and confidence in authority are so confused, and leadership is so consistently distracted and defensive.

We are living in times Scripture describes as follows:  “See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.  For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, (Noah, Moses, the prophets) much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven.  And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.’  And this expression, ‘Yet once more,’ denotes the removing of things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. (God’s truth and righteousness)   Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”

I repeat what I have often said in this blog; the Church, its leadership and followers, must speak, live and demonstrate with awe and reverence, not just the love of a gracious God, but the wrath of a holy God, who is a consuming fire.   Yes, the Lord our God, Sovereign Ruler of the universe, Creator, Saviour, Healer, Sanctifier and coming King, is patient, loving, gracious and forgiving.   But, He hates sin and judges it.   Eventually, He withholds blessing from the disobedient and indifferent.  That great and awesome God insists that we proclaim both His cursing and His blessing, whether they listen or not.

If the proverbial house on fire requires a daring saviour to disregard self in order to rescue the perishing, why, in heaven’s name, are we pampering the saints, watering down prophetic truth, and coddling sin and sinners?  Do we not understand our times?  Do we not realize that the popular parading of evil, running rampant in our day, and generally approved, left unmentioned, unchallenged and un-rebuked will hasten the exercise of God’s wrath?   Is sin so obscure in Scripture that we can be ambivalent about it from our pulpits?  Are we not to hold governments, educational and religious institutions and the general population accountable for degenerate behaviour?  Is the applause and approval of men so important, or the fear of their response so great, we dare to please men rather than God?

These are sobering, heart-searching thoughts for which we who own His name shall stand accountable.   Surely, for those who know God and His Word, finishing well demands a bold, fearless acknowledgement and response to these things.  Those of us who are older have been given the perspective of time, duty and experience to see a bigger picture.   We know the value of love, prayer, lifestyle and sensitivity necessary to an acceptable presentation of truth and warning.   We also know what evil can do!   In a shaken world an unshakeable faith in a gracious, forgiving God will enable us to speak lovingly, wisely and clearly.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

 

WORLD CONDITIONS

Anyone who is a news junkie, as I am, has to be concerned, if not appalled, at the way things are going worldwide.  But it is not just in the Middle East, or Africa, Russia or North Korea, as bad as they are; it is here in North America, and, yes, Canada.  Listen to the news, read the pundits, observe government thinking and actions – and tremble!  Do not think for one minute that this God-blessed land of ours with its many benefits will go on unscathed by the consequences of making bad decisions and even celebrating bizarre moral disobedience.  History repeatedly warns us that a nation which thumbs its nose at God has a declining future!   Our nation’s strange love of diversity over righteousness, leading to our celebration of moral degeneracy, should lead us to repentance.  Pride does come before a fall!

We, and our world, are headed for trouble.  No illustration of our plight could be more exact than the television ad that shows a multitude of men with their heads in the sand one minute, and then running headlong toward a cliff in another.   It is one of the very few advertisements that make any sense to a rational person.  Forget what it purports to sell; it perfectly describes our sick and confused society!  Scary!

Hear the Word of the Lord, whose 2000 year old description could not be more relevent:  “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.  For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these.  For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”   THAT IS WHERE WE ARE AT!

As clear as is that description of end times – surely, our times, so is the commendation of  those who understand and care about God’s holy purposes, and pursue them.  The Apostle Paul, encouraging the godly young man to whom he wrote, added this wise counsel to which we too must adhere:  “But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings .  .  .  .  And indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  But evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” 

Carefully and regularly read the Book that has such heart-searching insights!

What do we as individuals do with this?  Take a stand for righteousness in your circle of influence.  Call to account politicians, pastors, educators, editors and influencers of all kinds.  Our democracy still allows that.  We are headed for disaster, and few seem to care enough to warn, to repent and to pray.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

 

 

FLOODS

Who of us has not watched the pictures of flooded homes, roads and communities, and grieved for those living there; while thanking God for sparing our personal space?   It is hard to imagine what it must be like to have your home and belongings drenched in dirty water, with no hope of escape, in spite of the gracious efforts of friends, neighbours and government.  Even when the water recedes, the helpful sandbags keep the water in rather than letting it out.

The professional environmentalists have branded changes in weather as, “global warming”, or is it now just the innocuous, “climate change”.   Now they can blame almost anything on too much warmth or cold, dry or wet, cloud or clear, wind or calm, fog or smog.  Years ago, we looked out the window, or stepped outside, to decide what we needed to wear that day.  And, yes, it could change at will without creating apoplexy!   We lived at peace with the changing weather because it was what it was, and that was it!  If we were farmers it told us whether or not we worked the land that day, or spent it in a shed fixing some machine we would need later on.

As a youngster I remember clouds of dust blowing down our prairie street obscuring things so badly that the few cars around needed to put their lights on for safety.   At one stage of my life, I drove a truck through mounds of dirt that had drifted across the highway from the adjoining fields.  I also remember snow drifts as high as the eaves of a house or the height of a steam locomotive trying to push its way across the prairie snow.  Wise farmers found a way to stop the soil drifting.  The Lord must have limited the snow for it is rare to hear of such immense drifts anymore.

The recent rains have caused devastating floods in Eastern Canada, with warnings that more rain would make things worse, because the ground is saturated.   The rivers and lakes are unusually high, damaging shorelines.   Warnings abound of disasters yet to come.  Wasn’t it just a few decades ago they told us the ground’s water table and lake levels were irreparably low, making future survival almost hopeless?  In the long scope of history has anything really changed, other than the downward moral spiral of man?

Yes, there are initiatives we must do to control pollution and to manage the effects of the ever-changing weather.   The sooner we get at it, the better.  Before we try to control the world’s weather, would it not be infinitely wiser to improve sewerage treatment, find better and lesser means of packaging, help industry eliminate waste and other polluting by-products, or to strengthen laws and technology protecting our lakes and rivers from misuse?   Let’s support and encourage the scientists and engineers by challenging them with the responsibility of creating sensible technology that truly improves things close to home, without taking on the world.   Let’s confine the government to oversight and inspiration rather than management – before their pie-in-the-sky ideas bankrupt us.  It would help if we remembered, valued and honoured the power of common sense.

What madman thought that a thousand expensive windmills or solar panels scourging thousands of acres was a good idea?  Their limited life span and almost indestructible, costly materials, hurting birds, making noise, and dominating the scenery, are foolish beyond comprehension.   One power plant, whose pollution output science can control, creates the same amount of power at a fraction of the cost or disruption!   Who killed common sense????

A Proverb comes to mind:  “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”    On the other hand, one of God’s great gifts to the humble seeker is wisdom.  Another Proverb extolling wisdom explains:  “To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men.  ‘O naïve ones, discern prudence; and, O fools, discern wisdom.  Listen, for I shall speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will produce right things, for my mouth will utter truth.”  When politicians, scientists, educators and business men turn their backs on God, and then try to fill His shoes, they make costly mistakes.  Ultimately they make fools of themselves and do great damage to those who depend on their decisions, including the environment, to say nothing of our pocket book.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

POLITICAL LEADERSHIP/DECISIONS

It is time for the followers of Christ to stand up and be counted; or is it too late already!   Surely, we are living in times akin to those of the profligate prophet, Eli.  It was said then that a “word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.”  That is a tragic indictment, which seems as applicable to our day as it was to his.

We are living at a time when our political leaders at the federal and provincial levels are making blatantly immoral decisions, offensive to our Creator God, hurtful to society and destructive to our future.  We are, and shall, reap what has been sown.  I speak of issues like abortion, redefined marriage, uncontrolled debt, a whole range of the by-products of homosexuality, the future implications of euthanasia, the blind governmental greed and folly behind the approval of recreational marijuana, the bizarre efforts being made to brainwash future generations with gender confusion through public education.  What madness proposes Bill 89 with its wide political acceptance and potential of invading and belittling parental authority?

The supportive structure that allows all of this is the dominate philosophy of relativism.  It denies the sovereignty of God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and those divine absolutes He has put in place to save us from our foolish, lustful, short-sighted selves.

Worse of all, where is the voice of the church in all of this???  With immorality run amuck who is instructing the saints, warning the political leaders, protecting the children, championing righteousness?  Is there no word from God for times like these?   Has Christian leadership become so enamored with public acceptance that it has lost its will to rebuke sin, to challenge politicians or to warn of judgment?   Is truth so devalued and/or sanitized among us that only the pleasant, positive aspects must be mentioned?

Where, oh where is the prophet’s voice thundering out against the evils of our age?  Who is telling government officials that “it is better to obey God than man?”  If this is not the day for that, then when will it be?  Are we really willing to let society dance glibly into hell assuming they already know right from wrong so who needs to bother saying anything?  Are we so committed to relevancy that we have become irrelevant, and content to be it?

Is God’s instruction to HIs erring people so well-known that we dare to treat it with contempt: “If My people, who are called by My name will humble themselves and . . . .?   May God have mercy upon us.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

POSITIVE THINKING

In 1952, Norman Vincent Peale published a remarkable best seller, The Power of Positive Thinking.   Its success is not only measured by the millions of copies sold but by the amazing influence it has had worldwide.  Nowhere has its message had more impact than in the evangelical wing of the church.   Some would say that for many decades the evangelical church majored on the devastating effects of sin upon the individual and society.  People tended to define us by what we were against, and did not do, far more clearly than by what we were for, and how we lived.  Thus the lines, intended for mockery:  “They do not drink, dance, smoke or chew; nor go with girls that do!”

Alas, too often the pendulum swings too far.  From one extreme, things can easily swing to another; and that is the point I wish to make about the present evangelical obsession with positive thinking.  To put it bluntly, positivism may well be the mother of political correctness, which is an increasing cause for alarm to many.  It has certainly changed the message of the church.

Do not assume for one moment that the church did not need the corrective emphasis positive thinking brought.  It certainly did and does!  The Gospel of our Lord Jesus is much more than a definition of what is sin, or a warning of hell-fire and brimstone, or a confining corral made up of the sturdy posts and wires of demanding do’s and don’ts.  Too often the end result of just that kind of thinking is guilt-driven bondage, rather than liberating forgiveness and cleansing renewal.

The problem is, the power of the positive has drowned the sense of need and balance which the negatives bring to essential biblical teaching.  Important words like sin, evil, guilt, judgment, wrath, lost-ness, the blood, worldliness, disobedience and blindness have become unacceptable at worst, or toned down at best.   When many are biblically illiterate, the church must speak with clarity, definition and authority in its denunciation of sin.  Who clearly explains from the pulpit that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, or what it means to be “dead in trespasses and sins”?  Who explains, and earnestly seeks to demonstrate the Scriptural mandate to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (holiness), without which no one will see the Lord?”  Who explains death to self, defines separation from the world, or describes the horror of hell?

The Apostle Paul boldly reminded the Ephesian church that they once walked according “to the course of this world according to the prince of the power of the air”, living in the lusts of the flesh, indulging its desires and of the mind,  and were by nature children of wrath.   But God, being rich in mercy . . . loved us and made us alive in Christ.”   The latter statement only has powerful significance when we understand the former – we were dead in sin – guilty as could be!!!  Understanding that, what a glorious relief it is to know that Christ, by grace has saved us and “raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in heavenly places, in Christ Jesus.”

All of that is a perfect marriage of the negative and the positive.  The wonder of it only dawns on us because they are put together in sharp contrast.   If we separate, or lose the balance between, the negative and the positive then our liberty in Christ can easily become licentiousness, obedience becomes legalistic, holiness tends to arrogance and separation turns to isolationism.   Without the right balance repentance becomes meaningless and truth becomes just a hammer, rather than  guidance, light and healing.

The role of a faithful church in a failing society is to clearly present both the negatives of the law of God and the positives of the grace and sufficiency of Christ.  Bible knowledge and application is critical.  When that is done faithfully then the Holy Spirit powerfully convicts of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.  Only then does mankind’s desperate need and God’s saving, nurturing grace birth truly positive results.

A fellow pilgrim,   Arnold Reimer

SEEK THE LORD!

History records many dark periods in the long story of humanity.   The repeated rise and fall of empires, great and small, remind us of divine judgement and human folly, warning us against repeating the tragic errors of past generations.   It is correctly said that one thing we learn  from history is that we learn nothing from history!   During my lifetime, after more than a century of unprecedented blessing, North America has reached a spiritual, moral and political low.  We are witnessing the fall of the Western empire.

The appalling thing is that so few are aware of it, or seem to care.  In the midst of blinding, deepening, social darkness, the church, yielding to political correctness, is failing to be salt and light   Coddled on the lap of Delilah, shorn of his symbol of divine strength, Samson of old awoke from his sleep and mumbled, “‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’  But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”   That is the state of our nation, and, unfortunately, of many of its churches!

What makes us think that a holy, gracious and good God, who has blessed us beyond measure with peace and prosperity, will continue to wink at our growing wickedness?   How dare we think He does not care while we trample upon His creative works and purposes, disregarding, even ridiculing, His righteous commandments?   Look into His Word, especially the Old Testament, and follow His acts in human history.   Compare our degrading behaviour to the standards He requires of those He blesses.  Think, not just of our common behaviour, but of our new laws and boasted diversity over the last fifty years.   We should not need to list them again, but the shock of it is necessary to our understanding –  liberalized divorce, abortion (millions!), the glorification and promotion of homosexuality and its knock-offs, the desecration of marriage, euthanasia, near uncontrolled drug use with government sponsorship, the desecration of sexual norms with public school teachers brainwashing our children into acceptance of wide open diversity, the banning of a public display and honor of  Christian principles, the equalization of religions in spite of every evidence warning of their utter failure elsewhere.

It would be bad enough if these things were creeping in unnoticed and unsponsored by government favour and social acceptance.  But, our governments are foolishly gloating over, protecting above and beyond the norms of law and order, things that undermine that which brought to our nation the blessing of God Almighty.   In some cases moral and religious diversity are supported and advanced by public funds.  Moral abnormalities are being protected by specially designated laws, to the detriment of those Judeo-Christian values that once upheld the uniqueness of historical Christian faith.

Believe me, it is time to seek the Lord, for the night is coming.  The Word of God to the church  for our times is clear:  “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven  . . .”  His Word to our nation is equally clear:  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”

May God the Holy Spirit deal with us thoroughly and timely so that our repentance and cleansing spares us His judgment.   Jesus took that judgment for us on Calvary’s cross, but we must humbly believe and call upon His name.   He will not turn us away.  Apart from that the way ahead is very dark indeed.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

GOD’S WORD

Since high school I have been an avid reader of God’s Word, the Bible.   My Mother’s influence gave me a sense of its importance which was enlarged by Sunday School teachers, pastors, literature and personal study.   I attended a Christian high school whose motto was “Training disciplined soldiers for Christ”,  after which I spent four years in a college where the Bible was the main textbook.

Now, for sixty years I have read and re-read the Bible for my personal edification and ministry.   Over all those years my life’s work has been rooted in God’s Word almost exclusively.  Nothing I could say would adequately describe the benefit I have derived from that discipline.  An ancient hymn best describes my thoughts and my feelings about God’s Word, the H0ly Bible:

Thy Word is like a garden, Lord, with flowers bright and fair;

And everyone who seeks may pluck a lovely cluster there.

Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine; and jewels rich and rare

Are hidden in its mighty depths for every searcher there.

——

Thy Word is like a starry host; a thousand rays of light

Are seen to guide the traveler, and make his pathway bright.

Thy Word is like an armory, where soldiers may repair,

And find for life’s long battle day, all needful weapons there.

——

Oh, may I love Thy precious Word, may I explore the mine

May I its fragrant flowers glean, may light upon me shine.

Oh, may I find my armor there, Thy Word my trusty sword.

I’ll learn to fight with every foe the battle of the Lord!

We live in a troubled world which infects our thinking and living with worry, uncertainty and fear.  Those things can easily rob us of our joy, our peace, our faith and our hope – things that make life meaningful and our steps courageous.  An aged, enprisoned Apostle wrote to his younger prodigy, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (fear), but of power and love and discipline.  Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according  to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

That young man had been taught by his grandmother and mother to cherish God’s Word.  His mentor and friend urged him to “retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.  Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you.”  Good and wise counsel!

We are not alone, nor are we on our own.   Our Lord said He would never leave us nor forsake us.  We are here as His ambassadors, and we have His instructions and guidance, (the Bible).  So, let us do His work, shedding His light, embodying His wisdom while we have breath and time.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer

CHURCH MUSIC

A significant childhood/youthful memory I cherish is standing in a crowded church exuberantly singing hymns.  The Sunday evening service mostly consisted of music, testimonies and a sermon.  I loved all of it, but especially the hymns.  We were urged to sing enthusiastically, harmoniously and joyfully.   It sent goose bumps running up and down my spine!  Somehow there was always an outstanding pianist – at least it seemed like that to me.  Only years later could the church afford an organ, which made things even more exciting.   The instruments were supportive rather than dominant, the song leader was boss and the congregation followed his lead.  Not only was it fun, it was meaningful.

We learned to know the hymns, often by memory.  Few were schooled in reading music notes, but we learned by repetition and listening to those around us who lustily belted out the soprano, alto, baritone and bass notes.  It was often glorious – not to mention the hilarious monotones who also insisted on making themselves heard.  An overly gregarious leader too often covered for them by questionably over (or under)-spiritualizing the verse, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”  They did, and we endured!

My heart, my family and our church knew intrinsically, though not always experientially or consistently,  what the Bible meant when it said, “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus to God, even the Father.”   The hymns taught us good doctrine and its application to life issues.  They fostered praise and worship and their rationale.  We learned about the awesome, all powerful nature of the triune God; the need of repentance for sin and the power of the saving, sanctifying work of Christ; the wonder of His cleansing blood and loving forgiveness.  We celebrated in song His resurrection and the glorious hope of His coming again.  Heaven was home and our journey on earth was just that – a journey, but with a sure destination.

Rarely did anyone have to tell us we, the Church,  were one in Christ Jesus – the hymns did it!   We sang with one voice, harmonizing with out neighbours, following a leader, worshiping our majestic, sovereign God.  We identified with the writer of the words, the feelings and the issues he/she expressed.  We were moved by the unique synthesis of words with music.  The authors knew us and we knew what they were writing about.  It was a meeting of hearts, minds and voices.  When the singing was done, we were ready to hear God’s Word.  Spiritual hunger and receptivity were in the atmosphere.  It made preaching and response easier.

Frankly, I never thought I would see the day when the lead instrument of most churches would be drums, amplification would drown out participation, harmony would be unexpected, truth would be vague, application unclear, reality fuzzy, and volume would trump sacredness – and mess with hearing aids.  Has the plethora of new music of the modern church become a form of business, rather than an expression of a burdened pilgrim seeking God in the trenches of life?   Is song writing a paid job rather than a poetic response from a broken heart, a crying for truth and grace, or a lesson through fire?  Those are the things that make hymns meaningful, memorable and enduring – and their loss/absence so very, very painful.

A fellow pilgrim,  Arnold Reimer