Air travel can be stressful. Today was a day when everything had to work just right. First this morning at 6AM I had to convince British Airways in Helsinki, Finland [see yesterday’s blog] to check my luggage through to Karachi, Pakistan. This was quite a task since I am using three different airlines to get there and without being checked through I would never make my connection in London. The lady at the check-in counter assured me that this was ‘impossible’. Well, I kept firm and sure enough after some discussions my bag was checked all the way. That’s often how it is, with a little determination the “impossible” is possible after all.
I left Canada three days ago on my way to Pakistan. News of another bombing that killed 33 people dominated the news two days before I left. What drives this mission is to give everyone an opportunity for the Gospel. Yes, there are terrorists in Pakistan, but also millions of precious people hungry for Jesus.
On my way to Pakistan I took a detour, to visit Oulu in Finland, close to the Arctic circle. This is a thriving university city with a growing population. The Evangelical Free Church was celebrating its 125th anniversary, and had asked me to speak in four outreach services. The people were not focused on reminiscing about long ago “when God moved”, but keen on presenting Jesus to new people. The Saturday services were held in a concert hall to accommodate more people. I was amazed when I gave the invitation to receive Christ in the first service, it looked like about 25% of the people responded, and it continued like that meeting after meeting. When I gave the people opportunity to come to the microphone and honor Jesus for healings that had happened, many gave praise to God. It was quite a display of joy in conservative Finland, The second day he services were held in the church, and I’m happy the fire department didn’t check on us, because we were filled to way beyond the allowable capacity, including the church foyer.
The other day I stepped out of Coffee Culture on St. Paul Street. The rain was coming down heavily, so I lingered on the steps hoping for a quick improvement. Suddenly, a lady appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, shouting, “You people – why do you support the Jews over the Palestinians? That land belongs to the Palestinians, you know!” I have no idea who the person was, but she must have recognized me as an “evangelical Christian”, thus the “you people”. I hurried to explain that our organization works in Israel; six of our projects are with Jews and six with Palestinians. My response seemed to bring some calm.
Believers in Christ accept that something utterly amazing happened at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once and for all, God put the punishment for the world’s sins on Jesus. The phrase “the world’s sins” is all inclusive from Hitler’s murders to a gossiping church member; all was put on Christ. To millions this carries a profound meaning for their daily life, and they believe that what happened at the cross has power to transform people from the inside out. The message of what Christ did is commonly called “Gospel”, which means “Good News”.
(Peter is a regular contributing writer for the St. Catharines Standard newspaper. Enclosed is his latest editorial piece for your comment.)
In his book, Whistling In The Dark, Frederick Buechner writes, “There is perhaps no better proof of the existence of God, than the fact that year after year He survives the way his professional friends promote Him. If there are people who remain unconvinced let them tune into their TV for almost any of the big time pulpit pounders any Sunday morning of the year.”
Evidently Mr. Buechner has a problem with television preachers, and since I am one of them, I better pay attention. Is Christian television really that bad? I believe in listening to critics, including those who never attend church. You don’t have to agree with your critics, but you can learn something of value from almost anyone. When it comes to the quote from Buechner, I tend to agree—at least in part. Many Christian programs portray God as narrow minded, petulant, condemning and angry. A few weeks ago the organization I founded, World Impact Ministries, purchased The Christian Channel [Cogeco 186], so now I have the opportunity to do something about Christian television. Well, don’t expect wonders overnight, but I am keeping several common criticisms in mind, among them that Christian television is judgmental, boring and phony.
In the late eighties, think the Mulroney government, abortion was a hot political potato. The debate raged with considerable fervor into the nineties, until in this decade it has hardly been an issue that any political candidate with plans to get re-elected would want to tackle. Last time the issue was put to a vote in our federal parliament was twenty years ago, and with both pro-life and pro-choice forces deeply committed to a non-compromise position Canada was left without any abortion law. Right in line with Cuba, China, North Korea and handful of other nations. Even countries with arguably much more secularized populations such as Sweden, Denmark and Finland did not go that far, but retained some laws to protect the unborn in later stages of pregnancy,
The Maritime Provinces of Canada have always held a special place for me. It was there that I spent much of first five years in ministry going from town to town holding “revival meetings”, mostly in church auditoriums, but also in hockey arenas, tents and community halls. It has been a number of years since I was back there for any length of time, but last week we held series of rallies in most of the major cities. . .
In most of the meetings I conduct I lead people in what is commonly called the “sinner’s prayer”. This usually means that the preacher says a prayer sentence by sentence and those who want to receive Christ repeat that prayer. I think the sinner’s prayer has been a blessing to many, though, shockingly, it’s not in the Bible.
I was recently having my coffee and multigrain cereal, when I turned on the TV to catch the morning news. Talk show hosts Michael Reagan, son of late president Ronald Reagan and Stephanie Miller were on CNN’s early morning show discussing gay marriage. The segment was triggered by a beauty pageant where the American contestant was asked by one of the judges concerning her view of marriage, to which she replied that it is the union between one man and one woman. They showed the video clip and I thought the American beauty queen expressed herself rather well. Her statement had however received a furious and, in my opinion, degrading response from one of the judges.
There are a lot of offended Christians these days. Some of the things which seem to cause outrage and offense are; profanity on television, open display of homosexuality in movies and on television, humor that degrades Christian values. Well, that’s just for starters. When Christians express outrage, shock and offense, it is as if that expression in itself is a badge of spirituality. “Look at me; how shocked I am at the sin and worldliness around me. Shouldn’t you react in a similar way? Aren’t you equally shocked? Well, maybe your spiritual sensitivities aren’t as fine-tuned as mine”.