Monthly Archives: December 2011

Pushing Cows

In 1John 3 we are told that for the children of God it is an impossibility to sin.  The original recipients of John’s letter would have understood by the grammatical structure that what he was saying is that it is impossible to practice sin, or to be comfortable with sin.  There is an internal battle against it.

Still unclear on what he means? Let me tell you this story and maybe it will help.  Late October every year, for a period of about fifteen years my older brother, Eric and I had the chance to go ride the fall round-up in a spectacularly beautiful and rugged 27 square mile community pasture SE of Wainwright, just on the Saskatchewan side of the Alberta/Saskatchewan border.

The first year Eric rode this pasture he got sent towards the Alberta border to sweep through that section of the pasture.  He came across a small bunch of about 15 pair and, after gathering them together, got them headed NE towards the sorting corrals.  But these critters were a handful.  They kept splitting off and trying to circle back.  The others riders he had been sent with had spread out and were nowhere to be seen so Eric just kept fighting and pushing the cattle along.

I came across him when we were about a mile from the corrals and I joined my few pairs with his and we worked together to get them all in.  His horse was foamed up, and Eric’s eye had that look of fiery determination I had come to know from when we were kids that said “there is no way I’m going to be beat.”  By that point he had lost four or five pair but he had managed to get most of them in.  But when we finally pushed them into the corrals the laughter of the guys there told us there was something wrong.  Eric had picked up cattle from the Alberta side and had been pushing them away from home.

That’s kind of the picture of sin in the life of a Christ follower.  We may at times get pushed towards committing a sin, but there is something inside us that battles against it and won’t leave us comfortable in continuing to practice sin.  That something is similar to our conscience but much greater.  It is, in fact, the very nature of Jesus himself.


Diving or Just Swimming?

Some years ago at a pastor’s retreat I won flights for two to Barbados.  Wendy and I were able to spend about three weeks down there.  Yes I know; rough life as a pastor.  What a wonderful place, but the best part of the trip for me was snorkelling. For at least three hours most days I was diving in that crystal clear water.

The spot I went most often was an old reef of about 10 acres in size.  The coral, though dead or dying, was a maze of channels and small underwater ravines ranging in depth from six or seven feet to over twenty feet.  Exploring through all that, looking into and under all the nooks and crannies and crevasses held almost endless fascination for me.

Wendy doesn’t share my passion for exploration nearly so much.  For her the best thing about the trip was the opportunity to sit on the beach and read for a while and then go into the ocean and float and cool off; a wonderful time of relaxation.  She did decide to put the mask on one day so she could see what I was so fascinated with.  What she saw almost took her breath away, which isn’t necessarily a good thing if your face is under water.

There below her, right where she had been standing were dozens and dozens of small fish with flashing, brilliant colors and a spectacular variation in shapes and sizes.  She was astounded that that she had been completely unaware of the richness and diversity that was right there around her.

For many of us, our relationship with God is much like that.  We’re in the water, all wet even.  We know and have experienced the ocean, but are mostly unaware of the richness and wonder that is available for us to experience with God.

May I suggest an exercise to help explore these depths?  Go to 1 John 4:16 and find the part of that verse that says God is love.  Now stop and spend at least five minutes to begin with (you will discover that at least a half hour becomes necessary eventually) and repeat that phrase.  Roll it over in your mind; listen for God to communicate the depths and richness of that truth to your heart and soul and mind.  If it helps, broaden your focus to the rest of verse 16 but no more.

This is what the Psalmist called meditation. Ps 48:9 Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. Ps 77:12  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Ps 119:148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. Ps 119:27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts; then I will meditate on your wonders. Ps 143:5 I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. (NIV)

There are few who have explored the depths of God to the extent that David did, but the biggest reason is that we haven’t tried.  It takes effort and discipline, and time.  But it is so worth all that it costs.

Does God speak to you?

Man, do I hate writing.  I have never been good at it, and it always seems to be a struggle when I have to.  So what in the world am I doing?  That’s a good question.  My name is David Berg; I am the pastor at Benalto Baptist Church and have been for the last five years or so.

Just about a year ago I was asked to write a column every week in our regional paper called the Western Star.  I tried to say no, I really did.  But I couldn’t.  Ultimately I agreed to write the column, not because any particular individual or group thought it would be a good idea, but because God told me to.

“Now hang on,” some might be saying, “You mean to tell me God spoke to you?  What makes you so special that God would speak to you?”  Well, to be honest, nothing really.  I’m no more special or privileged than any of you.  What God has made available to me he has made available to anyone.

We are told to “Draw close to God, and He will draw close to you” (James 4:8 NLT.) Let me ask you this: Do you think that Jesus heard from God?  If you believe in who Jesus said He was, you have to answer yes.  Well when Jesus prayed for us the day before he died for us, he prayed that we might be unified with each other and with Him and have the same relationship with God that He did. (See John 17:20-26)

Now I’m not saying any of us, least of all me, is on the same level of relationship with God that Jesus had, but only because we don’t have the same level of submission to God (in other words absolute!) that Jesus had.  The more completely we submit ourselves to God, our mind, our desires, our plans, our hopes, and our dreams, the more clearly we will hear Him speak to us.

Which brings us back to this column.  I have recently been asked by a few folks to put those Western Star articles on a blog.  So here it is.  It still isn’t any easier for me to write; nobody said obedience was easy.  But, by God’s grace, I have and will continue to put these out.  I can’t promise they will always be profound, or even interesting.  Nor that spelling, grammar and sentence structure will be all that it ought to.  But I will continue to obey, and maybe God use this in some small way to help you understand him better.

I welcome all comments and will do my best to answer any questions or even challenges that my thoughts prompt in you.  See you next week.