Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Conversation with Grandpa

            In November 2010, I contacted my grandfather, Roy Carter, for a Bible college assignment and asked him about the impact of ethics on his ministry, particularly during his time as an airport chaplain. What follows is a summary of his thoughts (I wish I had the actual written responses). I am deeply thankful for the wisdom and faith of this godly man, and challenged again in my own life and ministry. In honour and memory of Roy Carter: absent from the body, present with the Lord - April 14, 2015.
            One of the biggest ethical issues he dealt with was determining his role in people’s lives; suspending judgment in favor of leading them to a personal acknowledgment of their wrong and ultimately acceptance of Christ. This was difficult, particularly in situations where he was confronted by brazen confessions of abusive behavior by men who attempted to justify their actions, blaming their wives or parents for their own wickedness. Acceptance of this role was often difficult, as the natural response to these kinds of people was to want to “grab them by the collar and smack their heads into the wall”; he had to refrain from this kind of reaction (perfectly justifiable by worldly codes) in favour of Biblical ethics. As a chaplain, he did not see it as within his right to pass judgment upon people; in many cases, it had already been passed by someone else (court orders, etc.) And so, his goal was always to present the Gospel, which is impossible without the person’s recognition of their sin. On the opposite end of the spectrum, one time he had to deal with a woman whose husband was heavily involved in witchcraft, abusing her in cruel rituals; this presented a different kind of challenge, as though it was important to offer her sympathy, he knew it was necessary to bring her to the place where she could recognize her sin as well in order to be brought to Christ, the true solution to her pain.
            Grandpa was adamant that the goal of any work must be bringing people to Christ; if you help people with psychological issues or comfort them but don’t present the Gospel, then you’ve done nothing for them. Christ commanded us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all nations, not to go into the world and straighten out people’s lives, though that should follow as a result of the work of Christ in them. Ministering to physical needs, etc is important, but it is secondary and even inconsequential compared to the importance of leading them to Jesus Christ. This was difficult in the context of airport ministry as there was generally very little time to work with people. The first question he asked people was what time their flight was, after which he would calculate the amount of time he had to present truth. He also approached his ministry with a great deal of prayer, as he didn’t have the luxury of getting to know people and strategize the Gospel presentation. He found God to be incredibly generous with blessing his efforts, often giving him specific scripture passages that dealt with the people’s issues and helped to make the Gospel clearer to them. Ethically, then, he faced the issue of making sure that he was being faithful to his calling and the leading of the Spirit, in presenting the Gospel to as many as possible, rather than simply comforting and counseling.
            The practice of this ethical approach was quite different when he moved to working as the pastor of a church; he was dealing with an almost polar opposite situation: a large chunk of time with people who were mostly born again. When dealing with justice issues among Christians, he still took the emphasis on the Gospel, reminding them of who they are in Christ as well as Who their boss is. He would bring them back to the truth that they are children in the family of God and that they have the resources in Christ to be brought into holiness; as children, they need to obey their Father. People need to understand God’s love for them and love Him in return. This will lead to obedience. He recognized the need to speak firmly at times, but it needed to be done in love, not in judgment. One of the biggest temptations for pastors is to judge whether someone is worthy of the Gospel or not, which is a fundamental misunderstanding of the power of the blood of Christ.
            In terms of the ethical ways of dealing with conflict in the church, he emphasized that it is important to humble oneself in disputable issues, not condemning others for holding opposing views but rather commencing in unity from what can be known; start with obeying Christ, rather than judging others, neither casting the first stone, nor pointing out the speck in our brother’s eye. It is also important to keep in mind, the true enemy of the church, Satan. This is important, for if we target flesh and blood adversaries, we are both disobeying the second greatest commandment (to love our neighbor as ourselves) and ignoring the true source of the attacks.
            The most important thing is to not rely on human ethical systems (which can justify many things contrary to Scripture), but to rely on the Holy Spirit and the truth of the written word of God. When God is involved, real change can happen and He can give us wisdom and knowledge on how to deal with people: not to judge but to bring them to redemption. The Gospel is the foundation upon which to build ministry; when dealing with social issues or church conflicts, it is this knowledge of the Truth that sets people free!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reflections on Romans

I will not be silenced
Nor be made ashamed
Of God’s saving Gospel
Or my Saviour’s Name

The anger from heaven
Is Holy and Just
For I, inexcusable
Lived for my lust

Denying the Maker
Whose nature is known
From all He has made
And the kindness He’s shown

Fallen so short
And sowing for death
This cosmic treason
Was in every breath

But when we, ungodly,
Were storing up wrath
Thy Holy Son, Jesus
Obeyed unto death

For sheep who had wandered
Atonement was made;
Thy wrath propitiated
By ransom He paid

And death whose dominion
Held all Adam’s seed
He tasted then conquered
He’s Risen indeed

Foreknown, in love
Predestined for life,
Called out of darkness
To walk in the light

Announced to our ears
Through Thy Word came our faith
And calling upon Jesus’ Name
We were saved

These bodies which once
Were enshrouded in sin
You quickened to walk
By Thy Spirit within

Justified freely
In union with Christ
Declared to be righteous
And clean in His sight

Now no separation
Can ever be made
E’en if all creation
God’s love tried forbade

In view of Thy mercies,
We offer humbly
Our spiritual worship
Pleasing to Thee

Conforming no longer
To patterns of earth
Renew our minds,
Father, who gave us new birth

That being transformed
We may know and fulfill
Thy perfect acceptable
Holy good will

(c) David M. Carter 2014

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

G.K. Chesterton on Family and the Romance of Being Born

I was reminded again today of why Chesterton is one of my favourite writers. The quoted text below is from Heretics, his 1905 collection of essays which analyzed and deconstructed social views of prominent writers in his day such as H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, etc. It is the forerunner to the much more famous Orthodoxy and is well worth reading. This passage, written in criticism of modern writers' distaste for the institution of the family, rings so true for me as a member of a large family who has married into another large family. I have 8 very unique siblings and 9 unique sibling-in-laws; as a married man now, the possibility of becoming a father to more unique individuals is exciting, and as Chesterton puts it, romantic.
"The institution of the family is to be commended for precisely the same reasons that the institution of the nation, or the institution of the city, are in this matter to be commended. It is a good thing for a man to live in a family for the same reason that it is a good thing for a man to be besieged in a city. It is a good thing for a man to live in a family in the same sense that it is a beautiful and delightful thing for a man to be snowed up in a street. They all force him to realize that life is not a thing from outside, but a thing from inside. Above all, they all insist upon the fact that life, if it be a truly stimulating and fascinating life, is a thing which, of its nature, exists in spite of ourselves. The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy. It is exactly because our brother George is not interested in our religious difficulties, but is interested in the Trocadero Restaurant, that the family has some of the bracing qualities of the commonwealth. It is precisely because our uncle Henry does not approve of the theatrical ambitions of our sister Sarah that the family is like humanity. The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind. Aunt Elizabeth is unreasonable, like mankind. Papa is excitable, like mankind Our youngest brother is mischievous, like mankind. Grandpapa is stupid, like the world; he is old, like the world. Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world. They are dismayed and terrified by the largeness and variety of the family. Sarah wishes to find a world wholly consisting of private theatricals; George wishes to think the Trocadero a cosmos. I do not say, for a moment, that the flight to this narrower life may not be the right thing for the individual, any more than I say the same thing about flight into a monastery. But I do say that anything is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born. This is, indeed, the sublime and special romance of the family. It is romantic because it is a toss-up. It is romantic because it is everything that its enemies call it. It is romantic because it is arbitrary. It is romantic because it is there. So long as you have groups of men chosen rationally, you have some special or sectarian atmosphere. It is when you have groups of men chosen irrationally that you have men. The element of adventure begins to exist; for an adventure is, by its nature, a thing that comes to us. It is a thing that chooses us, not a thing that we choose. Falling in love has been often regarded as the supreme adventure, the supreme romantic accident. In so much as there is in it something outside ourselves, something of a sort of merry fatalism, this is very true. Love does take us and transfigure and torture us. It does break our hearts with an unbearable beauty, like the unbearable beauty of music. But in so far as we have certainly something to do with the matter; in so far as we are in some sense prepared to fall in love and in some sense jump into it; in so far as we do to some extent choose and to some extent even judge—in all this falling in love is not truly romantic, is not truly adventurous at all. In this degree the supreme adventure is not falling in love. The supreme adventure is being born. There we do walk suddenly into a splendid and startling trap. There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before. Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands from a bush. Our uncle is a surprise. Our aunt is, in the beautiful common expression, a bolt from the blue. When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale."
Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2011-03-30). Heretics (pp. 81-82). Kindle Edition.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Patrick's Perseverance

With St. Patrick's Day coming up, it is neat to read from his own words in his Confession:
"Even if I wished to leave [Ireland] and go to Britain---and how I would have loved to go to my country and my parents, and also to Gaul in order to visit the brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord! God knows it! that I much desired it; but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty; and I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun---nay, not I, but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.

This, I presume, I ought to do, but I do not trust myself as long as I am in this body of death, for strong is he who daily strives to turn me away from the faith and the purity of true religion to which I have devoted myself to the end of my life to Christ my Lord. But the hostile flesh is ever dragging us unto death, that I is, towards the forbidden satisfaction of one's desires; and I know that in part I did not lead a perfect life as did the other faithful; but I acknowledge it to my Lord, and do not blush before Him, because I lie not: from the time I came to know Him in my youth, the love of God and the fear of Him have grown in me, and up to now, thanks to the grace of God, I have kept the faith.
Hence I ought unceasingly to give thanks to God who often pardoned my folly and my carelessness, and on more than one occasion spared His great wrath on me, who was chosen to be His helper and who was slow to do as was shown me and as the Spirit suggested. And the Lord had mercy on me thousands and thousands of times because He saw that I was ready, but that I did not know what to do in the circumstances. For many tried to prevent this my mission; they would even talk to each other behind my back and say: `Why does this fellow throw himself into danger among enemies who have no knowledge of God?' It was not malice, but it did not appeal to them because---and to this I own myself---of my rusticity. And I did not realize at once the grace that was then in me; now I understand that I should have done so before.

Now I have given a simple account to my brethren and fellow servants who have believed me because of what I said and still say in order to strengthen and confirm your faith. Would that you, too, would strive for greater things and do better! This will be my glory, for a wise son is the glory of his father."
  I find these words both incredibly encouraging and challenging. Wherever God has brought us, and whatever we have been called to leave behind, let us keep on striving!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Apocalyse Ever?

The Infamous Mayan Calendar
So far, in 2012, Harold Camping and the Mayans have been wrong about the end of the world... but in light of that, let's not forget the words of 2 Peter 3:3-9.

"Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

I could go into specifics about other reasons why I think the 'end of the world' is not going to happen just yet, but that would probably just start an obnoxious debate between fellow believers. The main reason is found here in verse 9: God is patient and merciful and wants everyone to come to repentance (turn from their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ). The fact that you and I 'live and move and have our being' on December 22, 2012 is thanks to the Mercy and the Grace of God. Let's not test His patience.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Eyes Have Seen Your Salvation!

Rembrandt, Simeon in the Temple - 1669

Luke 2:25-32
'Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,  Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you now dismiss your servant in peace. 
 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the sight of all people,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”'
When Simeon held the baby Jesus in his arms, his life was complete! This is amazing. Remember, Jesus was at this point, helpless, not yet gracing the world with authoritative teaching, or miraculous healings. He had not accomplished the purpose for which He had come to the earth, the purpose for which His Father had sent Him. His tiny hands would one day toughen and callous from work and be nailed to the cross but at that moment, they were frail and helpless. And yet, Simeon’s eyes are opened. He calls the little child God’s Salvation, which is what the name Jesus means. Simeon was dazzled by the Light that still shines upon the Gentiles like you and I, bringing us to God. Simeon saw the promises of God to Israel fulfilled in Christ, who is the true Glory of Israel: the Promised Seed, the Righteous Branch. And all of this before He turned water into wine, before the Sermon on the Mount, before the Crucifixion and Resurrection!
Christ’s value is not tied up in what He has done, although it is important. Before He had done anything as a human, He was worthy of worship, for He Is Who He Is; He was worthy of thanks, for He Is With Us!