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God Keep Our Land

June 30, 2012

Friends, I want to wish you both a Sabbath and a Happy Birthday. As you may know tomorrow is Canada Day, the 145th anniversary of our home and native land, this land which stretches from sea to sea to sea this land of diversity, peace and if I may be so bold the best testimony to the artistry of God the creator. When I count my blessings, I always list the fact that I was born in this land among the greatest of them all.

I think it is perfectly appropriate to thank God for the blessing of Canada. We live in a country of peace, order and despite what we may think of politicians, when compared with so many elsewhere; good government. We live in a land where diversity is promoted, where different cultures and creeds co-exist.

We live in one of the few countries in the world where our right to worship God in the way we understand to be correct is both protected by our constitution and upheld by our courts. For example, the Canadian Human Rights Commission specifically mentions Seventh-day Adventists and the sundown Friday to sundown Saturday sabbath in it’s guidelines on preventing discrimination. And believe me, I’ve been to other countries where this freedom is not at all part of the law.

Friends, whatever challenges we face in practising our faith, they are minimal compared to the brothers and sisters in most other lands. So yes, I praise God for the religious liberty we enjoy in Canada.

I also praise God for the many social benefits we enjoy here. I’ve been to places where your ability to get medical treatment depended on your ability to pay for it. But think of how many of us would not be here today if our access to medicine depended on our financial resources – I praise God that we live in a country that, although imperfectly, provides care for its citizens.

I praise God for the peace we enjoy in Canada. How many nations in this world do people live their lives in fear for the bullets flying and the bombs falling each and every day?

Yes friends – I am happy that God privileged me enough to bless me by creating me a Canadian, because while our ultimate citizenship is in heaven I am still proud to be able to practice for that by being a citizen of Canada. And that, my friends, is the lesson I hope we will learn together here today. Because while our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, we show our readiness for that by being good citizens of our worldly countries.

Let’s go to our Bibles, Romans 13:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval.

It’s clear from this, and many other, passages that God does set up systems of authority for us to live under. Now I don’t believe that means that God picks each individual Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister and Prime Minister – but I do believe that he ordains the system under which we live.

It doesn’t mean that we have to agree with every decision made, it doesn’t mean that we can’t hold contrary opinions to the government of the day – but it does mean that the system of our nation has an authority which comes from God. So while we are free to express our opinions, vote according to our personal consciences, and even speak out when we feel that the government is acting wrongly – we are still subject to it’s authority – and unless the law of the land is in direct conflict to the law of God we are to obey it. And I know that I am getting dangerously close to making a political speech, which is not something to be done from the pulpit, but let me say this.

As Christians we are free to choose for ourselves to which degree we participate in our democracy.

It is your right to vote, or not vote. It is your choice, if you elect to vote, who you cast your ballot for. The church takes no position, and God is not a card carrying member of any political party. No one has any business to tell you that if you are a Christian you should vote this way or that; it is your freedom and your conscience. There are elements in the platform of each major party that reflect biblical values, and that contradict them.

You’re no better or worse a Christian if you vote for the Conservatives, the Liberals, the NDP, the Greens or not at all – it’s up to you and your own conscience.

But whether or not you choose to involve yourself in the democratic process – we are to be loyal subjects to Queen and Country, remembering that until the time comes and the High King of Heaven comes and puts an end to all worldly government, he has set up authorities on this earth for our benefit. So friends we are dual citizens, of the best kind, because being loyal to King Jesus will compel us to be good subjects of Queen Elizabeth. You see to be a good Christian is to be a good Canadian. Both our faith and our constitution value liberty. Which is why we should always speak in favour of freedom, human rights and accommodation – after all we seek it ourselves. But friends it is not enough to seek it only for ourselves.

Yes we must stand for the right of Adventists to keep their day of rest, but we share that day with the Jewish community and we must stand with them when they need the day of rest. We should also stand with the devout Roman Catholic who wants to be free from worldly work to attend Mass on Sunday, the Muslim who wants to attend prayers on Friday, the Sikh who does not wish to remove his turban, or even the Atheist who wants to sing a different line than God keep our land when he sings the national anthem.

Friends liberty is only true when the individuals are free to choose that which we would consider to be wrong, and it is no threat to us when they exercise their freedoms. And we will never change anyone’s mind by attempting to force our way by law if one is in government, by policy if one is an employer, or by pressure if one has influence.

It is not our place to enforce our beliefs, only to seek the freedom with which to practice them, and unless we are content with hypocrisy we must seek the exact same standard of liberty for others that we do for ourselves, especially when the liberty they seek would not also benefit us in any way.

Or as Jesus said – Love your enemies, for if you love only those who love you – what reward do you have? How then, if not by political or social force, are we to shine as the light of the world that Jesus called us to be? Well I think it was well summed up by a former leader of one of the other great free nations of the world when at his inauguration in January of 1961 when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy of the United States said

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”.

It is through service to our country, a service which starts when the love of Jesus fills our hearts with a desire to seek the welfare of our fellow man, that we become that city on a hill which cannot be hidden.

One cannot deny that the call of Christ is a call to service to one’s neighbour.

And it is through that unselfish expression of Christ’s love, in service to our fellow man that we become both good citizens of our temporary and permanent homelands. So yes, get involved in our community. Do as our scripture for the day (Proverbs 31:8-9) said and speak up for those who have no voice, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

There are those who say that the gospel should not descend into simply being a movement for social justice; and I agree it is more than mere social action – but we cannot forget that we have a God-given duty to those who are not as well off as ourselves.

Whether it be the poor nations of the world who we serve through Development Agencies, the poor communities of Canada which we serve through various community services, or even the poor within our own church family – we must seek to defend their rights and help as we are gifted with resources and abilities. And yes I said abilities. Giving money is not the only way to help, and in many cases it is not even the best way to help.

After all not all poverty is monetary.

It is true, we live in a monetary society and every person needs money for food, clothing and shelter – but did Jesus call us only to meet the bare minimum standard of life? No he said that he came to give life more abundantly, and therefore as his body we too must seek not only to ensure life, but offer quality of life.

Let me give you an example; the Bible places a special duty on caring for our children. So yes, we should send money overseas to feed the starving children of Africa, but we should also take time to impact the lives of children here for good too.

Now I have a great deal of respect for my Mother, she has taken in countless children over the years as a foster parent and put her blood, sweat and tears into ministering to them. She is my hero; however what makes one a hero is they do something that is extra-ordinary, not something that everyone can do. Not everyone is gifted or called to be a parent to those whose parents can’t care for them. But there are other ways to help, that don’t require as intense a commitment as people like my Mom make.

You can be a big brother or a big sister, you can be a mentor, you can volunteer at your kids’ school, you can lend a hand in the children’s Sabbath School or Sunday School classes right at your own church. I know for a fact that our leaders downstairs will not turn down an offer of help, even once a month.

And friends – service need not be a major sacrifice – but it will be a sacrifice of some sort. It means that you may need to give up an hour of your free time, and yes that’s hard to do in this busy world where free time seems to disappear faster than a BC snowstorm. But ask yourself what that sacrifice will mean for those you are serving. Life is getting harder, but that should not be an excuse. Let me share with you a quote from our head of state, the Queen.

“When life seems hard, the courageous do not lie down and accept defeat; instead, they are all the more determined to struggle for a better future.

Well friends – the Bible commands us to be courageous too, recall Joshua 1:9

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Remember, the Bible doesn’t promise us that life will be easy, but that there is no test we cannot pass, that there is nothing we are called to do that we cannot do, and that never will God leave our side.

Yes this world is going to get worse before it gets better, but that does not excuse us from our responsibility to always try to make it a better place. After all we are the light of the world, and in great darkness a single light burns even brighter. So my friends, as we celebrate the birthday of our country, whether it’s your motherland or your home of choice – remember the value of service to your community and love for your neighbour. They are your duty, both as a Canadian and a Christian.

So God Keep Our Land, Glorious and Free! Pray for our leaders, that they will lead us justly. Praise God for the many blessings he bestows upon us through the nation he has set up. Take joy in the vast natural beauty as a testament to the living God.

And as we close I want to leave you with a word from a humble prairie preacher who took the call to service and made it his life’s goal. This man later became the leader of a major political party and several years after his death was chosen as the Greatest Canadian.I am of course referring to The Honourable Tommy Douglas, I leave you with his thought;

“Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world”

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