Editor’s note: Due to a mix-up between the author and editor, a draft version of Margaret Chegwin’s final column was printed in the June 25 edition. Here is the complete version. Thank you again to Margaret for her work over the years for The Pipestone Flyer.
Paul wrote, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18 NIV) This quote begs for two comments. First, no matter how bad the circumstances are, we can always praise and thank God for who He is, what He has done in the past, and how He will use even these circumstances for good. Second, we are to give thanks in spite of evil circumstances, but to give thanks for evil circumstances themselves would be an affront to God who is all good and is the source of all that is good.
Appreciation, gratitude, and thankfulness go hand-in-hand, and were the dominant theme of the last Sunday service with Salvation Army Majors Terry and Joanne Cook before their transfer to St. Albert. As a celebration of there nearly 12 years in Wetaskiwin, a single service was held at the Moose Hall followed by dinner for all. Recognition and appreciation of the way their work extended far beyond the church was expressed by Mayor Bill Elliot as he presented them with a certificate of appreciation on behalf of the City of Wetaskiwin and spoke of first meeting them as principal and becoming friends. Another touching part of the service was the songs sung by Ted Okkerse as he and Dian were briefly back for this and a family event. The Cooks have had a long and effective time of ministry in Wetaskiwin and will be missed, but new pastors Lts. Dae-Gun Kim and Aejin Jeong will be welcomed by the Salvation Army at the regular Sunday services June 28.
On a personal note, I want to express my great appreciation and gratitude to the people of Wetaskiwin and area for making these nearly 16 years here such an enjoyable, enriching, and healing time for me. During this time, God has certainly used you to bless me, to make me feel accepted and appreciated, and I thank you and Him for this. Highlights of my time here include friends old and new, the Camp Centre school reunion, receiving the Council of the Federation Alberta Literacy Award for 2010, a ride in a two-seater aircraft on a beautiful June evening, tutoring, leading Bible studies, writing for this paper, and the many of you who have come up to me to tell me that you read this column. God has blessed me through you, and may He greatly bless each and every one of you. For a couple years I’ve been doing research reading and outlining the structure of a book I know God wants me to write, and expect to do the actual writing during the next couple years in Victoria. The book will be “Made in God’s Image—Putting God in His Places and Putting People in Their Places.” If you think of me, please pray that God will continue to enable me in this project and bring it to completion. I’ve now got a couple very intense months of sorting, clearing out and packing for this move to Victoria where my eldest daughter and her family live. Again, thank you.
In this last column, I want to remind you that Christianity is always counter-cultural, especially in our present “secular” society based in atheistic religious humanism as identified in the three Humanist Manifestos. Being appealing witnesses for the outstandingly good quality of life that we have in Jesus Christ is difficult for a number of reasons. In keeping with the statement in II Humanist Manifesto, “We appreciate the need to preserve the best ethical teachings in the religious traditions of humankind.” our culture has pretty much adopted the feel-good sentimentality of the caricature of Jesus as “meek and mild”. Other statements make it clear why our culture threw out those laws from God that require self-discipline, self-control or any denial of self-will. By denying the existence of God, this modern Humanism finds intellectual grounds for labeling much of Christian belief as “harmful”.
In this cultural climate, if we are to be winsome witnesses for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must live out the full Gospel, showing that God’s ways really do bring the best quality of life. We must know God’s word in order to grow in personal relationship to Him and in order to know how to live in obedience to Him. We must give God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, absolute first place in our lives and ruthlessly root out all idols of self, sex, feelings, materialism, intellect, etc. We must search the Bible for ourselves so that we may know God’s truth in three ways. First, we need to know about God, how He is infinite, great, good, powerful, all-knowing, loving, magnificent, and majestic beyond our comprehension. Second, we must know how He is imminent, present with (but separate from) His creation everywhere at all times, sustaining it moment by moment, and must know what His expectations are for His people that we may be obedient and holy. Thirdly, we must learn how to be intimate with God as His people saved by His grace through Jesus Christ, living in loving, joyful, obedient companionship with Him. We must know the Bible so well that we understand how and when to be like Jesus when He cleared commerce out of the Court of the Gentiles in the temple, how and when to be like Him when He took a strip off the Pharisees in Matthew 23, how to forgive like Him, and how to love like Him that we may live in unity with Him and the Father as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and with all believers as the one church, the one body of Christ on earth. Only by such a combination of extreme knowledge, relationship, and obedience can we, in His power, impact this culture for Him.