I was born in Montreal as you know Montreal, Canada, in a French-speaking home. My father was Italian and he spoke Italian French and some English my mother was French, French-Canadian she spoke only French. When I was five years old my parents wanted to start a new life and as my mother tells it or as she told it back when she was alive my parents opened a map of Canada and they just they did that you know that it there we're going to go there and Canada's a big country so and there were they pointed to was Windsor Windsor, Ontario. If you know where Windsor is, it's right across the river from Detroit. So there's Detroit you know they called the Twin Cities somehow Detroit, Windsor people go across that bridge, one of the most traveled bridges in North America.
My father left on the 12 hour train ride first to look for work and get us a place to live, I remember going to the train station with my mother and my dad and he had tears in his eyes, he didn't want to go, but my mother kind of pushed him onto the train and he left. Both of my parents always worked and so the television became my friend and babysitter, I was an only child. Long before this was a popular thing to do I had a key to get into our apartment in grade school and I would walk to school and walk back home and open the door and stay there and wait till my parents my parents came home and what was there to do but watch television. Now as a French Canadian because we spoke French at home, as a French-Canadian I was exposed to two cultures in Windsor: first the English Canadian people and the school where I was trained my mother wanted me to go to an English school so that I could learn English. I spoke French at home but I went to English school I had English friends; the other culture I was exposed to at an early age was the American culture the American people. I can still remember watching on a rounded screen, you got to be a certain age to remember a round screen, the likes of Howdy Doody. Who remembers Howdy Doody? Right yeah long ago Howdy Doody or Milton Berle or Jackie Gleason and your show of shows and Clarabelle the Clown. Now in Canada there was no television in the daytime back in the day, TV only started around 4:30-5:00 p.m. There was no TV you only had that little circle there that said you're not getting any TV here and that's what we had in Canada, but because we had an antenna and we lived close to the American border you know Detroit was right across the river we picked up American stations and American stations well they had TV in the daytime and so by the time I got home from school that TV went on and I was watching television and kept up that habit all the way through school.
I guess this is why I believe in the power of media to deliver a message and shape attitudes because from an early age American culture and American values began to seep into my mind and into my heart through television programs that I was enthralled with as a child. I remember taking a survey test as a teenager that measured your knowledge of both Canadian and American history and culture and I scored higher on the US side than I did for my native land Canada. And I remember the scorer said that according to the test I was a true American and yet I had never been to the United States I had only visited through television. Eventually as I got into preaching I began to visit the United States more and more, the land that I had only up till that point seen through the lens of my television.
With time after I went into full-time ministry my supporting congregation was in the United States. I came to the United States to finish college and this is where I discovered the great state of Oklahoma having gone to Oklahoma Christian University. As my ministry continued I found myself coming here to preach and to work on projects more and more even though my main ministry was still in Canada was still in Montreal. In 1991 Dr. Stafford North from OC recruited me to come and work at the University as the Dean of Students. After working for the college for several years I was then asked to preach for this congregation 1993 was the year that I came here on a full-time basis. In 1998 I had fulfilled the residency requirements, myself and Lise, the residency requirements and I was eligible to apply for citizenship along with as I say my wife Lise. And you threw a party for us those of you who were there back then there was a big you know party for us in the fellowship hall and we still have the gifts that you gave us like Christmas decorations American-style and flags and all kinds of Americana things that we kept that you signed that we kept for that wonderful evening that we enjoyed together.
Unlike my parents, my coming here was not done at random, I didn't do that. I chose to come and unlike my parents my decision to stay and become a citizen was also not a random thing. I thought about leaving my birth nation behind and adopting a new country, unlike the refugees or those who come from developing countries those who are escaping poverty or political tyranny I had no such motivations. I mean Canada is a rich free and modern society it also has many beneficial social programs like universal lifetime Medicare as well as a generous Social Security program. So it wasn't because of money. No I chose the USA for other reasons than these, reasons that I want to share with you as we enter this 4th of July celebration following theme that Marty kicked off this morning.
Not a very exalted reason is it? Convenience. I cannot lie, living here is convenient. You can get things done more quickly here from getting a job to starting a business. Oklahoma is a wonderful place to live lots of space friendly people laid-back attitude affordable housing and you do not have five months of freezing cold. I mean a couple of tornadoes but you know what's that who's counting those you know? Every year I say man we ought to get a shelter and then I change my mind in August, but anyways. Let's face it the United States is a great nation with all the conveniences and luxuries that a person could want and Oklahoma is in the heart of the nation with easy access to everywhere and a mild climate who wouldn't want to come here? So I was blessed with the opportunity to come and I took it. OC said if you come to work we will be the ones to obtain an H1 visa for you like a work visa we'll get that for you and so on and so forth what an opportunity I took it. So convenience. I also chose to the United States because of conviction. I've studied about other nations and their systems of government in Canada for example and I've lived in a country with the Parliament and after seeing them at work I believe that the American system is best.
There are two main social ideas that I agree with and I admire: first, the rule of law we don't hear that a lot but the rule of law, that a nation is governed by law rather than the whim of a leader or the lobbying of a particular segment of the population is what sets this nation apart from many others. Although imperfectly applied at times the idea that every person is subject to the same law is one that provides justice stability and peace in a society you lose that idea you've lost everything. This is the kind of society that I wanted to live in and my children I wanted my children to live in. The idea that we are bound together both the government and the people to the same set of rules protects us from the excesses and atrocities we have seen happen in nations that don't have this safeguard. We've seen nations even in the last 50 years that one side of the nation murdered the other half of the nation brutally, for what? Simply to seize power. If I could I would export the Constitution and establish it as a basis for the rule of law in every nation if this would happen we'd have far less war and greater peace in this world.
2. The melting-pot idea
This is the notion that when you become an American you adopt the values and customs and pride for this country over your former one. I know that idea is changing but remember, those were the ideas I grew up with and understood about America. You see in Canada the social philosophy is referred to as a mosaic of people's, a mosaic. What do you do within mosaic? You take all kinds of different parts you put them together a mosaic of people's instead of a melting pot. You see Canadians cling to their cultural roots I don't mean Canadian cultural root if you're Greek and you come from Greece you come to Canada you cling to your Greek language and customs and food and newspaper and so on and so forth you you hang on to that as much as possible and the government under writes your ability to do that. For this reason there is no distinct Canadian identity there are more books and TV shows and documentaries trying to figure out what exactly is the Canadian identity? Well there isn't a, aside from hockey you know go Habs, there is no there is no distinct Canadian identity. And of course if you know anything about Quebec I mean the English French conflict rages on 400 years later. I mean Lise and I were just there not long ago and I mean they're still talking about that English versus French. I see signs of this happening in America and I hope it will not continue we don't need old rivalries and prejudices to be passed on to future generations let them die at the border as we take on a new name and a new ideal and a new identity as Americans.
People often ask if I had to give up my Canadian citizenship to become an American the answer is no there's a treaty between Canada and the United States that you don't have to do that. Legally I can still travel to Canada or I can live there as a citizen, but the change was emotional and ideological for me. In my head and in my heart I embrace the ideals and the hopes of this great nation that has become my adopted home and the adopted home of our children, except William he always points out that he was born here he is an American so he doesn't describe to anything that I'm saying tonight that's William.
So I chose the USA for reasons of convenience as well as a true conviction for the ideas and principles upon which this nation was built but the major reason was the third reason:
3. Jesus Christ
I became a citizen because of the Lord. Now don't get me wrong I didn't hear a voice that said come to Choctaw yeah I didn't hear that voice, I didn't have a dream or a vision, it's not that Jesus is more here than He is in Canada or different that He is in Canada, no I chose the United States because the opportunities to serve Him were greater here than in Canada well for me personally. Because of its wealth and power because of its general sympathy to biblical Christianity the United States has the greatest potential for fulfilling the Great Commission, greater than any other nation in the world including Canada. When I was in Canada preaching full-time ministry and I wanted to write a newspaper column the American brethren paid for it. And when I wanted to do a radio or a television program the American brethren paid for it, whenever I had an idea to move ahead and explore newer and better ways to proclaim God's Word my Canadian brethren were cautious and they were slow and they were unwilling to take risks but the brethren in the United States when I called upon them for help and I explained what I was wanting to do their answer was let's go for it if that'll established the kingdom of God let's go for it.
In 2003 when I learned that the congregation that Lise and I had established in Canada back in the 80s was in trouble and they needed us and we needed to leave San Diego that's where I was preaching in order to go back to Montreal back into the mission field to help, it was American churches that provided the support and the resources to return to help me return there for seven years of ministry, none of the Canadian churches ponied up any money, as a matter of fact it was this church that took on my sponsorship imagine that I'm preaching here I'm here seven years and I say brethren I think I've done whatever I came here to do and I'm moving on and I'm going to San Diego and the brethren said Amen let's do you know fine and with you know we'll take on we got a wonderful evangelist Marty Kessler came to replace me and I was in San Diego and I was preaching there and he was preaching here and after a couple of two three years in San Diego the brethren from Montreal called and said hey this church has falling apart we need some experienced hands to come back and help us there were debates and doctrinal things you know, guess which two churches provided the money and the oversight to send me back to Montreal? The church in San Diego they picked up 50% guess who the other church was the Choctaw Church picked up the other 50% and the oversight of the working in Montreal. Not a nickel from the other churches in Canada. As a preacher I want to be where the evangelistic action is and as far as the gospel is concerned the USA is the main exporter of missionaries and evangelistic materials and Bibles to the world, I wanted to be part of that.
As a Christian I want to store treasure in heaven and provide a Christian influence and network for my family. As far as nations are concerned the United States still provides the greatest concentration of churches and opportunities for Christian service than anywhere else in the world. It's not as powerful as it once was but we're still number one in this area, you name me one country that has generated more missionaries than this country, you name me one country that has planted more churches than this country, that has sent money billions of dollars not millions billions of dollars over the years to do what? To proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to be where that's happening. Jesus tells us that we should be wise as serpents and harmless as doves, Matthew 10:16.
The wisest spiritual move I've ever made was to seize the opportunity to serve the Lord in this country when it was thankfully given to me, it was a calling of sorts. The Lord just made it easy for me. God can be served fruitfully and faithfully anywhere in this world however if your personal goal in life is to find a way to preach and teach the Bible twenty-four hours a day seven days a week to as many people in the world as possible using the latest technology then there's only one place to be and that's the United States amen yeah. So I'm quite aware that my citizenship in heaven overrides any earthly allegiance that I may have, I know that but while I am here on this earth I am most happy to be counted among the most blessed nation on earth, the United States of America. While I am here I will also use all the resources and privileges that she affords me to proclaim the name of Christ to every other nation in the world. I am most privileged as is my wife and four children because all of us are dual citizens, we have citizenship in the two most wealthy nations on earth and in the history of mankind Canada and the United States, we can live and travel to each country without any barriers I just have to go to Canada to show my Canadian passport I'm there. There are literally millions of people who would give anything to have citizenship in just one of these countries we have citizenship and both what kind of blessing is that? What kind of responsibility is that?
Because to whom much has been given much will be required, you wonder why man why is that guy so hepped up about you know preaching twenty-four hours a day seven days a week and generating as much biblical content as possible always calling churches always trying to get people to, we have a million and a half of views on YouTube a million and a half views, 1.7 million minutes watched every month every month. Why do you think I know it's never enough I asked Hal statistically when are we going to get to two million? He gets tired of me pushing him all the time I want more. God has given me so much. Here's a sobering fact, whichever nation you belong to it won't matter in the end. Whether you die or when Jesus returns whichever comes first all that will matter is if you are a citizen of the kingdom of God that's the only thing that's going to matter it won't matter if you're a citizen of the kingdom of Britain or Canada the United States or some small insignificant country somewhere else, it won't matter. You see only the kingdom of God or the church will remain standing after all the rulers and kings and nations and alliances have been destroyed along with this world.
In II Peter 3:10 Peter writes the following he says, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells."
The fireworks of this July 4th celebration will be nothing compared to the work of fire coming at the end of the world. In many ways we here in America are like the Jews before Jesus came, we have so many of God's physical blessings as they did the land of milk and honey, we are at the center of activity and ministry in the name of Christ and so were they the temple was in Jerusalem the priests were there. We are identified as a Christian nation more than any other nation, in the same way the Jews were unique religiously among the nations. Much has been given to us in the knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ as was given to the Jewish nation, they had the Law they and the prophets. Let us not therefore as a nation squander our Christian heritage and suffer a similar fate as the Jews. I'm not saying Jesus is coming in this generation or that the USA has been quote chosen specifically by God as the Jews were specifically chosen by God, I'm not saying that; what I am saying is that God can and has raised certain nations and blessed them for their faith as he has America, but He can also humble them and take away their blessings as well for their lack of faith and sinfulness as He did with Israel. America is not greater than God. We as individuals also have a great burden of responsibility as well since we have had easy and abundant access to God's Word and His church and therefore the clear understanding of his will.
There may be some doubt to the judgment of those people in the past or present who lived in darkened cultures and nations with little light from the gospel where the church was small and non-existent some people wonder what's going to happen to them, but this is certainly not the case for us here in America. The words of the Hebrew writer are clearly directed at us when he says, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation" Hebrews 2:3 Indeed what possible excuse could we as Americans ever give for refusing to believe, what excuse could we ever give for putting off to obey or falling away from the gospel and the church who preaches it in every village and city using every means to proclaim it night and day throughout this great land, how could we escape judgment by neglecting salvation? Well there really is no good excuse.
So as I close out this lesson let me encourage you once again to take your spiritual oath of allegiance to Jesus Christ our Lord and our Savior by confessing His name and repenting of your sins and being baptized if you have not yet obeyed the gospel in this way, and if you have been unfaithful or secretly practicing disobedience then be reconciled to Him by prayer and repentance this very night. Remember this one thing: you don't get to heaven by chance, you don't get to heaven by birth you don't get to heaven by accident you choose to go there, and unlike Canadian or American immigration all are welcome and there is room and mercy and blessing for all who choose to come. Won't you do that, wouldn't it be marvelous if the kingdom of heaven new citizens tonight as those who have not yet taken that oath of allegiance that I called that repentance and baptism would come forward and confess Christ this very night. If you have then give thanks to God for this great nation where it's still legal to say one nation under God and where the gospel remains one of our most precious exports. If you need to respond to the gospel in any way we encourage you to come forward now as Titus leads us in a song of encouragement.