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Isn’t that the message of Jesus Christ?

You might think it strange — even heretical — that a message purportedly from God Himself can be boiled down to a single, three-word phrase (and a hashtag, at that!), but why wouldn’t God’s message to us be something that anyone can grasp? No matter what the material world thinks or says about us, Jesus Christ’s life, teaching, death and resurrection are all based on the reality that to God, every one of us matters.

I hope these mini-messages — two minutes (give or take) to check where the Cross is in your life — will encourage you and help you draw closer to the Lord, yourself. Feel free to send in comments and if you’d like to get these via email, you can subscribe (scroll ‘way down to the bottom of this page to do that).

If you click on the “Sermons” tab, you’ll find some of the messages I’ve preached over the past few years. Please visit the “Books, etc.” tab, for some of the writing I’ve done (and links to order it online).

Contact me through this blog if you’d like me to speak at your church or group.

Grace and peace to you,

Drew

pettifogger-2

 

 

Endure!

One of the things that’s had me shaking my head lately, has been the number of people who buy into conspiracy theories and believe that if someone is being called out for spreading misinformation, they’re being suppressed because they’re really speaking the truth.

Latest case in point: Dr Stella Immanuel, who came forward this week to announce that hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug promoted earlier by Donald Trump as a cure for COVID-19. Treatment with the drug has also been dismissed by health authorities around the world as being dangerous and ineffective. Nonetheless, when she spoke up and her statement and reinforcing references to it by the Prez himself were promptly shut down on social media, a cadre of supporters leapt up and complained that The Conspiracy was at work against the truth.

(As an aside, Dr Immanuel (Google her name) has also written about and preached on spiritual warfare. The media, on the low-hanging-fruit principle that has long been a hallmark of the profession, have jumped on the juicier, over-the-top, claims in her messages, thereby effectively shutting down any serious discussion of the very real “war in the heavenlies”.

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 

being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

— 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (ESV)

Now, if anyone tries to bring it up, all someone else has to say is, “Oh, so you believe that demons are having sex with people and that the world is ruled by a race of reptilians,” and ends the conversation.)

Many of these people are also professing Christians, even though they also tend to support a U.S. president whose actions and words have absolutely no connection to those of Jesus. These are generally intelligent people, coming out with head-spinning statements about COVID and other situations in the world.

What’s going on? What do we make of this? It reaches the point where one wonders whom to believe and what’s real.

(Maybe our society’s general rejection of “absolutes” that has something to do with it. Situational Ethics has replaced a moral compass: “right and wrong” depends on whose ox gets gored. People who want to stick to a moral code — like the Ten Commandments — are vilified as being on the Wrong Side of History. That’s been going on for centuries, but it’s led to today’s rejection of absolute truths, like empirical scientific evidence and the reality of Jesus Christ. Now we’re paying the price.)

So I inquired of the Lord early this morning: what do we make of all this?

The answer?

For starters, the confusion itself is an indication that God is not part of this.

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

— 1 Corinthians 14:33

Second, yes, there are a lot of unanswered — and probably unanswerable — questions, too. Hand the questions over to God, and things will become abundantly clear in His time.

“For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.

“Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”

— Luke 8:17-18

But the most important thing, I heard this morning, is that we not get hung up on talk of conspiracies and worry about sickness and the world economic situation or anything like that. Rather, get hung up on Jesus.

Remember: the miracle of Hurricane Douglas changing course and missing the Hawai’ian Islands over the weekend is a reminder that God is still there and ready to respond when we call on Him.

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you.

“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all[fn] these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences,[fn] and earthquakes in various places.

“All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

— Matthew 24:4-13

Endure. Have faith. Look beyond the disease, the violence in the streets, the deepening divisions among people, economic uncertainty and the often-scary natural phenomena that cause us to focus on the things of the world rather than the One who created it all. We’ve been warned what will happen, we’ve been told what to do about it, and we’ve been assured that it will all turn out for God’s glory … and our joy.

No one said it would be easy, but “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

ENDURE!

Reminder: it only takes two

Once again, everyone: a shining example of what happens when people pray: when people come into agreement in faith and call on God to take over when there’s nothing a mortal person can do.

Late last week, we learned that the Hawai’ian Islands were in the path of a Category-2 hurricane, Hurricane Douglas. Maui, in fact, was in line for devastating winds, and friends of ours were checking for things that could blow away and/or cause damage.

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

— Mark 4:39-40

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

— Matthew 18:20

People there prayed. We prayed. In fact, we rebuked that storm and prayed for it to change direction and not cause destruction.

Sunday night, the hurricane warning was taken down on Maui. The wind had changed direction and turned northeast of the islands. Hawai’i (the Big Island), Oahu and Kauai were also spared.

The storm didn’t miss by much, as this story indicates, but just 20 or 30 miles was all that was needed.

Do you notice that no one offered an explanation for the storm’s shifting direction? Remember that it doesn’t take a large,. concerted effort with hundreds of people in a prayer chain: it just takes two people, praying in agreement, to bring positive change to a situation.

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous [person] avails much.

-=- James 5:16b

So once again, give God the glory! He does respond to our prayers, particularly prayers for others in danger. Physical distance doesn’t mean a whole lot: what does matter is that we do it, and expect miracles. We need to do it more often and with greater confidence, because our world needs God’s help — and needs to know Him; and we’re the ones who can show it.

How do you measure a ministry?

Today’s Vancouver Sun has an interesting op-ed, spinning off from the current controversy over WE Charity. Rather than go after the “low-hanging fruit”, as the writer puts it, scrutinizing a charity’s spending priorities and internal cat-fighting, he says one should consider the impact the charity is having. Is it fulfilling its mandate, living up to its mission statement? If it’s a non-profit that works to house the homeless, how many people now have homes? If it’s an organization set up to battle drug addiction, how many people are now clean?

Heaven knows, Christian organizations come in for this kind of criticism all the time. People could have their lives turned around, be healed of their sicknesses or change their overall attitude from going to church or being counselled by a ministry and it would go unnoticed; but let the pastor be caught driving anything better than an old beater, and the cries of “fleecing the flock” are not far behind. (Can you imagine the criticism Moses might have had to endure, for building a lavish tabernacle, with expensive gold furnishings, while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for forty years? “Because the Lord instructed me to do it this way,” might not fly today.)

(When we were building and operating The Lord’s Rain, I sent occasional emails to the “Friends of the Lord’s Rain” — people who had supported the project with money and prayer. The emails contained accounts of the events and people around the facility, so people could get an idea of the impact their efforts — especially the money! — was going. My book, God at Work – A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty, describes the building of the project and the people it served.)

It makes for an interesting paradox: is the salvation and the hope found in Christ diminished in any way by the actions of the people in charge of the ministry? I was pointed towards the Truth and the Hope, in part, by a particular ministry, which has since been discredited for anything from its leaders’ lifestyles to their theology, but that hasn’t detracted from the joy in the Lord that is now my strength.

I digress. Jason Saul’s thesis is sound, but it begs the question: can you measure the impact of all charities in stark, cold metrics?

How would I measure the impact of the ten years I spent, pastoring on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side? Would I look at the number of people who say the “sinner’s prayer”? Number of people fed at meals? Number of people who move out of the DTES and turn their lives around for the better? Many people I knew there did not beat their addictions or find full-time housing while I knew them, yet you could see changes in their lives and an increase in that intangible benefit called Hope.

And what time period would one use for the metrics? Turning a life around is a gradual process: someone who heard The Word might take years for the message to sink in and the epiphany to happen.

What’s more, it’s hard for any single ministry to take “credit”. One chap I know had a turning point at our Mission, but when he gave his testimony a couple of years later, it turned out that he’d been getting “signs” throughout his life. As it’s said, “one plants, another waters, but God gives the increase.”

So it’s important to consider the overall good that a ministry — or any charity — does, but remember to look beyond worldly metrics.

Divine appointments?

There’s a term that I’ve often wondered about: “divine appointment”. I think I first heard it on a video of a “kitchen table”-type discussion featuring Kenneth Copeland, Richard Roberts and the late Oral Roberts (Richard’s father), which Copeland described as happening by “divine appointment”. Even though I was a dedicated viewer of Believer’s Voice of Victory, the expression sounded almost overly impressive — even presumptuous.

But then, one experiences a few things, and one sees how only God could have lined up those “appointments”.

Back in March, with all sorts of groups that depended on public gatherings — like churches — switching to online events, another pastor and I set up something called “The Gathering on Zoom”. We had been musing about planting a new church for the preceding year and a half, off and on, but nothing had come of it. But here was an opportunity to set up something different, which people could take part in, without having to leave home.

“The Gathering” isn’t actually a church, but it’s not exactly a “home group” or “Bible study”, either. We open with music, then a brief (20-minutes or so) sermon-type message, then there’s discussion, based on a theme of the message or some direct questions posed by the one giving the message; there’s also opportunity for free-wheeling discussion and prayer.

It’s also not intended to be a replacement for church: it happens on Thursday evenings, Victoria time, and is more like a supplement.

And what’s really cool about The Gathering is that, because it’s on Zoom, people are joining us literally from all over the world. Last Thursday, for example, we had someone on from Melbourne, Australia, and another in Durham, North Carolina. Others join in from various places around BC, so we have a range of backgrounds and experiences.

One of our “members” is a young woman who’s wanted to be a pastor since she was a teenager. One evening, we split off into “breakout rooms”, and we put the young woman into a room with two other women pastors.

It turned out that the girl had been “mentored” by someone in her church, but eventually found out that he was one of those people opposed to women in ministry (a subject I dealt with a couple of years ago). Together, the older women spent the time encouraging the younger one to keep on and keep pressing-in and not allow doctrine to get in the way of God’s intention for her.

Last week, she preached the sermon. A bit nervous, yes, but it was a solid message and led to some interesting discussion.

Last week, also, a newcomer joined us, who gave a fascinating testimony of his own personal encounter with Jesus. It was something he hadn’t shared before, and while hesitant at first, he felt comfortable in our group to do so.

A pastor-in-training who gets encouragement from one woman in Victoria, British Columbia and another in Durham, North Carolina. A man in Vancouver who shares an experience he hasn’t felt comfortable sharing before. All coming together in different ways, and the only explanation is that God set it up.

That, friends, is Divine Appointment!

Worth considering: how many things in your life have been either unexplainable, or have happened because something seemingly beyond your control took place?


There’s room for more at The Gathering on Zoom, so if you’d like to check it out, send me a note in the “contact” form with your email, and I’ll send you the login information.

But … aren’t You the Prince of Peace?

When I was in Chorus class in ninth grade, our teacher laid some new, and somewhat complicated, music on us. The lyrics went like this:

For unto us a Child is born,

Unto us a Son is given;

And the government will be upon His shoulder.

And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

— Isaiah 9:6

Yes, it was a chorus from Handel’s Messiah, and by the time the Christmas Concert rolled around, we had worked up the entire first movement (minus the overture and Pastoral) plus the “Hallelujah!” Chorus.

(Our teacher, Don Stagg, who passed away in 2018, was noted for exposing us to great music. (You can watch a video about him here.) The same Christmas Concert included Sibelius’ “Finlandia”; Beethoven, Bach and Brahms were also in our repertoire as my high school career continued.)

How about that? I’ve started with a digression and haven’t even turned to my main point yet. Anyway, to complete the thought, when I see that passage in Isaiah, I hear the sopranos singing the opening lines and the bass section — generally made up of members of the rugby team — stomping their feet to the “plink-plink-plink-PLINK!” of the accompaniment.

So Isaiah prophesied that the Saviour would be known as the Prince of Peace. When Gabriel announced His birth to the shepherds, he declared, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, Peace …”

So why would Jesus tell us,

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

“For I have come to ‘set a man against his father; a daughter against her mother; and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

“‘and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.'”

— Matthew 10:34-37

Was He not the Prince of Peace, then?

Peace is one of the enduring desires of God for His people (that is, everyone on earth), but when you look through the entire Bible, you see that “peace” is not necessarily the absence of war. Rather, it’s a result of the will of God being allowed to prevail. Jesus sets one generation against another by bringing a new way of living and a new way of looking at the world. If you’re not hip to that dynamic, I’ll tell you some time about the often heated discussions my father and I would have, after he realized that his son had become a “sinbuster”.

And it’s not just the new generation racing after Jesus, leaving the older generation behind. Sometimes, the older generation says, “Whoa, Nellie! Not so fast, there!”, bringing wisdom of life-experience to new, unconventional thinking. That, too, can cause conflict.

But it’s a shaking-up that we need, even today. Jesus is the counter-culture, as He has been for centuries. The counter-culture of the 60s and 70s is today’s button-down norm, and ideas and mores that oppose God’s Word are considered “progressive”, which leaves Jesus as the outsider — as He always has been.

So yes, Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but achieving that Peace involves a fair bit of struggle.

And what about that sword?

Tomorrow.

Wandering the COVID wilderness

Q – Why did the Israelites spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness?

A – Because Moses was a man and wouldn’t stop to ask directions.

— Anonymous (and somewhat sexist) joke. If you like it, it’s yours.

It’s been noted that the direct distance from Dahab (approximately where the Israelites crossed the Red Sea) to Jericho is just under 400 kilometres (300 miles), so a trip on foot would have taken less than three weeks. We know from the Bible that the Israelites took 40 years to get there.

But that wandering was not without purpose. It was a means, sent by God, to strengthen His people and build their physical endurance, as well as their faith and trust in Him. They would need all of that, and more, to possess the Promised Land. It’s sad that, of all the adult Israelites who left Egypt, only two — Joshua and Caleb — survived to reach the Promised Land (Numbers 14:28-32); those two were the only ones who had the unwavering faith in God to persevere.

The 40 years had a purpose. There were lessons to be learned and obstacles to be overcome that could only have been overcome with the help of God. If they had taken the direct route, they would have arrived at the Promised Land totally unprepared and unequipped to face the nations who were already living there.

The 40 year journey also gave time to establish the Israelites’ reputation to precede them, as a nation favored by God. The people in those nations — the Canaanites, the Amalekites and others — were both terrified of the Israelites and prepared for them. Nothing like facing well-prepared peoples with their best soldiers and weaponry, for God to demonstrate His glory.

The situation we’re seeing today, with COVID-19 and the lockdowns, social distancing, travel restrictions and other constraints is the 21st-Century version of wandering in the wilderness. “Reopening the country” and “re-starting the economy” has become a man-made “promised land”, and many jurisdictions are trying to get things going as soon as possible. But it hasn’t taken long to see that areas where the authorities have taken the shortcut are seeing a resurgence of the disease.

Just as it was with the Israelites, we need to look at this period as a time of learning lessons and strengthening our faith in God. Indeed, the reliance many people have on science and technology to develop a vaccine and cure for the disease has become the “golden calf” — a man-made idol to be worshipped at the expense of placing our faith on the Lord.

(Recently, a prominent evangelist was ridiculed in the media for “blowing the wind of God” over COVID-19. That would be the 21st-Century equivalent of the Israelites’ demanding that Joshua and Caleb be stoned for declaring that they can overcome the enemies because God had promised that land to them. Note that none of the people who said “stone them!” survived the trip, while their children — the ones they said would die in the wilderness — did. (Numbers 14:31))

But it’s more than that. We are seeing, partly as a result of the COVID-19 restrictions and partly because of other factors that were bubbling to the surface at the same time, a load of lessons to be learned and things to be considered.

Here are some I jotted down this morning:

  • Obedience to authorities — maintaining social distancing, staying home, wearing a mask in public, self-isolating.
  • Reckoning with racial issues — carrying on conversations about privilege, systemic bias, and multi-generational attitudes; even the validity of legislation as a means to resolving those issues. The issues have always been there, but the fact that they’ve dominated the public conversation right at the same time as COVID-19 is no coincidence.
  • Reckoning with the environment: it was noticed early in the lockdown period that the air was cleaner and signs of climate change were markedly reduced. What’s more, having to stay at home has made us more aware of conserving resources and less inclined to a “throw-away” mind-set.
  • Recognizing the limitations of human intellect, science and technology. A vaccine and cure for COVID-19 are at least a year away, according to people who know these things. Maybe it’s time to admit that we ain’t so smart.
    • On this one, beware the profit motive and the fact that much of the research is driven by money. In the rush to get something to market, to be seen as heroes, and to produce something in mass quantities at reduced cost, will the vaccine be effective without creating side-effects?
  • Another thing we need to recognize is that human “tolerance” is no substitute for Godly love. We’ve talked about “tolerance” for decades — tolerance regarding race, sexuality, economic status, and other outward appearances — and guess what? The level of hatred among people is at an all-time high.
    • “And because lawlessness [i.e. departure from God’s law] will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Jesus, in Matthew 24:12
  • We need to learn to re-order our priorities:
    • look how important “family” and loved ones have become, now that we have restrictions on seeing them personally. Thank God for FaceTime, What’sApp, Zoom and other technologies that have become our workarounds, but we realize how much we miss being together, physically
    • how important is “earning a living”, really? Yes, we need to eat, pay the rent/mortgage and support ourselves, but more and more, we have to remember “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Jesus, in Matthew 6:33)
  • Praise God, who has blessed countries with governments that have managed to dig deep — even going into debt that will take an age to repay — in order to provide financial support to people. But that, too, has its limits. This period is a time when we need to trust God to carry us — especially those who fall through the cracks and don’t qualify for relief.

There are other lessons, too, that we each can learn — these are lessons of a more personal nature. In my case, I was scheduled for cataract surgery on April 1, and two weeks before the big day, the BC Health Ministry cancelled all elective surgeries. While I was away in the fall, I asked for and received prayer for healing of my eyesight, and in the period since my surgery was cancelled, I’ve been able to see that prayer come to fruition: not that my affected eye was miraculously healed, but that the other eye has “taken up the slack” and has actually become stronger. It’s likely I would not have noticed that if the surgery had gone ahead as planned. (It’s now been set for Friday of this week: your prayers will be appreciated.)

So evidently, there are lessons we need to learn during this “wilderness period”, but there are still more lessons to come.

There’s one more: “identity” tends to depend on skin colour, sexuality, religion or sectarianism (as opposed to following God) and other superficial factors. But those traits are creating giant-sized wedges in our society, with people at one another’s throats, taking offense where sometimes there is none and using another generation’s misdeeds to perpetuate conflict and strife. When our society is flying apart and we need to be more unified than ever, we need to learn that that kind of identity isn’t worth a plugged nickel.

As with anything, we fallen humans want desperately to find a shortcut, to reopen our regions and re-start the economy. But Scripture reminds us that if we do, without God’s guidance, we’ll fail — and fail miserably.

So COVID-19 is our wilderness. So what?

Well, just because the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness didn’t mean they didn’t have a guide. God led them, having them follow a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Let’s look for the pillar, learn what we need to learn, and trust that God is leading us, in His time and in His way, to a new Promised Land.

The Godly lie

DILBERT: Is it a sin to tell a lie?

DOGBERT: The way you do it, yes.

— dialogue from the “Dilbert” comic strip

In the musical, “Guys and Dolls”, the “mission gal”, Sarah Brown, asks the gambler, Sky Masterson, why he’s come into her mission. He replies, “I told you: I’m a sinner.” She answers, “You’re a liar.” He answers, “Well, lying’s a sin.”

Is it?

Take a look at the Commandments. Do any of them state, “Thou shalt not lie”? All I can see is that you don’t bear false witness against someone else. But when the Commandments all boil down, in Jesus’ eyes, to two — Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself — deliberately telling an untruth looks like it’s quite acceptable.

In the Bible, I can think of several times when someone has lied and it’s been condoned. When Joshua’s spies are harbored by Rahab, the harlot, she hides them and tells her own people, essentially, “they went that-a-way”. Then she helps them escape through a window in the wall.

Or check this out: David has been on the run from Saul, and has fallen in with the Philistines at Gath (yes, the same Philistines at Gath whose champion, Goliath, he had killed in a “one-on-(one-plus-God)” showdown). He vows to serve Achish, son of the king of Gath, and he and his six hundred followers have been leading raiding parties.

Whenever David attacked the land, he left neither man nor woman alive, but took away the sheep, the oxen, the donkeys, the camels and the apparel, and returned and came to Achish.

Then Achish would say, “Where have you made a raid today?” And David would say, “Against the southern area of Judah, or against the southern area of the Jerahmeelites, or against the southern area of the Kenites.”

— 1 Samuel 27:9-10

Except that’s a lie. David had actually been raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites, and the sworn enemies of the Hebrews, the Amalekites. The places David told Achish he had raided were places that had harbored him while he was on the run from Saul. David needed protection from Saul, and needed Achish to believe that he had truly defected.

The question is, what’s the dividing line between a “good” lie and a “bad” lie? The 2014 movie, The Good Lie, offers one answer: where it benefits someone else and puts yourself in jeopardy. (That’s all I’ll tell you about the movie, except that it will take you a few minutes to recognize Reese Witherspoon.)

For example, Rahab put herself in jeopardy by telling the Jericho soldiers that the spies were not there. They could have barged into her place, found them, and raped and killed her. David had to be certain no one was left alive from his raiding parties to tell Achish what had really happened, so that he would continue to be protected by the Philistines and survive to become king.

What about a lie told to protect your own backside, like saying you “had to work late” when in fact, you were meeting someone someplace for (fill in the blank)? But then there was Peter, telling people three times that he did not know Jesus. That was part of God’s plan: that Jesus had to go to the Cross alone and forsaken, and to bring proud, arrogant Peter to the lowest point imaginable, so that he would experience Jesus’ grace, and take his place as a witness of Christ to the world.

Then again, telling the truth can be self-serving, too. The only real yardstick we have is to be sure we’re speaking The Truth: following the direction of the Holy Spirit.

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.

This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.

For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

— James 3:14-18

James also warns us about using our tongue — the “littlest member” of our body, but with power to start fires, or give great comfort. So as humans, and not always privy to God’s big-picture plans, the only real option we have is to make sure we speak The Truth in love.

O Canada! God keep our land …

Coat_of_arms_of_Canada.svg

It is Canada Day — or, as it was called when I was growing up, “Dominion Day” or “Confederation Day”: the anniversary of the birth of this country*.

With the many crises facing countries around the world today, the latest in Canada is the COVID-19 pandemic. We are taking halting steps out of the fairly stringent measures imposed to minimize the spread of the disease, and one of the aspects that seems typically “Canadian” to me is that the response has crossed political lines. Government leaders, no matter what party, have listened to their health professionals and acted accordingly, and have avoided making this a political question. Sure, there are pockets of resistance to the measures, the people who complain that their freedoms are being taken away because they’re being asked to wear a mask in public places, but it’s nowhere near the divisiveness that one sees elsewhere.

Indeed, if the Battle of Vimy Ridge in WWI was Canada’s debut as a “nation” over 100 years ago, the response to coronavirus could be said to be further confirmation that we are more than a “country”.

One of the factors behind this, I believe, is the fact that we still acknowledge God in our official institutions. This has come in spite of the best efforts of some politicians, activists and social engineers over the past couple of decades to secularize the country in the name of “inclusiveness”.

References to God are embedded in Canada’s official symbols. You’ll find them in the national anthem: the English version says “God keep our land glorious and free”, and the original French version refers to our country’s ability to carry the Cross as well as the sword.

The preamble to the Canadian Constitution refers to the supremacy of God. The original name of Canada was “Dominion of Canada” — a reference to Psalm 72, in which verse 8 says, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea”. Some people misinterpret “dominion” as meaning “domination” (and there are those that just plain don’t like the idea of God having dominion over anything), but the Coat of Arms, above, bears the motto, “A mari usque ad mare” — “from sea even unto sea”.

And look at that Coat of Arms: what’s over everything? The Crown, yes, but what’s on top of the Crown, above all else? The Cross.

I believe it’s because God is still a part of these important national institutions that our country is surviving this crisis and it still one of the most peaceable in the world. In fact, I can’t think of one more blessed with peace, freedom and prosperity. Canada has not lost a war or suffered a major terrorist attack, and still produces enough food for all.

Do we want to mess with that blessing, either by ignoring or removing God from the institutions, or by using that blessing in a way that goes against His Word?

Yes, Canada has some social issues: some of which are “manufactured” — the result of living in a comfortable state of blessing, where some people lose sight of the Source of that blessing; but there are real issues, like the ongoing legacy of the treatment of First Nations. But reconciliation efforts have come a long way and tangible progress is being made. We also have an innate leaning towards making peace in the world and welcoming strangers — because we and/or our ancestors were also strangers in a strange land at one time. (Exodus 22:21, 23:9)

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some have unwittingly entertained angels.

— Hebrews 13:2

This July 1, let’s remember that every time we sing, “God keep our land glorious and free”, and thank Him for it. He hears us … and He does.


*There are those who would quibble that this really isn’t Canada’s “birthday”, since not all ten provinces joined Confederation at once — BC was in 1871, Manitoba in 1870, Saskatchewan in 1905, Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t join until 1949 (the bad joke is that that’s why it’s always half an hour later in Newfoundland). To them, I say, “you need to get out more often”. (Besides, the Fourth of July is only the USA’s “birthday” for 13 of the 50 states, yet the whooping-it-up goes from Calais to Kona and Key West to Unalaska.)’

Could we, please, take a pill?

The other day, a Facebook Nodding Acquaintance (not exactly a “friend”, but somehow, we connected) sent a breathless message to me, expressing her high dudgeon over a movie that was about to be released. “Corpus Christi”, she said, mocks Jesus and the Apostles, and MUST BE BANNED! “Will God,” she wrote, “find 50 righteous people to forward this message and stop this blasphemy?”

Wow! This is my chance to show off my righteousness by ranting against this blasphemous film! All I have to do is forward that message, and I’ll be right up there with Peter and Paul!

Just one thing. There is a movie called “Corpus Christi” that’s not only about to be released, but is nominated for an Oscar for Best International Film. But it doesn’t depict Jesus and the Apostles as gay. That rumor circulated about 20 years ago, and if you go to Snopes.com, you’ll see it has a great big “FALSE” slapped across the rumor.

So my FNA was not just seizing on a 20-year-old rumor because she saw something about a movie with the same title — and the original rumor was confirmed false, to begin with.

What’s more, this “Corpus Christi” appears, judging by the review on RogerEbert.com, to have some plot elements I could relate to. The main character is determined to preach the Gospel, but is held back by the fact that he’s a convict. For many denominations, the fact that I’ve been divorced twice disqualifies me from ministry.

Christians who get uptight about things they’ve heard second- or third-hand do all of us a disservice. And I mean, “all of us”. Jesus Followers get tarred with the same brush, especially when a protest goes off half-cocked or is based in a false rumor. After Hurricane Katrina, a story circulated on the Internet, that Billy Graham had held a Crusade at the Louisiana Superdome to thousands of people, and then led a “take back the city” parade through the streets of New Orleans, riding his electric scooter; and the media did not report it.

There was a good reason the media didn’t report it: it didn’t happen. But how many Christians wound up with egg on their faces because they got up in arms about the “left-wing, God-hating media”?

There are lots of resources for checking stories — especially the ones you see on the Internet and claim to be “suppressed” or seem particularly offensive to God.

And even if it’s true and you’re offended, don’t act that way:

But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,

in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,

and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

— 2 Timothy 2:23-26

Above all, let’s remember that righteousness is about glorifying God and declaring what you love. Self-righteousness — righteousness-signalling — is about showing off what you hate.

What’s the good Word?

In my prior rantings over the past couple of weeks about racism and our attempts over the past seventy years to eliminate it, the recurring theme has been that, without the Word of God behind us, nothing is going to work — at least, not permanently.

It’s sad, but the same 70-year period — covering the civil rights demonstrations, the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the proclamation of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the countless policy statements, initiatives and apologies relating to racism in North American society — has also seen the general discrediting of the Bible as “non-inclusive”. No wonder people haven’t looked to the Word of God to guide their thoughts and actions.

But the Bible tells us that God already has this situation in hand, if we’ll only turn to Him. The word that Elisha spoke over the waters of Jericho said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have healed these waters …'”. It’s in the past tense. The deed was already done, the healing was already in place: it still needed us to speak it, for it to manifest in our world.

So when we’re dealing with the issue of racism, which is, at its core, a “heart” issue, which requires faith and patience to overcome, what Word of God can we speak? Elisha was full of the Holy Spirit, right? He had a direct line to God and was given the words he needed, right? What about us poor shleps, who are not super-prophets, like Elisha?

We don’t need to be. After all, Elisha did not have the Bible to refer to. We do, so all we have to do is find the appropriate Word and speak it in our prayers.

First, about the notion that anybody — in particular, any race — is better than another:

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

— 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV)

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus

For as many of you were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

— Galatians 3:26-29

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

— Psalm 133:1

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

— 1 Peter 3:8

And above all …

“In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

— John 16:33

Notice the past tense? It’s already been done. The Word is there, and we just have to activate it by speaking it over the situation, adding the salt of our faith and coming from the untarnished vessel — Jesus Christ.