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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

 

 

Jerusalem, Judea and the Acts 1:8 Challenge

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

— Acts 1:6-8

As I’ve written before — most recently on Monday — Jesus’ final words to us on earth appear to be an assignment involving concentric circles. To give credit where it’s due, this is part of a teaching by Charles Price, who very kindly wrote a foreword to my book, God At Work – A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People amid Poverty (see below). If I’ve interpreted it correctly, Jesus calls on us to be His witnesses in four distinct areas, and each area corresponds to our own reality today.

  • Jerusalem – our home/church
  • Judea – our surrounding territory
  • Samaria – the land of the outcasts, i.e. people who have been forgotten, neglected, despised
  • The end of the earth – international ministries

Moreover, interpreting again what I believe is Charles’ interpretation, this is supposed to be an order of operations — a priorities list, suggesting we need to attend to each of these areas before going on to the next.

For years now, I have harped on the idea that it appears many churches are turning attention to international ministries, supporting evangelism in Third World countries and sending groups on short missions trips to places in Africa, Asia and South America, but leap-frogging over “Samaria” — hence, my frustration over the lack of church support for Gospel Mission in Vancouver.

(It’s worth pointing out, though, that Gospel Mission survived, regardless, with God providing for the place as and when we needed it — as Barry Babcook used to say, “He comes through in the eleventh hour, fifty-ninth minute”. So we didn’t suffer, as such, but there may have been greater “fruit in the account” of other churches (Philippians 4:17). Come to think of it, there may have been greater expressions of outrage when the Mission building was torn down to make way for the further gentrification of the Downtown East Side. But that, dears, is now an angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussion.)

Where was I?

Right – the order of operations.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been so fixated on Samaria being missed that yesterday in the shower (where I tend to do my best thinking), it hit me: How well are we focusing on “Jerusalem” and “Judea”?

How well do we witness to and lift up others in our own congregations? Do we (deep breath now) hold leadership to account for being on-track, scripturally? Have we taken it upon ourselves to read the Word to the extent that, if someone says something in the pulpit that’s off-base, we question them? I don’t mean “calling out” in front of the congregation or anything embarrassing like that, but with genuine meekness, dropping them a note, asking what they meant or if you heard it correctly.

Case in point: a few years ago, a pastor mentioned during the message that Passover was the celebration of the time the Israelites “passed over” the Red Sea. Rather than leaping up and saying, “Pardon?”, I sent her an email afterwards, pointing out the mistake. I got back a contrite “What was I thinking?” response, and under the circumstances, that was about all that was necessary.

On that note, how much do we testify to others in the congregation about issues we’re going through and that our hope and confidence is in the Lord to see us through? When we hear about what others are going through, how often do we “stop, drop and pray” for them? That’s witnessing Jesus in Jerusalem, to my mind.

Then, there’s Judea: are we witnessing Jesus to people whom we don’t know are Christians or not? Doing good to others, giving others the benefit of the doubt, even if we, personally, are harmed or offended by what they say or do? In the movie, New in Town (Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick, jr.), one of the characters remarks that people in their community “mention Jesus in our everyday conversation”. How much do we give Him praise and glory and refer to Him casually, even when we’re not in a church setting?

How often do we pray for people, lay hands on the sick (with their permission, of course) and exercise our own faith for Holy Spirit healing to “stand in the gap” for a non-believer? Maybe others would label us as simple-minded, religious nuts, but let’s let that be their problem. Besides, more often than not, I’ve found people are touched by the fact that I would put my own faith on the line for their sake.

So the Acts 1:8 Challenge is about more than not leap-frogging over “Samaria” in favour of exotic “unsaved” locales: it’s about making sure our ministry is all Jesus, all the time; all things, to all people.


God At Work: A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty is available online in the USA at Barnes and Noble and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

Volunteering, Samaria and the Acts 1:8 Challenge

This is International Volunteer Week.

You’ll notice I haven’t linked to a website. The one I checked out credits “volunteers” for bringing about certain social change that isn’t exactly simpatico with a Biblical worldview (I’ll let you check that out for yourself). But now is a good time to consider an area that sorely needs people to step up on a regular — if not daily — basis.

It’s ministry on Skid Row — the homeless, the “street people”; yes, the mentally-ill and drug-addicted.

This is where the “Acts 1:8 Challenge” comes in.

One of the recurring themes in my book, God at Work – A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty (see the note at the bottom), involves Jesus’ last recorded words to us on earth, before He was taken up to heaven:

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

— Acts 1:6-8

In the book, I note Charles Price’s observation, that Jesus is setting out an “order of operations” in a series of concentric circles: minister first in Jerusalem, then in Judea, then in Samaria and then (or dare I say, “only then”?) to the ends of the earth.

I often hear of churches sending mission teams to far-off places, like Costa Rica, Africa and Thailand, bringing the Gospel and providing some needed service to the people there. But I rarely hear about these churches, stepping up for “Judea” and “Samaria”.

And the thing is, every region in North America has its “Samaria”, right in its own back yard. It’s Skid Row, which, like the Samaria of Jesus’ time, is the land of the outcasts, in which the “good people” of the city don’t dare to tread. Yet it’s exactly the place Jesus calls us to be His witness — before we consider going to the “ends of the earth”.

“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

— Luke 10:2

Recently, I heard that Gospel Mission in Vancouver, which I write about in God At Work, has been losing donations and volunteers, due to the COVID pandemic and its restrictions on gatherings. Certainly, it and Street Church (a/k/a First Nations Bible College) have been reduced to holding services on the street, bringing the music, message and meals outdoors.

But the same restrictions on gatherings can also help such efforts. The restrictions are causing followers of Jesus Christ to re-think the way they serve Him. Do we serve Him by going to church, or by taking it to the streets? Here is an opportunity to open one’s eyes to situations where the Gospel can be spread and people can be supported as they spread it. It’s an opportunity we should seize, because there are too many social-service groups in the area, promoting worldly “solutions” that really involve maintaining status quo. The message that brings is that people on Skid Row have already been judged as being unworthy of a better life — not good enough to be healed. We’re the ones tasked with bringing the contrary message.

It doesn’t take much money — theoretically, all you need is carfare or gas money and to throw in something for the food. What is needed is people: people to share their testimonies; people to just listen to the stories of others; people to bring the ongoing message that “things do get better”; people to tell them that God has not forgotten them. Isn’t letting someone know they’re loved one of the greatest messages you can share?

That, friends, is “The Acts 1:8 Challenge”: prioritize the “Samaria” in our particular district, and then look towards “the ends of the earth”.

God At Work: A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty is available online in the USA at Barnes and Noble and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

Skid Row, the Fear Factor and God’s Will

On Saturday, I posted a rant about the fact that some well-to-do churches in British Columbia appear to be more focused on winning a court case than on fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission by serving the poor in places like the Downtown East Side in Vancouver.

Is there a connection? I think so: they’re concerned that their constitutional right to freedom of Worship is being suppressed by provincial health orders; my suggestion is that, while they may not be allowed to gather indoors for a church service, they can serve the Lord by coming to Skid Row and pitching in with the rescue missions. After all, it’s one thing to give a person food and shelter, but the idea of a mission is to provide encouragement through the Gospel.

That is, after all, the measure by which Jesus says God will divide the “sheep” from the “goats” (Matthew 25). Whether or not we gathered in church, amazingly, is not on His list of criteria.

This is not to deny or sugar-coat an inconvenient truth: Skid Row areas, by their nature, can be scary places. One reason why I wrote Goat At Work: A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People amid Poverty (see below) is to show that the people on the Downtown East Side (DTES) are people — not ogres or gangsters. Nor are they political footballs, which is what they’ve become over the years, as politician after politician vows to Make Poverty History or Eliminate Homelessness by 2015.

(That last one was an actual campaign promise by one candidate for Mayor of Vancouver. He came well short of the mark in that one. But he got elected. Twice.)

Once you see that these are people who are, as John Fischer put it, “un-different“, and that any one of us is just one mis-step away from landing in the same circumstances, stepping up for them becomes relatively easy.

There are three things worth noting:

  • You need to earn their trust, and that takes time and patience. But it’s worth it.
  • There are already established ministries in the area — some with a high profile, others not so much — seek them out on Google or Facebook and when you find them, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Ask how you can help.
  • Don’t be a tourist. You’re there for the long haul.

Above all, remember that it’s God’s will that His people be cared-for, and He has demonstrated that in spectacular fashion in the past. When we got the vision to build The Lord’s Rain, we had no money to pull it off. But little by little, the barriers to the project came down, the funds and people we needed came in exactly as and when we needed them, and the project got built. When you say, “Yes Lord!” and take that plunge you’ll see that He will support you every step of the way.


God At Work: A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty is available online in the USA at Barnes and Noble and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

The pandemic – yet another outrage

“Inasmuch as you [clothed, fed and visited] the least of these, you did [the same] to me — unless, of course, you’re busy complaining that your church has been shut down for health reasons, in which case, I understand.”

— said Jesus, at no time ever

Just in case we don’t have enough to be pissed-off about (off about which to be pissed?), let me add this.

Due to the restrictions on gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Missions on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side have not been able to provide their regular services, with music, a message and meals. Gospel Mission, where I served for seven years, has been torn down — its façade preserved, with a seven-story building rising up behind it. When I was there, something was happening just about every night of the week, except Sundays, when the services happened in the afternoon. We also had The Lord’s Rain — a showers facility that was open three or four early mornings a week, with coffee and food and a place to hang out before the other services opened.

When the building was shut down, the Mission moved to a convent-run facility, but with the pandemic, they’re only allowed to hold services outdoors, one evening a week, so that only passers-by can take part.

2009
2019

Nearby, Street Church (a/k/a First Nations Bible College) hasn’t had an indoor service, either. They, too, would hold sidewalk services, but the idea of bringing people indoors to sit down, hear the Word of God in an environment without distractions, and maybe, just maybe find hope to carry on and take those steps away from drugs, alcohol and depression, is a total non-starter.

Adding to Gospel Mission’s situation (I can’t speak for Street Church) is the lack of volunteers. There are some faithful servants who are hanging in there, sticking it out; but others have stopped coming or won’t come, because of the pandemic. Funds have been depleted, as well.

But that’s not what’s pissing me off right now. What’s pissing me off is that I’m hearing a distinct lack of outrage about the fact that an entire sector of society is not getting the spiritual comfort that its people need, This is the very area that churches, I believe, should be working for — living the Gospel. Instead, a group of churches is appealing the BC government’s health orders that have shut down in-person services again. They’re complaining that their rights are being violated and that the constitution is being set aside in favour of, as their lawyer puts it, “extreme judicial deference to an unelected bureaucrat.”

That’s as may be, but in the meantime, let me make a suggestion to the congregations.

Show your righteousness, not by complaining or playing the victim card, but by living the Gospel. Go to the Downtown East Side. Go to the homeless areas in Abbotsford. Help out at Gospel Mission, even if it’s only handing out tracts or Being There. Wear a mask and stay socially-distant, but you can still preach and live the Gospel of Christ while still wearing a mask and standing 6’6″ away from a person. While the hot dogs, soup and coffee are being handed out, you can still feed people with the word and clothe them with God’s love and visit them with the constant reminder that they have not been forgotten — not by God, and not by other human beings.

Maybe some people are. Correct me, if I’m wrong here, or being unfair. But the fact that, at least at Gospel Mission, there’s been an exodus of volunteers tells me the Mission and others like it are not getting the support they need.

Sure, the DTES looks yucky at times and the people look sketchy and even dangerous. That’s only the way it’s portrayed in the media. In seven years of ministering there, I was never physically attacked, robbed or had anything vandalized. The only hurt was the despair and sadness at seeing wonderful, beautiful people whose lives had been destroyed by a variety of factors — many of which could have happened to me — and the thought that so many people on the outside had already judged that they were not worth saving.

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

‘for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;

‘I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him,[fn] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’

“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

“And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

— Matthew 25:42-46

Do you see anything in there about winning a court case? Neither do I.

Let me put in a plug for my book, God at Work: A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty. It’s an e-book, available either by clicking on that link or through online booksellers like Indigo/Chapters (in Canada) and Barnes and Noble (in the USA). One of the reasons I wrote it was to show the human side of those sketchy-looking people on the DTES and encourage others to break through the barrier of fear and get involved in similar areas wherever they happen to be.

Glorified!

So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him.

“If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.”

— John 13:31-32
“Resurrection”, by William Blake

Just before He said that, Jesus had told the disciples at the Last Supper that the person to whom he gave a piece of bread would betray Him. Then He gave the bread to Judas Iscariot. And as we said yesterday, the disciples seemed utterly clueless about what was happening, which was a good thing, because if they’d caught on, they probably wouldn’t have let Judas leave that room alive, and God’s plan would have been derailed. (Do you notice that, in giving Judas bread and wine together, Jesus was giving him absolution before he betrayed Him? An indication that this was all God’s plan.)

But with that, Jesus talks about being glorified. I can’t speak for you, but having one from your inner circle sell you out and hand you over to people who want to crucify you is not my idea of being glorified. But that’s exactly what happens.

Because, as we know, and as we celebrate today, Jesus may have gone through the most horrendous treatment ever — the beating, the show trial, being forced to carry His cross up Calvary hill, and being nailed to it and left to die — but ultimately, He was glorified, and so was the Father.

Indeed, it was like God’s conversation with Satan about Job. “Do you worst,” God tells him, and Satan is happy to oblige. When Pilate hauled the battered, bleeding, humiliated Jesus, whom even he recognized as the Christ, in front of the crowd and declared, “Ecce homo!” — “behold the Man!”, Satan would have thought he had won at last.

And God said, “Right. Now, get ready to behold Me!

And Jesus had declared that He was glorified before all that happened.

It’s like that in our own lives. We’re happy to credit God for things that go well, and even setbacks where we can see a favourable resolution. But isn’t God glorified in the things that go badly for us, the things that drive our backs to the wall and push us so low, we have no idea how we will ever rebound?

We don’t know. But God does, and all we have to do is call on Him, in Jesus’ Name.

Of course, we need to be reminded of that: that’s one of the messages of Easter; that it is in our darkest time that God is glorified. And “glorified” doesn’t just mean “pulled out of trouble by the skin of our teeth”, but

The Spirit Himself bears witness that we are children of God,

and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

— Romans 8:16-17

Will-full blindness

Have you ever been in a situation that seemed Just Plain Wrong, but you didn’t realize it until later?

Case in point: a couple of days ago, I was in a meeting where something went down that was, for want of a better description, inconvenient — even unpleasant. But it wasn’t until about 1:00 the next morning, as I was trying to get back to sleep, that the quarter dropped and I realized that it wasn’t just inconvenient or unpleasant, it was wrong — possibly illegal.

And the question came to me: why hadn’t I seen it at the time and done something about it?

I think it was Voltaire who coined the term “backstairs wit” — the things you think that you could have or should have said as you’re leaving the party by the back stairs, but of course, it’s too late to say them.

Then I thought about some other chaps who had a similar predicament.

“I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’

“Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”

Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.

Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.

Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.

Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.”

But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.

For some thought, because Judas had the money bag, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.

Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.

— John 13:18-30

One would think that, had the disciples been aware, they would have noticed that Jesus said that His betrayer was the one to whom He would give the bread, and then right away, He gave the bread to Judas Iscariot. But nobody clued-in. Were they stupid? Unobservant? Did they figure that Jesus would never have identified His betrayer and then told him to “do it quickly”?

Or were they blinded by God’s Will?

Consider what would have happened if they’d realized what was going on. Judas probably wouldn’t have left the room alive. The disciples, led by Simon “Not On My Watch” Peter, would have swarmed him and beaten him to death with the money-box. Then, they would have gone into defensive mode, brandishing two swords (Luke 22:38), and fighting off anyone who tried to arrest the Lord.

And that would have kippered God’s plan for our salvation; for the world to be reconciled to Him.

He knows His children. He knows we immediately take up arms against things we think — or know — are wrong. How often do we stop and look for Him in a situation. “This is WRONG!” we say, “the will of God, OBVIOUSLY, is for us to step in and fix it!” Climate change, racism, bullying, and the myriad other things humans do to one another and to God’s creation — murder, stealing, adultery, etc. — have all been things we have tried to fight over the generations, and guess what? They persist, and are getting worse!

The thing is, Jesus told us this all would happen: He told us He would be persecuted and killed, He told us He would rise again three days later, He told us how lawlessness would abound and that “the love of many [would] grow cold” (Matthew 24:12); and He told us He would return forever once all these things are fulfilled.

So when we see things that we believe are wrong, we need to understand that many eyes have been blinded over the centuries — including our own — and once our eyes are opened, we need to seek God on how to deal with those situations and trust that, despite appearances, He has this all under control. When it comes to “fixing” anything, the starting point, invariably, is not to fix the situation, but to fix ourselves.

When obedience gets tougher … (Part 2)

So as I mentioned yesterday, the British Columbia government has dropped a tougher set of restrictions on the populace in an attempt to stave off another wave of COVID infections. Even the restrictions on church gatherings, which had been partially lifted only the day before, have been reinstated.

I must confess: I have tried to stay positive through all this and obey the governing authorities, but the other night, I realized, I’m fed up. I was supposed to go for lunch with my son, whom I haven’t gotten together with since October 2019, next week, and all of a sudden, that’s off the table. I know people who are elderly or immune-compromised, and who probably only wish they could consider going for lunch with their kids because they’ve been largely shut in for the past year.

So as I say, it’s getting tougher to be obedient.

And disobeying governing authorities is not exactly “taking a stand for the Gospel”, the way Peter, Paul, Stephen, James and the other early Christian martyrs did. In many ways, the disobedience born from the conspiracy-theorist/I-have-inside-information-that-they-don’t-want-you-to-know mindset doesn’t point people towards Jesus, as the martyrs were doing, but point people towards the enemy.

Now, I don’t mind saying, something about this whole pandemic “thing” hasn’t passed the sniff test for me since Day One. I hope you know by now that I’m not a tin-foil-hatted conspiracy theorist, but there are some things that have struck me as Just Plain Odd. The Auditor-General of Canada just released a report, excoriating the country’s health officials for missing the boat with their assessments and projections regarding the threat of COVID in the early stages when there were already lots of data available. The former President of the United States proudly stated that he deliberately downplayed the threat, in some kind of attempt at “leadership” by claiming everything was OK when it really wasn’t. (I think he fancied himself as a commanding officer, telling his troops that they can win this battle: but there’s a BIG difference between saying, “We’re stronger and better than the enemy!” and saying “There is no enemy!”)

Remember the videos of military convoys in northern Italy, hauling corpses away in the middle of the night? Reports of secret cremations and funerals? The apparent refusal to bring anyone into the response planning beyond politicians, epidemiologists and public health officers? (I work with an organization called the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Canada, and I believe that if there had been consultation with multiple sectors and the general public, with as much information laid on the table as possible, backlash such as the hate-filled, conspiracy-theorist reactions I referred to yesterday might have been avoided — or at least, mitigated.)

The question is, what do we do?

This is where we Christians have to keep our mouths shut and our spiritual ears open. It’s rather fitting, that this is coming up during Holy Week, recalling when Jesus reminded us,

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever —

‘the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him: but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you …

“… However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own Authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”

— John 14:15-17 … 16:13-14

So we will know the truth through the Holy Spirit if we simply stop worrying, complaining or trying to uncover the truth for ourselves. He will also show us how to respond, what to say, how to say it and even (especially) whether to say it; because, as Jesus points out, there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed, and often the devil gets hoisted by his own petard and we don’t have to do any “revealing”, ourselves.

So keep obeying. It’s tough, but Jesus sent us the Helper, the Spirit of truth, for such a time as this.

When obedience gets tougher … (part 1)

On March 28, the Victoria Times Colonist reported that the Government of British Columbia was “easing restrictions” on church gatherings, to allow some in-person worship services, under certain conditions.

On March 29, the Government of BC announced a return to tougher restrictions, including “The variance allowing indoor religious gatherings and worship services between March 28 and May 13 is suspended“.

Hoo-boy.

On March 27, I had written the following. It’s not so much about the regulations, but about the response by some (emphasis on “some”) professing Christians to the regulations.

Now, read on …

Over the weekend, Fr. Raymond J., de Souza wrote an opinion piece in the National Post, declaring the BC’s chief medical officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, had shown open hostility towards churches with her decrees about worship gatherings.

If you’ve wanted a compendium of responses and positions taken by a group of Christian churches in BC, there it is. There’s nothing in the article that I haven’t heard before, although he did spare us the claim that “Jesus is under attack”. As I’ve said before, that, itself, is nothing new: He’s been under attack for the past 2,023 years — ever since Herod sent his goon squad into Bethlehem.

But in his zeal to expose Dr Henry’s true colours, Fr. de Souza ignores a basic tenet of Christianity. We are called to obey governing authorities.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

— Romans 13:1

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work,

to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

— Titus 3:1-2

If you read the article, you’ll see that Fr. de Souza’s writing is hardly “peaceable, gentle” or “showing all humility to all [people]”.

Not only that, but Fr. de Souza does not mention the fact that Dr Henry has been on the receiving end of some vicious abuse, ranging from being styled as Pinocchio, with the oversized nose (as so delightfully shown in the photo accompanying the article), to death threats — all for simply doing her job. By regurgitating the various anti-Henry arguments and adding nothing new to the discussion, Fr. de Souza is legitimizing that behaviour.

Don’t you find it ironic that, in stating a case to support some Christian churches, Fr. de Souza is using a decidedly un-Christian approach?

But I digress. The main point here is that the Apostles Paul and Peter (who writes something similar) don’t attach any conditions to this obedience. They don’t say that the “authorities” have to be democratically elected, or even experts in their particular field, They’re in authority, and God, in His wisdom, has put them there. To disobey them is to disobey God.

Maybe, as I believe was the case with the 45th President of the United States, they were put in authority to expose some deep-seated problems in society that need to be worked through.

Fr. De Souza does point out some issues with the legal aspect of the cases — a lack of transparency on the part of the BC Government and possibly Dr Henry, herself — but that’s for the legal folks to work through, and maybe that’s one of the reasons God put Dr Henry in authority.

As we obey God, He sorts things out. If we try to do things ourselves, we’re left to hang and twist slowly in the breeze.

Remember, too, that Paul and Peter wrote those exhortations from prison, where they experienced far more tribulation and persecution than we are today.

Maybe these authorities are put there to challenge us, as Believers, to find other ways to fulfill the Great Commission and to worship our Lord. Maybe we’ve been tied to the “church on Sunday” trope for too long, and it’s time to take it to the streets. Maybe it’s time we stopped complaining about being victims and started showing what Christians are really made of.

It’s time for words!

Take each and every opportunity to preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.

— att. to St Francis of Assisi

I have always loved that aphorism: a reminder that shouting “you need Jesus!” is nowhere near as effective in bringing someone to the Lord as feeding the poor, comforting the grieving and just plain Being There for others, no matter who they are or what you happen to think of them.

But as the “revelation checklist” gets longer, the urgency to show more people towards Christ is gets stronger. And there is so much competition out there for people’s souls, we need to make it Absolutely, Abundantly Clear that the inspiration for the love we show comes from none other than the Holy Spirit.

We are not good. He is.

Even Jesus dismissed the idea of “good”:

“Why do you call me ‘good’? No one is good but one, that is, God.”

— Matthew 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19

Yoga, crystals, mindfulness, Eastern mysticism, astrology, the Four Agreements, the belief that everything was created through Just Plain Dumb Luck, and a whole bunch of other “belief systems” have been around for ages — certainly in St Francis’ day. Indeed, some New Agers would claim that they have been around longer than Jesus — forgetting Who saw them being created in the first place (John 1:2), but social media and other factors have made them more accessible to more people.

In other words, it’s too easy for someone to look at good works and glorify the worker, rather than God (Matthew 5:16), or put a turnaround in life down to following some other belief system or simply “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.”

Remember that the “bootstrap” philosophy supposes that there are two different levels of humanity: the ones who have the strength to change things in their own lives and the ones who don’t. The former is obviously much superior to the latter. In Christ, we all have equal access to the Helper — the Holy Spirit. The only strength required is the strength it takes to say, “I can’t do this, Lord! I need your help!”

But I digress. We need to put a Name on the works that we do and the works that are done in us. Have we had success in something? It’s the Lord’s doing! Have we had a setback? We know God is at work and is setting us up for something great! Did someone else have some great news — healing, a better job, an improvement in a relationship? God is at work (and it helps if you’ve already been praying for that person)!

Maybe some people will say, “pshaw!” and turn away. Others may succumb to the “Nick Buoniconti Effect” — having overwhelming evidence that God is at work handed to them on a silver platter, and saying, “No, that’s not it.” Don’t let that get in the way. Your faith has planted a seed in those people’s lives and they may, by God’s grace, consider and remember that in days or years to come. But it’s really important now to do a commercial for Jesus every chance you get.

WORDS

ARE

NECESSARY

The Great Reveal

Now when they drew near Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

Tell the daughter of Zion, / Behold, your King is coming to you, / Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, / A colt, the foal of a donkey.

So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

— Matthew 21:1-9

And Luke adds …

Abd some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

— Luke 19:39-40

There were two things Jesus was very much aware of.

Plenty more than two, actually, but here are the two I’m thinking about: pointing people towards God, and His “time”.

When Mary, His mother, tells Him to deal with the wine situation at the wedding in Cana, He tells her, “My hour is not yet come” – and then He obeys His mother because that’s what the Fifth Commandment tells us to do.

But much of the time, when He would heal someone, He would tell them not to tell anyone that it was He who had done it, but to glorify God and follow what the Law told them to do when they were healed.

He knew His hour had not yet come to be revealed.

Not that people didn’t know Him already. The Apostles all knew – even Judas. Old Simeon and Anna in the Temple recognized the Baby, but I wonder what happened when they tried to tell people. Did the people hear Glad Tidings of Great Joy or did they only hear the ravings of a couple of old religious nuts who spent their lives hanging about the Temple?

Whatever happened to the shepherds who saw Jesus in the stable and went around, telling others what they had seen? The Saviour? A baby? In a feeding trough? Did the others think they were raving mad – had been hanging out with sheep too long?

How about the Magi, who were knocked off their pins by the first Holy Ghost experience and went their way, rejoicing? We have no idea where they went, whom they told, even if they believed it was true when they woke up from their next night’s sleep. It would be 30 years before Jesus would begin His ministry: were any of them even alive by then?

Certainly, the demons knew Him, crying out, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, the Son of God?” And Jesus shushed them. Up till this point, it was not about Jesus, but about God. He was not going to be a “personality cult”, like the self-styled Messiahs who had come before – some of them, not too long before.

But that day in Jerusalem, things changed. That day in Jerusalem, it became All About Jesus, making His triumphal entry into the Holy City on the lowliest of beasts of burden, a donkey. Not a horse – a symbol of warfare and hostility – but a donkey, a sign of meekness.

Jesus’ hour had come at last, and the people of Jerusalem knew it – at least for the moment. And I have no trouble believing that even if He was able to quiet the crowd, the cheering and hosannas would come from the rocks:  

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,

“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

“For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the LORD for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

— Isaiah 55:10-13

There’s another example of Jesus making a faint allusion to something in the Old Testament, and if anybody has ears to hear, they’ll recognize that He’s drawing our attention to the fact that His arrival is the word of God, accomplishing His desire, and all the blessing that comes with that.

Jesus knew full well that less than a week later, many of the people who cried out, “Hosanna!” and “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” would be shouting “Crucify Him!” and “Give us Barabbas!” But the next few days, that “hour of Jesus”, would be filled with miracles, manifestations and Jesus cementing His claim to being the Messiah.

Of course, that also sealed His fate … and set up the greatest reveal of all …  

But what does that mean for us?

Don’t we follow a similar pattern in our own lives? Jesus comes to us when it’s time for Him to come to us. We’ve heard about Him, we may have liked the idea, and sometimes we run away – until we catch Him.

He makes His triumphal entry into our lives, but the question is, do we embrace Him right away, or hold out? Do we question whether He’s what we’re looking for? That He’s a fake, or we’re foolish? Do we not hold onto the “devil we know”, afraid to let go of the familiar in favour of a promise? Do we choose Barabbas over the One Called The Christ?

But then, just as happened 1,991 years ago (give or take), He makes the grandest entrance of all … coming through with that blaze of glory that takes us from a state of – as CS Lewis described it in The Screwtape Letters – asking “is that really You?” to “so it was You, all along!”

See, Jesus arrives when it’s His time to arrive. He makes His triumphal entry into our lives. The crazy thing is, it can take a while before we reach the point – usually with our backs to the wall – where we are ready to let Him in.

And the beauty is, He’s been there all the time, waiting for us to open that door.