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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

rumpole_19

NB: THE FIGHTING FORCES IN OUR LEGAL DEPARTMENT ADVISE that we need to point out that for the most part, Scripture cited in this blog is taken from the New King James Version, ©1982 Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The vision and the Love

I’ve only had two “visions” from the Lord. One was during one of the lowest points in my life, when I saw a silhouette of Jesus on the Cross, with the two thieves on either side, and heard Him say, “Was I wasting My time?”

(Translation: “Stop feeling sorry for yourself: get on with it!”)

The other lasted less than an eye-blink. I was sitting down in my favorite chair with my Bible and closed my eyes for maybe a second, and across my mind’s eye, there flashed an image of the cosmos. The only way to describe it was that it looked like one of those special-effects backdrops for a Carl Sagan special …

cosmos

Like this?

… yeah, like that, only more magnificent.

And the message I got was: IT’S ALL TRUE.

It begins with this …

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

It’s something you just know. Don’t ask me to explain, because I’d be left floundering about, trying to connect to something humans invented called “reason” and “logic”. But as the song says, “It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll”: it’s something you feel. Sometimes, you know it because you’ve been taught it and it’s ingrained in your beingSometimes, it comes to you as a revelation, a sense that everything around you falls into place because you’ve finally allowed that Truth to take root.

And when it does, what wonder … what joy … opens up for you! Consider this:

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

 — 1 John 4:16

“God is love”, which means that:

  • In the beginning, Love created the heavens and the earth
  • Love created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves (and get this!)
  • Love created man in His own image.

You … I … everyone you see was created by Love … in the image of Love.

Love is the great creative Force, which means Hatred does nothing but destroy. Even when people express hate for the things God hates, they’re doing nothing constructive: they’re tearing down others, and are doing something that God has reserved for Himself.

The thief does not come except to stealand to killand to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

— John 10:10

Can you think of anyone who was brought to the Lord because someone said they hated them or spoke hateful words? People come to the Lord because they recognize loving kindness, a break for the sins they’ve committed, a chance to move forward rather than wallow in the past.

That’s how people came to Jesus when He was on this earth: they didn’t need someone else telling them their sins: they needed someone to love them and tell them how God loves them.

Sometimes, you have to get creative in order to love, because people around you will do things you don’t particularly like, and you have to make a conscious effort to love them in spite of it. But God “got creative”, too. He sent His Son to be our stand-in. That’s Love.

If you think of nothing else for a while; if you run out of things to pray about or thank God for, spend time considering that Love created the universe, Love created you and that very Creator loves you.

Denial – it’s not just about climate change

My “Friday briefing” from the New York Times includes an item from the “No Kidding, Sherlock!” file: that the world is definitely not prepared for climate change. The latest evidence is the fact that this year is the hottest since record-keeping began, surpassing last year, which surpassed the year before.

But the article itself boils down to little more than “neener-neener!” from the scientific community and a backward-looking analysis of how we missed the boat. Indeed, the article is nothing but doomspeak, especially since it says nothing about the decades of work by dedicated people around the world, recycling, reducing, reusing and changing their lifestyles to try to be more environmentally conscious.

Maybe their actions haven’t stopped climate change from happening, but you can’t say people haven’t tried.

The sad fact is, humans are powerless to stop this juggernaut. There are too many moving parts, like governments trying to craft policy, attempts at agreements and accords, and the ever-present debate over what’s really happening; not to mention the sharp disagreement on exactly what to do. There’s also the human tendency to blame someone else for a bad situation, whether it’s industry, agriculture, urban folk who “don’t understand”, and the good old climate change deniers.

But a dangerous state of denial isn’t confined to climate change. The past half-century has also seen another kind of denial: God denial.

Scientists, celebrities, civil rights activists and politicians all seem to want to push God to the sidelines, either because God defies rational thinking and suggests that mankind’s intelligence is not as good as it gets; or He seems to be “spoiling their fun”; or that Church and State should be separated; or that worshipping God might offend people who have other belief systems.

And we look at the state of the world today, both environmentally and socially, and ask, “How well is that working?”

Some years ago, I wrote a book, which I e-published: A Very Convenient Truth, or, Jesus told us there’d be days like these, so stop worrying about the planet and get with His program! It’s available through Smashwords, and, I think, most online bookstores. It takes a “Bible journey” through the issue of climate change and our overall treatment of God’s creation, the responsibility He has given us and which we’ve failed to fulfill; and most of all, the solutions you can find in the Bible to help us look to the future, rather than beat ourselves up over a past we are incapable of changing.

You’ll also find that the Bible promises that we have a Partner, who is waiting to step in and help us. Many of the actions I described above have been done with a sense of “duty to future generations” or a feeling of guilt, or a belief that we are the only ones capable of changing things. But perhaps not as “partners” with God through Jesus Christ. What if we did that? What if our recycling and reducing and reusing were done prayerfully, asking God to forgive us for our past sins against His creation and to bless and take our efforts and multiply their effectiveness?

It’s something we can do, especially in light of one passage, which offers hope amid the doomspeak and is the foundation for the book:

Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to decour the land, or send pestilence among My people,

“if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

— 2 Chronicles 7:12-14

Simple, right? Just the way God wants it for His people.

Claiming your inheritance

The beauty of living in Christ — receiving Jesus as our Savior and moving forward in our lives — is that, hard though it is to comprehend, we are raised to a new level.

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

That’s one heck of an inheritance; but there’s something we need to remember:

An inheritance gained quickly at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.

— Proverbs 20:21

Being human, we like to look for the quick way. Microwave ovens, Cup o’ Noodles, short-cuts through somebody’s garden, instant gratification, rather than letting a relationship develop: patience is a virtue and virtue is often hard to live with.

So we love the idea of Jesus Christ being a good guy who said some neat things that we really, really, try to follow (or suggest strongly that others should); we love His notion of inclusiveness and loving your neighbor. But the icky stuff — like repenting and realizing why He died for us and the power of His resurrection — that’s a bit hard to swallow. Whether it’s an aversion to admitting that MAYBE we’ve gotten the wrong end of the stick on some things and have to change the way we’ve been living and thinking, or having a hard time grasping the idea of a Man walking out of the tomb, we balk at listening to the whole story.

And alas, that’s a costly omission, because, as the Proverb says, we’re trying to get the inheritance quickly, and not waiting for the testator to die. Result: we don’t get the blessing that we should.

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator.

For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.

— Hebrews 9:16-17

We can’t claim the inheritance of being children of God until we recognize that Jesus died.

And we can’t really recognize that Jesus died until we recognize that there was something for Him to die for.

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

— Romans 5:6-8

And the thing is, it’s really not that hard. I believe that repenting does not entail sitting down, enumerating all your sins, beating yourself up and saying you’re not going to do that anymore. Would we know where to start? Would we know where to stop?

God knows. And by repenting, we turn to Him to deal with those sins as He sees fit. Praise Him, the “way He sees fit” is to let His Son be the blood sacrifice that wipes them out for good and all.

We have a huge inheritance that’s ours for the taking — but we have to let the testator die before we can claim it.

A matter of integrity — and faith

An interesting article turned up online this week, looking at the fact that Scott Griffin, benefactor of the Griffin Awards for Poetry, is making many millions of dollars by supplying parts for the infamous deal for Canada to provide heavy-duty military vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The article itself seems dated: it talks about the Conservative government (which was voted out of office in 2015) and doesn’t mention the current state of Saudi society or the Trudeau government’s re-affirmation of the deal, earlier this year.

But the debate it lays out is still valid: how poets — and writers in general — feel about accepting a big-money award, when that money has come from (not to put too fine a point on it) dealing death.

More to the point, when the sales of these death instruments are helping a government oppress other writers, because their free thought is considered inimical to the state.

The counter-argument is that poets and writers have a tough enough time as it is, so any money is welcome money.

Perhaps. But for a Believer, this is dangerous territory, because you’re basically trusting something other than God to provide for your needs.

“Well,” I hear someone in the back row say, “how do you know God didn’t put that parts supplier there to support the poets?”

I’m glad you asked that, sir. Simple litmus test: what does the Word of God say? “Thou shalt not kill.” “Jesus is the Prince of Peace.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” “Love one another as I have loved you.

Nope. None of that suggests that those who supply weaponry to brutal, warlike, totalitarian regimes are doing God’s work.

An inheritance gained quickly at the beginning will not be blessed at the end.

— Proverbs 20:21

Which brings us to today’s object lesson in integrity.

For a while, much of the food we had been serving the people who came to Gospel Mission and The Lord’s Rain was paid for by contributions from one church, but we discovered that the church had been receiving monies from the BC government’s provincial gaming fund.

To my mind, gambling is one of those classic cases of people trusting in something other than God to provide their needs. What’s more, it’s a situation of winners and losers — if I win $100, that means other people have lost a total of $100. Money someone has lost is not a freewill donation (especially when that person may not know the church exists), and God makes it clear, that those who give to Him must do so with a willing heart.

Pastor Barry Babcook and I agreed that a church’s finances should not be based on gaming, so we contacted the church in question, thanked them for their thoughts and prayers, but told them we could not accept that money anymore.

Now, mind: this was during the Great Economic Downturn in the early part of this century, so some might say we were nuts to turn down that money. Any money is welcome money, right? But we stood on faith that God was going to fill in the gap.

Maybe a week after that, Barry got a phone call from a fellow with The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, owners of Superstore, Loblaws and Selfridge’s in London. The caller said that the Foundation had set up a special fund to help charities through the Downturn and Gospel Mission had been chosen to receive $15,000. Put into perspective, that would meet the expenses of both the Mission and The Lord’s Rain for the next six months.

Now, there’s more to the story than just the “coincidence” of our standing on faith and the phone call. This is where integrity and principle really play a part. Let’s rewind about ten years, and another phone call bearing a five-figure offer.

Gospel Mission is not Union Gospel Mission. We keep having to tell people that. The reason for the apparent duplication is that Gospel Mission was founded first (1929), and UGM had been established for some time when it set up shop in Vancouver in 1940. If we get a call out of the blue, asking about donating, we’ll ask first if they mean to be calling us, or UGM. If they say they thought they were calling UGM, we’ll give them their number and wish them well.

So on that day ten years earlier, Barry got such a phone call. It was also from The Weston Foundation, offering $10,000 (I think it was). Barry said, “Are you calling Gospel Mission or Union Gospel Mission?” “Isn’t this Union Gospel?” Barry explained the difference and gave him the phone number. Then the Weston fellow said, “Can we donate $10,000 to you?”

Silly question. We never did find out if the chap also called UGM, but evidently, The Weston Foundation remembered us — and, I would submit, God remembered Barry’s act of integrity — when the time came to recommend organizations for those one-time grants.

Moral of the story: if your source of provision is only what you can see, then that becomes your god. We know what God thinks about that. What’s more, you’ll bend yourself in all different directions to justify receiving bad money.

But when you stand on your principles and trust God for your supply, He’ll come through in ways you could never imagine.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;

— Proverbs 3:5

Yes, Virginia …

… there is a conspiracy!

Confession: I hadn’t heard of Alex Jones until about a year and a half ago, when I stumbled onto his radio show during a late-night drive home. He was talking about how video games were deadening the minds of youth to what was going on in the real world.  I’ve often thought that, so I was intrigued when I heard him.

The intrigue lasted about two minutes, until he became positively incoherent, leaving sentences unfinished, his voice rising in pitch and volume until I pitied the needle on his VU (volume) meter for the beating it was taking.

I Googled him the next day and realized he was the guy behind various conspiracy theories and those people who photo-bombed the live TV coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics with signs saying “Investigate 9/11”.

Now, he’s facing at least two lawsuits for claiming that the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT was a hoax.

Essentially, his trope goes like this: there is a shadowy conspiracy of wealthy and powerful people who are “pulling the strings” and causing governments to do their bidding. The fact that the claims are near-impossible to prove, like the elephant painting its toenails red and hiding in a cherry tree*, shows how well-crafted this conspiracy is. The trope gains traction, I believe, because there is a base human desire to be seen as powerless victims and to get angry about it.

Yes, I’ve heard of the Illuminati and the Bilderberg group and others associated with conspiracy theories, but to focus attention on any kind of flesh-and-blood, worldly effort to control us and win our minds is to bark up the wrong tree.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

— Ephesians 6:12

There is a war going on, but it’s one we cannot see. Because we can’t identify specific people as culprits, it’s hard to get people worked up about it. But Scripture has told us about it for millennia.

Then he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.

Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.”

— Daniel 10:11-13

This is an angel speaking to Daniel, who had been praying to God for three weeks. The “prince of Persia” he’s talking about is not some guy in robes and a fancy turban, but a prince of Satan, sent to try to block the angel from getting to Daniel with the answer to the prophet’s prayer. And that prince is tough and persistent: it took three weeks for the angel to get past him and he needed help from the Archangel Michael.

The “unexplained” evil in our world — mass or random shootings where the motivation is a mystery, politicization of tragedy, proliferation of fear and hatred (even in the name of the Lord) — is the physical manifestation of this unseen war. If people aren’t aware of this, then they, too, can be wind up as part of that manifestation.

It is a conspiracy. But unlike the conspiracies the conspiracy theorists warn us about, we are not powerless; nor can they be undone through “fighting back”, protesting or political action. In Christ, we can overcome these daily attacks. Remember the rest of Paul’s word to the Ephesians:

Therefore take on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace: above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God ….

== Ephesians 6:13-17

It’s a war we fight on our knees and in our souls: “… the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (2 Corinthians 10:4 KJV). As well as the Peace of Jerusalem, we need to include in our prayers that strongholds will be brought down.

Thing is, Satan doesn’t let up, so neither can we. Paul says we’re “wrestling” against principalities, powers, and so forth, and a wrestling match is not decided by a single knockout punch.

We need to keep that in mind and not be distracted by things like video games, technological marvels and even people obsessed with worldly conspiracy theories. Instead, we have to forge ahead, loving others as Jesus loves us, forgiving everyone who wrongs us and understanding that people are not evil, per se, but are prey to the real enemy — the one who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”. (1 Peter 5:8)

And the main thing to remember:

WE’VE ALREADY WON!

empty tomb


*”Ever see an elephant in a cherry tree?”
“No.”
“See? It works!”

God’s Top-10 List


“GOD DIDN’T GIVE US TEN ‘SUGGESTIONS’!”


You’ve probably heard that one before: a reminder that God isn’t kidding about the things He considers right and wrong. That’s true: we need the guidelines as to what pleases Him and what doesn’t. But I got to thinking about them the other day, and was struck by the usage of one word in particular.

“Shall”.

The versions I refer to — the “old” and New King James — use the expression “thou shalt” or “you shall” in the Commandments. They don’t say “you must” or “you will”. “Must” is an imperative. “Will” connotes some kind of desire, as in “it is my will that …”. “Shall” is a very neutral word: a statement of prediction; an indication of something that will happen.

The recurring theme in Jesus’ ministry is that following laws is not, at root, what God wants from us. Yes, He gave us rules, and means for atoning when those rules are broken; but the big thing God wants with us is relationship. He wants to be our Friend and wants us to be His. He made it easy, by providing one Way and one Way only to connect with Him, by providing a Substitute to atone for the things we had done wrong, and by promising to wipe all our misdeeds off the books if we receive that Way.

In other words, our actions are not the issue.

When the “rich young ruler” asks Jesus if he’s still lacking something, after following all the Commandments since his youth, Jesus tells him the way to search for treasure in Heaven. He says the same to all of us, and that we should “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

Or this:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

— Matthew 22:36-40

So why don’t we look at The Ten Commandments as the result, rather than the cause, of a relationship with God?

The Top 10 Signs You’re In A Relationship With God:

You know you’re in a relationship with God when:

  1. You recognize that He — and no other — has created you and brought you through tough times, and so you worship no one else.
  2. You don’t create things to worship or bow down to them: understand that God is a jealous God — He wants you all to Himself.
  3. You don’t take His name in vain.
  4. You keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. You honor your father and mother, so that things will go well in your future.
  6. You don’t kill.
  7. You don’t commit adultery.
  8. You don’t steal from others.
  9. You don’t lie about others to harm them.
  10. You don’t covet anything belonging to your neighbor, including spouse, house, or any property.

You get into relationship with God (I don’t think you can over-stress this point), by loving Him with everything you have and loving others the way He loves you.

Note that all of those “signs” run counter to our natural instincts or things that we can justify in our minds. They all involve trusting God. And that, I believe, is what He expects from us, more than anything else.

Remorse, regret and repentance

My country — Canada — can be the Land of Apologies. People remark on how many times Canadians say “sorry”. During the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, some reporter from another country claimed that even our buses said “Sorry”. How — I mean HOW — could anyone suggest a thing like …

bus-sorry

Oh.

“Sorry” is gaining on “eh?” as The Great Canadian Idiosyncrasy. You know things are getting out of hand when you hear little children taught to say “Sorry” rather than “Excuse me” if they want to get past someone who’s blocking their path.

The “apology reflex” isn’t just confined to individual Canadians. Governments, attempting to right various wrongs, default to that response. In my lifetime, various Canadian governments have issued apologies to

  • Indigenous people
  • Chinese people
  • Japanese people
  • Indian people

and more. But here’s the thing: for all the apologies, Indigenous people still, by and large, live in squalor, and there is still racism and hatred directed at Asian people. How much good did those apologies do, then?

I believe it’s really easy to say “sorry”. To express regret is to say you wish it hadn’t happened – to declare that you’re a worm and not worthy to live. Does that ever suffice to right a wrong?

What happened when Peter levelled one of the strongest accusations of all time at the people in Jerusalem?

peter-at-pentecost

“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

— Acts 2:36-3

Significantly, Peter did not tell Those Who Crucified Jesus to crawl off into a hole and beat themselves up for it, or to hang their heads and mope for the rest of their lives.

“Repent!” he said. Take the opportunity to change your way of thinking and your prior attitude.

“Be baptized in Jesus’ Name!” he said. Turn to Him — the implication is, He will receive you with open arms, no matter what you did to Him.

“Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!” he said. The gift is available to you, too, so pick it up, unwrap it and put it to work.

Put into general terms, repentance goes beyond an apology and remorse. It changes our outlook and allows us to take the “gift” of lessons learned and apply it into the future.

Here’s something to keep in mind: everything that happens to you has a purpose. That includes anything good happening in your life right now. Try reverse-engineering your current situation and see all the things that you wish hadn’t happened at the time, but which have led directly to the spot you’re in now. ANY change to those events would have landed you in a different position — possibly a worse one. To regret your past is to regret your present and condemn your future.

Yes – apologize for your misdeed and own it, but don’t stop there. In Christ, you can repent — turn anything into glory, and when that happens, you and those around you come out ahead.

For the sexually immoral …

This is a tough one to write, largely because it’s a subject that’s close to home.

I’m reaching out to those caught in sexual immorality.

Consider this:

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise Perish.

“Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwell in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

— Luke 13:1-5

Wait: did you think that I was talking about that sexual immorality? No. I could do that , and it would be an easy score. But I don’t know anything about the experience of dealing with urges of that sort. It takes someone with that understanding to talk about Redemption in Jesus and overcoming through the Holy Spirit.

But I do know something about the urges of good old man-woman, let’s-get-it-on, no-commitment, no-one-gets-hurt-okay? sexual immorality. Because I was caught in it. And I tried to overcome it in my own strength. And I failed miserably.

This is not a testimony of my past. I’ll spare you that. But it is a testimony of the fact that it took realization that I had to repent and hand the problem off to Jesus, because I was unable to overcome it on my own. If one doesn’t repent, the consequences are dire.

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

— Revelation 21:8

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God.

— 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Fornicators and adulterers, according to Paul, do not inherit the kingdom of God, and since there’s no “Door Number 3”, you know what that means. In Revelation, God Himself uses the blanket term, “sexually immoral”. In other words, people who engage in sex outside a marriage covenant.

(For what it’s worth, I don’t believe sex between two unmarried people is necessarily immoral. If they’re in a committed relationship, I don’t see anything in the Bible that mandates a wedding ceremony to seal the deal. However, a wedding ceremony is like baptizing the relationship, upping the ante by declaring their commitment to each other in front of God and witnesses. As I’ve looked at the definition of the word, “fornication” has a connotation of wantonness and promiscuity – misusing sex solely for physical pleasure. When you consider that another of the definitions of the word translated as “fornication” relates to worshipping something other than God, that would make sense.)

We need to confess that the “freedom” we thought was represented by the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s actually enslaved us. We traded the chains of purity for the chains of peer pressure. Anyone who didn’t embrace the Revolution (figuratively, if not literally) was derided as a “square” and “repressed” and anyone who had the temerity to say, “this is wrong” was “out of step with the times”.

And now, here we are, fifty years on, with screwed-up ideas about love, sex and relationships. Would anyone care to deny that the #MeToo movement is the direct result of the Sexual Revolution, where guys figured that “liberation” meant that they could “take liberties”, and women would be expected to enjoy it? (Actually, some people do try to deny the connection: it’s quite pathetic.)

And I was certainly part of that – until I realized how people were hurting and what a self-centered jerk I’d been. And it wasn’t until I realized the only solution was to repent, to turn to Jesus and focus on Him, thereby renewing my mind, that I started to overcome.

We sometimes tend to forget that heterosexual immorality is just as damnable as anything else. And just as redeemable, through the Blood of Jesus. Today’s culture hasn’t helped. We’re still bombarded with messages about sex – movies that portray “love at first sight/bed on first night” encounters as being magical and positive. Deep thinkers like Stephen Colbert and Pee-Wee Herman mock the concept of “saving yourself”. Just today, I heard Freddie Mercury singing “Don’t stop me now / I’m havin’ a good time / I’m havin’ a ball”, and couldn’t help thinking, I wish somebody had: that lifestyle killed him and we’re all the poorer for it.

There’s a lot to overcome, and Jesus gives us the focus we need to get past the noise. And I know that, in my case, the man I was died many, many years ago.

Don’t think I haven’t felt temptation. But now, I know that rather than focus on the negative inference of not giving in, I focus on Jesus, I can bring that temptation into captivity and the urge dissipates like a vapor.

(REMINDER: “No man is an island, entire of itself ….” (John Donne) — what we do, our actions, our words, even our level of faith, affects others, just as their actions affect us. The whole mindset of the Sexual Revolution was that we pleased ourselves and if others were adversely affected by it, that was their problem.)

One more thing: “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

What is this “likewise”? The common factor in Pilate’s slaughtering the Galileans and mixing their blood with the sacrifice, and the tower collapse in Siloam, is that these deaths were horrible, unjust and unusual. And Jesus is warning us that we, too, can “perish”, either physically or spiritually or both, in a horrible, unjust and unusual way, if we don’t repent.

Fellow “straights” – men and women — we need to repent. We need to take a hard look at our attitudes towards sex and relationships and bring them all into line with the Word of God. Yes, it’s hard to overcome the urges, but we have Jesus: His sacrifice to pay the price for our sins, His victory over death and the world, and His Holy Spirit to give us the strength where we are weak.

And — most important in this “post-Christian” era — we have His mandate to us: to set an example by walking and living in repentance — killing the “old person” and putting on the new — and to tell everyone about the power in the Holy Spirit and the true freedom of being in line with God.

The Peace of Jerusalem

Bob Brown, the senior pastor at Rainbow Mission, where I ministered for the better part of three years, would always pray mightily before a Sunday service. He would come into the Mission, go up to the little stage at the front, put down his guitar case and kneel at a pew behind the podium. And he would pray! They say you should dance like no one’s watching and sing like no one can hear you: Bob prayed like there were only three other Persons in the room.

rainbow mission

location of former Rainbow Mission in Vancouver (second doorway from the right)

In all of his prayers, he would include the phrase, “I pray for the Peace of Jerusalem”. I often wondered what that meant, exactly. My “training” in ministry has been on-the-job, through reading, prayer, listening to others, listening to the Holy Spirit, and nothing in the way of formal classes. What that means is, sometimes I wait for years to get an idea of concepts in the Word of God.

JERUSALEM

So what is the Peace of Jerusalem and why should we pray for it?

Here’s the source:

Jerusalem is built

As a city that is compact together,

Where the tribes go up,

The tribes of the Lord,

To the Testimony of Israel,

To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

For thrones are set there for judgment,

The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

Prosperity within your palaces.”

— Psalm 122:3-7

When you consider that Jerusalem has been around for thousands of years and has seen anything but peace in all that time, you have to wonder what’s happening with all those prayers for its peace. I can’t think of a city in the world that has been more contended-for than Jerusalem (one friend of mine pointed out recently that Israel appears to be the only country that is not “allowed” to choose its own capital). London, Paris, New York, Rome, Athens: they’ve all had their periods of strife, but nothing like the seemingly endless rounds of contention over Jerusalem.

(I should clarify, that I’m not one of those knee-jerk types who immediately agrees that everything the state of Israel does is right and proper. Nor do I buy into the attitude many in the media take, immediately faulting Israel in conflict.)

So what is the “peace of Jerusalem”? I think there are a few things to consider. First, all three Abrahamic religions claim it as holy. Second, Jesus Christ is the great peacemaker and unifier. We see throughout His ministry on earth and the works of His disciples in the two thousand years since then, that He has no regard for sects, ethnicity or previous beliefs. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life,” He says (John 14:6). “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He unifies, simplifies and pacifies.

So isn’t the “peace of Jerusalem” Jesus Christ? Our prayer, beyond the title that’s been passed on since that Psalm was written, is for Jesus to reign over that city — which, indeed, He will when the “New Jerusalem” comes.

Now, let’s take this a step further. Notice that the last part of that passage suggests our prayer should be that those who love Jerusalem will prosper and that peace should be within the walls and palaces of Jerusalem. That suggestion is largely because that portion is in quotation marks.

But I understand that not much of the original texts had punctuation marks, and the punctuation in the versions we know is arbitrary, based on what “makes sense” to the translators. The “old” King James Version doesn’t have those quotation marks.

That opens up a different interpretation. See what you think of this.

The contention surrounding Jerusalem is a lot like the contention for our own souls — especially in those darkest moments before we turn to Jesus to bring us peace. Forces within and without are battling to bring us down, to destroy us and prevent us from achieving all that God wants for us. We feel like nothing is in our own hands, and the hands that do control the things in our lives are pulling us in wrong directions.

We want the peace promised to Jerusalem in our own lives. The Psalm encourages us to pray for that kind of peace.

And then, without those quotation marks, the Psalm becomes personal. As we pray for that peace, may those who love us prosper and may we have peace within our own walls and prosperity within our own palaces.

Unbelief and the Fake News thing

fake newsRecently, an old high school friend, whom I had looked up to for his intellect and hatefully broad range of talents in arts and sciences, posted a very snarky message on Facebook about the Bible. I won’t repeat it here: trust me when I say that it was not just dismissive of the Bible, but outright scornful. What’s more, he displayed a lack of actual knowledge or understanding of the Book that reminded me of a time when he asserted, on a TV show, that “even a cursory reading of the Gospel of John shows that it’s anti-Semitic.”

My thought at the time was that I was surprised that he would make that assessment on a “cursory reading”.

But what stuck with me from this most recent post is the similarity between the thinking of those who dismiss the Bible and the “Fake News” trope we hear about lately.

Consider the common factors:

  • believing what one wants to believe
  • denying the obvious
  • ridiculing someone else’s belief
  • personal attacks
  • avoiding key questions

I know I’m leaving myself open with that first one, since believing the Bible is a choice we make: but believing the Bible also means accepting the uncomfortable bits, as well as the encouragement and hope. Generally, people who choose not to believe the Bible would much prefer to think that they are in control of their situation and that they won’t have to answer to The Big Sir in the end.

In “denying the obvious”, what can be more obvious than the existence of God? To put all of His wondrous creation down to “chance” or “luck” is to be wilfully blind and incredibly narrow-minded. If great things happening around us are attributed to either luck or the work of a super-intelligent race of higher-evolved humans, what does that say about the poor shleps who aren’t quite so clever or lucky?

As for personal attacks, well, you and I have probably both seen how quickly an atheist or mistheist will turn their attention to the character of a believer — weak or stupid; or, if they give credit to God for good things in their lives, “holier than thou”: you can’t win.

So what do you do, when confronted with remarks that dismiss the Bible and attack you (however obliquely) for what you believe? First, understand this:

IF YOU’RE NOT TAKING FLAK, YOU’RE NOT OVER THE TARGET

Followers of Jesus Christ are more likely than anyone else to be targets of ridicule. Why? Because people are afraid of the Truth, even when that Truth is glorious, joy-filling and offers a way out of the bad scenes we humans — with our intellect — get ourselves into.

Second, remember that the Bible warns us there will be mockers. And how should we respond?

“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven, for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

— Matthew 5:44-45

Third, remember that an unbeliever is just a saint who hasn’t met Jesus yet. While I was sorely tempted to unleash some well-chosen verbiage on my friend with the offensive post, that would not have drawn him any closer to Jesus, which is, after all, the name of the game.

It helps to recognize the signs of the “Fake News” trope and see how they apply when unbelievers start talking down those who believe. And when you recognize them, rather than react the way the world would expect, just remember that Jesus told us there’d be days like these.