Badges? BADGES??? (2 small confessions)

badges

In some of my sermons, I’ll ask near the close, “Are you getting anything out of this?” Confession #1 is, that’s a fall-back I tend to use if I haven’t been able to think of a boffo, climactic ending. But in all cases, I truly hope you get something out of these blog posts, such as hope and inspiration to draw closer to the Lord. But there’s an important point I need to make, which leads to Confession #2.

You’ve seen that I use a lot of Bible quotes. That’s the source of my inspiration, after having come to the realization that I’m not that smart. Confession #2 is:

I DON’T HAVE FORMAL THEOLOGICAL TRAINING

I’ve never gone to divinity school, my university degree is in English Literature, and some denominations wouldn’t think of ordaining me because I’ve been divorced and re-married. The BC Government puts “Rev.” in front of my name, because another Pastor with the International Association of Ministries sees who I’ve become in Christ and had no problem supporting my application for licensing. But as far as scholarship and academia are concerned, I don’t show up on the charts.

I say this because when someone is able to talk about a topic with a fair bit of confidence, one can tend to think, “Wow! They know so much! I’m obviously inferior in this area!” I know I feel that way around physicists, medical doctors and commentators on sports-talk shows, although it’s a feeling that was deftly skewered when the humorist Richard Armour noted, in Twisted Tales from Shakespeare, that if you quote the first line of a sonnet and then say, “etcetera, etcetera,” you get credit for knowing the whole thing.

But here’s how this confession of mine applies. Some people might feel intimidated or out-of-their-league because I pull out quotes from the Bible and offer insights, but the reality is, anyone can do that. The reason I’ve been able to do it, is that I read the Bible voraciously. I think I’ve read it three times, all the way through (which puts me a mere 9,997 times behind Billy Graham), but I’ve also plunged in at spots where I feel I should be studying, and I can’t count how many times I’ve done that.

And anyone can do that. OK — you don’t have to be voracious: that was just how I am about some things. But God gave us His word in a way we can understand (what Jesse Duplantis calls “Jesus Christ in paper form”) so that we, ourselves, can find out what He’s about, meditate, ask questions and get answers.

IMPORTANT NOTE: for years, I relied on others to tell me what the Bible said about certain issues. And that’s dangerous: I stumbled upon a passage that showed that one of these people had misquoted a portion, and I pushed ahead to see what the Bible really said. Also, don’t be overly impressed/intimidated by people who can quote book-chapter-and-verse off the top of their head: the devil can do that, too. (I have a couple of really great concordances that I use to find relevant passages.)

Anyway, the more I read the Bible for myself, the more it rang true.

Reading the Bible for yourself also insulates you against charlatans. There are people who have fallen into cults because they took someone else’s word about what it says, and (in extreme cases) wound up drinking Kool-Aid in Guyana.

I don’t mean to disrespect scholars — more about that on Mondayu. But the Bible is to be read, savoured and enjoyed by all, and you don’t need no stinking badges for that!

Whose sake was that?

The other day, I mentioned that Jesus gave Himself up on the Cross for our sakes. That’s true — but not the whole Truth. Something occurred to me just now that, I think, is rather mind-blowing.

For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.

— 1 Samuel 12:22

“Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.”

— Ezekiel 11:19-20

I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.

— 1 John 2:12

And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.”

Revelation 21:3

There are two recurring themes throughout the Bible. (Well, more than two, but I’m jamming on these two here.) One is “for My (or His) name’s sake”. As Noel Jones once pointed out, God does not have a marketing department to promote Him, so the things He does — whether to bless us, curse our enemies or teach us a hard lesson — are done so we will know who He is.

The other is that God desires to live with us and be our God. That one runs literally from beginning to end — it begins that way in the Garden of Eden and continues through the Book of Revelation. He loves us — every one of us — and His overall intention is to come and live in this magnificent home He created for us. So He expects us to get it cleaned up — and He expects us to be “cleaned up”, as well; and the only way that can happen is through Jesus.

 

I am the way, the truth and the Life: no one comes to the Father except through Me.

— John 14:6

And that whole scene on the Cross is (a) for His name’s sake — so that He is shown to be the one and only true God — and (b) because He wants our company for Eternity.

Wow — what a way to go about it! But it had to be done.

When my children were little, I had a hard time punishing them for something they did wrong. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for God, letting His Son go through what He did — because of our misdeeds.

But that’s how much He loves us.

Any questions?

“New” can be a shock

Then [the scribes and Pharisees] said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”

And He said to them, “Can  you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.

— Luke 5:33-34

This is the conversation that immediately precedes the parable of new cloth and old wineskins, and that context shows us how Jesus is talking about more than sewing and wine-bottling.

The basic idea of the fast is to connect with God, to call His will to be done on earth. Supposedly, the fast for the scribes and Pharisees was to call on God to send the Messiah He had promised for centuries; the fasting among John the Baptist’s disciples, presumably, was to invoke the same prayer, since John was the one sent to prepare the way of the Lord. (Compare that with Luke’s description of Anna, the old widow who “served God with fastings and prayers night and day”. (Luke 2:37) She, too, was waiting for the Messiah.)

Jesus is saying, “The game has changed: the will of God is being done and the Messiah has arrived! No need to keep on fasting: what you’ve been waiting for has happened and is right before you! It’s party time!”

So then His statement about putting a new patch on an old garment or pouring new wine into old wineskins tells us that we need nothing short of complete newness in our lives.

And “new” can be a shock. Certainly, it was to the Pharisees. And just as Beaujolais Nouveau makes me ill, people who receive Christ can also be put off by the new taste.

But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new, for he says, ‘The old is better’.

— Luke 5:38-39

For a couple of years, I aspired to be one of those toffs who would grab a bottle of “Nouveau Beauj” as soon as it arrived at the local liquor store, but it didn’t agree with my stomach; give me a good Shiraz any day. And that’s Jesus’ point when it comes to people coming to Him: their old way of life was comfortable, they didn’t see a need to change, and talk of being baptized with fire and walking by faith, not by sight, was uncharted territory. Why bother?

A friend of mine from the Downtown East Side — Vancouver’s Skid Row — ran into that. He was an alcoholic and spent his time “binning” — collecting bottles and recyclable trash from garbage bins. But he was determined to turn his life around, and one day he announced to me that he was checking into the Union Gospel Mission rehabilitation program.

The program consisted of months of Scripture and sobriety, virtually cloistered in their facility as they got clean. One day, Jamie sent word via the “moccasin telegraph” — which is often the best way to communicate on the Downtown East Side if you’re not a drug dealer with a “burn phone” — that he was about to graduate from the program, and would I come to the ceremony?

I wasn’t able to, but Jamie was emerging as a wonderful testimony: he got a job and a girlfriend and an apartment in Burnaby — far away from the DTES. But he would call from time to time and gradually, his conversation became more disturbing. “I can’t handle this,” he said. “The temptations are too great. I want to start drinking again. I want to go back to binning. That’s where I felt at home.”

The old wine was better.

I tried to encourage him. I tried psychological manipulation — “If you fall back it will hurt me.” I had no idea what else to say, except to hang in there. And eventually, he let go the line. The last time I saw him, he was in the company of two brothers who I knew were drug dealers. The time before that, he had helped me “escort” a troublesome person out of the Mission: he was big enough and, with a load on, mean enough to be an effective enforcer.

For all the apparent ease of our coming to Christ, the immense grace and love that God extends to us for the purpose of bringing us close to Him, not to mention the promise that He will “help our unbelief” and “teach [us] to do [His] will,” there is still that tremendously difficult task we have to do. That’s to convince ourselves that the old wine may have been more to our liking and easier on our stomachs, but the new wine is infinitely better. When we do that, we can call on God to help us to like that new wine and be patient while He does.

Jesus Christ, Sommelier

“No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one, otherwise the new makes a tear and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

— Luke 5:36-38

People have jammed on that parable pretty much ever since those words came out of Jesus’ mouth, 2,000 years ago. Among the take-aways is a warning, of sorts, both for those hoping to lead others to the Lord and for people who’ve accepted Christ but wonder why some things still haven’t changed.

The references to patching a garment and bottling wine are apt. I’ve tried to mend a piece of clothing, and frankly, unless the tear is right along a seam, I’m hooped. If the fabric is frayed or torn, you can never quite get a patch big enough to cover the frayed portion and reach to the sturdier, un-frayed cloth; or you have to (as I have) bunch up the fabric and pull the two sides together.

There are some sweatshirts with some ugly scars out there!

“What do you think? I mended it myself!”

“No kidding.”

And even if you can sew it on properly, the patch doesn’t match, either. It doesn’t look right on the inside, or the outside. You’re not holding together, yourself — and others see something, well, fake.

It’s even worse with the wine. As wine ages in a skin, the skin eventually “fits” the wine. Introduce something new, while it’s still fermenting, and the skin will explode.

wine-geek

So the warning, if you can call it that, is that when we come to Christ, we can’t expect huge changes to happen right away. If we try to force the change by doing things to show how “Christian” we are, people will see a counterfeit. We’ll also find that our old selves are overwhelmed by the new reality we’ve accepted and we’ll crack up; the “wine” we had received so joyfully will be spilled all over the ground — wasted.

I speak from experience. I came to Christ, saw the Truth, got a glimpse of my new purpose in life; I wanted to grab the ball and run with it — in my case, to be preaching, to play and sing on the Worship team, to take part in prayer groups — and looking back now, I see that my faith was a patch on an old garment. It just didn’t fit and and looked “off” to outsiders. I had to totally change out that old garment for a new one and become a new skin to fit with the new wine.

Jesus is telling us that coming to Him is not just a matter of adding “in Jesus’ Name” to our old ways, but requires a total renovation, inside and outside. It’s the same thing with those you minister to. You can’t force-feed them the new wine: all you can do is help them prepare to receive it and let God turn the old wineskins into new ones and provide that new set of clothes to fit our new lives.

The beauty of this is, it’s God who does the creating. We don’t have to grit our teeth hard and tell ourselves that we have to put on new clothes or turn into new wineskins: that suggests we have to work for our place with God and we know that’s not true. It’s much simpler than that: just as we receive the Holy Spirit by Grace, we can ask God to make us proper receptacles.

And as we know — He’ll do that. We only have to ask.

Four-Walls Thinking and the Big Lie

In this post-truth era where the term “alternate fact” has replaced the word “lie” (reminiscent of the mid-70s, when it was not uncommon to hear “The President mis-spoke himself”) in our lexicon, we need to remember that there is Truth out there.

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

James 3:14

The thing is, there is nothing like the world around us to make us lose sight of the truth. When you are Saved — when you thank Jesus for the sacrifice He made for your sake — and receive Christ, that is a truth that does not change, even though your worldly state may suggest otherwise. You could be homeless, you could be battling addiction of all kinds, you could be in a dead-end job; but in Christ, the truth is that those things do not define who you are, and so long as you keep focused on that truth, you can keep moving forward, knowing that God has something greater in store.

The fact is, we may not feel like we’re Saved, blessed, moving forward in our lives. The world — what I call the “four-walls thinking” — will do whatever it takes to convince us that we have to feel something.

One of the greatest breakthroughs in my life was when I read C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Letters purportedly written by a Senior Demon to his nephew, Wormwood, who’s a Junior Tempter; the letters give advice on how to prevent a human from turning to God.

Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. … When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment.*

So if you have accepted Jesus and received Christ, that is your reality — regardless of what you feel.

Consider Jesus, in fact.

His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.

— Isaiah 9:6 (KJV)

That is truth. That is reality. But look at Him here:

ecce-homo

Do you think, at that point, that He felt like “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”?

But even when He was being “examined” by Pontius Pilate; struggling up the hill with the Cross, being nailed to that Cross and left to bleed out and die, the reality remained that He was and ever shall be Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.

It’s the same thing with you: no longer are you the rat-fink that you once were; the person who did those awful things and hurt those people. You are set free from that past: the millstone has been cut from your neck, and at the same time God has unmeasurable blessings in store for you. That’s the reality. Anything that suggests otherwise is a lie against the truth.

One more thing: when we talk about “four walls thinking” and the reality that God has something even greater for you, it’s easy to shrug that off by saying, “Yeah, sure – in the next life.” But that, too, is a lie.

“Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

— Luke 18:29-30

No – following God now is not something we can only “cash in” in the next world. Jesus promises we can expect abundance of blessing in this world, and in the age to come.

And that’s no “alternate fact”.


* from The Screwtape Letters, ©1942 C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., ©restored 1996 C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd.

In My name …

Yesterday’s post needs a bit more clarification.

I wrote about the authority we’re given in Christ, when we accept Jesus as our Saviour, the Holy Spirit comes upon us, the Father and Jesus are in us and we in Them. But let’s be clear about something:

IT DOES NOT MAKE US GODS

Remember, that was one of the things God has wanted to avoid at all costs.

And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also from the Tree of Life, and eat, and live forever –”  therefore, the Lord God sent him out of the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man and placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

— Genesis 3:23-24

We have this authority, but it is always subject to God’s will. We do not have the ability to create something or affect a situation that goes against what God wants.

Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

— John 14:13

Jesus says that twice more (John 15:16 and John 16:23), so He must have been trying to make a point. I consider that “in My name” means something He would sign His name to, as if it were a check. So when we ask God for something, we need to remember that, if it goes against Scripture, if it doesn’t glorify the Father, Jesus wouldn’t sign His name to it.

That’s an important thing to remember. Is healing the sick supported in Scripture? Of course. We have that authority. Is prosperity in Scripture? That’s a tricky one, because it depends on your heart. If your level of faith depends on whether God grants you prosperity, you can kiss it goodbye before you even see it. If you’re willing to be content with whatever hand God deals you, as the Apostle Paul was, you can anticipate God will come through:

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

— Philippians 4:11-12

During a time of “scraping-by” in my own life, I told God, “I think I’ve got this ‘abased’ thing down-pat now; how about some practical experience in ‘abounding’?” Then I waited on an answer. It was nearly two years before He came through, but He came through with more than I could ever have imagined.

I digress. The main point here is that, in declaring that we have authority in Christ over the things of the world, I’m not for an instant saying we have the power to manipulate things according to our will and expect God to rubber-stamp it. There is a risk that people might interpret it that way — and in fact, there are some teachings that do just that.

Remember: God gave us authority, and He did so in order that we could better the lives of others and effect positive change in this world. He expects us to use it, and He’s given us an instruction manual to ensure that we use it properly.

Applied Christianity – 7: The X-Factor

I may get flamed for this one. I know someone spread a misinterpretation of it some years ago, but it’s still something I believe, and if you can get your head around it, it might give you some extra inspiration.

jesus_healing_the_sick

“These signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast our demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.”

— Mark 16:17-18

The past few Mondays, I’ve been writing about taking the concept of Christianity and putting it into everyday use. It’s like the difference between “pure science” — theoretical mathematics, physics or biology — and applying it in engineering, architecture or medicine. It’s an authority Jesus has given us simply because we believe; it’s something worth exploring in our own time and our own way.

I also believe it’s a responsibility we have: the authority given to us through the Holy Spirit — which is installed in us the instant we say “Yes, Lord” — is the X-Factor that separates living in Christ with any religion in the world.

Now hold onto your hats. Buckle up. Here it comes.

JESUS OF NAZARETH DID NOT DO MIRACLES

In case you haven’t figured it out, that’s the line that got someone really upset some years ago. “Drew says Jesus didn’t do miracles!”

Read the sentence again. Jesus the man didn’t do miracles. Jesus, the Christ, did.

“Christ”, remember, isn’t Jesus’ last name. It’s His title — the Anointed One — and His anointing is the same thing we receive through the Holy Spirit.

Have you noticed that there is no record that Jesus performed miracles before He met with John the Baptist in the river Jordan, was baptized, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him “like a dove”?

That’s why people in His home town had such a hard time believing when He stood up in the synagogue, read from Isaiah 61 and then told them that Scripture was fulfilled in Him. They knew Jesus as “the carpenter’s kid”, because they hadn’t seen the miracles. Those who didn’t know Him before saw the miracles and connected them to Him.

That’s going to be the same thing with you. People who knew you before you came to Christ won’t quite grasp — or believe — what you’re able to do in the power of the Holy Spirit. Don’t let that stop you. They’ll either believe or they won’t: that’s their problem, not yours.

Remember that Mark also records that Jesus’ words about believers came to pass.

And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.

— Mark 16:20

Remember that “the Lord working with them” is key. You dare not promote yourself as a miracle worker: you’re still essentially the same person you were before the Holy Spirit came on you, but now, you have the X-FACTOR.

One more thing. Remember that the Holy Spirit is not bound by international borders, or space and time, as we know it. The majority of us connected by this posting live in the comfort of the First World, more or less untouched by war, poverty, famine, persecution, natural disasters or any of the things afflicting others: so we have a responsibility to put our X-Factor to work, praying and commanding help to those who need it.

It’s a mind-blowing responsibility, but as followers of Jesus, it’s a responsibility we need to embrace.

 

“So the world will know …”

A week ago, I wrote about God telling His prophets ahead of time that the things He would do — both venting His anger and pouring out His blessing — would be “so that they will know that I am The Lord.” Setbacks and disasters, and blessings great and small, have the intent of making us go, “Whoa! He IS The Lord!”

But that’s not the only thing that is supposed to make us recognize Him.

“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me … that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

— John 17:20-23

For much of this week, I’ve been writing about both helping people to see that He is The Lord and about the necessity and benefits of believing. In that quote, Jesus, knowing His time has come, is praying for His disciples — and for us, who believe in Jesus because of the words of the apostles.

Now, let’s jam on that for a moment. Here’s the Son of God, praying for us: is it because we’re great people? No – it’s because (a) we believe in Him and that means He and The Father are in us; and (b) so that the world will know that Jesus is Lord.

Once again, it’s that “so that the world may know …” theme, but this time, it’s not about venting wrath, but about the peace, joy, love and hope that comes from having Christ in us. Because He lives in us, the world should know that He is Lord.

It’s very exciting on a number of fronts. First, we need to remember to walk in a way that reflects the heart of God. That doesn’t mean picking on sins – your own or anybody else’s; instead, it means focusing on Jesus and loving others the way He does, unconditionally, and withstanding the criticism and scorn of those who don’t believe.

Second, we need to remember what it means to have anybody praying for us: it means they are asking God to bring blessing on us to meet our needs. Now, times that by several million, and you get a glimpse of what it means for Jesus to be praying for us. But once again, this blessing isn’t for our glory — it’s not for us to strut around saying, “Look at me: I’m filled with God’s blessing because I believe!” It’s for us to pass around to others, to build others up, to encourage them, so that the world will know that He is The Lord.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

— Matthew 5:16

Hey – no pressure, right?

So that night before He was arrested, tortured and crucified, Jesus prayed for us. He called on God to command blessing on us, to protect and prosper us, so that we could continue to show the world through our words and actions that He is the Lord.

Let that sink in for a moment.

There’s one more thing, and it points to the importance of reading your Bible for yourself. Jesus prays for those who believe because of the word of the disciples. Their word has come to us through the Bible: the Gospels are all written by the disciples; the Book of Acts contains the words and deeds of the Apostles; the epistles expand the field a bit to include Jesus’ half-brother, James and Jude, who may have been one of the eleven surviving Apostles or may have been another of Jesus’ half-brothers; and the Book of Revelation is written by “the disciple Jesus loved”. These are all words that lead us to believe.

There’s a caution here: watch out for people who say they “don’t need Jesus but know God”, or who discourage reading the Bible — thereby preventing you from believing through the words of the Apostles. God gave us His word so we would know, for ourselves, who He is and what He wants of us; so we can have fellowship with Him …

So that we will know that He is The Lord.

Help … for anything

Faith is the key / open the doors and board ’em

There’s room for all, for those who love Him most.

— “People Get Ready”, by Curtis Mayfield

Yesterday, we talked about how believing is the necessary ingredient in the walk with Christ. But simply saying, as Tug McGraw famously did during the 1973 World Series, “You gotta believe!”, can land hollow if somewhere, deep down, you still have reservations.

Remembering this helps a little:

“Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt … if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done.”

— Matthew 21:21

Certainly, “doubt” is the little stink-weed that the enemy planted way back in the Garden of Eden, when the serpent said to Eve, “Did God really tell you not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil?” And that’s what we hear in the back of our minds when we consider Him or anything that He has promised us: “hath God said …?” (to use the King James Version I grew up with).

But here’s something that can help. God has that base covered.

Then one of the crowd answered [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not … So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

— Mark 9:17-18; 21-24

And what happened next? Jesus commanded the demon to come out of the boy and the child was healed.

And that happened not because the father’s mind was suddenly altered, but because he called out to God to alter it for him.

It’s another example of how much God loves us: He promises good things for those who believe — and that signs and wonders will manifest because of that belief — and He also knows us well enough, that He is ready to help us overcome doubt.

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; Your Spirit is good.

Lead me in the land of uprightness

— Psalm 143:10

It’s kinda like mom and dad, helping you with your homework; only you’re not expected to have this answer. We’re expected to believe and walk in faith, but God knows we’re going to have trouble with that part of the assignment, so He promises to give us the answer if we ask.

How’s that for an easy yoke and a light burden?

Belief: a pep talk

… he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

— Hebrews 11:6

30th anniversary of the 1969 "Miracle" Mets

Tug McGraw – the ’73 Mets’ “You gotta believe!” guy

The basic duty of our walk with Christ is to bring others into the fold. It’s not to indulge in self-examination (although there is that element) or to retreat into our personal hermitage so we can shut out the world. It’s to step out and proclaim that, more than money, fame, property, happiness or even Being A Good Person, the main purpose of our lives is to establish and strengthen our relationship with God, help others to do so; and show that Jesus is not a “religion” but is The Way to that relationship.

Whew. You should have seen the long version of that!

Repeatedly, the prophecies God gives Ezekiel, whether it relates to God pouring out blessings or venting His anger — either on His people or their enemies, are capped with the statement, “then they shall know that I am The Lord.” And as I said yesterday, we have to be the ones to communicate that message. How else would people know?

Certainly, the people of Jericho had heard what God was doing for His Chosen Nation, and with the exception of Rahab, they chose to duck and cover, with disastrous results. But at least they accepted that there is a God, even if He wasn’t the one they worshiped.

And that leads to an important nuance: the people of Jericho believed in God. But when God says, “Then they shall know that I am the Lord,” it’s as if He’s saying, “Now do you believe Me?”

It’s easy to say “I believe in God”. Even the most erudite secular humanist may well say, “I believe there is some higher power”, but then go on about “Man is the measure of all things” (Protagoras); but believe God? Something else again.

Which is probably why God went to such lengths to tell His prophets that He would do things so people would know that He is The Lord — and that He will do what He sets out to do, and take note of what He says.

When Jesus tells Martha, after her brother Lazarus had died, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40), it wasn’t a question of whether Martha believed in God. At issue was believing what God says.

“If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

— Mark 9:23

So as someone who accepted Jesus as the Christ, you have a marked advantage, if you’ll pardon the pun, in that all things are possible to you. But it goes further than that.

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

— Mark 16:16-18

Jesus doesn’t say that laundry list of power, authority and protection applies to people who are Really Special or have done anything extraordinary to earn their stripes; but very simply, to people who believe. Do you believe? Then this is all for you.*

And that’s a reality we need with us as we carry out that “basic duty” I mentioned at the top, because these days, a lot of people won’t (or don’t want to) even believe in God, much less believe Him. So our lives have to be a reflection of that reality, and our words and actions have to be the things that tell people what’s really going on, “so they will know that [He] is The Lord.”


*As I read it, the bit about taking up serpents and drinking deadly stuff is more about protection against unfortunate events. Paul was protected when the snake came out of the firewood and bit him, and I’m not about to drink a jug of battery acid and expect I’ll be unharmed: that’s called “tempting the Lord” and is forbidden (Deut. 6:16).