Be the match – part 1: Crucify the shyness!

One of the inescapable truths about being human is that in many cases, we are shy.

I, for example, have a fear of being ridiculed, particularly for the things I say or believe. Why, on earth, then, would God call me to evangelize? Why would He call any of us to spread His word and reach out to others in faith, laying hands on the sick and calling out demons, knowing that some of us have a hard time saying, “Bless you!” when someone sneezes, much less, “Can I tell you about Jesus?”?

And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. …

“As you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”

— Matthew 10:1, 7-8

Do you think any of those twelve were any less shy than you? Some were fishermen, generally content to make their living out in a boat, away from people; and such company as they had were probably very similar in their thinking and attitudes towards life. There was Matthew himself, who as a tax collector, probably didn’t have many close friends. The others probably didn’t venture much outside their own circle — just like us today.

So what makes the difference? For one thing, Jesus gave the disciples “power” — the same power He gives us when we receive the Holy Spirit.

Remember that He gave them commands, the way a general commands his or her troops: preach; heal; cleanse; raise; cast out; give. Those aren’t requests; and a good general doesn’t order troops to do anything if they’re not equipped.

But there’s also this.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

— Galatians 2:20

In context, Paul is disputing with Peter about whether Gentiles should become Jews in order to receive Eternal Salvation in Christ, but on its own, that verse can speak directly to us. While the idea of being “crucified” along with Jesus may appear to refer to really bad stuff like sinful nature, the everyday attitudes that we had also get nailed there. That includes our shyness, our reticence, and our fear of ridicule. There are some positive traits in that — like circumspection and awareness of others’ feelings — but the Holy Spirit — Christ in us — gives us the boldness to “speak the truth in love,” as Paul writes to the Ephesians (4:15).

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you a story about doing just that — and becoming “the match”.

When you see the opening …

In football, one of the talents a running back has to have is the ability to spot a hole in the defence and charging through. That’s often called “running to daylight”.


It was one of a number of thoughts that crossed my mind, listening to K. in church the other day. As I mentioned yesterday, K. is about to leave for Senegal as a missionary. Senegal is over 99% Muslim, and there is a measure of spirit-worship thrown in. She’s not unused to witnessing the Gospel to Muslims: she told us about a technique she calls “storying”. In the cases she told us about, she would relate someone’s name to a Biblical character: with someone named Ibrahim, for example, she’d tell him the story of Abraham; someone named Moussa, she’d tell about Moses.

I imagine you could use the same technique with experiences, and that, along with K.’s reference to spirit-worship, triggered a ten-year-old memory.

It was on the trip to New York City, where the vision for The Lord’s Rain started to flicker into life. Just before I left, there had been prophecy spoken about a journey, so I prayed that God would put me in the places He wanted me to be and put people in my way that I was supposed to meet.

I hadn’t thought about Fatou very much since the trip, but it was hard not to notice her at King Street Station in Seattle. She was black, early 20s, about six feet tall with dyed-blonde hair that hung like ropes. At one of the first mealtimes, I was seated next to her, and realized she didn’t speak much English. I asked her where she was from.

“Senegal,” she replied.

I remembered that Senegal was French-speaking, so I offered to translate for her. And for the three-and-a-half days, traveling between Seattle and New York, I was her interpreter and conversation friend. I learned that she had been staying with an uncle who was in the Army and stationed at Fort Lewis, south of Seattle. She was heading to New York to train as a hairdresser.

I told her I was a pastor. She told me she was a Muslim. Somewhere in Minnesota, she said, “My grandfather is dead. I loved him. When I was leaving Seattle, I prayed to his spirit that he would send me someone to help me on this trip. He sent me you.”

Aha! Run to daylight!

“In fact,” I said, “I prayed to God — through Jesus — that He would put me where He wanted me to be and meet the people He wanted me to meet. And I know He answered my prayer. Your grandfather is dead.  Jesus is alive and He hears our prayers.”

I could tell she wasn’t exactly receptive to the idea — indeed, had I known about the spirit-worship, I might have been a bit less direct in reminding her about her grandfather. I didn’t push the point and left it as a saw-off.


“Un cadeau à toi, parce que tu étais mon ami …”

We continued our chats and when we reached Chicago, where we had to change trains, she led me to a gift shop in Union Station.

“I want to give you something,” she said. I tried to protest, but she said, “I want to give you a present for helping me and being my friend.” She bought the coffee mug — a souvenir of Chicago, with an image of Michael Jordan soaring above the United Center and the John Hancock Building in the background. The mug was a fixture at The Lord’s Rain until it was broken accidentally in 2014.

We bid each other adieu on the platform at Pennsylvania Station and that was the last I saw of Fatou. I hope she’s doing well, and has found that balance between hanging around the familiar — there appears to be a large Senegalese community in NYC — and reaching out to the rest of the world. And more to the point, I hope that someone will come along to water that seed that was planted, about answered prayers and the living Christ.

As I did yesterday, let me close with a brief commercial for K.’s work, as she wades into a land of several million Fatous. Pray for openings for K. to step through, for opportunities to witness and for protection, as the enemy starts to see Jesus for the “threat” that He is in that country.

Also, missionary work requires funding. You can contribute to K.’s work by visiting the C&MA website and clicking on the link to the Global Advance Fund.

Courage to believe (and a commercial)

Please note the “commercial” at the end of this post.


“You don’t believe that stuff, do you?”

How many times have you been asked that, relating to the Bible — especially the Old Testament?

Heaven knows, I’ve been wrong-footed with that question more than once, particularly since it strikes to one of the great phobias I have: the fear of being ridiculed.

What? I’m not alone there?

That’s probably one of the reasons why Jesus reassures us about having faith.

[Thomas said], “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days, His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, “Peace to you!”

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

— John 20:25-29*

For all of us, Jesus is telling us not to let the world require us to prove that what we believe. In many cases, we get challenged on what’s written in Genesis, which stretches credulity. But there are three things we need to keep in mind: one, is that there is no other definitive account of that time — the best people have been able to do is come up with anything-but-God theories; the second, is that what’s written in Genesis can’t be disproven.

And the third thing is that the current state of the world, with its evil, wars, racism, diseases, disasters and environmental trauma, can be traced back to a general disobedience to the things God called us to do in the first five books of the Bible.

Sadly, that’s a point that’s lost on people, because when you try to explain that part of it, you get shut down by the question about whether you really believe that stuff … and you’re back to Square One.

But as I say, Jesus reassures us that believing without seeing brings blessing. That gives us the courage we need to carry on in the face of unbelievers who would scorn us; not “courage” to “defend” our faith and get into a knock-down, drag-out argument with someone over Scripture, but the courage to stand on what “we know that we know that we know” and walk away from the fight.

Sometimes, we may feel like we’re kicking their dust off our feet “as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5), but we have to resist the feeling that “just one more word” will bring them to repentance — there is actually the possibility that persisting could make them even more stubborn, and as Noel Jones says “you could win an argument, but lose a soul.” It’s at that point that you need to believe that you have planted a seed that will, given time and prayer, grow into exactly the witness that other person needs.

And that kind of believing, truly, takes courage.


And now, this message … The courage required to deal with someone questioning faith in a fairly laid-back environment is nothing compared to what’s needed in areas where a lot of people already follow a different faith. A young woman with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA), (known to us only as “K”) leaves this week for Senegal and missionary work there. K. is no stranger to West Africa, having served in Niger prior to this.

I wouldn’t say Senegal is “hostile”, but it does look like a “tough room to work,” in entertainment parlance. The population is 99.45% Muslim, with some animism thrown in. Christian missionaries are relatively free in Senegal, because Christ is not considered a “threat”, but that’s likely to change as these missionaries get established. So first, let’s pray for protection for K. and her fellow missionaries, because their work will, inevitably, become a “threat”; also for “openings” — areas of conversation that can be linked to the Gospel.

Second, missionary work requires funding. You can contribute to K’s work by visiting the C&MA website and clicking on the link to the Global Advance Fund.

*(Poor Thomas. He didn’t come by his handle, “Doubting Thomas”, simply because he didn’t believe the others had seen Jesus risen from the dead. When Jesus determines to go to Judea to see Lazarus, even though it was said people were out to kill Him, it’s Thomas who says, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” (John 11:16) Jesus talks of the disciples’ seeing God glorified through the “death” of Lazarus, but all Thomas can think of is the possibility the Master would be stoned, so they might as well go down beside Him. Thomas was the epitome of the battle between the pragmatic world and the faith-filled person.)


As others see us


The Bard of Ayrshire 1759-1796


The Scottish — and those who wish they were — celebrate Robbie Burns Day this week, and one of his often-quoted stanzas keeps coming back to me:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

— To a Louse (1786)

The entire poem was inspired by watching a head louse run around on the bonnet of a young, apparently well-turned-out lady sitting in front of Burns in church. I tend to think of that passage not in terms of fretting about my own self-image — is my hair OK, am I dressed nice? — but the image I present of Christ.

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

— 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

To begin with, if we are ambassadors, we are like ambassadors of a country, in that when we speak, we don’t speak for ourselves. We speak the “party line”: the official position of our country. We also watch our behaviour, to make sure it doesn’t bring our country into disrepute.

As ambassadors of Christ, then, we don’t speak our mind, but that of Christ; and if that sounds high-falutin’, remember to ask yourself, What Did Jesus Tell Us To Do (WDJTUTD)? Do we gossip? Do we connive against others, whether they’re brothers or sisters in Christ or no? Do we focus on the things we hate in the world — even if they’re things God has said He hates?

Does our behaviour tend to exclude “the lost” and push away the very people we’re supposed to reach?

Do we send a message that points out other people’s failings and unsuitability to be part of God’s kingdom, while we, ourselves, are? Or do we deliver the “word of reconciliation” that Paul says God has committed to us?

Interestingly, the world seems to have a clearer idea of what a Christian is supposed to be, do or say than many Christians do. Whether we like it or not, we’re held to a different standard and the world is constantly daring us to live up to it.

Let’s take that dare: let’s do what we can to make sure that when people look at us, they don’t say, “some Christian he is!”, and rather say, “now, that’s a Christian!”

Let’s ask God to give us that power to see ourselves as others see us, and to correct that image, as and when necessary.

Motive, opportunity and means

When you hear about a criminal investigation, you often hear about the three key elements: motive — the whyopportunity — the when or where; and means — the howIf you can put those three together on one person, you’ve got your prime suspect.

I’m writing this yesterday — Wednesday the 24th — and the USA is processing another shooting at a school: two children killed in Benton, Kentucky; 18 wounded; suspect in custody. According to the New York Timesit’s the 11th school shooting of this calendar year. Pray to God there won’t be an even dozen before this is published.

And as usual, the old debate will re-surface on gun control. Basically, gun-control advocates will demand we take away the means. People on the other side will talk about taking away the opportunity, with armed security, pistol-packin’ teachers, weapons searches.

Any discussion of the motive will come after the fact. Police managed to arrest the child who did the shooting, and maybe we’ll get learn some lessons, but it will be too late for the children who died, plus the ones who were wounded or traumatized, and their loved ones.

But it’s the motive that needs to be addressed. And I would make book that the underlying motive, at the root of all the other things that may come out in the questioning and psychoanalysis, is depression and a sense of hopelessness in life.

In a Battle of the Hashtags, #BlackLivesMatter faces off against #AllLivesMatter; but the truth is, #YourLifeMatters.

Why? Because God says it does. Because He put His Son through the torture, agony and death on the Cross to restore our souls to Him.

But where is that taught, these days? Rather, kids are told that not only do they have a right to not believe in God, they have a right to be shielded from that Truth. The world tells them that any moral paradigm is fluid, based on what “works for me”. If others don’t see it that way, that’s their problem.

On top of that, there’s the other God-denying message, that all that we see came about by accident and that human beings aren’t all that special. What’s more, without God in the picture, the message is clear: We are as good as it gets in our intelligence and physical strength, and if you don’t measure up to others, well, sucks to be you.

Where is the hope in that? Where is the sense of Eternity, the sense that there is something more than what we see around us? Where is the comfort of knowing that we have a Saviour to turn to who can help us overcome what we are?

Take that hope away from people — or keep them from hearing it in the first place — and what’s the use of living for anything but the moment?

I sought the Lord and He heard me, / And delivered me from all my fears.

They looked to Him and were radiant, / And their faces were not ashamed.

The poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, / And saved him out of all his troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, / And delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; / Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!


Many are the afflictions of the righteous, / But the Lord delivers him out of them all.

— Psalm 34:2-8, 19

As it is, this Psalm addresses both Eternity and the moment: God’s everlasting love and protection of His children and the fact that when we trust in Him, He pulls us through — every time (there’s my favorite word in the Bible: “all” — “the Lord delivers him out of them all”).

I don’t know the kid’s background, but if he did have a “church upbringing”, was the Bible used to “keep him in line”, focused more on the “don’ts” than the “thou shalts” — a Manifesto of Self-Righteousness? Or was the Bible shown as a source of Hope beyond the world?

It’s the latter — it really is!. Tell that to someone — anyone, especially children. Buck the trend and the “social norm”! Then, regardless of the opportunity or means, the motive will not be there.

Speak up! Waaaay up!

Is there something hanging heavy on your mind?

Is it a sin that you are trying to hold in, an incident, a mistake, the memory of which you are trying to suppress?

James writes that we should confess our faults to one another and pray for each other so we can be healed (James 5:16), and I do believe that is the best solution. But it appears that’s not a hard-and-fast rule for release from the burden. According to David, God is there to hear us when we can’t confide in anybody else.

When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.


I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.


— Psalm 32:3-5

Holding a bad scene inside you can make you sick, tear you apart physically and emotionally. You get irritable, and answer loved ones in ways you shouldn’t. You can’t concentrate. Your mind wanders to the scene, playing it over and over again in your head, trying to come up with other ways of ending the scene or going back to the point where things went wrong and taking a different “next step”.

But you know that it’s impossible to change the past. And that makes the burden even heavier.

And part of our human nature is, we don’t want to tell someone else about our trouble. That’s where the devil has us cornered: of the many fears in our lives, one is the fear of hearing ourselves speak about our iniquities out loud; another is the fear of someone else finding out.

So while taking turns confessing your faults is an ideal solution, David’s experience is that you can still call out to God and confess to Him.

Indeed, we have an advantage on David: he didn’t have Jesus, our High Priest who’s experienced what we’ve experienced (Hebrews 4:15) and is our Mediator with the Lord. And as we call out to Him and confess the things we’ve done wrong, I believe four key things happen. First, we beat back the devil, who would love to have us keep our sins and transgressions bottled up inside us so that our “bones [grow] old”. Second, we overcome our fear of hearing our voice say the words. Third, that act releases us from the burden. We acknowledge that Jesus has taken it to the Cross with Him and that He has redeemed us.

And fourth, we shift our focus from ourselves and our misdeeds and onto God, His glory and mercy. And when we do that, we allow God to get through to us, and get us asking if we need to apologize to someone, or to make things right with the person we’ve wronged; or He may give us the grace to drop the matter and move forward, knowing that He will heal whomever has been harmed.

In any event, we are set free from a prison of our own making — not by us, but by Jesus. And it all begins by opening your mouth.

One finger pointing …

You’ve probably heard this one before:

“When you point a finger at someone, there’s three fingers pointing back at you.”

I don’t know who coined it, and they’re welcome to it; but when we look at “sin” and “speaking truth” — as we were yesterday — it’s something to keep in mind.

Jesus puts it this way:

“Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

— Matthew 7:1-2

Suppose you find something to criticize in someone else. Take a step back: aside from asking yourself the usual question about how you came to be their judge, consider this. Is not the fault you’ve found in someone else something you, yourself, have struggled with?

Sexual sin? Wouldn’t I do the same thing, given the opportunity?

Stealing? What if I were in the same circumstance?

Self-righteousness? Sure – like, I’ve never tried to make myself superior to someone on religious grounds!

Greed? Greed is basically an obsession with money, which transcends whether you actually have it or don’t. 

(Many years ago, Mad Magazine — one of the staples of my cultural upbringing — did a satire on the “All in the Family” TV series, and “Meek” (Mike) tells “Starchie Bunkerhill” (Archie Bunker), “As a liberal, Starch, you make me nervous … because deep-down, I agree with you!”)

Think about it. The faults we find in others are often faults we see in ourselves. We either don’t realize it at the time — or we’re about to find out how guilty we are of the same thing.

(I noted in a recent sermon that Peter, standing up before the Jewish leaders at Pentecost, levelled the accusation that they killed the Messiah. He pointed the finger at them. Which means there were three fingers pointing back at him. Quickly, now: how many times did Peter deny Jesus on the night He was crucified? Anybody … anybody???)

So observing and even pointing out someone else’s sin may be “honest” and “true”, but is it edifying? Is that the “truth” that sets them free? If it were, then everyone accused by the religious leaders of their sins would have been liberated long before Jesus came to Earth and He wouldn’t have had to die on the Cross on our behalf.

But it wasn’t. And He did. And we are set free. And “speaking the truth” means witnessing that fact to others — and, as much as possible, without pointing out their sin.

Truth – beyond Calvary


“I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

— John 18:37:38

Good question, and I’ve said before that the irony is, Pilate was looking The Truth in the face when he asked it. Indeed, when we get confused about something — anything — our confusion boils down to that same question; and the answer boils down to the same thing.

We get confused: we ask, “What is truth?” and the response has to be, to turn to Jesus, because He is The Way, The Truth and The Life.

But when we purport to speak the truth, we can get hung up in worldly thinking. How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m just being honest!“, after making some devastating remark. What they’ve said may be true, but is it the truth?

See, often, we’ll consider pointing out sin as being “speaking the truth”. True, the Bible has explicit information on what offends God and what doesn’t. It also explicitly tells us that sin is part of our nature as human beings. But it also explicitly tells us that there is a Way to overcome that nature and, in fact, become different beings from the naturally sinful ones we were created. That Way is Jesus.

In other words, “speaking the truth” should mean, “speaking Jesus”.

And that becomes a challenge for followers of Jesus, because “speaking Jesus” means loving the unlovely, forcing ourselves to step out of our “comfort zone” and resisting the temptation to point out someone else’s faults while focusing on simply loving our enemies, feeding the poor, clothing the naked and putting everyone else’s interests ahead of our own.

Pointing out sin is easy and soul-satisfying. It makes us feel superior. Jesus calls us to make ourselves inferior, and let the Holy Spirit do the talking.

It’s the truth that sets us free, and being reminded of our sin just keeps us in chains, looking inward and backward, when Jesus calls us to look forward and out, towards others.

As followers of Jesus, we have to look beyond the Cross. Sinful nature may have been “truth” up till Jesus’ arrival, but once He was crucified and resurrected, the paradigm shifted. “Truth” took on a completely different meaning, and when we grasp that, when we take “truth” beyond Calvary, we become, truly, Jesus Followers.

“You’re a WHAT?”

The scene was the backyard of a rooming house I lived in back in 2005.

I won’t say my room was small, but the mice had hunch-backs.

Actually, my room was so small, I had to step outside to change my mind.

OK … we’ll keep it moving.

The other tenants and I are having a little backyard party: beers, chips and a small bonfire. The conversation is light and easy and very friendly. At one point, we start talking about homelessness and street people, so I drop in the personal factoid that I pastor at a mission on the Downtown East Side.

A girl sitting next to me blurts out, “I didn’t know you were a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) pastor!”

I wonder: is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Does “I didn’t know you were a pastor” mean that I didn’t live down to the expectation of someone who was judgmental, holier-than-thou and generally a pain in the neck to be with?

Does it mean, “You’re so comfortable to talk to! I really feel at ease around you.”?

Or does it mean, “Wow … you’re drinking too much, insulting the host and hitting on every female here! I never would have accused you of being a Christian – much less a pastor!”?

In many ways, we want to be stealth fighters for Jesus. As Paul puts it:

… to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward od, but under law toward Christ) that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak.

I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

— 1 Corinthians 9:20-22

In other words, we don’t want to go around cloaked in some show of righteousness, as if we were constantly wearing a sign around our necks saying “CHRISTIAN – LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT IT”. Rather, we need to relate to others as much as possible, and as the time ripens and the Holy Spirit leads, we can gently help relate them to the Gospel.

Sometimes, the process begins by hanging with people being part of them — only with a difference: the sort of difference that leads them to say, either aloud or to themselves, “Something’s different about that person!”, and want to find out why. A friend of mine who worked with me on the Downtown East Side is a great example – he’s brought many people into the church as a result, and those who haven’t come to the church (yet!), call him “friend”.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

— John 13:34-35

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.

— 1 John 5:2

If we stick to those verses and internalize them, eventually, our faith and way of living will manifest outwardly. By then, people around us will have guessed, anyway.

I’d love it if someone came up to me and asked what was “different” about me. Maybe one day. In the mean time, “I didn’t know you were a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) pastor!” will have to do — and I’ll assume she meant it in the good ways.

R.I.P. – the old man (woman)

I finished yesterday’s post with a confident and somewhat in-your-face declaration to the enemy, to wit: “Sorry, mate: the person you’re looking for doesn’t live here anymore.”

That is actually incorrect.

The person the enemy is trying to rouse doesn’t live.


He (we’ll say “he” for the sake of convenience: “or she” is implied) died on the Cross with Jesus. Having written about how the amount of Grace God extends to us, based on the sin we were living in, the Apostle Paul writes about our having died to sin:

Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

— Romans 6:3-6

Let’s boil that down:

  1. When we said “Yes, Lord – thank You, Jesus!”, we were baptized into Jesus’ death
  2. As Jesus is resurrected, so are we, but not as new versions of the old self, as completely new beings
  3. We are no longer slaves of sin

And of course, the world — i.e satan — has no desire for us to grasp that, as that takes away the main weapons he has against us, shame, regret, guilt, and especially fear. That’s why, say, the criminal with the jailhouse conversion is viewed with suspicion: is he really changed, or just trying to get time off for good behaviour?

Only God knows for sure in each instance, but what we can be certain of is that it’s possible; it happens. And even if the crook doesn’t get out on the basis of his professed new faith, he’s still set free. It’s the same thing with anyone else who’s been caught in some kind of sin, be it stealing repeatedly, sexual sin, lying for their own benefit, and then repents: the world would say, “Sure you are!”.

That’s when we have to remember that when we are in Christ, yes, we are no longer the person that did those evil things. Others — even our own loved ones — will have a hard time believing it and won’t miss a single opportunity to remind us of the person who used to inhabit our earthly body. So it’s up to us, every so often, to remember that we nailed that old person to the Cross when we accepted Jesus, and that he (or she) is just as dead as Jesus was when they took Him down from the Cross.

And our new person is just as alive as Jesus is after stepping out of the tomb.

Lord, give us eyes to see that new person when we look in the mirror!