Hallowe’en — and the “bad eye”

Hallowe’en is supposed to be a fun time. It certainly was when I was growing up: a time for children to doll up in costumes and collect candy (and, before some morons got involved, caramel apples, which were my favourite). I can’t remember how many years I went as a clown, because we still had the costume; I went to a party as Barney Rubble another year, and there was the time, during my Australmaniac phase, that I went as a duck-billed platypus, with a “bill” cut out from shirt cardboard and a sign around my neck, saying, “I AM A DUCK-BILLED PLATYPUS”.

At age 12, I made my last Hallowe’en sortie, joining with a couple of friends as a singing trio. I put on a long wig and carried a ukulele and warbled “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” a-la Tiny Tim. The candy we collected went to another friend who had landed in hospital with a hemophilia-related injury.

My kids have gone as a princess, Robin Hood, an angel, and one year, as an oversized leprechaun.

One character that none of us has portrayed is a “dark side” entity. No monsters, zombies, vampires and certainly no witches.

Because there are some things you don’t play around with — witchcraft, in particular.

I’ll cut the chase and get right to the point. Some years ago, I got an up-close-and-personal view of witchcraft. If it were simply weird incantations, lighting candles in a strange pattern and dancing around a cauldron like the wyrd sisters in Macbeth, it would be easy to walk away. But what I experienced was much more subtle. The practitioner exploited my weaknesses and led me to do things I should not have done* — all the while, making it appear that this was a work of God, and denying there was any evil involved.

That’s the enemy’s most effective weapon, by the way: denial. The biggest danger comes not from people who walk around with an pentangle tattooed on their arm or an inverted cross for earrings, but the ones who say they don’t worship Satan because they don’t believe in him. Those are the ones to give a wide berth.

Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me!
We are for signs and wonders in Israel
From the LORD of hosts,
Who dwells in Mount Zion.

And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

— Isaiah 8:18-20

The experience with the witch came at the same time as my turning to — running to — Jesus. That was no coincidence. Any time someone makes a commitment to Christ, the enemy is right there at their elbow, coming up with ways to keep them away (read the first couple of chapters of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and you’ll see what I’m getting at). I shudder to think of how close it came to working. But the thing to remember is that the Holy Spirit is stronger than anything, and He was still able to get through to me and convince me to walk away.

But I also learned something else about witchcraft: it isn’t just for avowed witches. Not long after the experience, I noticed some professing Christians were using prayer in Jesus’ Name to do the same thing: manipulate people and change their behaviour.

You may have heard this kind of prayer: “O Lord, please make Susan do XYZ!” “O Lord, please call on Bob to help me with the move!”

In the latter one, Bob was actually in the prayer circle at the time.

I don’t know if Bob was duly motivated, but the fact remains that using prayer to force someone to do your will is just as much witchcraft as anything done by an actual witch. It reduces prayer to an incantation and — worse — it carries a religious overtone, that a person is being “convicted by God” to do something that was not their free will.

Contrary to Frank Baum’s depictions (The Wizard of Oz), there are no “good witches” and “bad witches”: witchcraft, wizardry and generally messing about with the supernatural are verboten in the Word of God. Don’t even bother trying to argue — just walk.

Isaiah writes that “there is no light in them”. Jesus says,

The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

— Matthew 6:22-23

One more thing: I said earlier that the Holy Spirit is stronger than anything. Let that strength protect you long enough to recognize the evil and turn towards Him. Don’t try to be a hero and beat the devil. It’s already been done.


 

*This is not to make a lame excuse like, “The devil made me do it!”, as though that would excuse me. I chose to let myself be vulnerable.

The common factor in The Great Divide

One of the social phenomena we’ve seen in the past few years has been the rise of populists in power. Populists have always been around, but lately, they’ve managed to be democratically elected in greater numbers and have a greater sway over policy decisions. As leaders, they are, as one of my high school teachers was fond of saying, “People who look for where the crowd is going and then run like mad to get to the front.”

You may think I’m talking about Donald Trump, but he’s just one: the architects of the Brexit campaign in the UK played on a popular sentiment, and this past week, Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, was outed as a populist by the Prime Minister of Netherlands — although the Dutch PM said he and Justin were “the right kind of populist”.

That, actually, is a key to the division in society that’s accompanied the rise in populism: the “right” kind of populist versus the “wrong” kind. The one who agrees with your way of thinking versus the one who doesn’t. Good versus bad. Good versus deplorable.

As the division gets deeper, it’s intriguing to note that there is a common factor among the two (or more) populist movements: self.

Whether the topic is identity, gun ownership, freedom of speech, legalizing marijuana, immigration or anything else on the laundry list of issues dividing society, the basis for the argument — whether stated overtly or not — is what-works-for-me-and-if-you-don’t-like-it-sucks-to-be-you.

However, that is not how Jesus Christ looks at the world — nor is it the way He calls us to look at it.

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 14:34-35

Love one another in the same way that Jesus loves us: without regard for self, and not judging anyone for anything.

When He gives the parable of the Good Samaritan, He points out the Samaritan — the outcast, the one you might think was least likely to be “good” — “out-neighbored” the religious folks by stepping in and helping the injured man even beyond his personal ability to do so. The Samaritan put “self” aside, because someone else was in need.

Do you realize how focusing on self denies God? Any of those issues I mentioned above come about because we don’t trust God to provide the things we need, like protection, freedom, transcendent joy, and especially identity (is there any greater identity than being a child of God?).

That, in effect, is one reason why the various interests seem so entrenched and intractable: the more we retreat into our silos of self, the more we feel isolated and start to believe that those in other silos are not just people who disagree, but are our enemies.

It’s not a matter of trying to convince others that our position is right and just. Really, it’s not even a matter of having a conversation. When we approach others, whether we agree with them or not, from a position of love — as Jesus loves us — and focus on God, then satisfying our own interests become not only unimportant, but unavoidable.

And from there, that chasm in this Great Divide, vanishes right before our eyes.

The Great “Heads Up” (re-stated)

(The events of the past few weeks — in particular the massive hurricanes, continued civil wars that primarily kill and brutalize non-combatants, and the attempted mail-bombings in the US — have brought into stark clarity the reality of the times we’re living in. I thought I’d re-visit a piece from this past April: the events I cited at the time may be long-forgotten by many of us, but the principle remains the same.)

It’s been a while since I subscribed to Sports Illustrated, so I don’t know if they still do this; but when I did, they had a section called “Scorecard”. It was a collection of sports news clips, which usually ended with one headlined “This Week’s Sign That the Apocalypse is Upon Us”. That would be what newscasters would call a “kicker” – a humorous bit, usually about something that would make you slap your forehead or chuckle sardonically at what fools these mortals be.

The signs continue to build around us these days, and as it is with so many sources of humor these days, the signs aren’t funny anymore. Consider:

  • A man drives a van down a crowded sidewalk in Toronto Monday afternoon, killing nine people and injuring 16, then dares police to shoot him.
  • A guy walks into a Waffle House in Nashville and opens fire with an assault rifle, killing four people and wounding seven before an unarmed man wrests the gun away from him as he’s reloading. Shooter was arrested Monday afternoon, after being on the run for nearly a day and a half.
  • Two sheriff’s deputies were shot dead over the weekend in a restaurant in Florida.

Look at all the school shootings this year, and when anyone tries to discuss what to do about gun violence, things invariably degenerate into a shouting match over gun control, while the victims – the dead and those living on – are ignored.

And it’s more than just guns:

  • A man was charged over the weekend with extortion, after people who were rescued from devastating floods and storm damage on the island of Kaua’i in Hawai’i were charged a fee: apparently, they weren’t told about the fee until the boat they were in was 200 yards offshore.
  • Chemical weapons have been used on civilians in Syria. At least one commentator claims the reporting on the attacks has blown them out of proportion to support some “narrative”; again, the victims are ignored or even denied.
  • Some European countries are reportedly hiring outside “contractors” to stop refugees at sea and turn them back. This appears to be treated in the media as a “good thing”.
  • Anti-immigrant sentiment around the world is not letting up.

What does this have to do with “Two Minutes for Cross-Checking!”?

Because these are the signs that the Apocalypse is near.

Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

— Matthew 24:11-12

Look at how the “love of many” is absent in so many ways. Gun violence is not about guns so much as about Love growing ice-cold. The lack of love is the root both in the violent incident and in the perpetrator him- or herself, in their backgrounds and the way others treated them.

Jesus “called it”. He told us we’d see days like these.

Peter called it, too:

… your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

— 1 Peter 5:8

We need to see this for what it is: Satan, on the move, looking for anyone and everyone he can bring down with him. He knows his time is short – he knows it better than we do, that’s for sure: he doesn’t care about gun control advocates or about preserving the Second Amendment; he doesn’t care about the safety of refugees or the security of the countries they’re trying to escape to; he doesn’t care about the victims of chemical weapons or about those who deploy them. All he wants is to keep people at one another’s throats so they’re so concerned about their personal interests that they don’t prepare for what comes next, which is …

Jesus’ Return.

As followers of Jesus and believers in the Bible, we have a distinct advantage: we’ve read the Book, and we know what comes next and what we’re expected to do about it.

Others don’t know that, so it’s up to us to point them towards Jesus Christ and help them to “endure to the end” (Matthew 24:13).

All of you be submissive to one another and be clothed with humility, for

God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34)

Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

Resist him, steadfast n the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.

— 1 Peter 5:5-9

We have our heads-up; we have our marching orders; and we have one another. We know what to do: let’s do it.

The R-word

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

— Matthew 5:6

It there is any word that has tripped me up on my walk with Christ, it’s been that one: Righteousness.

“Righteousness” tends to have a very religious connotation — like being “perfect” or “sinless”. That can be scary for a new Christian — or for anyone trying to follow Jesus. But that’s not what the word means.

I’ve heard it described as walking right in the sight of God: treasuring integrity, honesty, steadfastness, boldness, and yet humility.

So you live on those terms, without trying to push yourself to the forefront (said the guy who writes a blog).

There is another way of defining “righteousness”, which is along the same lines but is a lot simpler.

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God.

— James 2:23

Abraham believed God.

He didn’t just believe in God: he believed Him. Anyone can say they believe in God — “Yeah, I believe there’s a higher power ….” — but that doesn’t mean they believe what He says or believe that He even talks to people. But Abraham listened, believed and did: and that defined his righteousness.

In other words, if you believe God — believe His Word, listen to Him, act on what you hear and can discern His voice — you are righteous.

And I don’t mean self-righteous. That’s wearing your religiosity on your sleeve, showing off your faith either by what you hate (because God condemns it) or by drawing attention to your holiness.

Righteousness is kind of a big deal. Of all the things Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes, righteousness is the one thing He mentions twice.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

— Matthew 5:10

He also says that the kingdom of Heaven goes to the “poor in spirit” — those who not only hunger and thirst for righteousness, but are persecuted because of that desire. It makes sense: that desire is not the world’s desire.

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith ….

— Philippians 3:8-9

So this righteousness is nothing that we can concoct ourselves, anyway, but is gained through faith — i.e. by believing God. And that’s pretty simple.

It’s just not easy, given all the stuff that’s going on in the world these days, which can make you feel persecuted just because you’re breathing. The “worldly” part of you wants to lash out and condemn everyone — the “Christ in you” knows that that’s not Jesus’ way, and that the only way to confront it is with our spiritual weapons. But you still feel persecuted, which leads to this bit of encouragement.

If you’re not taking flak, you’re not over the target.

So believe God, walk the way He wants you to walk; lead others by example and love. That’s righteousness.

It’s all about the journey

First of all, I apologize for using the word “journey” — a word that is currently on my list of “Must Be Retired From The Language Due To Overuse” (others on the list include identify, story and any derivatives of icon or athletic) — but it’s fitting in this case.

Living with Jesus in our lives has been described as a “walk” or running a race: a constant state of motion with Him by our side and a goal in our sights. But here’s the intriguing thing about it: we never reach that goal – not in our life on this earth.

And that’s as it should be.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

For they shall be filled.

— Matthew 5:6

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

— Matthew 6:33

It’s not about having righteousness. It’s about hungering for it. If we think we’re righteous, then we stop looking up towards God, and start looking backwards on our old life and down on those poor saps who haven’t found it yet. We high-five the mirror because we figure we’ve “found it”.

And amazingly, once we start to do that, our true righteousness drains out. It’s only when we keep hungering and thirsting for it — when we know that we don’t have it all — that we keep getting filled from that never-ending stream.

We have to keep seeking the kingdom of God, and when we do that, the things in life will not only be provided for us, but added. 

And again, if anyone says they have attained the Kingdom of God, they’re (a) lying or (b) delusional or (c) dead.

And that’s what makes being with Jesus such a thing to cherish and tell others about. We’re constantly moving forward, going through changes knowing that God is all about change and when circumstances change, we keep seeking Him to see what He’s up to.

A real test of “political will”

‘Tis local election time in British Columbia, with people heading for the polls to elect councils and regional district boards. In Vancouver, a group of candidates for City Council has promised to end homelessness within one year. If they were to do that, they would accomplish something the outgoing mayor was unable to pull off in three terms: he was initially elected in 2008 on a promise to end homelessness by 2015.

The outgoing mayor’s promise was modified as 2015 drew nearer, when he started talking about succeeding at ending street homelessness (i.e. having more shelter beds so that people weren’t sleeping on the street), and I doubt that this new political promise will happen, either, because both are missing a key ingredient.

God.

Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the LORD guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.

— Psalm 127:1

Neither group is noted as being Christian or in any way God-fearing, and certainly neither plan involved prayer or even saying “With God’s help, we can do this.”

With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God, all things are possible.

— Mark 10:27

Funding is an issue; so is “political will”, that lovely double-dog-dare from one politician to another (or from an outsider to the people in authority). But look at the Missions and small churches that are moving forward in places like Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, in spite of the worldly challenges. Look at The Lord’s Rain, how it was built and continues to operate because its foundation was not in physical resources, but in the knowledge that God had ordained it, and was going to carry it through.

One important thing we learned, though, was just because (a) God ordained something and (b) we have faith in God, doesn’t mean that (c) God will bless whatever approach we take. Case in point: for The Lord’s Rain, we were convinced that a particular Christian businessman would leap at the chance to underwrite the whole thing. He turned us down flat. It became evident in the months to come, that God wanted us to rely on Him every step of the way, and that funding was going to come from a variety of sources, all motivated by Him to get involved. The success of the project was more than anything we could have imagined.

Who knows if that would have been the case if we’d done it “our way”? Or had given up, once that businessman gave us the air?

What if … ???

What if a politician started turning to God — even during the campaign — in building a platform?

I don’t mean simply invoking His name, but genuinely asking the Lord what to do in a given situation and going quiet, in order to listen for direction.

Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

— Psalm 46:10

What if … ???

Remember: faith without works is dead; and the converse is true — works that are not grounded in faith will be nowhere near as effective.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the resulting action will be exactly what is needed. They’ll require patience — and “political will”.

Foundation of rock — foundation of sand

We often hear talk about the “decline of the church” and concerns about decreasing attendance. The default position is either to point at the church being “out of step with the times” or at the “general secularization of society” — “kicking God out of the classrooms”, and so forth.

But perhaps the responsibility lies closer to home.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

— Matthew 7:24-27

Take a hard, open-minded look at what churches are teaching. What are their doctrines? What are their statements of principles — and do their words square with those statements?

When Jesus Christ said that about the foundations of houses, He was wrapping up the Sermon on the Mount, having astounded the people listening to Him because of His authoritative manner. He also astounded them because His “sayings” went against the grain of conventional thinking — the natural, human way of looking at the world and acting.

He reminded people that judging others is God’s job — not ours. At the same time, He warned us that unless we repent and turn to God, we’ll be in danger of perishing eternally. And He gave a special warning to those who cause any “little ones” to sin — they’ll be more comfortable at the bottom of the ocean with a millstone around their necks.

So it’s worth considering: is a church so sin-focused that no one seems “good enough” for Jesus? Or does it prize “inclusiveness” to the extent that it denies that things clearly defined as “sin” in the Bible are not really (thereby denying them the opportunity to receive Jesus’ salvation)? Does it follow doctrine based on someone’s opinion, with limited, if any, Scriptural support?

Or does it base its principles and doctrines on Jesus’s sayings? Is the foundation on sand, or on rock?

At the risk of being a broken record, that’s another really good reason to read your Bible: you’ll know what a foundation of rock looks like.

The Great “Condition”

When a lawyer asks Jesus what the greatest commandment of all is, He responds,

Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’

“This is the first commandment.

And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

— Mark 12:29-31

When the Rich Young Ruler asks Him what he lacks, after following the Commandments all his life, Jesus tells him, “Sell what you have and give to the poor and you shall have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me.” We could call that the Great Attitude Adjustment.

But there is also The Great “Condition”.

While God’s love for us is unconditional, there is something that Jesus keeps pointing to throughout His ministry, almost as a condition for our salvation. After He has taught us the Lord’s Prayer, His first and only commentary on it is,

“For if you forgive men their trespaasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

— Matthew 6:14-15

And then He goes on to a completely different topic — about giving the appearance of righteousness versus actually being righteous — and leaves us humans to parse the rest of the prayer.

But Jesus wants us to understand that forgiving is key to breaking out into the new, more abundant life He promises.

The idea that we humans should forgive other humans was a new concept in Jesus’ time. In the Old Testament, we read that people were constantly asking God to forgive them or forgive the people. In fact, when Abigail asks David to forgive her (1 Samuel 25:28), that’s the only time I can find, where one person asks another to forgive them (and it’s not recorded that David said, “I forgive you”.)

But Jesus comes along with this radical teaching called the Beatitudes and the idea of God as Father, then tops it off with the “template” for praying to God. Then He pushes the idea that our being forgiven by God depends on our forgiving others first.

Wow.

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”

— Matthew 18:21-22

He draws a parallel between forgiveness of sins and physical health.

Forgiveness acknowledges that we can all slip up. It acknowledges that we might very well do the same thing, given the same set of circumstances. When we consider forgiveness, we realize that we’re not just forgiving someone for something they’ve done to us, but for the unpardonable crime of being human.

Ultimately, forgiving others sets us free.

Unforgiving holds us captive like nothing else. Carrying a grudge weighs us down and makes us revisit past wrongs and allow our anger and hurt to seethe inside us — long after whoever we need to forgive has forgotten whatever they had done (assuming they know how they hurt us). As with all of the Commandments, the idea of forgiving runs totally counter to our natural response to situations, and God calls us to a higher level of understanding than fight-or-flight.

After all, Jesus set the gold standard for forgiveness at Calvary: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” With that, He set Himself free — and set us free at the same time.

The Partnership – and the tough conversation

“People prayed for me to be healed. Why am I still sick?”

“Well, having faith might work for some people, I suppose, but …”

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I find it really hard to witness to non-believers about the way God has come through in my life. There are two reasons for this (probably more, but these are the ones I can think of, off the top of my head). One is that it can sound like I’m somehow “special” — living on a plane of existence higher than the next person because I’m plugged into God. The other is that it implies that someone else is somehow “deficient in the faith department”.

See, I believe that if we pray for someone whose faith is uncertain, we can “stand in the gap” and use the level of our own faith to “top up” the other’s faith. Think of the fellows who carried their paralyzed mate to Jesus’ house and broke through the roof because they couldn’t get past the throng. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that, when Jesus saw their faith, He declared the man’s sins were forgiven and he picked up his bed and walked out of the house. None of the gospel writers tells us how much faith the sick man had, but that his friends had faith in Jesus that pushed them to break through the roof.

But faith has been likened — not unreasonably — to a passing combination in football. You could have a perfectly-thrown spiral, threading the needle in the defence, right on the receiver’s numbers, but if the receiver is looking the other way, running the wrong route or suddenly develops steel hands, you have an incomplete pass.

It’s similar with faith. We are in a “partnership” with God, which involves a responsibility to “get in position” to receive healing.

And that’s what makes for the tough conversation. It’s very hard to say to someone who’s sick or in incredible pain, that they have a responsibility to believe; that maybe if they increased their level of faith in God, things might go better for them. In some ways, it’s like telling a person who has emphysema or lung cancer, “You shouldn’t have been smoking.”

Except that “I-told-you-so” assessment is retrospective, while Jesus Christ can step in and heal us at any time. It’s possible to continue increasing our faith level after the fact: faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Our faith grows and builds in us as we read God’s word and spend time praying.

And the beauty of it is, whenever we have trouble building our faith, whenever we run into doubt, we can turn to God to help us through that, too.

Then one of the crowd answered 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.”

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

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!”

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!

Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.”

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

— Mark 9:17-27

The father’s declaration of faith was the “trigger” that “activated” the healing, but it was coupled with an admission that he needed God’s help in believing.

God is standing by, ready to help us in all things, including our own lack of faith. 

Yes – it’s tough to tell someone they “need more faith”. It means downplaying their lack and witnessing how God has pulled you through when you’ve put your trust in Him, while emphasizing the point that this was not because you did anything the other person cannot do.

God doesn’t want anyone to get away, and if it means instilling in us a sufficient level of faith to see healing, He’ll do that.

Need healing in your life, or solutions or wisdom? Have trouble believing that God will provide what you need? You can start by asking Him to help you believe. It doesn’t take anything more special than being a child of God; which, by the way, we all are.

Prayer – the “Do Anything” option

In my previous post about the latest Doomspeak regarding climate change, I mentioned prayer as one of the key ingredients of any response.

One could almost hear the eyes rolling. “Sure! Don’t do anything – just call on God! That’ll really work!”

Prayer is not a do-nothing option.

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

— James 5:16

(In my book, “righteous” doesn’t mean perfect and 100% upstanding. It is written that Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”. Believe what God says, believe His word, believe that His promise will materialize, and that is the definition of righteousness.)

Effective prayer means believing that turning to God will bring positive change. Fervent prayer means never letting up.

Prayer means this:

  • believing that God is there and listening
  • accepting that, as mortal humans, we don’t have all (or even any of) the answers
  • listening for God’s response: not just filling up “air time” with our own words and supplications and religious talk, but going quiet and listening to what He has to say
  • acting on whatever instructions you receive.

You’ll know God is talking to you, because it will square with Scripture and will generally mean doing something that benefits someone else more than ourselves. It probably won’t make sense to us at the time or have any chance of success that we can see, but then, neither did God’s command to Moses to plunk his staff into the Red Sea.

“Turn to Me, and I will heal the land.” Simple, which is why it goes against human pride: people want to be seen as heroes, the ones who come up with the solution to a problem, whether it’s a brilliant invention or a Unified Theory of Everything. Pray to God? Don’t be daft.

But ask yourself: has that been tried?

Ask yourself this, in the context of climate change and other environmental destruction: could it possibly be any less effective than the seemingly endless series of conventions, accords, treaties and commitments that have been signed, celebrated and broken?

In our own day-to-day lives, though, look at the number of issues we have, that we are horribly unable to solve ourselves. No matter how hard we try, how much we think, we sometimes wind up in worse shape than before, or we resign ourselves that we will always be in that state.

Prayer breaks us out of that state, and if you look just a little bit, you’ll find all sorts of people whose lives have changed dramatically because they “gave it to God”.

VERY IMPORTANT: these people (and I’m one of them) didn’t come to God with the solution they thought was appropriate and ask Him to bless it. They waited for His leading, followed it, and let Him do what He promised to do.

Jesus tells one man, who’s just learned that his daughter has died, “Fear not – only believe.” The daughter then recovers. If a man can do that when facing one of the worse sorrows imaginable, we can do that in the situations we face.