All things work together …

Here’s a cheery thought. The Globe and Mail reports that “some” doctors are urging Canadians to make their end-of-life preparations now, rather than leave those decisions to loved ones later.

I’ll spare you.

I mean, the sentiment is nothing you won’t see on those two-minute late-night commercials with some Trusted Spokesperson pitching us $20/month life insurance. It’s really common sense*, since we never know when the Big Sir is going to call our number.

The thing is, in today’s world of fear-driven media, a piece of no-brainer advice like that gets put into the context of the fear du jour, resulting in a completely different spin on the story.

So how about some uplift today?

Yesterday, I told you about a prayer request from my friend, Jen, in Haiti. I got to thinking about that afterwards, and realized it was the latest link in a remarkable chain of events going back over 40 years.

In 1979, I covered the Mann Cup lacrosse finals at Cyclone Taylor Arena in Vancouver for a small sports magazine. In the press box, I met a chap named Chris, who was pursuing his passion: scorekeeping, managing statistics and writing about lacrosse or amateur hockey. We hit it off, although we were never close buddies, and over the years we would collide at sports events.

In late 2003, having moved to Surrey from Victoria, I took on a paper route to help make ends meet. On the second or third morning, waiting at the distribution site for the packages to arrive, who do I run into, but Chris? We exchange phone numbers, and a couple of months later, he calls me. “The (UBC) Thunderbirds need an announcer for women’s hockey. They’ll pay. Are you interested?”

The words, “they’ll pay” got my attention.

Chris was the scorekeeper; another fellow operated the clock and scoreboard. As well as announce goals and penalties, I got to open and close the penalty box gate.

Late that spring, the head of athletic events called to see if I’d be interested in doing basketball games, too. That started a twelve-season run as UBC’s main sports announcer.

In those first few seasons, I worked for — and alongside — Jen. We stayed in touch over the years, and now, here she is, in Haiti, the founder of Bonne Terre Haiti, growing food to feed people — particularly those at an orphanage. As I said yesterday, she included me in an email list, asking for prayers for her adopted country.

All this is to point out the strange and wonderful string of events that started with my getting that press pass into the 1979 Mann Cup. Sometimes, it’s worth rewinding the events in your life to see how the connections work. Sometimes, the start seems insignificant. Sometimes, it could be a “bad scene”.

Consider the genealogy that led to the birth of Jesus Christ. If you have half an hour to call your own, have a listen to this sermon, I go into intricate detail about the number of “bad scenes” along the way — relationships that violated God’s law and births that really shouldn’t have happened. One of the takeaways is that we can’t judge a situation because we don’t know what God is working towards.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

— Romans 8:28

All things work together. There’s my favorite word in the Bible — “all” (and its similar forms, like “any” and “every” and “whosoever”). So whether it’s a big win or a tremendous piece of good news, it’s worthwhile to look back at all the events that led up to it and see how many “bad” things happened that made it possible.

In the same way, consider a bad scene now, like a lost job or a broken relationship or — yes — forced isolation because of COVID-19, and trust that this is something that will lead to something good. The trick is to keep saying, “God, You are in control, and I trust that all things will work together for good!”

Of course, that’s not to tell Him, but to remind yourself; because we need to hear that — especially with “some” doctors telling us to Get Ready.

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

*Why is it called “common sense” when hardly anyone seems to have it?

Another prayer for COVID-19

Got a Facebook message from a friend this morning (an actual friend — not a FFF (Fony Facebook Friend), who runs a farm in Haiti that provides food for an orphanage. Let’s let her speak:

Need pray warriors going on their knees for Haiti. There are layers upon layers of difficulties happening here now. Firstly there is doubt about how real the virus is. People are thinking that it is a government conspiracy to control them.

I have heard that the cost to do 1 test is $353 USD and have confirmed that with other missionaries and medical personnel. Tied into that is that people do not want to be tested anyways because of the stigma that will be attached to them. Very much like HIV.

The government has now shut down all markets across the country. People work to earn daily and buy their food daily here. There is no money to buy supplies and go home to practice social distancing. Especially not when you live in a one room house with 6 people or more!

Borders are closed, markets are closed and now prices are skyrocketing. We were able to get a bag of rice and a few packages of spaghetti last week and are still making food for staff. We have gone down to essential staff only to maintain the farm and security. I am scared of what things are going to cost when we need more supplies. Thankfully we can use a lot of what we grow for meals.

(To get some perspective of the situation there, here’s an item from the National Post a couple of days ago.)

(As an aside, the conspiracy suspicion is very likely a hangover from the years of the Duvaliers, the brutal father-and-son dictators who used voodoo to maintain a Svengali-like hold on the people.)

You know what to pray. You know how to pray — in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And we all know the Holy Spirit doesn’t work in a realm of physical distances.

Let’s get to it — in Jesus’ Name!

A prayer for this day

I woke up this morning with a strong urge to pray and write this to share with you. One of the things that is so hard for me to grasp is the notion that many people have nothing “coming through the door” because of the COVID-19 epidemic. Indeed, for all the billions of dollars set aside in government relief programs, there will still be those who fall through the cracks and still don’t qualify for a dime.

I also felt convicted. I’ve been writing about the “opportunity” that self-isolation presents to draw closer to God and suggesting that the pandemic — along with other things happening in the world — were signs that Jesus told us would precede His return. Perhaps it sounded smug, even arrogant: it wasn’t meant that way, but those points could take one’s mind off the misery people are going through, basically through no fault of their own.

It’s a simple equation, really: one person’s spending is another person’s income.

I also recall what my dad told me about the Great Depression, when the economic crash, combined with the Dust Bowl, ruined people. The image of my grandfather, standing on the porch near Belcarres, Saskatchewan, watching a huge cloud kicking up on the horizon and sobbing, because that cloud was rich topsoil, being carried away by the wind, and with it, another crop, and their livelihood.

I could never imagine what it would be like to have no income, no resources and mouths to feed and bills to pay. Am I about to find out? I hope not — but more importantly, other people are about to find out, if they haven’t already.

Please join me in this prayer:

Father, I come before you in Jesus’ Name. Thank You that you are God, and that You are in control of all things and know the big picture. Forgive us, Lord, for the ways we have strayed from You. Forgive me, for the ways I have strayed from You. Forgive me, Lord, if I have sounded smug or uncaring when I have declared that this is part of Your plan for the end of this age.

Right now, Lord, I intercede on behalf of the people who are affected by this pandemic: the people who have lost their jobs, are laid off, let go, deprived of income. You provide all our needs, and I call on You to provide the needs for those people.

I cannot imagine what it must be like to be without a job, unable to pay the rent, mortgage, utilities: understanding that people who receive that money are also dependent on that for their income and may not have anything to fall back on. Provide for them supernaturally, Lord: meet their needs according to Your riches in glory. And that’s for all people, Lord: not just those who believe in you or know Your Son.

And provide for us, that we may provide for them in Your name. Those of us who are able, Lord, help us to help those who are not.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Here’s a piece of uplift to pass along. A friend of mine from university days now manages a grocery store in northern New Jersey. As a food provider, they’re an essential service. They’ve just given their staff a 10% pay raise. Well done, Vinny! I’m sure that’s just one example of companies stepping up for their people.

Let’s make the most of our “isolation”!

Another day, and another vain search for some news item that isn’t related to COVID-19. It’s like, if a news story isn’t about the latest casualty count and measures being taken, then it’s about someone criticizing “them” for not taking steps earlier. The World Health Organization stated this week that countries “squandered” an opportunity to contain the virus by not acting when WHO said they should have; the Toronto Star has run an editorial, saying the Canadian government could have acted sooner and prevented the spread.

But rather than backward-looking, benefit-of-hindsight stuff that only gets us depressed, angry, or both (none of which is conducive to good health), let’s remember that we have the benefit of knowing that the Lord told us this would happen AND told us what comes next.

I won’t belabor the point, except to say that the current piling-on of events that Jesus told us would be signs of His return tells us we need to prepare: turn our attention away from the sickness, the political sniping, even the economic impact, and put it on Him. Look to Him for the healing and the peace and even the things of the world that we need, and let Him handle the rest.

“… when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

— Luke 18:8

Living in faith may sound like we have to do a lot, but doesn’t it simply mean drawing closer to the Lord? When we’re expected to maintain “social distancing”, let’s remember that God does not follow that decree. Far from it.

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

And Paul tells the Colossians,

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God,

the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

— Colossians 1:24-27

And Jesus promises us,

“If you love Me, keep My commandments.

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

“the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

— John 14:15-17

Do you see the recurring theme? The Holy Spirit does not recognize “social distancing” or “physical distancing” — and praise God for that! If He did, that would literally rip a portion out of us.

So this time of self-isolation, quarantining and social — or, more properly, physical — distancing, is a perfect time to spend more time with the One who is never distant: Christ in us. We can read, or just go quiet and listen for Him and to Him.

Music helps with that. Here’s an old classic you might enjoy: “In the Presence of the Lord”, written by Eric Clapton, sung by Steve Winwood, performed by Blind Faith (that’s the late Ginger Baker on drums and Ric Grech on bass). The lyrics are pretty simple: in a moment of total arrogance, I thought of writing another verse, but I realized that the song says all that needs to be said; besides, Eric’s guitar solo is a great way to groove and draw closer to the Holy Spirit. (Admittedly, many in that Hyde Park crowd were probably grooving on something else that wasn’t necessarily legal in those days.)

One more thing: my friend, Victor Emenike, would say, “Poor little devil!” Maybe the enemy thought that the pandemic would close churches and strike so much fear into our hearts that we lose our focus and kill the move of God.

WRONG.

We have a glorious opportunity to draw near and get to know Him better. Let’s take full advantage … AND … keep praying for everyone to be healed, comforted, and to know that God promises He will never leave us nor forsake us.


While isolated and unable to get out to a library or a bookstore, downloading an e-book or two is a good way to pass the time. My book, God at Work: A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty, is currently on sale at 30% off as part of Smashwords’ “Authors Give Back” special. Just click on the link to order.

A merry heart …

The news these days isn’t getting a whole lot better, is it? The Australian bushfires were a dress rehearsal for a situation in which there is probably no one on this planet — at least, in the northern hemisphere — who is not affected, in some way, by a major crisis.

People are dying from COVID-19, although they are (as I understand it) people who already had a health issue. Just about every “developed” country has decreed severe limitations on movement. The economic impacts are growing daily.

Indeed, I hope you don’t mind my mentioning it (the low end of the “affected” scale, I grant you), but this situation has personally cost me thousands already, through events where I was supposed to be The Voice being cancelled.

The author in his natural habitat: will FIBA be the next to pull the plug (on the Olympic qualifiers in June)?

And while the Canadian and USA governments are proclaiming assistance packages in the billions of dollars, I look at the reports and realize there’s no way I’d qualify.

This is not to kvetch. This is to say that, for all their good intentions, we can’t rely on governments. Medical science is still chasing this coronavirus, trying to catch up with it and create a vaccine, so putting all our eggs in the basket is a non-starter, too.

No, this is to point out the One we can rely on. And rather than hang our heads and whinge about the uncertainty and dreadful scene around us, let’s remember something very important from His Word:

A merry heart does good, like medicine; / But a broken spirit dries the bones.

— Proverbs 17:22

All the days of the afflicted are evil, / But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast.

— Proverbs 15:15

In other words, let’s laugh in the face of this situation! We could complain until we’re blue in the mouth and at the end of it all, we’ll be right back where we started from. So let’s laugh and when we turn to the Lord and take our eyes off ourselves and the world’s “solutions”, we have no reason to despair!

What makes you laugh or brings you enjoyment? My wife, Amelia, likes “chick-flicks”. For me, it’s

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? (mostly the original UK version)
  • Any movies by Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy
  • Old-school comics like Milton Berle, Bob Newhart and Jack Benny (before comedians decided that to be funny, they had to ridicule people in authority)
  • Randy’s Vinyl Tap — Randy Bachman’s weekly radio show on CBC and Sirius XM
  • Vintage sports telecasts (preferably complete with commercials)
  • Comic strips like Bizarro, Pearls Before Swine, Rhymes With Orange and anything by Adrian Raeside

What? A deadly disease is “no laughing matter”? Au contraire. This is the time we have to make our hearts merry and let that medicine do its job. And what are we supposed to do when we’re merry? Sing psalms, praising God and keeping Him in the picture (James 5:13).

Which reminds me: if fasting is a time for self-denial and a serious countenance, Jesus reminds us that this is not the time for fasting:

And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast.

“But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

— Mark 2:19-20

And guess what? Jesus — the Bridegroom — is with us until the end of the age! He is on our side (who can be against us?) and His Spirit lives inside us! He was taken away, but came back and is with us now! Do we need any more reason to rejoice, laugh, make merry, even with sickness surging around the world and the world’s systems powerless to stop it?

One more thing. Remember my screed, a couple of weeks ago, about Larry Csonka and the 1972 Miami Dolphins?

Miami Dolphins running backs (left to right) #21 Jim Kiick, #39 Larry Csonka, #22 Eugene “Mercury” Morris during their undefeated season.
Mandatory Credit: Photo By Tony Tomsic

What are they wearing on their heads? Helmets. What do we followers of Jesus have with us? The helmet of Salvation. Think about it.

Like Larry’s linemen, I can hear God saying, “Follow Me. Follow Me. Stick your helmet behind Me* and follow Me, and we’ll get it there.”


*(Sanitized version.)

Stuck inside? Confused? Time to look up!

This article appeared last Saturday — March 14 — in the Victoria Times Colonist, and this is a longer version. It was written a few weeks before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, but the timing turned out to be quite appropriate. If you’re currently being told to “shelter in place”, “self-isolate”, “WFH”* or are wondering where your next roll of toilet paper will come from, it’s something to keep in mind.

The character Father Guido Sarducci (a/k/a comedian Don Novello) sometimes offered this piece of advice: “Wherever you go, there you are.”

That pseudo-aphorism always got a laugh, but I’ve found more than an atom of truth in it: many times, I’ve found myself in a location or a situation that’s left me wondering, “Why am I here?”.

When I first moved back to Vancouver, newly called into Ministry, I had a distinctly different idea of where I was supposed to be going. I told my previous boss I wanted to be a Christian talk-show host. Since I got hired next by a Christian TV station, I figured I was on that track.

But that job didn’t pan out, and back in radio, I found myself walking to the radio station along Granville Mall late at night. I would run a gauntlet of panhandlers. Usually, I didn’t have any money for them and I felt guilty, until I heard the Lord say, “These people don’t need money. They don’t need programs. They need Me. They need My Son. And I want you to tell them.”

Soon after, I wandered into Rainbow Mission near Oppenheimer Park, thus beginning ten years of ministering on the Downtown East Side. It was not what I expected. It was certainly not in any “plan” I had for my life. But it was exactly where I was supposed to be.

Recently, we were on a cruise to Sydney, Australia. Two days out of Vancouver, there was a medical emergency. We couldn’t turn back, so we ran full speed to Honolulu, arriving a day early. We bought a transit pass, took a cheap tour of the city and were heading back to the dock in the evening when we passed what appeared to be a homeless man, sitting on the sidewal. I was moved to go back. I pulled out a five-dollar bill and gave it to him, mumbling, “the One I work for wants me to give you this little picture of Abe Lincoln.”

“He” turned out to be a wizened 50-something Vietnamese woman. In her broken English, she said she had no home, and her family were all dead, including her son. She tried to give back the five-spot. She talked for a while more and let me pray over her.

Did that do her any good? At the least, someone listened to her story. Now, what if there hadn’t been that emergency and we’d arrived in Honolulu as scheduled? We would have had our planned shore tour and sailed away that night. And the night before, that woman would have sat there, all alone, forgotten, hidden in plain sight. As it was, we were where we were supposed to be – when we were supposed to be there.

The Gospels tell us about Jesus, setting out in a boat with His disciples. A storm comes up, and after Jesus calms it, they seem to have been blown off-course. When they land, a demon-possessed man immediately rushes them. Jesus heals the man and dispatches the demons.

Whatever plans the disciples might have had for the boat trip got completely upended; yet they wound up exactly where God meant them to be.

Have you ever found yourself in an unexpected situation? It doesn’t have to be a bad situation – just one that wasn’t in your “plan”. Yet hasn’t it turned out that you were in the right place at the right time?

Wherever you go – there you are. The trick is to remember to say, “OK, Lord – now what?” Soon enough, He’ll tell you.

One more thing: as I write this updated version, the morning sun is streaming through the dining room window. Hummingbirds are fighting over the feeders outside. My cat is prowling the forested grounds, looking for adventure and our plum trees are budding like mad. Crocuses are popping up in unexpected places and ravens are making their presence known, their wings flapping gracefully and loudly as they fly by.

In other words, non-human life is going on, and God is reminding us, “I’m still here! Turn to Me!”

Wherever you go – there you are: and there He is, too. Sometimes we humans have to work to remember that — but right now, we have to make the effort.


*WFH = Work From Home. Yeah, I thought it was rude, too, at first.

COVID, pride and a government decree

Some years ago, a fellow called me on a mobile phone (back before it was a “given” that everyone had a mobile phone). In the middle of the conversation, I recognized the background noise.

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Are you at a gas station?”

“Yep.”

“And you’re talking on a cell phone while filling the tank?”

“Yep.” At the time, there was an urban legend about cars being set on fire by electromagnetic waves coming from cell phones and mixing with gasoline vapors. “But don’t worry,” he said, “I prayed for protection from the Holy Spirit.”

The car did not blow up. (Chances are, it wouldn’t have, anyway, but that was before the urban legend was debunked.) But there was still that little sign, warning people not to use their cell phone while gassing-up.

And that brings us to the question of authority versus Holy Ghost protection.

It’s been interesting to consider some of the responses churches have had to the dicta from governments in Canada and the USA, that gatherings of over 250 people should be cancelled. In fact, that advice has been revised in the week since then to “no gatherings over 50” and then to “no gatherings over 10”. Initially, I thought that if any place should stay open, under the protection of the Holy Spirit and standing on Psalm 91, it should be a church.

But that would bring God’s people into conflict with the governing authorities, and regardless of whether we think the governing authorities are full of navel lint, God is quite clear in His Word:

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

— Romans 12:1

Defy the governing authorities, in other words, and you’re defying God.

Put another way, you’re walking in pride, part of the “laundry list” of things that Jesus says defile a person:

And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

“thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.

“All of these evil things come from within and defile a man,”

— Mark 7:20-23

Pride is a case where a person says, “I know better than they do!”, where “they” are the people in charge, the ones who know the big picture and, presumably, have considered all the factors.

Or maybe they haven’t, and the person really is right, but God says we still have to obey them, because He’s put them in charge for a reason, and if anyone knows the Big Picture, it’s the Big Sir.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

— Proverbs 3:34 (quoted in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5)

One more thing: not even Jesus was willing to “stand on Scripture” and disobey the Father.

Then [the devil] took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,

and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and ‘In their hands they shall bear you up / Lest you dash your foot against a stone’.”

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'”

— Matthew 4:5-7

This is a delicate time. We want to continue spreading the Gospel and demonstrate the Holy Spirit’s power; but now we have to do it within certain constraints imposed by the governing authorities.

Well, Peter and Paul were under some pretty serious constraints from the governing authorities when they wrote their epistles, and those have been moderately effective, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s look for opportunities within the newfound limits — that “new reality” people talk about — and humble ourselves to submit to the authorities without complaining. Doing that can be a great way to start our own witness to others.

Coronavirus, confusion … and a baseball analogy

(… at last!)

I got a bit of criticism last week — not undeserved, either — for noting proudly that people came to church last Sunday and shook hands and, in some cases, talked close to one another. With the current concerns about COVID-19, I framed that as a declaration that fear would not take hold.

Confusion did try to rear its ugly head during that time. Was it a hoax, designed to bring down the sitting President of the United States? Was it really that bad? How relevant is it to compare deaths from drugs or gun violence with the COVID-19 situation? Are there enough testing kits? Will there be a vaccine within two months?

Well, we Jesus followers know something about confusion.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

— 1 Corinthians 14:33

So we turn to the Word of God to sort out the issue, and what does He say?

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

Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

— Romans 13:1-2

In this case, the authority is not elected officials, but the experts who advise them. In the case of British Columbia, it’s the chief medical officer. She is the “authority” on the situation, so while politicians, with their various interests, duke it out over policies and procedures, she is the one we need to listen to, and not resist the authority — and therefore resist God’s ordinance.

Look at it this way: you could defy the authorities and say, “I have faith that I’ll be kept healthy by the Blood of Jesus Christ!” and wade into any situation or keep a church service going (and most churches in my area stayed closed yesterday), but that would now be disobedient to God.

Praise God, in this “new reality,” He has provided work-arounds, like online options. These may not be ideal to the human mind (last week, I wrote how online is not a substitute for talking face-to-face with a person), but God gives wisdom to those who ask for it, and that includes asking for direction on how to use these tools.

==

People are also talking about parallels with the Spanish flu epidemic of a century ago. The Toronto Star has reported on studies comparing the responses of authorities in St Louis, MO with those in Philadelphia, and how the death rates were markedly lower in St Loo, where “social distancing” was put into operation a lot sooner.

Family lore has it that my grandfather, Rev. Dr. Clem Davies, ministered to the sick in Salt Lake City, where he was pastoring at Waterloo Methodist Episcopalian Church. (Mind you, his own lore has him as a Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force, which is suspect, largely because the RAF has no record of him (they did return the thirty quid I spent for the records search).) Somehow, though, grandfather — and my grandmother — made it through the epidemic, even though it defied all the predictions in SLC.

The Mets and the Habs in the 1917 Stanley Cup. Seattle won. Joe Hall who died during the 1919 final, is sixth from the right.

Part of the history of the Spanish flu epidemic is that it led to the first of only two years that the Stanley Cup was not awarded. The 1919 series between the Seattle Metropolitans and Montreal Canadiens was played in the Emerald City, and the flu savaged the lineups, and Joe Hall of the Habs died. When the series was broken off, each team had won two games and tied the fifth.*

Which brings us to the impact COVID-19 is having on sports. During the Second World War, there was talk of cancelling the baseball season, but it was decided to keep it going “for the good of national morale” (although baseball doctors were forbidden to classify players “4F” so they could avoid service.)

It’s different in this situation: major tournaments and league play have been suspended, in order to prevent large crowds from forming. If anything brought the pandemic close to home, it was seeing the on-screen “crawler” during a basketball telecast, saying that the NBA was about to suspend the season after the conclusion of that night’s play. I spoke with one chap who had an annual ritual of going with his son to the NCAA Final Four. He was crestfallen that that had been cancelled.

Right now, you can’t even find a vintage telecast of an old game on TV.

While that makes sense from a first-line medical perspective, it can be depressing for people, and that doesn’t do any good to one’s physical wellbeing. After all,

A merry heart does good, like medicine,

But a broken spirit dries the bones.

— Proverbs 17:22

Let’s try to find a way to laugh through this. I recommend The Big Bang Theory, “Bizarro”, “Pearls Before Swine” and “Rhymes With Orange”, anything starring Buster Keaton or reruns of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (UK version.

So speaking of baseball, you’ll recall that I’ve often pointed out parallels between football and the walk with Christ, and that baseball doesn’t have the same many-members-one-body element that football does. But there is an important point about baseball.

God bats last.

He threw out the first pitch, it’s His ballpark, and He gets last bats. It feels to me like we’re in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the signs Jesus told us would precede His return building, quickly, one on top of the other. In the top of the ninth, Satan gets one more crack, and watch out: because he knows he is, as the commentators say, “running out of outs”.

And in the bottom of the inning, you’ll see a ninth-inning explosion like never before.


*In those days, teams only carried a couple of subs and it was not unusual for players to play the whole 60 minutes. But the new Pacific Coast rules, under which Game 5 was played, called for seven men on the ice and allowed forward passing, which made the game faster and more entertaining for the fans, but exhausted the players. After two overtime periods with no decision, some of the players had to be carried off.

Praying the Psalms with COVID-19

Some churches around British Columbia are cancelling their services, following the strong advice from the provincial health folks to cancel all gatherings over 250 people.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing: there might be something to be said for breaking up into smaller congregations of maybe 50 each. As Pastor Brandon Wall at Oasis City Church in Duncan once said, “We’re small, but so is the point of a spear — and look at what it can do!”

Selah.


When one is stuck for something to pray about — and it happens, where the cares of the world and the plethora of distractions inside and outside our minds can keep us from focusing during our time with the Lord — one is sometimes told to “pray the Psalms”. In other words, get your Bible, open to the Psalms, and read one or two of them out loud (or at least, move your lips). Psalms are prayers, and not one-way prayers, but in many cases, are conversations with God. Psalm 91 is an excellent example. Look at the way the “voice” changes in the last stanza, from the Psalmist to the Lord Himself.

And that’s an important Psalm to pray, because it’s also the “healing Psalm”, the “flu shot” (or “coronavirus shot” these days) for the faithful. We are promised that by putting our trust in the Lord and walking in His ways, we will be protected from sickness, violence and any other misfortune.

Jesus backs that up by telling the Apostles,

“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 16:18

Mind you, as I’ve said before, that doesn’t mean you wade into a pit of rattlesnakes or drink a bottle of battery acid Just To Prove God’s Promise. Jesus also reminds us “thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7, Luke 4:12 KJV) — the key word in His declaration is “if”.

All of which lead us back to the cancellation of “large gatherings” like big church services. Faith in healing and protection (notice that Jesus also says that “they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover”) is one thing, but we are also told to obey those in authority.

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

Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

— Romans 13:1-2

And Jesus adds,

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

— Luke 20:25

That includes obedience to the laws. Not easy, convenient or palatable at times, but it’s from the Lord.

So when the BC Medical Health Officer “strongly advises” the cancellation of gatherings over 250 people and that people returning to Canada from other countries stay away from work, school or gatherings for 14 days, that may not be enshrined in legislation, but that’s close enough to a directive from a “governing authority” for me.

In any event, this is the time when we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and what He tells us to do. And what He tells us is that we’re protected, so long as we stay in obedience to Him; and that obedience includes following what the authorities tell us.

“New reality”? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

In case the point needs reinforcing, I am not an end-times wonk.

That is to say, I don’t pick through Daniel, Isaiah and the Book of Revelation to find analogues in today’s world. Declarations abound as to who (or what) is the ten-headed monster, the Great Dragon, the antichrist, the Great Prophets, etc.; do we look at the prophecies allegorically or literally? I have my views, but expressing them can lead to a divisive argument and the last thing Christians need right now is division.

But the buds are coming out on my plum trees, and I know that we are emerging from winter into spring. And I know pestilence when I see it, and I’m looking at it now — and I’m aware of what it means.

“For many will come in My name, saying ‘I am the Christ.’ and will deceive many.

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in diverse places.

“All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.

“And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.

“Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many,

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.

“But he who endures to the end shall be saved.

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

— Matthew 24:5-14

Pestilences — horrible diseases that have defied medical science — have come up often over the past 40 years. AIDS, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, a resurgence of tuberculosis.

And now comes COVID-19, which has gone from a strange disease with an epicentre in Wuhan, China (probably at some street market — you know what they can be like!), to a disease popping up all over the place and creating general panic and confusion. People are being advised to avoid large gatherings and some sports events have been cancelled, postponed or ordered to be held without fans.

My wife is currently running a symposium in Sacramento, California, where it was decided to go ahead, even though many of the participants decided not to come because of the coronavirus concerns (some were ordered by their employers not to go). She says adapting to such concerns — using online options, for example — could be the “new reality”. Others have used that term, as well.

In truth, the “new reality” may be much closer than we might think — but a whole lot different. Jesus told us we can expect such things and we’re seeing them now. We see nation rising against nation not just in the cross-border battles between countries like Turkey and Syria or Iran and Iraq, but also in the increase in “tribalism” and “identity politics”. Kingdom rises against kingdom, in the overall battle between good and evil. Lawlessness — both the celebration of “renegades” who refuse to “play by the rules” (think Robin Hood types) and falling away from God — has led to a loss of love for our neighbours. We’re seeing famines, like the years-long drought in California and other parts of the world, and random earthquakes; and I haven’t even started on the effects of climate change and what we’ve been doing to God’s creation.

But here’s a “new reality” for us, and it has nothing to do with online classes. Jesus says all this builds up to a head … and then He returns. The Book of Revelation tells us about the glory to come as God brings His home to us.

When will this be? Not even Jesus knows, but He does say that this is the beginning of sorrows, so buckle up for the ride.

Although we’re not “along for the ride”. We’ve got work to do, proclaiming Him around the world, witnessing to people in our homes, families, back yard, neighbourhoods, cities that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. We have to get out there and heal people who need healing, comfort those who need comforting and loving everyone because everyone needs love, especially in these times.

“When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

— Luke 18:8b

“New reality”? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!