Bite Your Tongue!

There are few TV shows these days that have consumed my attention like The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Maybe it’s because it’s set in a New York City I’ve fantasized about but is no more (and which my friend, Howie Siegel, who was born in Brooklyn in the late 40s and bleeds “Dodger Blue”, has said probably never existed in the first place); maybe it’s because it’s about a standup comic and in a previous life, I dreamed of being a comedian; maybe it’s because the scripts come off like Neil Simon’s Greatest Hits.

Hard to say. It’s the closest I come to binge-watching (sitting through two episodes is binge-watching, for me), and that’s having an effect: I woke up in the middle of the night, the other night, brooding on the developing situation.

POTENTIAL SPOILER. I’LL TRY NOT TO.

One of the underlying themes that has developed involves people who can’t keep their mouths shut. Gradually, other people’s lives and hopes get eroded and damaged as a result.

That’s what kept me awake the other night: not worrying about the characters, but considering the number of times and ways that I’ve made an unguarded remark, or said something I thought was incredibly clever and witty, and it’s either set me back or caused grief to others.

My late mother, who was not exactly a shrinking violet herself and was arrested for producing a “lewd and filthy” play in Vancouver in the 50s (“Tobacco Road”, which had been the longest-running non-musical on Broadway by the time it closed), once told me, “Never say anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times!“.

James puts it another way:

Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they mayu obey us, and we turn their whole body.

Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.

Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.

But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing., My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

— James 3:3-10

The tongue leads us to react, rather than respond. Sure, it can tell us if a burger tastes good or the milk has gone off; it also told me that the can of Sprite my friend Bill handed me at school one day had been spiked with gin and that it tasted pretty good: before I knew it, I had trouble distinguishing the door from the walls.

In other words, if something “tastes good” to our tongue, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is good for us. Before we know it, we’ve swallowed something that we shouldn’t have.

The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil tasted good to Adam and Eve. The tongue — that “little member” of the body — overruled the brain and any sense of obedience to God.

Whether it’s words, food or drink, our tongue can lead our entire body and soul into places it shouldn’t be going. James is right: we humans are incapable of taming the tongue. We need help. We need to turn to the Holy Spirit to guide the things we say and moderate our reactions so that they become considered responses. Think of it: when that happens, we’ll become less hurtful and less judgmental, and people around us will be more receptive when we share the Good News of Jesus.

Enjoy the storm

Have you gone squirrelly yet, with the self-isolation and physical distancing and other privations brought on by COVID-19? How about the constant worry that the next person you meet, who may appear perfectly healthy, could be an unknowing carrier of the novel coronavirus and is passing it on to you? How about the head-spinning confusion brought on by various self-appointed experts who promote THE REAL TREATMENT THEY DON’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT, or the ones who claim that what the government and health officials are telling you really doesn’t make sense?

Oh, yes: don’t let’s forget the very real threat of the disease itself.

We are in a storm, and there’s really nothing we can do about it, which means there’s only one thing to do: turn to Jesus to calm the storm and enjoy the ride in the meantime.

How do you enjoy a ride like this? Consider the Apostle Paul, who was en route to Rome when his ship got caught in the Euroclydon, a vicious tempest on the Mediterranean:

Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.

But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.

“And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship.

“For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve,

“saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’

“Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me.”

— Acts 27:20-25

Paul was to get to Rome. God has put us — each of us, individually — on a journey, and now is the time to realize that when we focus on that, and not on the fear of things we cannot control, we will get there, and arrive safely.

The other thing to remember is that we don’t necessarily know what the destination or purpose of the journey is.

Remember when the disciples set off in a boat with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee. They ran into a storm at night, and when they woke Jesus — who was asleep, comfortably, in the stern — He got up, told the storm to calm down (which it did), and as He went back to bed, said, “Why were you afraid, you of little faith?”

To the disciples, the storm had not only threatened their lives, but had knocked them off-course. It was keeping them from getting to where they were supposed to go. But the rest of the story is that, in the morning, they arrived at a spot where a madman lived. He was possessed by powerful demons — so powerful, that anytime people tried to chain him, he broke the chains — and he wandered, naked, among the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.

Even then, the disciples might have cursed the storm for putting them in a dangerous, scary place, for as soon as they landed, the madman rushed up to them. Jesus drove the demons out — sending them into a herd of pigs, which promptly plunged off a cliff and drowned — and by the time the townspeople arrived, the madman was clothed and in his right mind.

The storm the disciples had encountered did not knock them off-course, after all. Rather, it put them exactly where they were supposed to be, when they were supposed to be there — to heal the madman and provide another witness to the glory and mercy of God.

In the same way, the storm Paul encountered landed them on the island of Malta, where he healed the father of a “leading citizen” and showed other miracles by the Holy Spirit, including healing other sick people and surviving an accidental snakebite. Presto: more manifestations, more witnesses and more Believers.

And then he went on to Rome.

So DO NOT FEAR. We can see the storm in two ways: as a horrifying, scary time when we don’t know what to do or whom to blame; or as something to move us off the track we thought we were supposed to follow, and onto the one God has laid out for us.


*”Surviving the storms of life” may sum up the existence for people in places of urban poverty like the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, BC. They’re sometimes referred to as “the homeless”, “street people”, “addicts”, or whatever. My book, God At Work – A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty, puts faces on these people, showing that they are little different from you and me. From now until the end of May, you can download the book at a discount, as part of the “Authors Give Back” sale at Smashwords — e-publisher. It’s a way to provide readily-downloadable reading material for people shut in by the COVID-19 situation. Click on the link to place your order.

Also part of the special sale is the latest version of A Very Convenient Truth — or, Jesus Told Us There’d Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About the Planet and Get With His Program! It’s an exploration of the way the current environmental trauma is really part of a broader picture that was defined for us thousands of years ago, and a reminder that God promises to “heal the land” if we only turn back to Him.

An Earth Day Apology

Dear Post-Millennials,

Another Earth Day has come and gone. The news about the state of the environment — even though it’s been blown off the front pages by COVID-19 — keeps getting bleaker. One of my “news aggregation” services just forwarded this piece from Rolling Stone about an Antarctic glacier the size of Pennsylvania that’s about to break off and cause massive increases in ocean levels.

No matter that the article came out in 2017: we needed a regular hit of bad news about the environment so we could celebrate Earth Day.

Anyway, it adds up to one more reason why kids like you are scared stiff of stuff. You have a very real fear that the Earth is going to burn up, that people will starve, places will be flooded-out and disease will rampage around the world, all because of stuff you didn’t do. You feel helpless and your backs are against the wall.

And when someone’s back is against the wall, one lashes out. You’ve been doing that, and you’ve also been doing something else that’s understandable: find someone to blame. In this case, it’s been chic to blame previous generations for today’s situation — especially mine – the Boomers.

This is an apology, but it’s not for that. I’m not going to take that rap, and neither should the rest of my generation. Because, strange as it may seem, most of the actions taken in years past were done with nothing but good intentions. Actions regarding land use, resource extraction, development, and so forth were taken primarily to build a better world for now and the future. They involved places to live, the ability to travel, whether it was to see other cultures, visit family and friends or study in far-off places; they involved giving people an opportunity to work, earn a living and feed their families; some of the profits were turned back towards helping others (three foundations dug into their bank accounts to support Gospel Mission Society, where I ministered for seven years: two of them were set up by families who may have been part of that “evil 1%” that control most of the wealth).

Yes, greed and evil were underlying motivators in many of those actions, but greed and evil have been in our world ever since Adam and Eve decided having a piece of fruit they’d been told not to eat was more important than obeying God.

But many in my generation and even my parents’ generation saw the problems these actions were causing for the environment and took action to mitigate them. We launched recycling programs, agitated for better air and water pollution controls and raised alarms about farming methods that were threatening the food chain. We demanded better public transportation options. It was all with the best of intentions. And it still wasn’t enough.

So please, don’t point fingers at us and say that we screwed up your world.

So what am I apologizing for, on behalf of my generation? Helping to take away your source of Hope.

My generation is responsible for moving people away from The Bible — the Word of God. We got this notion that following Jesus Christ and worshipping the One True God was exclusionary and discriminated against people with different “belief systems”. In Grade 9, I agitated at my high school for the daily recitation of The Lord’s Prayer to be discontinued — which it was.

It wasn’t that hard a sell, actually, because while many of us were pulling away from publicly worshipping God and acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Saviour in the name of “inclusion”, others in my generation and the preceding one were turning the Bible into the Manifesto of Self-Righteousness, turning the Word of God into a weapon with which to club anyone who Wasn’t Like Us. The reaction was to resist becoming “one of those people”, and the overall effect was to reject The Bible, Jesus Christ and God Himself.

And what’s wrong with that?

Plenty. But the point for this Earth Day period is that The Bible is the source of Hope that you — we — sorely need right now. Those well-meaning actions have failed, in different ways, to save the earth. On the one hand, it predicted the things we’re seeing today — 2,000 and more years ago. It also does something that science, technology and other things we humans have tried to think up do not do, and that’s tell us, unequivocally, what happens next. And what happens next is a time of unspeakable beauty and joy.

God promises to provide all the things we need — including a planet that’s been restored to its original, glorious state — so long as we do two things: love Him above all others, and put other people’s interests ahead of our own.

God’s promises are there in The Bible for you to read for yourself. Nothing is kept secret — although there are mysteries that you need to spend time contemplating in order to understand (and you’ll never understand all of it — one friend of mine once said that if The Bible were easy to understand, God couldn’t possibly have written it).

It’s never too late to pick up a copy and read it. Read it with the same open mind you demand of others. Sure, parts of it may make you uncomfortable; but all of it will give you hope to keep pressing ahead without the fear that has gripped you and others in your generation.

So for my part in suppressing the Bible half a century ago, I truly apologize and ask you to forgive me — and us.


The new version of my e-book, A Very Convenient Truth – or, Jesus Told Us There’s Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About The Planet and Get With His Program! is now on sale at booksellers. What’s more, as part of Smashwords’ “Authors Give Back” offer (to provide reading material for those staying indoors due to COVID-19), until May 30 you can download the book for 30% off the regular price. Such a deal.

The one we don’t forgive

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

— Matthew 6:15

We finished off last week talking about forgiveness: the necessity and the relief of, essentially, refusing to take someone else’s transgressions as a personal attack. That’s basically what Jesus did on the Cross, setting a very high bar for the rest of us. But how many times have you lamented, or heard someone else lament,

“I just can’t forgive myself.”

?

It seems fairly natural, right? You’ve done something phenomenally stupid and/or harmful to others and you’re remorseful and all that, and in trying to demonstrate your remorse to friends, a pastor, the judge, whatever … you declare that you’re constantly beating yourself up and cannot put out of your mind the fact that you done wrong.

But there’s a problem with that.

Where does Jesus tell us to forgive ourselves?

We forgive others — CHECK.

God forgives us — CHECK.

But if we try to forgive ourselves, we’re trying to do God’s job. And frankly, only God can do God’s job. Heaven knows, we’ve tried, and made rather a mess of things.

It’s actually prideful — false humility. To suggest that we can ever forgive ourselves for something is to make a show of your righteousness. Taken to the extreme, you’re almost revelling in the fact that you have the power to hurt someone else, but because you REALLY FEEL SORRY ABOUT IT, that makes you not such a bad person, after all, right?

So one is absolutely right to say, “I can’t forgive myself.” No — we can’t. The trick is to convince ourselves that God has forgiven us, and that’s a hard-enough job. The enemy is always around, trying to make us forget that and advocating against us in front of God, but

… if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

— 1 John 2:1

So anytime the nattering nabob of negativism* tries to bring up something you’ve done in the past, if you have asked God to forgive you, rest assured that it’s now off the books (Colossians 2:14). Jesus knows it; God knows it; even Satan knows it; we need to know it, too.


A thought: my country — Canada — has been noted for giving apologies to groups that have been wronged in various ways. There have been apologies to First Nations (for cultural genocide, as identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission), to Chinese-Canadians (for the head tax and other discrimination), to Japanese-Canadians (for internment during World War 2), Jews (for turning away the Saint-Louis and its boatload of people fleeing Nazi Germany just before WW2), among others. But what I have not heard is an official request for forgiveness, which, ideally, would be followed by a granting of that forgiveness. I believe there would be an amazing breakthrough — especially in the case of First Nations — if that were to happen.


Now, there are two books of mine that are available online! You can get them through booksellers like Barnes and Noble or Kindle, or — until May 30 — just click on the link and get them for a discount as part of Smashwords’ (the publisher) “Authors Give Back” sale.

Just in time for Earth Day, the new version of A Very Convenient Truth, or Jesus Told Us There’s Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About The Planet and Get With His Program! It’s a reminder that in a time of COVID-19, climate change and other environmental concerns and a whole lot of other things to be scared of, God promises that when we turn to Him, He will take care of the things that we can’t.

God at Work – A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty puts some human faces on people of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side — or any Skid Row area, for that matter — to remove the Fear Factor that prevents so many people from ministering in such areas. The book also describes the building of The Lord’s Rain, a facility to provide showers, which was built despite a lot of obstacles that The World put in its way.


*One enduring relic of the Spiro Agnew era as vice-president of the USA. William Safire, then a White House speech-writer, coined it.

“Forgive them, Father …”

The contemplation that comes with Easter — especially coming to grips with the meaning and magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross — tends to last much longer than Sunday evening. Consider, for example, Jesus forgiveness of His tormentors.

Even if you’ve never cracked open The Bible in your life, it’s likely that you’ve heard that, as He hung on the Cross, Jesus cried out, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!”

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of the walk with Jesus. He is the One who tied forgiving others to our own relationship with God, and the benefits are both tangible and spiritual. When you forgive, you release the burden of holding something against someone. Holding a grudge is part of our animal nature — on one hand, being a victim gives you a chance to feel morally superior to the lintbrain who did you wrong; on the other hand, it starts to take up your time and energy. You re-play the incident in your head, thinking of what you could have said or done so you would have come out on top; you think of situations where you might be able to “get your own back”.

Do you realize how much effort that takes? Reminding yourself of how someone has wronged you takes work, and blinds you to some of that person’s good points. And you know what? That person probably doesn’t even know they’ve wronged you.

Forgiving someone takes effort, too, but the Word of God tells us it’s worth it. For one thing, it’s a relief to say to yourself that you refuse to let someone else’s (mis)-deeds govern your life. You can get on with things and maybe have a decent relationship with that other person.

But more than that, Jesus tells us of the Eternal benefit.

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

— Matthew 6:15

In fact, Jesus raises the stakes when He tells the parable of the servant who owed money to his master and begged for the debt to be forgiven. But then he turned around and threw another servant who owed him money into prison. And when the master found out, he threw the wicked servant into “the torturers.”

“So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

— Matthew 18:35

Translation: forgiving others could make the difference between our spending Eternity with God and Jesus, and … well, not.

And we need to make it part of our spiritual DNA, so that the forgiveness is not a drudging duty to God, but something we genuinely feel “from the heart.”

I’ve sometimes dumbed-down the concept to say, “If Jesus can be beaten, flogged, tortured and then nailed to a cross and left to die, and still say, in effect, ‘Hey – nothing personal’, then we can forgive someone for ____(FILL IN THE BLANK WITH THE OFFENSE OF YOUR CHOICE)____.”

But there’s an interesting dynamic in the way Jesus forgives His tormentors. He doesn’t say, “I forgive you.” He calls on God to forgive them.

Our forgiveness is between ourselves and God, unless the person who wronged us asks us to forgive them. If someone offends us and we say, unbidden, “I forgive you”, we’re claiming a moral high ground by saying that we’re the Better Person. Of course, if they ask us to forgive them, we should do so on the spot, without reservation or condition. But as I say, they may not even know they’ve offended us. Part of forgiving someone is to convince ourselves that they didn’t mean harm to us.

So, while the movie, The Passion of the Christ, takes a bit of artistic license by having one of the thieves who was crucified beside Jesus shout to a Pharisee, “Do you hear that? He’s forgiving you!”, Jesus Himself didn’t point that out: He was calling on His Father not to hold it against them.

Jesus Christ set a very high bar for us humans in so many areas. Forgiving others is but one of them. And yet, with His help, we can reach that standard. God knows that we can — we just need direction and strength to do it.

Now, then: who is the one person we are not called to forgive?

Ah. That’s for Monday.

“The only thing we have to fear … “

“… is fear itself”. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

First, a special prayer, if you’ll join me. I pray for the people who are not sick with COVID-19, but are prevented from getting checkups and seeking medical advice because clinics and offices are closed. That “that little pain” that’s causing them concern turns out to be nothing, or that any progressive illness is slowed until they can be treated. And most of all, I pray that people will be supernaturally protected from all illnesses by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name.


The Lord is my light and my salvation,

Whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life,

Of whom shall I be afraid?

— Psalm 27:1

There’s so much to be afraid of these days, isn’t there?

COVID-19 is but the latest: there are still wars, terrorism, struggles between “identity” groups, poverty, homelessness, and, of course, the effects of climate change.

Raging through this all, is confusion. Even environmental truisms that were generally accepted less than six months ago — banning plastic shopping bags, increasing population density, using public transport over private autos — have gone by the boards in the age of physical distancing. Conspiracy theorists (including at least one world leader) try to sow doubt about the expertise of professionals in epidemiology regarding the proper approach to take to the pandemic.

Where do we turn?

That’s why I wrote my book, A Very Convenient Truth, or Jesus Told Us There’s Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About the Planet and Get With His Program! I actually started writing it in 2007, to point out that things like climate change (it was called “global warning” then — an indication of how long I’ve been working on it) were predicted thousands of years ago in what we now call The Bible; the promise contained in 2 Chronicles 7:14 — “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sins and will heal the land.” — is the hope we need. It provides the incentive to turn to Him for answers to a problem that seems to get worse, no matter how hard we try to make it go away.

Since it was self-published in 2008, a lot has happened and my own attitude has changed; but praise God, His promises haven’t. So now, the 1,608,698th version is on sale as an e-book. You can buy it at Smashwords as part of their “Authors Give Back” promotion, a way to encourage people to download e-books to read during their self-isolation/quasi-quarantine situation. That promotion (a 30% discount) is going on through April 20 — just click on the link above and use the special promo code — or you can buy it anytime through online bookstores like Barnes and Noble.

My hope in this is that you will be encouraged during this time, to know that God is still there, never will leave, and is on our side. There are scary things happening in our world, but as we look outward and up, rather than inward and down, we’ll make it. He promises that.

Remember:

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

“But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God.

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

— Luke 12:4-7

Let’s not fear. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

“And now, these messages …”

We’ll come back to the theme that was developing around Easter-time, but some things have come up lately that I want to bring to your attention.

I’m living because of my giving.

— Rev. Run (Run-DMC)

I’m a huge believer in tithes and offerings. An integral part of my coming to Christ was the realization that I needed to carve off at least ten percent of my income and give it back to the Lord. There are myriad reasons for doing so, not least being the intangible feeling that comes from being in obedience to God. But aside from that, the Word of God promises a return on investment like no other.

I don’t understand why some churches slither over these points, as if it’s wrong to say, “tithe, and you will prosper”. This is not the widely-reviled “prosperity gospel”, by the way, but gospel prosperity, and I’ll write more about that, another time.

But I want to put you in the mood for giving, and make some suggestions for ministries that could really use the help, especially in these times of physical distancing, self-isolation and back-off-you-might-have-something-I-could-catch.

First and foremost, of course, is your church. Duh. That’s where you get your spiritual nourishment and the folks there are always standing by to walk with you through the difficult times. But while some say your entire tithe should go to that, and everything else is an “offering”, I don’t see where, in Scripture, we’re told to do anything but return it to the Lord. So let me make these pitches.

Bonne Terre Haiti farm. I mentioned them a couple of weeks ago. With COVID-19 hitting that country hard — and the stay-at-home regulations causing fear and mistrust among people who’ve known nothing but brutal dictatorships — they’re in need already. And then this happened:

I asked Jen why the city picked this time to widen the road past the farm, and she said, “Flexing their muscles”. Anyway, as you can hear from Jen, this is only adding to the difficulties they’re going through, and it’s the kids in the orphanage who will suffer. You can donate through their website.

First Nations Bible College — a/k/a Vancouver Street Church — has a vital mandate: reaching out to Indigenous people not just with the message of Jesus Christ, but training them to become pastors and evangelists, themselves. One of the things that struck me during the ten years I pastored in the area was that, for all the reports of the brutality suffered by Indigenous people in residential schools, often (we are told) in the name of the Lord, the truth of Jesus still got through.

Some of the fieriest preachers and proponents of Jesus that I’ve met — like Clarence Vickers, Rob Gordon, Grant Houle, Brodie Williams, Mabel Durocher and Margaret Vickers — are First Nations. (Not to mention the many Indigenous people who came to the Mission, still holding onto that nugget of Truth to find hope.) To my knowledge, they’re not FNBC products, but at a time when there seems to be a leaning towards encouraging Indigenous people to embrace “the ways”, FNBC carries the fire of the Holy Spirit to new generations.

Gospel Mission (not Union Gospel), where I served as a pastor for many years, finds itself near Ground Zero of the homelessness situation on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side: in temporary digs across from Oppenheimer Park. They’re on a Facebook group and you can donate through Canada Helps (the website is shut down, but you can get more information through the Facebook page).

So as you consider your tithes and offerings, I strongly suggest you keep these groups in mind.

Oh, yes: about that Scripture:

Cast your bread upon the waters,For you will find it after many days.

— Ecclesiastes 11:1

Jesus says:

“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

— Luke 6:38

And the Big Convincer:

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,

That there may be food in My house,

And try Me now in this,”

Says the LORD of hosts,

“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven

And pour out for you such blessing

That there will not be room enough to receive it.

“And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes,

So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground,

Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,”

Says the LORD of hosts.

— Malachi 3:10-11

One more thing …

Another book of mine has now been e-published and is available: A Very Convenient Truth: or Jesus Told Us There’d Be Days Like These, So Stop Worrying About the Planet and Get With His Program! is a “Bible Journey” around the climate change, environmental trauma and the other bad stuff that’s going on. The book is to bring hope to people, remind people that our responsibility to Creation is not to future generations but to God Himself, and to help Believers to show their NBFs* that The Bible is Truth and is well worth looking into. Just click on the link above to order and download.

And my other book, God At Work – A Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People Amid Poverty, is currently part of Smashwords’ “Authors Give Back” sale (through April 20). This is a portrait of the Downtown East Side and the story of how The Lord’s Rain was built, against all worldly odds. Again, just click on the link to order (you can also buy it through bookstores’ online services).


*NBF = Non-Believing Friend

HE IS RISEN, INDEED! (and so are we!)

Kick up your heels!

Raise a cheer!

Shout it out!

Clap your hands!

Sing like there’s just One listening!

Jesus Christ has beaten death and walked out of the tomb!

That’s what Easter is all about: the fact that Jesus Christ defeated death, and handed that same victory over to us. It’s not that we can die, then rise from the grave, ourselves; but that we now have proof that there is more than what we see around us. There is something beyond the grave and it’s worth changing our lives to achieve. Or, more to the point, it’s worth allowing Jesus, who has proven that He is just as alive today as He was 2,000 years ago, to make those changes in us.

Mind you, we do walk out of a different kind of grave when we say, “Yes, Lord!” We rise up from the muck of our own making, that landed us in a state from which there seemed to be no escape. We get a new crack at life: a chance to hit “reset” and start anew, with only the experience of the past to show for our previous life.

But most importantly, Jesus’ victory means the devil has lost his most effective weapon against us: fear.

Of hell and death, I have no fear:

My gracious Lord is ever near!

— from the Pilgrims’ Chorus in “Tannhäuser” by Richard Wagner, in translation

In my pre-saved days, a friend of mine planted this idea in my head: “What’s the worst that can happen? Can it kill me?” You’ve probably heard that one, too. Well, thanks to Jesus, we don’t even have to be afraid of that.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

saying:
“I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

And again:
“I will put My trust in Him.”

And again:
“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.

— Hebrews 2:10-16

Fear God, Jesus says, the One who can destroy both our body and our soul in hell (Matthew 10:28), but when it comes to One who loves us and wants our company in Eternity, that should be an easy decision.

Happy Easter!

“He who has ears to hear …”

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!”

Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.

The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”

— Matthew 27:45-49

Was He? Was Jesus calling out to Elijah to get Him down off that Cross?

Was He complaining that God had deserted Him at the hour He needed Him most?

Or was He pointing out the fulfillment of a prophecy?

Throughout His ministry, Jesus often made veiled references to things we find in the Old Testament. For example, when the Apostles asked Him where the Rapture would be, He replied, “Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” (Matthew 24:28)

Say what? Eagles? Carcass?

In the Book of Job, God tells Job and his friends,

“Does the eagle mount up at your command / And makes its nest on high?

“On the rock it dwells and resides / On the crag of the rock in the stronghold

“From there it spies out the prey / Its eyes observe from afar

“Its young ones suck up the blood / And where the slain are, there it is.”

— Job 39:27-30

The message of that part of the Book of Job is that God is all-powerful and always in control. I believe that by talking about eagles and carcasses, Jesus is making an oblique reference to that passage, pointing us to the broader context that God will call the shots on the end-times.

If anyone is properly attuned to the Word — has “ears to hear” — they’ll catch His drift.

So it is with His cry on the Cross. It’s the first line of Psalm 22, and as you read it, you’ll see that it describes the entire scene at Calvary. Jesus wasn’t calling for Elijah to rescue Him or asking God why He had abandoned Him; He was pointing us to that Psalm and its prophecy not just about the Crucifixion, but what would come next.

All the ends of the world / Shall remember and turn to the Lord,

And all the families of the nations / Shall worship before You

For the kingdom is the Lord’s, / And He rules over the nations.

All the prosperous of the earth / Shall eat and worship;

All those who go down to the dust / Shall bow before Him,

Even he who cannot keep himself alive.

A posterity shall serve Him. / It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,

They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, / That He has done this.

— Psalm 22:27-31

For anyone with ears to hear, Jesus is saying that things look as dark as they could be, but God knew all along this would happen, and glory was about to follow — a glory that would be spoken of for generations to come. And so it is.

Indeed, was He even directing that cry to the people there at the time? Or was He speaking to us in succeeding generations — the ultimate message of hope during the ultimate time of despair?

Psalm 22

(1) My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

Why are You so far from helping Me,

And from the words of My groaning?

(2) O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;

And in the night season, and am not silent.

(3) But You are holy,

Enthroned in the praises of Israel.

(4) Our fathers trusted in You;

They trusted, and You delivered them.

(5) They cried to You, and were delivered;

They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

(6) But I am a worm, and no man;

A reproach of men, and despised by the people.

(7) All those who see Me ridicule Me;

They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,

(8) “He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him;

Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”

(9) But You are He who took Me out of the womb;

You mad Me trust while on Mymother’s breasts.

(10) I ws ast upon Yopu from birth.

From My mother’s womb

Youo hgave been My God.

(11) Be not far from Me,

For Troouble is near;

For there is none to help.

(12) Many bulls have surrounded Me;

Strong bulls of Bashan hav encircled Me.

(13) They gape at MNe with their mouths,

Like a raging and roaring lion.

(14) I am poured out like water,

And all My bones are out of joint;

My heart is like wax;

It has melted within Me.

(15) My strength is dried up like a potshers,

And My tongue clings to My jaws;

You have brought Me to the dust of death.

(16) For dogs have suyrrounded Me;

The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me./

They pierced My hands and My feet;

(17) I can count all My bones.

They look and stare at Me.

(18) They divide My garments among them,

And or My clothing they cast lots.

(19) But You, O Lord, do not be far ffrom Me;

O My Strength, hasten to help Me!

(20) Deliver Me frm the sword,

My precious life from the power of the dog.

(21) Save Me from the lion’s mouth

And from the horns of the wild oxen!

You have answered Me.

(22) I will declare Your name to My brethren;

In the midst of the assembly I will praise You.

(23) You who fear the Lord, praise Him!

All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,

And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!

(24) For He has not despised nor abhoirred the affliction of the afflicted;

Nor has He hidden His face from Himn;

But when He cried t Him, He heard.

(25) My praise shall be of You in the great assembly;

I will pay My vows before those who far Him.

(26) The poor shall eat and be satisfied;

Those who seek Him will praise the Lord.

Let your heart live forever!

(27) All the ends of the world

Shall remember and turn to the Lord,

And all the families of the nations

Shall worship before You

(28) For the kingdom is the Lord’s,

And He rules over the nations.

(29) All the prosperous of the earth

Shall eat and worship;

All those who go down to the dust

Shall bow before Him,

Even he who cannot keep himself alive.

(30) A posterity shall serve Him.

It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation,

(31) They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born,

That He has done this.