A new disease and the old fear

Nothing like a health crisis to stir up blind panic.

Today’s New York Times reports that the Chinese government has expanded its campaign to round up suspected victims of the coronavirus beyond the city limits of Wuhan. The Times reports the mass quarantines have been chaotic and some people are being herded onto buses without preventive measures and others are left to die alone.

A few days ago, some pundits were speculating that President Trump, who apparently has a phobia about germs, may respond to the situation with a rash action (pardon me).

Fear is the motivator behind all this. That’s not telling you anything you didn’t know: people fear getting sick, they fear dying, and they especially fear any kind of situation that is beyond the control of themselves or other people.

Fear is the motivator behind climate change activism. It’s the motivator behind protests against pipelines. It’s also the barrier to ministering to people in poor urban areas.

A “progressive” think-tank in the USA recently identified fear as the motivating factor behind conservative reactionism, as opposed to the peaceful calm with which progressives handle situations. I hate to break it to you, kids, but progressives, too, use fear to rally the troops.

But fear happens to be what I call The Eleventh Commandment.

You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,

Nor of the arrow that flies by day,

Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,

Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.

— Psalm 91:5-6

If you read the “old” King James Version of that passage, it begins, “Thou shalt not fear ….”

That comes across as one of the Commandments, doesn’t it?

And among the things that thou shalt not fear is “pestilence”. Rampant disease. Epidemics. Pandemics. Health emergencies as declared by the World Health Organization.

That’s how Jesus Christ changes the approach to our world: we approach things in faith, not fear.

Faith is the belief that regardless of the circumstances, God will come through for us and be true to His promise.

Fear is the belief that God will not come through for us and be true to His promise.

As Jerry Savelle says, “Fear tolerated is faith contaminated”.

Let’s walk in faith in this and other situations — the faith that we are protected from sickness, we are healed before anything even touches us. If we do get caught up in some totalitarian scheme “in the interests of public safety”, let’s walk in faith that we will not be harmed and use that as an opportunity to witness the Gospel to others. In short, let it be like Jesus’ promise to those who believe:

[In My name] 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

Jesus took care of the biggest fear of all — death — so how much more are we able to handle lesser things, like sickness, climate change, financial considerations or being mugged in a dark alley, with Him on our side?

*Do not take that as an invitation to slug back a bottle of battery acid, or to walk into a pit of cobras with a mouse tied to your belt. We’ll deal with that one another time.

Decent discourse, and a case of "What if …?"

WARNING: slight profanity– quoted — below.

In the comic novel, Through the Fields of Clover, by Peter de Vries (1961), one of the sub-plots involves Harry Mercury, a comedian who hosts a TV variety show. His “people” and those of another TV host, Lew Pentecost, devise a plan where the two comics would “feud” with each other over the course of the season. The idea would be that both shows would benefit, because audiences would tune in every week to see what insults each comic would hurl at the other.

(People of an older generation will recall that Jack Benny and Fred Allen did the same thing, with remarkable success. A typical insult would be Fred Allen, “When Jack Benny plays the violin, it sounds like the strings are still in the cat!”*)


Alas, the wheels fall off the plan when one of Harry Mercury’s writers writes some jokes that make fun of Lew Pentecost’s obesity and the size of his nose. Pentecost hits the ceiling when he sees the jokes. As Mercury’s two writers try to decide how to salvage the deal, one of them says, “It stands to reason that you can’t have a feud with a goddam sore-head!”

That line keeps coming back to me when I look at the level of discourse in our society these days. Not just in the things people say, but in the reactions.

A few days ago, a female member of Canada’s parliament was speaking about the recent murder of a prostitute in Montreal, making the case that the government needs to do more to protect sex workers. A male MP from another party asked her if she had considered sex work.

In the uproar, the male MP apologized unreservedly, and tried to explain what he meant, but his meaning was lost in the controversy of the way he said it.

As I understand it, the MP was not asking the other member if she had considered going into sex work, but was leading to a point that “sex work” is not something any woman or girl should be forced into.

This is not about that discussion. It’s about the fact that there are a whole lot of complex issues in our world, and people are so divided and entrenched in their views, that anyone who tries to have a conversation about these issues needs to be really careful how they broach the subject.

Point One: we need to lighten up. Just because someone disagrees with us doesn’t make them evil or even inferior to us. And let’s try to grant someone the grace to realize they’re saying something with the best of intentions.

In other words, don’t be a ****** sore-head.

But my main point is, the male MP could have put his point better, if he’d paused to consider Jesus’ words.

“Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you should say.”

– Luke 12:11-12

Does that apply to parliamentary debate, or even everyday conversation? I’d say it does: if we can rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the words we need when our faith is on trial and our lives are on the line — as Jesus says it would be, in front of the synagogues, magistrates and authorities — how much more can we rely on Him to give us the right words in everyday conversation?

We need to do more of that. The Holy Spirit is about responding to a situation, not reacting to it. Humankind has been all about reacting since The Garden, and look at the state we’re in now. Time and time again, God calls us to suppress our animal instinct

The case of “What if …?” is this. What if that MP had taken the time to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in making his point about prostitution? What if the MPs who shouted, in a knee-jerk reaction, “Shame!” across the floor had prayed for understanding as to what he was getting at?

What if … when we share our views on any subject, whether it’s known to be controversial or no, we stop, drop and pray, asking the Holy Spirit to give us the guidance we need? And then listen, as He tells us what to, how to and even (dare I say it?) whether to speak.

What if … we were to do the same when someone comes at us with a view we don’t agree with?

Eldridge Cleaver once said, “Too much agreement kills a chat.” We’ll probably have a lot better chats, and get a lot more done, if we learn to engage the Holy Spirit before we put the mouth in motion.

*In olden days, violin strings were made of cat-gut. Do not despair, fellow cat lovers: “cat”-gut was actually taken from sheep. Why it was called cat-gut probably has a very good reason, but I don’t feel like looking it up.

Faith, Patience and a Tarrying Lord

That’s an expression you hear some old-school preachers use some times: “If the Lord tarries”.

“If the Lord tarries, I’ll see you next week.” “If the Lord tarries, I’ll visit Africa next year.”

It’s about declaring a desired plan, but leaving open the possibility that God may have other plans we don’t know about, that would cancel anything we planned to do — like the Second Coming.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”:

whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

But throughout history, we’ve wanted to do things in our time, and not as the Lord wills.

When Stephen, one of the seven disciples chosen to take care of the daily distribution to widows, was accused of blasphemy, he launched into an account of the history of the Israelites.

“This is he [Moses} who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us,

“whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,

“saying to Aaron, ‘Make us gods to go before us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’

“And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands.”

Acts 7:37-41

In other words, they got impatient, waiting for Moses to come back from meeting with God, and created their own idol — a golden calf — to worship and even gave it credit for leading them out of Egypt.

When Moses found out, he threw the calf into the fire, ground it to powder, mixed it with water and made the Israelites drink it.

In the same way, it feels like our society has done the same thing with Jesus. He was taken up into Heaven nearly 2,000 years ago, and what have we done? We have anticipated His return. Maybe we misconstrued Jesus’ saying that “this generation will by no means pass away till all these things [the signs preceding His return] take place” (Mark 13:30), thinking that He meant a “generation” the way we mortals measure it — from parent to child. I believe He actually means a different kind of “generation”: the Holy Spirit generation, which isn’t measured in human years.

Nevertheless, haven’t we — as a society — started asking, “Where is He? We do not know what has become of Him”. In His absence and our impatience, we have given up waiting and made idols of our own to worship, be they money, science, human intellect or New Age icons.

We need to beware: when Jesus does come down, perhaps people who still cling to the idols will be forced to swallow them, as the Israelites were with their golden calf.

So where is He? Is the Lord “tarrying”? That’s not for us to say.

But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night …

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:8-10a, 13

So let’s hang in there! Let’s get rid of the idols in our lives and return to God in our worship! And let’s make sure that those around us don’t perish, either, when that day comes!

Thinking about that dream …

This post — admittedly belated — initially ran two years ago and again last year for Martin Luther King, jr. Day. I think it’s still something to consider.

Today, my cousins and friends in the USA celebrate Martin Luther King, jr. Day, and it will be a time to discuss how far race relations have come — or haven’t come — in the years since Dr King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC.

Lately, there has been a lot of focus on diversity and identity, essentially breaking people up into discrete groups, based on outward characteristics. But was that the spirit behind Dr King’s dream?

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood … that … one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

He wasn’t talking about Black Power, or pride, or even affirmative action: he was talking about unity and brotherhood, as James Taylor reminds us.

King wasn’t the only one with that theme around that time: Kath Walker, an Australian Aboriginal poet and activist, wrote:

I could tell you of heartbreak, hatred blind,

I could tell of crimes that shame mankind,

Of brutal wrong and deeds malign,

Of rape and murder, son of mine.

But I’ll tell instead of brave and fine,

When lives of black and white entwine,

And men in brotherhood combine — 

This would I tell you, son of mine.

— Kath Walker a/k/a Oodgeroo Noonuccal 1920-1993

So … not “power” of any one race over another, and not separation based on race or history; not talk of revenge against former oppressors or even special consideration; but brotherhood and integration. The Apostle Paul would appear to agree:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek (Gentile), there is neither slave nor free; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

— Galatians 3:27-29

In Canada, there is a similar situation involving First Nations. The “reserve” system and specialized programs — not to mention other policies put into practice over the generations — have served to segregate First Nations people from non-Indigenous people. That runs counter to Paul’s principle of unity and brotherhood among anyone who has put on Christ.

So we can wring our hands now and look back on the past 50-plus years and wonder why Dr King’s dream seems even farther away now than it did then. But I believe one of the reasons for the setback has been that the progress that has happened was achieved through legislation — forcing change down people’s throats in an attempt to find a quick fix. The changes have been cosmetic and did not address root causes — including bitterness on the part of those who felt they were the losers in the world’s zero-sum thinking where if one person wins, someone else has to lose. True change starts in the heart, and moves forward through prayer, unconditional love and PATIENCE.

That was, after all, the way Jesus came into the world; He started as a baby, whose birth had been prayed-for by devout, patient people (like Simeon and Anna at the Temple), growing into a man, eventually arriving at His time to appear to the world.

One wonders: what if people had opted to pray for integration and softening of hearts between the races, and then waited patiently for God to do His work? Instead, people got impatient and wanted change NOW. Did that change really happen?

What if people had determined to love and forgive others, no matter what they did to them? What if people had determined they would stand on God’s promise, because the “effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous [person] avails much”?

Is it too big a stretch to say that today, we could well be joining hands as brothers and sisters with “lives of black and white (and red, yellow and brown) entwining”? Is it too big a stretch to say that God would have come through faster and more decisively than we could ever have imagined?

Praise God, the Cross allows us to get back on track as soon as we make the decision to turn to Him. It’s a calling on each and every one of us, and it’s never too late to start.

"If My people …"

“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,

“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 sin and heal their land.”

— 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

That passage keeps coming to mind when I look at the fires in Australia, the volcanic eruption in Philippines, the cyclone bearing down on Fiji and the earthquakes in Puerto Rico. There’s also been talk of a new “mystery illness” that’s broken out in China.

But while the end-times checklist makes for an unmistakable call for us to lead more and more people to Christ so they’re not left behind when the Lord does return, there’s something else that’s key to our role as “God’s People”. It may even be easier, in some cases, than overtly evangelizing.

That is to turn to God, ourselves.

The Lord’s promise is that if “My people” pray and turn to Him, He will heal the land. He doesn’t say that all people have to be the ones praying: just that His people had to pray. The impact of that prayer is not simply on our land and home, but on the land of those around us.

Remember that Elijah prayed first for drought, and then for rain (James 5:17). When Jesus set out on the Sea of Galilee with the disciples and later calmed the storm, “other little boats” were in the vicinity (Mark 4:36). They would have been just as threatened by, and just as saved from, the storm as the disciples were.

In other words, our prayers affect not just us, but those around us, regardless of the other people’s “belief systems”.

So if we are “God’s people” — that is, not necessarily “perfect” in the self-righteous sort of way, but if we love Him above all, put everyone else’s interests ahead of our own, and submit our ways to His ways — we have a responsibility to pray. We pray for specific situations, but also continue to seek His face, ask Him to expose whatever wickedness still lives inside us and turn to Him to heal it; and as we do that, He promises to heal the land.

Not just our land, but that of those around us.

There’s our marching orders. Let’s march!

Truth on fire

NB: this is about the ongoing bushfire situation in Australia. If you, like many of us, want to contribute financially to relief efforts, here is a piece about some legitimate organizations that are raising money. And, at the end of this post, I’ll give you the link to an effort particularly close to my heart.

Having spent the last two months in Australia, I can tell you this: the bushfire situation is BAD. The story is the lede on every newscast and the front-page of every newspaper; the word “unprecedented” comes up almost as much as “quid pro quo” in the US media this past fall; and there is hardly a person in the country who is not, in some way, affected: they’ve either experienced the fires first-hand or they’re within four degrees of separation of someone who has.

People are praying, and praying mightily, for rain and God’s intervention.

“Our hearts cry out to you for those who have lost loved ones, and those who have lost properties in the wake of these ravaging fires. Father we pray, in your mercy, restrain the forces of nature from creating catastrophic damage; in your mercy protect human life.” the prayer reads. “Guard those volunteers, rural fire service personnel and emergency services who selflessly step into the breach to fight these fires. Guide police and authorities who help evacuate and shelter those who are displaced.  Bring comfort and healing to all who suffer loss.”

— Special prayer by Most Rev. Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney

Part of our human nature is to look for an easy answer to a complex problem that appears to be out of our control. Blame the Australian government, which has a hard time acknowledging that climate change is real. Blame the environmentalists, for the unfounded reason that they opposed the practice of “back-burning” — burning off potential fuel for fires in order to prevent bad ones from happening. It doesn’t matter what the truth is: find someone to blame, and you’ll feel better.

Rev. David Robertson, in his blog The Wee Flea, has done a masterful job of dissecting the arguments all around, with a follow-up piece on truth in general. It’s timely, since people can be left crying out, “What is truth?”

When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”, how little he knew that he was staring The Truth in the face.

And now is the time to remember the truth that we Bible believers are privy to: Jesus warned us there’d be days like these.

“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 various places.”

— Matthew 24:6-7

He doesn’t refer to “catastrophic bushfires” in as many words, but He does talk about “tribulation” like we’ve never seen before (Matthew 24:21), so I think we can say pretty confidently that what we’re seeing in Australia fits into that category.

And then what?

Jesus returns. Exactly when, we don’t know and aren’t supposed to: but the fact remains that these things are happening, the Bible “called it” thousands of years ago, and our “marching orders” in light of this are to point people to Jesus Christ so that no one is lost when He does come back.

Sorry: let’s change that perspective. We are to point people to Jesus Christ so that as many people as possible join Him when He returns, bringing with Him the New Jerusalem.

Fires, famines, earthquakes, incurable diseases, terrorism and struggles between “tribes” all look like bad scenes to be lamented. But they are all precursors of unimaginable glory, and we have to keep that in mind.

And that is the Truth. In that Truth is the Hope we so desperately need.

The Australian bushfire fundraising effort that is particularly close to my heart is one my daughter has taken on: all proceeds from one of her songs will go to three charities that are helping with bushfire relief. Read more about it here.

And God said, "I'm still here! Really!"

It’s Saturday morning as I write this, sitting on the balcony of an oojah-cum-spiff hotel in Surfers’ Paradise, Australia. Not even 6am, and the sun is already high in the sky, glistening on the Pacific Ocean. Palms sway their fronds along the beach, flowers are in bloom, and little lorikeets with their colourful plumage flutter through the trees. We are headed for a glorious day.

And I use the word “glorious” deliberately. Here’s why.

  • Bushfires are still doing incredible damage to property, homes and wildlife not too far west of us: recently, the city of Sydney was under an air quality warning because of the smoke from those fires.
  • There is a lunatic in the Australian Senate who claims climate change is due to the Earth being closer to the sun.
  • The President of the United States is turning his wrath on a 16-year-old girl.
  • Boris Johnson has been handed a huge majority in the UK Parliament, suggesting people in the Auld Sod are prepared to “go it alone”.
  • I’ve lost track of the number of multiple shootings — terrorist and otherwise — in the past couple of months.
  • Hatred, racism and other signs of inhumanity are increasing, in spite of the publicity campaigns telling people to stop.

Why do You stand afar off, O Lord?

Why do You hide in times of trouble?

The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor;

Let them be caught in the plots which they have devised.

— Psalm 10:1-2

And yet … there is still incredible beauty all around. Babies are being born, trees are bearing lovely fruit, people are going out of their way for others and the sun is glistening out of a clear blue sky over the Pacific Ocean.

Maybe God isn’t hiding.

Maybe God is saying, through the beauty and the continuation of life and love and the earth that He created, along with all that is in it, “Hi! I’m still here!”

Haven’t we strayed away from God long enough? I mean, we’ve been doing so for centuries — in fact, millennia — and the question we need to come back to is, “How’s that working for us?”

God is still there. He hasn’t moved. And He is waiting for us with open arms, waiting for us to turn to Him through His Son, Jesus Christ.

That’s why I say, “glorious”.

The Lord is king forever and ever:

The nations have perished out of His land.

Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble;

You will prepare their heart;

You will cause Your ear to hear,

To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

That the man of the earth may oppress no more.

— Psalm 10:16-18


Being Canadian, we’ve had Thanksgiving in October, earlier than in the US: I’ve always presumed it was because, being further north, harvest time comes earlier. By the time November comes around, much of the country is snow- and ice-bound, which takes away some of the feeling of thankfulness for a lot of Canadians. Apparently, the real reasons are a bit more complicated and political than that. I like my version better. So there.

How about that? I’ve digressed before I’ve even started!

Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.” One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” … And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.”

— John 6:7-9, 11

 It was just another day at the office for Jesus; and another “ooohh — aaahh!” moment for the people who had followed Him to that remote location. That’s assuming, of course, that the people knew the “crisis” that was going down in the background. Who knows how many people knew there was very little food or money to provide for them? Chances are, most of the people probably figured there was a catering caravan someplace that they didn’t know about.

Whatever the case, there was something about that incident that stuck out in John’s mind when he witnessed it, because not long after it, he writes about “Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks ….”

“… after the Lord had given thanks.”

John got to the root of how the miracle of provision manifested: Jesus gave thanks. More to the point, He gave thanks in general: not for transforming the seemingly small worldly provision into more than enough for everybody; not for anything specific. He just gave thanks.

There’s so many things we can be thankful for, and I’m not just talking about the good stuff, which is easy to be thankful for (and don’t forget that when we say something is “good”, it mainly means that it looks good to us, at that time).

“Thank you, Lord, for the turkey that isn’t here yet, we don’t know where it is, but we know You’ve got it for us ….”

In fact, we can be grateful to God for everything. If we suffer a setback, we can thank Him for lessons learned; if we find we’re surrounded by people we don’t agree with, we can thank Him that there’s a reason why He’s chosen us to be in that company; if we’re in any kind of difficulty, we can thank Him for the things we’ve learned in the past that brought us to such a time as that.

Above all, we thank Him because His glory is about to manifest. “This sickness is not unto death,” Jesus says when He hears about Lazarus, “but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4).

Giving thanks before the fact is a sign of believing. We declare that God is in control of everything around us, that whatever He’s doing, we’re on His side.

I remember Abraham, a man I met early in my time on pastoring on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side, and wrote about in my book, God at Work: a Testimony of Prophecy, Provision and People amid Poverty:*

One night at Rainbow Mission, we invited people to share what God had done for them lately. Abraham stood up and said, “I am grateful to God that I have no place to live. I am grateful to God that I don’t have a job or that I don’t know where my next meal is coming from.”

This is lunacy, heresy or wisdom, I thought.

“I am grateful, because it means I have to rely on God for that,” he went on, “and I know He has never let me down.”

Ah. Door Number 3.

Or, as Paul puts it:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

— Philippians 4:6-7

Abraham had that “peace of God”, thanking Him for a situation where others would lean on their own understanding and find anything but peace.

As I say, it’s easy to thank God when He’s done something, but this Thanksgiving, let us, like Jesus, learn to thank Him before He’s done anything.

*Available online: just click on the link to order.

Dying to self (again) and the Nike theology (revisited)

The other day, I saw a t-shirt with the Nike logo on it, and the following epigram:


Take note: when I refer to the Nike Theology, that is NOT what I’m talking about.

Put that thought on a sticky note and we’ll come back to it shortly.

When we were talking about “Dying to self” and a practical way of doing it, namely, by actually listening to someone else in a conversation and making it about them, the question comes up: how do we do that?

Pause for the following aphorism:

“But enough about me: how about you? What do you think of me?”

— attributed to Bette Midler

I hate to put it bluntly, but there are just some things we have to force ourselves to do, and as fallen human beings, we have to force ourselves to listen to someone else and put them, their feelings, thoughts and words, ahead of our own. The “relationship gurus” call it “active listening”, and to our collective shame, people are making money off teaching courses on it. With a little prayer to the Holy Spirit for the strength to suppress our selves and the determination to follow through on it, we can save ourselves a few hundred bucks and be closer to Christ at the same time.

(It’s worth noting that our prayers — our conversations with God — are not one-sided. When we make our supplications to Him, whether it’s for something personal or to intercede on behalf of others, it’s not all about us talking. It’s about sitting quietly and waiting on an answer. The answer may come immediately — so immediately you’ll be surprised that you didn’t think of it yourself — or may take years, but with God, the answer does come. The trick is to listen for it.)

Which brings us to the Nike Theology.

Force yourself to listen. Act as though you’re listening, and it will follow (so long as you’re doing it with a genuine desire to be more like Jesus) that listening to the other person, making them more important than you, will become a habit.

You’re doing it because you are a genuine follower of Jesus and because of that, it’s in our nature to draw others to us by making them important and worthwhile.

It’s the antithesis of the t-shirt (remember the one on the sticky note earlier?), which is all about beating someone else, succeeding on your own terms and not worrying about who likes you or doesn’t like you. (Indeed, I’m a little surprised Nike let that one through.)

I sometimes shudder to think of the number of pastors and others I’ve gone to, to talk about my issues, and who probably thought, “Oh, no! Not him again!” But thank God they suppressed that urge, because my life turned around, for the better, in the long run.

Think of how you can help someone like that, yourself.

The greatest “Thank you!”

When I pray, I generally start by thanking God for everything. Thanking Him for my life, thanking Him for my new life, thanking Him for everyone I know, thanking Him for the challenges I face and that He has the answers.

This morning, I realized — or it was suggested — that I add something else to be thankful for.

“Thank You, that You are real.”

In spite of all the alternatives to God the world is promulgating, not to mention the way so many people dismiss anyone who wants to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by saying, “We all have our belief systems”, the evidence is overwhelming that He is real. He is not just some quaint cultural explanation for the inexplicable: His manifestation — the miracles, the “spirit nudges”, the sense of newness when we turn to Him after a lifetime of “doing it our way” and the supernatural support He provides — is absolute proof of His existence.

And that proof translates to Love, forgiveness and equality in His eyes. Aren’t you glad it’s that, and not condemnation, wrath and favoritism?

I’d say that’s plenty to be thankful for, and worth starting the prayer with that.

The realness of God was on full display in a courtroom in Houston, Texas, the other day. Amber Guyger, a woman police officer, was being sentenced for killing Botham Jean, a black man. She had walked into his apartment and shot him. Her defense was that she thought she was walking into her apartment (she was a neighbour) and assumed he was an intruder.

Then came time for the victim impact statements, and Botham’s brother, Brandt, took the stand. As you know, victim impact statements are usually, and understandably, expressions of grief, loss and anger. Look at how Brandt Jean used his time.

I’ve written before that, contrary to Elton John, “sorry” is not the hardest word. “Forgive” is much harder, but of course, that’s easy to say, when you’re standing outside the actual situation.

Lord, give us the strength to follow Brandt Jean’s example, should You give us the opportunity. Because, after all, what else could have motivated Brandt Jean to speak like that?

Thank You, Lord, for being real.

And thanks, too, to David Robertson, for drawing our attention to this incident in his blog, The Wee Flea.