Backs to the wall

If I were to regale you with my testimony — which I won’t: not yet, anyway — I would tell you that my decision to come to Christ came when I ran out of other people to blame.

My back was to the wall. My life had cratered and I had no place else to turn. That was when I called on Jesus to help me, and He did. No, my life has not been all jam in the seventeen years since then, but I’ve broken out of the pattern of progress, plateau, setback and start over that I had fallen into. And I’ve known where true Hope lies.

But it started with my back to the wall.

I’m sure that’s a common factor with many people who have come to Jesus. It’s when we reach our lowest point ever that we realize we have no control over the circumstances in our lives and our only resort is to put our trust in Him. I know that’s a cliche, and is often followed by some high-minded response like, “He should be our first resort — not our last!”, but we’re human.

So I look at the current situation with coronavirus — COVID-19, as it’s been dubbed by the World Health Organization (doesn’t it feel better, now that it has a catchy name?) — with quarantines and a cruise ship being sealed off and another cruise ship being refused entry to five countries, even though no one on board was sick, before being allowed to dock in Cambodia, and I see a world that has its back to the wall.

Doctors haven’t found a cure. People have been dying from the disease; and yet, others have shown symptoms — one of them apparently infected other people — and then tested negative for the virus.

This adds to the “end-times checklist“, and could be the biggest sign of all that the world now has its back to the wall. A disease for which medical science has been neither able to predict nor cure, and from which some people recover completely while others die, simply compounds the sense that we humans are powerless in the scheme of things.

The only One we can turn to is God.

The only avenue we have to Him is through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life: all the things we desperately need and are in woefully short supply right now.

As I’ve said before, I’ve envisaged God saying, “Hi! I’m over here!” We can’t let up, in pointing people to Him.

Farewell to a Friend Dep’t. A woman I knew in high school passed away yesterday from cancer. She’d been battling it for at least two years — it was two years ago this June, that she told me a trip she was taking would be her last time travelling. Publicly, she maintained a positive attitude right to the end — even posting on Facebook up to the day before she left us — and I hope I have that same attitude is something similar befalls me.

A year or so before she told me about the cancer, she posted this picture on my Facebook timeline:

It was a case of God’s exquisite timing. She had no way of knowing, but at the time, I was going through one of those periods when one questions if one is on the right track. This was a big confidence-builder and confirmation, and I’ve been grateful to her ever since. All this to say, sometimes, you never know what a “word in season” will do.

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!

"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.

Epiphany – we need it

It’s Epiphany — January 6 — as I write this.

(No, this is not the “more about that”, that I mentioned on Friday. This is more important. We’ll do that follow-up tomorrow. Lord willing.)

Over the past few days, a few more items have been added to the “come to Jesus” list — current events and situations that align with Jesus’ words about what would happen prior to His return. To wit:

  • Fires ravaging Australia (the head of the Rural Fire Service noted the other day that they develop three models to get an idea of how serious the fires will be: one is the least-destructive. the second is moderate destruction, and the third is the worst-case scenario. Usually, fire seasons land in the middle group. This fire situation is the worst case.)
  • A tropical cyclone, bearing down on Western Australia
  • The world has been pushed another step closer to nuclear war.

This makes it all the more important that we increase our efforts to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and the love God has for us all. There needs to be an Epiphany, a revelation of Jesus, and it’s up to us to help bring that revelation through our words, our deeds and (probably most importantly) our attitudes towards others.

As I wrote back in March, we are living in very blessed circumstances: God has caused us to be born in this time, in this era, with these situations around us, because He wants us to be the ones to bring that revelation.

It’s exciting, not a little daunting, but remember that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will be with us every step of the way!

If truth sets us free …

You probably know that I don’t like to drag politics into these pages — unless I see it as a sign of the times we’re living in and figure that we ought to be awake and aware of what’s shaking.

It’s time to STOP! – Hey – what’s that sound?

Everybody look what’s goin’ down …

— “For What It’s Worth” by Stephen Stills, 1966

Recently, one of Donald Trump’s most ardent apologists, Tucker Carlson of Fox News (where else?), conceded that the president is part of the Frequent Liars Club. But while you might think that the host was joining the ranks of those who are “flipping” on DJT, instead, he rationalized it this way:

Donald Trump is a salesman: A talker, a boaster, a compulsive self-promoter. At times, he’s a full-blown BS artist. Most people know this. It’s obvious. It’s transparent, really. … And by the way, did you know he’s up to almost 14,000 lies by now? My gosh, what a bad person he is. Unlike us.

Impressive. Sort of George Orwell meets The Nicholas Brothers (a great tap-dancing duo from decades past).

So, breaking down his reasoning:

  • Trump lies. A lot.
  • He’s a salesman.
  • Salesmen lie.
  • That’s a known issue, so get over it.

Now, before we go any further, let me point out that I know at least three people who make their living off selling things, and none of them would I call a liar. Two of them sell (are you sitting down?) cars. The third (stay seated) sells real estate. The same holds true for my colleagues in radio who sold advertising time. So let’s not tar all salespeople with the same brush as DJT.

The idea of explaining away chronic lying by the leader of the free world by saying that everybody does it so we should get used to it is another sad sign of our times.

Earlier this week, the New York Times’ White House correspondent lamented that “truth itself is on trial” (although his opinion piece turned out to be little more than a re-hash of what we’d already heard and read),

Get used to being lied to by people who are supposed to be protecting and defending us? What does that really say?

“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”-

— John 8:32

What’s the opposite of being free? Being slaves, of course. Is that what Carlson and the others who apologize for prevaricators (because there is lying on all sides — Carlson has a point, there) want, is to keep people enslaved?

We know the way out of that, don’t we?

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

— John 14:6

Tucker Carlson has a second point, too, that I agree with, although I wonder if he realizes what he said. In the article, he’s quoted as saying that Trump’s opponents prefer to focus on things Trump says that are lies and not on the things Carlson says are true.

I doubt that he was doing anything more than saying, “So’s yer old man!”, but the underlying principle is that people don’t like the truth. They’re afraid of it. Even though it sets us free, we often count the cost of that freedom and opt for the short-term “comfort” of remaining enslaved.

It’s nothing new: it’s the same thing that caused Adam and Eve to hide from God after they had tasted that fruit.

But what appears to be new here, is that commentators like Tucker Carlson and others — and you’ll find it in Canada, too — are starting to tell us to chill-out, because lying is simply The Way It Is.

And that’s the scariest truth yet.

Come, Lord Jesus … come.

Convincing your NBF – part deux

Originally published in March 2019

So … (continuing a thought we started yesterday) you’ve got your NBF (non-believing friend) to a point of “Hmm …” when showing how today’s scene, with its wars, terrorism, climate change, rampant, incurable diseases, and earthquakes in diverse places, was foretold 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ.

But then, your NBF comes back with, “Yeah? So then what happens? Gotcha!” 

“Well,” you reply, “things get worse. Jesus says those are the beginning of sorrows. But then He comes back.”

“Yeah? When? Does the Bible say that?”

“Nope. In face, Jesus says only God knows when that will be.”

“Hmm …”

“Have you been watching the news? Scientists, saying there’s going to be a big die-off in the oceans?”


“That’s in there, too.” (Revelation 8:9)

At which point, you hand your NBF a copy of the Bible and say, “The thing to remember is, if the Bible called this right, what else is in there that we need to know? And the stuff in here is mainly encouraging — like, no matter what you’ve done wrong in your life, you can turn to Jesus, God will forgive you and Jesus will help you not to keep doing it. But don’t take my word for it. You can read it for yourself. That’s how much God loves us: He wants us to know what’s going to happen, and how to be safe when it does.”

You get the picture: point out the plain-language parts where the Bible foretells what we’re seeing today, and work on your NBF’s intelligence and free will to read the Bible for her- or himself.

We know how close our world is to the greatest Come to Jesus Moment of them all, and Jesus gave us our marching orders: lead others to Him, love others as He loves us, and keep crying out to God: “… when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b)

If we’re doing our job, He will.

Because it works: convincing your NBF.

Originally published March 9, 2019

One of the ongoing discussions in churches — ongoing for several centuries, in fact — is whether the Bible is the Word of God.

But one of the problems we’re facing in this century is the fact that, with worldly concerns like humanism and science becoming more vocal, we’re seeing a generation that has no concept of God. Humanists declare “you can be good without God” and many scientists have become so focused on discovering the secrets of life, the universe and everything, that, as Stephen Hawking reputedly said, they “have made God irrelevant”.

Translation: we can explain everything about life, the universe and everything, and anything we can’t explain is the result of chance.

So the challenge for us, trying to lead people to Jesus Christ, is not the question of whether the Bible is the Word of God, but whether there’s even a God to have a Word.

As with everything else that’s crucial in our walk with Him, God has made this one very simple for us. You can start here:

“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.

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

— Matthew 24:6-7, 12

This was spoken by Jesus 2,000 years ago, and written down not long after, and by more than one witness. Unlike other prophecies, which sometimes require prayer, contemplation and a lot of stretching to interpret, this prophecy is pretty darn direct: you don’t need to be an end-times wonk to figure it out.

Invite your non-believing friends to take a look around. What do we see today?

  • wars
  • terrorism (rumors of war)
  • nation versus nation (think “identity politics”, and how divisive that has become in our society. A “nation” is not simply a country, but a group of people joined by one or more common characteristics.)
  • Kingdom against kingdom (you can look at physical wars, or you can look at the kingdom of God against the kingdom of Satan (which you could also dumb-down to “the battle of good versus evil”))
  • famines (effects of climate change)
  • pestilences (diseases, like AIDS, ebola, zika and resurgence of other diseases thought to have been wiped out)
  • earthquakes in various places
  • lawlessness abounds (in the name of “individuality” and “freedom”, people are writing their own rule books: “if it works for me, then it’s got to be”)
  • the love of many grows cold (look at the way we treat our neighbors)

At some point, your NBF (non-believing friend) will want to say, “Well, that’s been going on for a long time!”, so here’s where you can point out that the frequency, concentration and intensity has grown. If they still waver, ask if they don’t agree that the effects of climate change have become more acute: very few science-minded individuals would argue that one.

Then, point out the growing hatred between people of different “nations”, and the lack of compassion for the homeless, drug-addicted, refugees and under-employed.

And then remind the NBF that Jesus “called it”, at a time when no one would have had any idea what He was talking about. No one else has prophesied with that directness and that accuracy. So if the Bible got that right, isn’t it worth looking to see what else is in there?

The great mis-direct & the offense of the Cross

The other day, I wrote about the “big news” events in the world, and the possibility — the danger — that we can get so focused on them that we don’t see what’s really going on.

There’s the impeachment investigation in the USA, the election in Canada, Turkey’s invasion of Kurdish areas of Syria, Brexit, storms, fires, and other things too numerous to mention — all commanding our attention. So what are we not seeing through this?

Here’s something to consider: look how quickly the story of Amber Guyger and Brandt Jean, which could have been a game-changer in race relations and especially between African-Americans and police, faded from the public eye. Worse, follow-ups that I saw involved people who were offended by it. The Freedom From Religion Foundation complained that the judge (who, apparently, gave Ms Guyger a Bible and some suggested passages, as her own witness) had over-stepped her bounds, mixing church with state. The New York Times found some people who had been wronged in the judicial system, who complained that they didn’t get a Bible and a hug.

And so it goes. The Apostle Paul referred to “the offense of the Cross” (Galatians 5:11), and gives a clue later as to why the Cross should be offensive.

For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

— Galatians 6:13-14

The world, like the early-church folks Paul is referring to, wants us to live in a certain way and observe certain things; but the world has been crucified by that Cross, and the world doesn’t like it. The world is eager for revenge, and whether that revenge comes in the form of overt acts like complaints against the judge or in subtle ways, like diverting our attention to the signs of Jesus’ return, but not to the meaning of those signs.

The world wants us to focus on the symptoms, but not the source.

The world wants us to focus on anything but Jesus, and to make sure we do, the world takes offense at the Cross, knowing we humans don’t want to offend anyone.

Jesus knows that.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”

— John 15:18-19

So these distractions, these expressions of offense at the Cross, are simply a function of the world hating Jesus, and anyone who follows Him. Knowing what the enemy is up to, we can see past that, and keep loving people and pointing them to that “offense”.

Remember the mis-direct!

Here’s one for you: what do the current impeachment investigation in the US and the current spate of climate change activist actions have in common?

Here’s a clue:

“Keep your eye on the roses, ladies and gentlemen! Never take your eyes off the roses!”

When so much attention is focused on so little, it’s fair to ask, what are we not seeing, and why? Climate change and the actions of the President of the United States are important issues, in their way, but while we’re looking at those roses, we’re supposed to miss the rabbit and doves coming out of the magician’s hat. Why do you suppose that would be?

That’s not really a rhetorical question. Consider this:

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing,

whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

— 2 Corinthians 4:3-4

While the world is focusing on flashy things like worldwide protest marches or one country’s politics, the fact that we are looking at the greatest “come to Jesus moment” ever is getting overlooked.

We need to be “woke Christians”, looking past the “magician’s mis-direct”, the arguments over climate change and even our own Schadenfreude at seeing the mighty fall; we need to keep our eyes fixed on the Gospel and remembering that our job is to “unveil” the Gospel to the ones Paul says are perishing. It’s our responsibility. It’s our duty.

“For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.

“And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.

“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

“But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.”

— Mark 13:19-23