Monday, June 30, 2008

The Showers Saga - 24: Testifying at The Oasis

There are two key ingredients that have made The Lord's Rain work. One has been prophecy, as noted in a previous entry. The other has been people: people who have been tapped on the shoulder by God, to share their gifts in order to make it work.

Among the many who have responded to that call has been a group from The Oasis, an ACOP church in Duncan, which -- in what seems to be a previous lifetime -- helped me through a very dark period. They sent a work party over to Vancouver three times to build the frames and the sub-floor and install drywall.

Yesterday, I went back to The Oasis for what I realized was the first time in almost three years, and Brandon Wall spoke briefly about the image he had, that the Oasis was a small church, but small in the way that the point of an arrow is small -- effective and shooting straight to the heart of areas that need the light of Christ.

What a segue! Amelia leaned over and said to me, "That little arrow has already hit the Downtown East Side". Shortly after, Brandon pointed me out in the congregation and called me up to share with the others.

It was a chance to give the people who worked on the project a public acknowledgement of the impact their work is already having on the DTES:
  • this is about m0re than just showers. People come in to get cleaned up, but more importantly, they come into a place where they can hang out and be themselves, rather than the personas they have to put on for the "street scene"
  • people who come in have definitely taken ownership. Two of the people who had showers this past Saturday took a moment to wipe up the floor, and one woman -- who didn't shower -- saw water on the tile floor and laid down used towels so others wouldn't slip.
  • there is an amazing level of respect. We treat people with respect (some might say that getting treated as human beings is a novel concept for some of the people around there), and that respect is returned. Sometimes, it's almost comical -- hearing drug users warn others not to do their deals or smoke up in front of a house of the Lord.
  • people are finding a safe haven: I mentioned Candice, the girl who had come as far as our door a week ago Friday, and when Amelia asked her if she wanted to come in for coffee, she said she needed to talk to someone "and it's personal". Amelia took her up to Barry's office, then came back a couple of minutes later and took her to Vancouver General Hospital. Candice had OD'd, after trying to stay clean for a couple of weeks. Her parents are both addicts, too. After falling off the wagon this time, Candice figured her choice was hospital or suicide. Amelia helped her take the first option.
  • another unexpected consequence -- and a good one: the anointing is already spreading upstairs. Since the showers opened, there have been increasingly powerful services in the Carrall Street Church.

But when you talk about unexpected consequences, the impact that being involved with that project has on The Oasis has yet to be measured. A prayer that Brandon offered in another part of his remarks reflected a fact of life that I had forgotten in the five years since I last worshipped there (the visit three years ago was to spend a little time with my daughter at their summer Bible camp). Brandon prayed for provision and jobs for people who were unemployed. Being dependent on resource-based industries, Cowichan Valley is still being hammered by unemployment or spotty job prospects. We often prayed for God to continue providing for people when we would hear of a mill or a camp shutting down or cutting back. If there was ever a church where members of the congregation would -- in the world's way -- be unlikely to donate their time and skills (not to mention the cost of travelling from Duncan to Vancouver and back three times), it would be The Oasis. And yet they did, because God had called them to do it.

Consider Peter. The times when Jesus and His glory manifested in his life were times when Peter was involved with his trade. Jesus walked out on the Sea of Galilee when Peter was in a boat. When the Pharisees tried to suggest that Jesus and Peter should be paying their taxes, Jesus told Peter to go fishing. And when Jesus appeared to Peter, John and the others on the shore, Peter had gone fishing. He was plying his trade. Here, we have people who are skilled in building trades, doing what they've been anointed to do. That's the time when God starts to manifest in their lives, and it's not a long step from their to His providing for all of their needs.

And so that is our prayer for The Oasis: that God will see their obedience and their diligence in plying their trades, and will provide for all of them. Not just those who came to Vancouver, but those who stayed behind to "guard the stuff", as it were; the word of God (1 Sam. 30:24) says that they are equally entitled to the reward.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Showers Saga 23 - The Role of Prophecy

When I make presentations on The Lord's Rain (the next one is coming up June 14 at the men's breakfast at Sonrise Church in Surrey), I always talk about the fact that prophecy played a key role in this endeavour. But it wasn't until Pastor Cal Weber spoke on the prophetic this past Sunday at Westpointe that the importance of the prophetic word really hit home.

Actually, "importance" isn't the right word. I don't think the English language has a word strong enough, in fact. It's more like the life blood of any mission, whether directly connected to the Lord's work, or not.

As Cal pointed out, when the early Apostles were preparing to go out and spread the Gospel, the other Apostles prayed over them and laid hands on them. If you're in any kind of charismatic church, you've seen it: a group of leaders will cluster around someone who's about to go someplace -- perhaps into the mission field, or leaving town to take another job -- and they'll lay hands on them and pray and some people will speak words of knowledge or wisdom or encouragement. If these leaders are walking in the Holy Spirit, they are speaking words from the Lord, and those words, when spoken, set events in motion to bring them to pass.

In September (as you'll recall if you've read the earliest postings on our "saga"), Lee Grady, editor of Charisma, visited Westpointe and called up anyone in Ministry for a Word. That was where he laid hands on me and spoke that I would be going on a journey and the Lord would provide me with new "ax blades" for Ministry on the Downtown East Side (and elsewhere).

Not long after that, I went to New York (something Lee didn't know at the time) and came back with the seed of the idea that became the showers project.

A few years before, Gerry Wall, senior pastor at The Oasis near Duncan, prophesied over Barry Babcook that Gospel Mission would expand and reach out to more people.

What hit me when Cal spoke on Sunday (and looking back on it, it comes straight from the Book of Duh), is that the Lord has had the showers project ready to go from the beginning. He just needed the right place, the right time and the right people.

Notice that Lee's prophecy did not say, "Drew ... you will go to New York City, where you will meet the senior pastor of the second-oldest rescue mission in the city and he will show you their showers project and you will come back and do the same thing in Vancouver". As we learn from Ezekiel 40, God never shows us the big picture: just what we have to do. What I had to do was open my heart and mind to receive what God wanted to show me on my journey -- the imminent one to NYC, but also any other journey He might send me on.

After all, a key part of the journey was to connect with Kenny and Evelyn Black at Rivers of Living Water, which led to being part of a red-hot all-night prayer meeting and the beginnings of a great friendship; it also led to meeting Pastor Roger Jamison and learning about the Christ-based rehab program at Anchor House in Brooklyn; those were key factors in the whole picture. Had Lee's word simply mentioned showers, I probably would have cut the whole New York trip and gone right to work.

"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it ..." (Ps. 147:1) Any kind of mission, if it's truly the will of God, is built on a prophetic word.

One of the side-notes about this project is that, as we get rolling, there are more people suggesting other things we "should" do: stay open longer ... open more mornings ... provide breakfast ... Good ideas, all, but so far, no such leading from the Lord. He may make the way for us to open more mornings ... and He may tap someone else on the shoulder about the breakfast thing ... or call more volunteers to help us expand what we're doing now ... but it's all up to Him.

Even if God has purposed something and people become part of it in obedience, the moment anyone says, "Right, Lord, thanks a million: we'll take it from here" and push ahead with our own ideas (even if it's "only" to expand the original assignment), we'll be on our own and unprotected.

Jesus tells us we can only aspire to be unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10), and trying to do anything more than our duty -- even for the noble-sounding purpose of being "profitable" to God -- risks bringing us out of His will.

So among other things, The Lord's Rain is an excellent example of God's having long-ago decided that something must go ahead, and has brought together, as only He can do, the people to make it work.

If that isn't humbling and exhilarating at the same time, I don't know what is!


I don't think anyone actually laid hands on me regarding A Very Convenient Truth, but the more developments that come along regarding the current frenzy over the environment, the more convinced I am that it's a message the Lord wants to get out. But I've noticed there's been a "slow but steady" progression in the way it's been happening. The book arrived from the printers' in January, and only a few copies have been purchased. But the talk show appearances and discussions with others have helped the message grow and develop so that, while I wonder sometimes about whether I shouldn't have a Big Marketing Plan to get the book into more stores, I keep reminding myself that this is all happening in God's time -- which is always on time.

Coming up on Sunday evening, June 22 at 6:30, I'll be giving my first big presentation on the book at Westpointe. If you're in the Vancouver area, come out and "hear what this babbler will say". It's a perspective that you won't hear from the mainstream media and especially not the environmental movement -- and may inject some hope into the discussion, where there isn't much now.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

An upside-down church and the Uzzah Experience

The email high-fives have been making the rounds lately, over the removal of a controversial piece of public art near Coal Harbor in Vancouver. The installation is of a church, literally standing on its head: steeple downwards, the foundation in the air.

It's one of the few pieces of public art (official name is "Device to Root Out Evil", and the scupltor is Dennis Oppenheim of New York) that I've ever really been able to dig, but it offended a number of religious types, and the Vancouver Park Board has taken it out, and it's off to Calgary to be displayed there.

The move by the park board came after these protests, however there are, apparently, a number of other factors. One is that some real estate types have been coveting the property; maybe it made non-Christians uncomfortable -- heck, how can you argue with the title? The Park Board itself insists it "never intended for the display to be permanent", so it was time to take it out.

Yeah - whatever.
This entry is directed at those who opposed it on religious grounds.

Having been raised in a "showbiz" family (you'll find my mother's star on Starwalk on Granville Street), I still believe in artistic freedom, even though -- as you've probably gathered if you've read anything else on this blog -- my Christian faith is as strong and Bible-believing and faith-imbued as they come. I know, therefore, that Jesus is more powerful, more glorious and more victorious than any upside-down church. Christians are not called to take offence, but to promote Jesus to the world. Being seen as a bunch of religious thought police (this may come as a shock to some) does not accomplish that.

We're not alone: the experience of Uzzah happened 4,000 years ago, and it appears that lesson still hasn't sunk in.

First of all, let me explain why I dug that installation. It gets us thinking -- thinking about faith, and about the church itself. Some might construe the title, "Device to Root Out Evil", to be sarcastic. Sarcasm is often in the mind of the listener (or, as Dilbert once said, "I don't have an attitude problem: you have a perception problem).
But supposing we take the title at face value: the intention of the church is to root out evil. And consider the image of the little country church, as opposed to a massive cathedral: the simplicity of the Gospel, the Word of God straight-no-chaser, laying the axe to the root.
Some think that having the steeple pointing downwards represents a church going to hell. Why should that be offensive? Shouldn't that get us thinking about what the Body of Christ is doing and make sure our church is not going to hell? Or maybe it's a sign that our church has become topsy-turvy -- much like the rest of the world -- and we need to do what we can to put it upright? Or maybe the installation is supposed to remind us that every so often, we need to take the institution called the Church and turn it on its ear: shake it up and get it moving again? Many people have called for that over the centuries, be it Martin Luther with his theses, Pierre Berton's The Comfortable Pew or even Jesus Christ Himself.

I suspect any one of those ideas struck a nerve with the religious opponents.

So who is Uzzah, and what is his lesson?

Uzzah is written up for Eternity in 2 Samuel 6 for one tiny little slip-up, which cost him his life. He was walking in proximity to the Ark of the Covenant, which was riding on a cart pulled by oxen. One ox stumbled and the Ark shook. Uzzah leapt to steady the Ark and keep it from falling, and was vaporized on the spot for disobedience.

The disobedience is spelled out in Numbers 4:15 "they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die". The next verses explain how each man involved with the tabernacle is assigned his particular burden, and nothing more -- and especially, they are not to touch the holy things.

Uzzah stepped out of bounds. His action was well-intentioned (is there ever a more damning assessment of someone than to say that "they meant well"?) -- he was afraid something might happen to the Ark if it fell off the cart -- but disobedient, not just because he violated Num. 4:15 (and other such warnings), but because his action was based on fear -- not faith.

See, there's a fear we humans have -- especially when religion enters the picture -- that our beliefs constantly need to be defended. We need to be on guard against anyone who criticizes, denigrates or otherwise comes against what we believe. Criticism creates the speed bump that causes the ox to trip, and we feel we have to leap to make sure the Ark doesn't fall.

What are we afraid of? That the Ark might break? That God is going to get hurt? That the Ark might fall at all? My God does not fall off the cart, no matter how many times the ox trips. My God is the only One Who can keep me from falling: He doesn't need me to prop Him up. He has called me -- as He has called all of us who believe -- to promote Him, preach the Gospel, baptize, heal and lead people to salvation; but He has not called me to defend Him.

There will be no shortage of people who will look past the Park Board's "official" explanation for the removal of the upside-down church, hear and read the congratulatory comments from the religious types who took offence, and come to the reasonable conclusion that the thought police are at it again. So we need to ask ourselves: will this lead one more soul to Christ? Has this advanced the Kingdom one iota? Indeed, it makes the job so much tougher for those trying to reach out to the "unchurched".

Throughout the first five books of the Old Testament, we are reminded constantly of the force of God's glory. Even those closest to Him couldn't look at Him directly. Moses and Elijah had to cover their faces when they came near His presence. In Exodus 19:21, "the Lord said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the Lord to gaze, and manyof them perish".

We get a very graphic description of God's glory in Daniel 3, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are thrown into the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar had that furnace cranked up to seven times its normal heat, so that when the door was opened and the three shoved inside, the soldiers beside them were incinerated.

Yet S, M & A came out of it unsinged, without even the smell of smoke.

That's the glory of God: more powerful yet than a furnace that can kill someone who just comes close to it.

Wouldn't that be stronger than one artist's view of the church?

Aha! Someone is saying: the opponents of the installation haven't been vaporized -- explain that, wiseguy!

It's the Grace of God, giving people a chance to be more circumspect in the future -- the same Grace He grants me, in case I'm missing the point.

Nevertheless, we are called not to react, but to pray. Reacting -- as Uzzah did -- is a fleshly response, believing one is doing the right thing. Praying seeks the Lord and asks what His will is. As we learned from Peter at the time of the Crucifixion, even the best of intentions can be at cross-purposes to God's will.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Two Elephants in the Living Room

This past Saturday's Vancouver Sun carried an in-depth piece on the murders at an apartment in Surrey last October. Four gang associates and two innocent bystanders were executed in the apartment. Police are still looking for the killer(s). There are interviews with the grieving families and explanations of the criminal past of the gangsters. Police talk about how hard it is to keep up with organized crime. The Solicitor-General promises tough action. Opinion polls indicate the public has little confidence in police to deal with organized crime. There are veiled suggestions that the court system lets police and the public down by being too lenient with criminals.

But there's an elephant in the living room. You know: the one everyone knows is there, but no one wants to talk about.

Two elephants, actually.

One is that the gangs are fuelled by drug money. Drugs. The bottom line.

And who's responsible for the drug trade?

We are.

We -- as a society -- have sent mixed messages to people. We're down on drugs, but don't want to do what it takes to keep people off them -- or get people off them. We send mixed messages, wringing our hands at the demon of crystal meth, crack and heroin, but taking a laissez-faire attitude towards addicts.

This is where the right-winger in me comes out, big-time. We've tried to infiltrate the drug underworld and nail "Mr Big" (in singular or plural form) for years, without trying to deal with the "demand" side of any economic equation. But so long as the demand is there -- so long as people shoot up, snort or smoke -- and we not only turn a blind eye but advocate giving them "a safe place to shoot up", there will always be dealers. We arrest one Mr Big (along with the attendant media frenzy over just how much money the guy was bringing in, how big his house is, how many Mercedes-Benzes he has and how glamorous a lifestyle he was leading), and 20 more will figure it's worth risking a stretch in the slammer.

But take away the belief among the users that they can smoke up in full view of the law and they won't face any consequences, and just watch what happens to demand. Even the rather off-beat ECON 100 class with Larry Boland at SFU told me the lineup to become suppliers would start to dwindle.

But how do we bust the users? What would we do with them? Send them to jail? In a trice (that's the Imperial measure: the metric is augenblick) there'd be some sharp lawyer on the line, finding some Charter right that's being violated. Force them into rehab? Even less feasible: one thing from the past four years in that area is, they have to want to be free of the addiction, or they'll just fall into it again as soon as their term was up.*

You can't -- in other words -- force someone to do the right thing. They have to make that choice themselves. But how?

That brings us to the other elephant in the living room.

A prime example is one of the brothers at Carrall Street. I may have mentioned him before: he's 64 now, had a stroke a few years ago so can't walk or talk very well, has a broken clavicle that sticks up through his skin (the surgeon says the "do nothing" option is the best one because he's concerned Jim might fall, break the plate that would be joining the bone together, and bring on infection. "I took an oath to 'do no harm'," the doctor told me. Funny how "do no harm" applies with a man who has a bone sticking through his skin, but do less harm is, apparently, perfectly acceptable for shooting drugs. But I digress ...)
Jim was caught smoking crack in his hotel room. His health care worker and I were discussing the case, and we both agreed that he had to get off the drugs (duh). There was a pause in the conversation, and then we both said -- practically in unison -- "why?"

Why, indeed? Why should he kick the drugs? He's 64 ... affected by a stroke ... with a broken clavicle ... living in a 10 x 10 room on the Downtown East Side.

What's the elephant? Lack of hope?

Yes and no. The elephant is that the hope is found in Christ. Jesus provides the hope that people need in order to rise above their afflictions -- the hope that makes them see that there's something better than living for the next fix. But no one wants to talk about that, which makes Jesus the other elephant in the living room.

And that's where we come in. We have to instill that Hope in people, and praise God, we see miracles, signs and wonders among the people who come to Gospel Mission/Carrall Street Church/The Lord's Rain. It's not another theory -- untried, untested and untrue and therefore perfectly positioned to garner millions of dollars in government funding and become the flavor-of-the-week social engineering rallying point -- but something that works over and over again -- much to the chagrin of the "ABC"** movements.

Praise God, too, that we're not dependent on government handouts, which invariably come with strings attached -- like "Don't Preach Christ - crucified or otherwise". We'll keep preaching Him, because that is the only true source of Hope for people -- especially those who are no longer being treated as people ... by other people.

BTW ... interesting sidebar to the story last week, that a BC Supreme Court Justice (there's an oxymoron for you!) ruled it would be "unconstitutional" to deny funding to the safe injection site. One of the brothers at Carrall Street mentioned off-handedly, "I missed the rally ... and it cost me $35." Apparently, that was the inducement to be part of the "spontaneous demonstration of support" for InSite. The money, he said, came from VANDU -- the support group for drug users ("VANDU's got money, man!") -- so they got groovy black t-shirts with the unsupported claim "InSite saves lives", a seat in a courtroom ... and $35. Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour!

*How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? ANSWER: Just one, but the light bulb has to really WANT to change.
** ABC = Anybody But Christ (also called "Jesus Without")