Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Health and prejudice - 2

More musings about the mumps outbreak in the Fraser Valley and the innuendo about "fundamentalists" refusing to get vaccinated.

I know people who do not get sick and don't get vaccinations. I'm one of them. As I said in my previous post , I haven't had vaccinations since 1994, yet Iget the flu maybe once every 18 months or so, am laid out for a couple of days, and then I'm back on the job.

Then there are people who get their shots and still get sick. Huh?

And what about these "fundamentalists", who are getting the mumps?

Two points come to mind. One is that I'd love to hear from them as to the diseases they haven't been getting, in spite of not getting shots. I mean, if they didn't get shots for mumps, then presumably they haven't been getting shots for the other diseases for which there are shots, and yet we're not hearing about outbreaks of those diseases among that community. I wonder if any reporter is going to seek them out.

Another point is a bit more esoteric. Presumably, they're standing on faith as their reason not to have shots. But what's the foundation of the faith? Are they standing on, say, Exodus 15:26, which promises that if we walk in God's ways, none of the diseases He's visited on our enemies (the Egyptians, in the case of the Israelites who were hearing that Word) would come on us? Are they praising the Lord God Who heals, or God our protector?

Or is there that un-Scriptural belief at work, that says, "if it's God's will for me to be sick ..." or "Lord, if it be Thy will for me to get better ..."

THIS JUST IN ... It's NOT God's Will for you to be sick, and it IS His will for you to get better. End of discussion. But those words, "if it be Thy will", are, as TL Osborn says, some of the greatest faith-killers ever to come out of someone's mouth. "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering," James writes (Jas. 1:6), and if we say dumb things like "if it be Thy will", we've just wavered. If you know the Word of God, you know that health and healing are His Will.

That's a significant problem with our walk with God. Way back in Genesis 3, the serpent hisses at the woman, "Yea, hath God said ...?", and while he's talking specifically about eating that fruit, the general impact has colored our relationship with God ever since. "Hath God said ..." that whatsoever we ask in Jesus' name, we can have it if we believe that we receive it???? "Hath God said ..." that the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to us???? "Hath God said ..." that by Jesus' stripes we are healed????

Or do they believe, perhaps, that sickness is in some way a lesson God is teaching us? How could it be? If it's God's Will for us to be healed, then why would He go against His own Will by making us sick? In Him, there is no shadow of turning (James (again) 1:17). Any "lessons" we learn from being sick come when we turn our eyes towards God again and glorifying Him with our healing.

I say this not to judge any of these "fundamentalists" who are being obliquely (and unfairly) blamed for the mumps outbreak. I say this to help us all remember to check the sort of faith with which we declare our protection from disease. Faith in the Lord God Who Heals and that we are protected is one thing; but "faith ... unless", I believe, leaves one wide open to be whacked, because that's a crack in the armor that the enemy can exploit for all he's worth.

As I said in that other post, the real story is that health officials say the mumps vaccine "wanes" after 15 to 20 years (I wonder if they told people that as they were sticking in the needle), since 25% of the cases reported so far are people who had been vaccinated; another 25% had been "partially" immunized, whatever that means (how can you be "partially" immunized? You either are or you ain't -- it's like being a little bit pregnant), and the remainder hadn't had shots.

So wouldn't it be interesting to find out more about this "remnant" who haven't been immunized? Who are they? What diseases have they been spared? How many of them don't have mumps? This is getting very interesting, don't you agree?

Mind you, the health officials, citing privacy considerations, won't say who these people are, what denomination they belong to, or anything like that. They're willing to slag their alleged religious motivation for not having the shots, but then duck under the Maxwell Smart Cone of Silence to prevent us from hearing about their miracles. Somehow, we'll have to flush this story out ourselves.

And now, back to Psalm 91.

Health and prejudice

I'm not sure whom to be more annoyed with - Global TV or Dr Perry Kendall.

Global ran a story tonight about the mumps outbreak in the Fraser Valley and spreading westward, and as you'll note from Tony's "anchor lead", there's a hint that "fundamentalists" may be responsible because they don't get vaccinations for religious reasons.

That point was not developed in the story, except that Dr Kendall, the provincial health officer, made an oblique reference to "conscientious objectors" who don't get their shots.

Having been a reporter, it's possible that he made a stronger reference to "fundamentalists" off-camera, but toned it down for public consumption, but the reporter likely picked up on it and worked it into the story.

Well, you know the impact that's going to have: "blasted Christians! Bible thumpers! Believing that stuff about 'The Lord is my shepherd' and 'a thousand can fall on one side and ten thousand on the other ...'! Making the rest of us sick!"

Oh, really?

Then riddle me this: if those backward, mouth-breathing fundamentalists caught the mumps because they didn't get shots, then why is there a health warning? Why isn't the outbreak contained among those who didn't get shots? Shouldn't those people who have their shots be perfectly safe? Why the fear-mongering?

Or is there really a problem with those vaccinations? Could it be that the safety net broke down, but the medical industry doesn't want to admit that, so with a little sleight of hand, it drops the subliminal hint that "fundamentalists" are responsible?

One more thing: the story didn't actually say that any of the mumps patients are "fundamentalists".

So what's the game? Do we get mad at Dr Kendall for the prejudice-tinged innuendo?

Or do we get mad at Global, for letting it go unchallenged and unsupported?

Actually, we don't get mad at either: we suck it up and forgive, and then pull out Psalm 91 for a "booster shot".

A more complete story can be found on the Global BC website, which actually does pin some numbers on the percentage of the 190 cases that do affect people who weren't immunized "either for religious or philosophical grounds". About half, they say, with half of the rest being those who were "partially immunized".

So how did the other 25% get the mumps?

Well, the print article quotes Dr Kendall as saying that mumps vaccines tend to wane after 15 to 20 years.


Isn't that the real story? That not even full vaccinations are 100% effective in preventing mumps? Talk about burying the lead!

BTW, I haven't been inocculated against anything since 1994. I occasionally get the flu, usually because I've worked too hard and worn myself down: I'm out of action for a couple of days, and then I'm back in the game. I minister on the Downtown East Side, where disease is all around. There's HIV/AIDS, of course, but that's easy to avoid: don't shoot drugs and don't have sex with people you shouldn't. But there's also TB and bedbugs and Heaven knows what all else. But I pray Psalm 91 -- you can never overdose on that -- and I am protected.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

It's the light of Christ, baby!

Priscilla Lopes-Schliep has just won the bronze medal in the women's 110-metre hurdles, and CBC commentator Diana Swain told about the time she interviewed Priscilla at the trials in Windsor, ON. Swain said she found there was "something different" about her that set her apart from the other athletes: a level of confidence the others didn't seem to have.

Let me hazard an educated guess. The answer was hanging around Priscilla's neck -- and I don't mean the bronze medal. The Cross.

Indeed, when Elliotte Friedman interviewed her, one of the first things she did was to thank everyone "for their prayers".

In other words, what Diana Swain picked up -- although she may not have realized it at the time -- was the light of Christ; the knowledge that one possesses that "X-factor", which can push someone beyond their worldly limits. I believe we saw a young woman who was humble in her performance: delighted, proud, happy for all those who'd supported her.

Some people sniff at the idea of athletes praying before or after a game, the team prayer circle or the ballplayer who crosses himself stepping up to the plate or who points Heaven-ward during the home run trot (or even after getting a base hit, for that matter). "What? Is God supposed to take sides, or be a Canucks fan all of a sudden?"

(The way the Canucks tend to snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory, evidently not.)

God does take sides: He supports, blesses and saves all who call on His name. He supports them, by strengthening them where they are weak and protecting them from unexpected injury and attack. That doesn't necessarily mean He'll rig the outcome, because God is not a fixer. But He will help someone to the absolute best performance they can turn in, and if the opponent still wins, it's because he or she performed even better.

Put another way, I could take on, say, Michael Jordan at a game of one-on-one hoops. I could spend two weeks prior to the competition in a combination of devout prayer and working on my outside shot, layup and vertical leap, but unless God wanted to teach Mike a lesson in humility, he would still take me, 125-6.

BUT ... I would have played my best game ever!

More to the point, I would have gone into that mis-match knowing it would be my best game ever, and Mike would have wondered about this serene confidence coming off this middle-aged guy.

And that, I believe, is what Diana Swain was picking up off Priscilla Lopes-Schliep. It was the Spirit, which, combined with God-given gifts, led to a world-class performance that makes a whole country feel really good!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seven years on ...

CanWest newspapers today are running a story about a dire warning from the Taliban, that it will continue targeting Canadian non-military workers -- like the two women gunned down in cold blood the other day -- unless Canada pulls its troops out of Afghanistan. There's the usual "supporting the fascist American regime" rhetoric, with the underlying theme that the Taliban have done absolutely nothing to warrant such treatment.
Normally, "I told you so" is useless, but bear with me on this one.

In the days after 9/11, which was also in the days before the explosive expansion of the blogosphere, a friend of mine forwarded an email thread, where people literally around the world were writing out their feelings about what this meant and what the US should do.

I added a piece, which went somewhat against the grain. The item read that the most appropriate response would be to do ... nothing.

Why? Because this was obviously an attack that was driven not by the crazed ideology of a bunch of people following a false god, but by Satan himself. And the only way to fight such an attack is to take it out of the flesh-and-blood realm and into the spirit realm, where the real war is going on.

Need I cite Ephesians 6:12?
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

Christ calls on us to respond in ways that the world would not expect. Praying for the people who did it, vowing not to be shaken in one's faith, and NOT sacrificing thousands of young lives in a futile attempt at retaliation are responses Satan would not have expected. Just as Jesus forgave His tormentors on the Cross, we are called on to forgive those responsible. "Let's not let the epitaph for [the people who died in the 9/11 attacks] be World War III," was the way I finished the item.

The email drew an unexpectedly negative response from one corner. It was the brother of my friend, who (I didn't know this) is, in fact, a comedian of some note, a very funny man who has done a lot in the years that followed to maintain and enhance morale for our troops at home and overseas. But he levelled a 2-barrelled blast at the idea that we should just roll over and do nothing and demanded to be taken off the mailing list so he doesn't have to read this s**t anymore.

My friend consoled me accordingly, "don't worry about my brother. He's an idiot."

So here we are, nearly seven years after the 9/11 attacks, and where exactly are we? Young, promising lives are still getting blown away in the region, aid workers are being assassinated, and the Taliban, which for a time appeared to have been sharply reduced in power and presence, have gotten their second wind and are rattling their sabres as loudly as ever.

And I can't help wondering now, "what if?"

What if ... we had opted for prayer and forgiveness over shock and awe?
What if ... we had refused to get sucked into a military response?
What if ... we had listened to that British MP who warned that, even if "we" did "get" Osama bin Laden, 10,000 more would rise up in his place?
What if ... Christians had chosen to show how they are called to a higher level of thinking, and actually walked out the example and commandments of Jesus Christ?

Perhaps ... Muslims would have looked at that example and realized that Isalmist terrorism and aggression has NOTHING on Jesus. [The "let's all understand the Muslims" BS that filled the Canadian media after 9/11 was one of Satan's counterfeits: the first way to deal with evil is to recognize that it exists, then refuse to resist the evil but rather resist the Devil (James 4:7).]

Perhaps ... God would have blessed the effort to depose Saddam Hussein, first by delivering him switfly into the hands of the Coalition, and then by miraculously bringing stability to the country and reconciliation to the factions.*

Perhaps ... certain aid workers would be alive to help people in other areas, torn apart by war or natural disasters.

Perhaps ... tens of thousands of people would have their loved ones.

Perhaps ... there'd be something resembling peace -- not absence of war, necessarily, but the true peace, blessing and protection that come from doing it God's way, rather than our common practice of doing it our way and praying that He'll bless it.

Look at the fruits: can it really be said that God is blessing the way things are going now? The loss of innocent lives and the failure of the current approach tell me that He isn't.

Saying "I told you so" -- especially seven years after the fact -- is usually useless. But when we're dealing with Christ, we can still get back on the right track, simply by turning to Him. Praise God, when we're in Christ, we can screw up and step outside of God's ways, but still repent, get back in line, and call on Him to take care of healing the past.

*[It's my belief that God wanted Saddam dealt with -- the way He wanted the Amalekites, Canaanites and Philistines "dealt with" -- for a long time, but that Satan has been trying to muck things up. First, George HW Bush eased up on Iraq in the Gulf War and didn't finish the job; then George W took things too far, by trying to stay and "fix things" even after Saddam had been captured. I really believe the Coalition should have pulled out as soon as they had Saddam, and left Iraq to fix itself. I believe that's as far as God was going to bless the operation. Satan, of course, can color anyone's thinking by using business or political interests, and the pride factor of being The One Who Brought Stability To Iraq would have been a strong temptation for the younger Bush.]

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

How not to report on a suicide

It's an horrific story. A 40-year-old father, with his 3-year-old girl strapped safely in a car seat and some other adults in the SUV, is driving along the road near Rosedale, BC. Suddenly, another vehicle slams into the SUV, and the little girl's daddy is dead. The vehicle that hit them is driven by a suicidal, brain-damaged man who accomplishes what he was out to do -- kill himself.

So what does the Vancouver Sun focus on in the reporting? The background of the suicidal man. The fact that he'd suffered a brain injury a few years ago and hadn't been the same since. The fact that his sister had been murdered near the same spot as the crash happened. Nothing about the little girl whose daddy was snatched away.

I was a reporter/broadcaster for 25 years, and never did feel comfortable with the knee-jerk "we don't report suicides" mantra that newsrooms fall into whenever someone does him or herself in. The reasoning has always been "it's a terrible personal tragedy for the family involved" or "it might lead to copy-cats". But I believe that an examination of the factors leading to the suicide -- breakdown in the mental health system, discussion of warning signs parents and friends could look for, etc. -- is much more in the public interest than dissecting the latest gang murder or (now I step into the grounds of treason) the latest breathless pronouncement about the 2010 Olympics.

For example, a suicide back in the mid-90s in Victoria led to a coroner's inquest, which led to the exposure and repair of some serious flaws in the mental health system, helping save countless other lives. Problem was, as reporters, we had to begin by making reference to an incident, which had been noted by many people (as in, "Why are police cars and an ambulance outside the View Street Parkade -- and why is View Street blocked off?") but which we didn't report because of that "no suicide" mantra.

But I digress. The Sun's reportage makes for reading that could have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write Gatsby II, but still doesn't go into the public-interest topics: boring stuff like, what kind of treatment was this guy getting? Why was he allowed behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? No, rehashing a 1977 murder (without, you'll notice, mentioning whether the killer is still doing time) is much more entertaining.

Katie Webb wrote an excellent piece for The Province about suicides, and if I can find the link, I'll add it. The four-page special report definitely was in the public interest. We talked about it, because she called me at TransLink to ask about suicide prevention barriers on any of the bridges under our aegis. The Golden Ears Bridge will have a barrier, required under its environmental assessment certificate ("environmental assessment" includes "social environment", in case you're wondering); the Pattullo does not, although its replacement may.

Now, I've questioned the "copy-cat" theory, and at one time, asked the then Regional Coroner for Southern Vancouver Island if she had ever returned a finding in a suicide which indicated that the subject had decided to end it all because he or she had been inspired by a media report. She said "no", but Katie's research has found that there does appear to be a "spike" in incidents of a certain nature when one particular incident is made public.

As it turned out, within days of the publication of Katie's report, a woman decided to sit on the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge, causing police to close the bridge in both directions for six hours while they talked her out of it (creating a gridlock situation that was not helped when a car crash closed Lions Gate Bridge during that time). Last week, a man climbed to the top of the Pattullo and sat there until police talked him down (having closed the bridge first), and yesterday (Tuesday), a man was arrested while walking down the middle of one of the lanes on the Pattullo with a rock in each hand. Maybe there's something to the "copy-cat" theory, after all.

But to return to the main point, The Sun did itself and us no favors with its angle on the Rosedale murder-suicide. Reporting should give the reader something to "take away" - something to make us think and examine our own lives and those of the ones around us. All we got was some brutal titillation, and a form of justification for someone who destroyed a number of innocent lives while ending his own.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Showers Saga - 26: The honeymoon ends

I don't know if there ever really was a honeymoon at The Lord's Rain, but any "Noble Savage" delusions I might have had about the people we serve have now faded to black and I'm now staring at some pretty grim realities about the Downtown East Side. Some may wonder why it's taken so long. The drugs, abuse and rejection by society have seared the consciences and souls of the people so that they are left with a jungle mentality. It's everyone for him/herself, and that's a hard combination to battle. Still, I believe the basis for the solution remains the same: the main thing these people need is love -- the agape love of Christ; and boundaries, as the events of the past week have shown.

OK, so I knew that already. I knew that from visiting Anchor House in Brooklyn, and watching Roger Jamison hand out some pretty tough love to the guys under his care. It was like a father, disciplining his children -- presumably, if they'd had that same discipline as they were growing up, they wouldn't be in the spot they're in now. I guess I hadn't thought that any boundaries we set at The Lord's Rain -- where people don't lock themselves away for 12-18 months, but just come in for a coffee and maybe a shower -- would "matter".

Two incidents in the past week are already proving that they do "matter". First, I discovered a man shooting-up in a shower. Found the syringe wrapper on the floor while he was still in there. When he came out, I confronted him with it. "I don' do no drugs," he said, barely able to stand.

So, the new boundary: no backpacks, purses, large coats or anything with big pockets beyond the steps to the showers. I feel like a stupid git for not thinking of it sooner -- fortunately, Barry and the others have been remarkably reticent about calling me a stupid git, so it's evidently a lesson the Lord wanted me to learn in a way that would prevent me from compromising on the rule.

Interestingly, the other new boundary is to restrict the amount of sugar and whitener we use in our coffee. We already pre-mix, but I'd been letting people add more if they liked. Now, they get the pre-mix, and that's it. Why is that an important boundary? Because it's a rule that they'll need to follow, and in a culture where there are very few rules, that makes it important.

On Wednesday, we put the rules into effect, and they went over well. Only one woman balked at having to check her purse with us before going into the shower, but when the alternative was to find another place to have a shower, she trusted me with her purse. The only bad review of the coffee rule was from one drugged-out young woman who knocked over two cups of coffee and stormed out.

And we wound up setting a record for Wednesday showers: 10, with two more using the sinks. Not bad for a 90-minute opening.

But Wednesday night came another jolt of reality. Just before the Bible study, I was hanging up towels on the racks in The Lord's Rain when I noticed a group of people all rushing to one spot in the alley across the street. I went to the window to see why, and found out: three men were beating up another guy. And leading the attack was someone I know quite well (although since he's now in the court system, I'd better not name him), hammering on the victim with fists and possibly (though I couldn't see for sure at the distance) a piece of re-bar.

Finally, the victim crumpled to the ground and the three attackers laid the boots to him; and then everyone dispersed, leaving the guy lying on his side, motionless.

By then, I had dialled 911, and the police arrived shortly after. And I identified for them the one attacker I could identify. As one constable and I were standing outside Gospel Mission, the suspect came towards us and I alerted the cop. "How're ya doin', Preacher-Man?" he said as he walked by. "Good. You?" The suspect got a few metres away, and they took him down.

So while Barry was teaching Bible study, I was writing out a witness statement.

I know the suspect. I've ministered to him, listened to him, tried to comfort him. He's actually been on a self-destructive course ever since his sister died of an overdose about two months ago. But he has a violent streak that has to be corralled. As one friend of mine wrote after this guy had killed a pigeon, "today a pigeon - tomorrow, it could be a person". Tomorrow came on Wednesday -- except the guy survived.

And yet, I won't stop praying for the guy and trying to be there for him, because whatever "honeymoon" might have ended, that's what we're called to do. And if I can, I'll try to see him in jail -- assuming the court system doesn't tap his wrists and let him go.

But now I see more of the reality of the Downtown East Side: the brutality, the self-centeredness ... the total screwed-up-ness that makes it a place so many people want to avoid. It's a reality I wouldn't have seen were it not for The Lord's Rain, but my job remains to present the "real reality" -- Jesus Christ, in Word upstairs, in deed downstairs.

In Deuteronomy 7:22, God tells Moses that He will drive the enemies out of the Promised Land "by little and little; thou mayest not consume it at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee." In other words, God does not dump an entire blessing in our laps, because we don't know what to do with it. Instead, He gives it to us bit by bit.

It's the same with Truth -- like the truth about the DTES. We can't handle the truth, so God measures it out sparingly to each of us as we can handle it. If we'd opened The Lord's Rain and been faced immediately with young ladies with hissy fits because they can't have more whitener, some guy shooting up in a shower stall or a violent assault in broad daylight led by someone I've really grown to care about, I probably would have cut and run.

But God -- praise Him evermore! -- let us see this truth "by little and little", as we've been able to handle it, filtering what we see through the lens of experience and not losing sight of the fundamental principle of the solution: love tempered with boundaries, and boundaries applied with love.

As well, we see that the "reality" of the DTES may be shocking and depressing, but the reality of Jesus Christ is far more powerful.

Monday, August 4, 2008

More on Pride - how God takes pride in us

A wonderful sermon at Westpointe Christian Centre yesterday. Jon Boyd, teaching on Exodus 28-29, on the sanctification of the robes of Aaron, Moses' brother and the first High Priest.

The instructions include making the robes out of linen in purple, blue and scarlet, with real gold thread woven into the garments. Then the ephod -- a sort of vest -- with twelve precious gems -- rubies, diamonds, onyx, etc. etc. -- attached to the front, each gem symbolizing one of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Then, this magnificent garment is placed on Aaron, and then ...

It gets stained beyond laundering.

God tells Moses to pour anointing oil over Aaron so that it flows from the top of the turban on his head right down to his feet and all over his garments.

Then, there's to be the sacrifice of a ram, and the blood from the ram is "sprinkled" (probably in the way that Niagara Falls "sprinkles" the rocks below) over the garments, as well.

So here are this magnificent work -- the robes and the ephod -- and these precious gems, stained forever by oil and blood.

It's a study in contrasts, which focuses the way God sees us. Each of us -- symbolized by the tribes of Israel -- is a precious gem in His sight, worthy to be attached to a magnificent robe and vest. But every one of us is also stained forever by the anointing and the blood -- blood from an innocent life taken to sanctify us.

It's the same in Christ, except the sanctification is on the inside, and we receive it not by order or law, but willingly, and by faith. But our worthiness in God's eyes is no less beautiful and precious, and the stains of the anointing are no less permanent.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How to displease God 2: Pride

This weekend being the time of the Pride Festival in Vancouver, it's interesting to take a look at pride, and what the Word of God says about it.

Don't worry: this isn't going to be an anti-homosexuality rant. I believe the Bible and I know what it says about that issue. It's no better or worse than any other sin, just as damnable -- and just as redeemable at the Cross, praise God.

No, this is about pride, and when you look into the Bible and its warnings about Pride, you have to wonder why there's a city-sanctioned, heavily sponsored event to celebrate it.

Pride, essentially, means "mocking God". Pride is that attitude, that says that, even though we know God doesn't approve of or bless something, we're going to do it anyway, because it feels good, and feeling good is what it's all about.

"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride and arrogancy, and the evil way and the froward mouth do I hate." Prov. 8:13.

Wow. Do you want to be on the "hate" side of God? If God is love, then it's got to be pretty bad for Him to hate something.

The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.
-- Psalm 10:2-7
James, Jesus' half-brother, writes,
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the firendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But He giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." James 4:4-6
God hates Pride, because Pride makes us think we're smarter than He is. It makes us think that we can get by "just fine" without Him. It makes us think of our flesh, then think of the glory of walking with Him, and decide that glory is highly over-rated.
God created us in His image, but with a particular factory defect: we have to rely on Him. Pride blinds us to that defect. It's like driving a car with a knock in the engine and deciding that "it's supposed to sound like that."
When Gideon set out to fight the Midianites, he was already facing about 150,000 soldiers with an army of around 30,000. God told him he has "too many" soldiers for the job, and by the time God finished making the cuts, Gideon is left with 300. But God told him that, with more soldiers, the Israelites would "vaunt themselves against the Lord", i.e. they'd claim that they had beaten the Midianites, whereas God wanted them to know that He was the one winning the battle.
This is why God doesn't require works in order for us to be Saved and take our place in the Kingdom of Heaven: we'd all become boasters of the things we'd done to "earn" a spot. All He wants is for us to believe Him and His Word, and no one can do that better than someone else. Besides, can you imagine what Heaven would be like if it were made up of people boasting about their great works? We'd all be glorifying ourselves, and God would be off in the corner saying, "Hi there! Over here! Creator of the Universe -- remember Me?"
And Pride has no place in Heaven.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-- Romans 8:35-39
Wait a second. "Any other creature"? Paul hasn't mentioned any creatures at all, so what one creature is it, that could separate us from the love of God?
Wouldn't that be ourselves?
Through Pride, we create our own stumblingblock to God and His glory.
That's why God hates it. He wants us to walk in the glory and all the good things He has for us, so He doesn't want anything to come in the way of that.
Pride is nothing to be proud of.
Incidentally, today's New York Times has an article that shows that the estimate of the number of new HIV/AIDS cases in the US has been vastly understated. If you read through the article, though, you'll notice a word missing from the discussion about prevention. "Abstain", or any of its derivatives.
Can you say "elephant in the living room"?
No, it appears people will continue with this particular lifestyle, advocated by people who claim they "love" them and condoned by events like the one this weekend, holding onto this hope that there will one day be a vaccine and/or a cure. How many more thousands of wonderful, loving, creative, sensitive people -- people needed in the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven -- will become ill and die, their families and friends left devastated, because of this lie?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Showers Saga - 25: The Changing Scene

Summertime brings warm weather, sunshine -- even to Vancouver -- and a whole new dynamic around Pigeon Park. A different set of people has appeared on the scene: meaner spirits, slightly better-dressed and groomed; more of a sense that they're there to make scores, rather than because their lives have had a downturn and they have noplace else to go.

Vultures, they are: feeding off the carcases of the barely living (remind me, someone, how "InSite saves lives"?), because they know that, in spite of the fact that they are committing slow, inexorable murder, the police can't do anything about it: they could get busted, make a first appearance, and be cut loose within hours.

It can become daunting at The Lord's Rain, because you wonder if there's ever going to be anything we can do about it. But that's when we have to remind ourselves how we fit into the picture. This is not a flesh-and-blood struggle, but one to be fought by faith in the Spirit against the powers and principalities and spirits of wickedness in high places that Paul writes about (Eph. 6:12), and there's a lot to wrestle against. It also doesn't end: Paul describes it as "wrestling" -- it's not a knock-down, drag-out, punch-up, but ongoing grappling in the Spirit. So while a significant part of my flesh wants to see the police drive through the area with wire-windowed buses, scooping up everybody and sending the users to Treatment Boot Camp and the low-level dealers (spelt S-C-U-M) to Guantanamo Bay with "official" documents linking them to Al Qaeda (why bother with external terrorism when we have drug dealers and lax laws to do it for us?), while rooftop snipers watch out for any who slip through the cracks, I know that's not the real answer.

The real change that's required for people to walk away from drugs and that scene has to come from within, via the Holy Spirit. Keep reaching out to people with the love of Christ -- in spite of all the worldly distractions -- and eventually the message will get through and people will start to find that the drug desire is no longer part of their DNA.

That's our job at The Lord's Rain, and sooner or later, there will be other Missions that reach out in similar ways, because this is not a One Mission Show. Don't expect the world -- secular governments, etc. -- to support this: in the name of "diversity", the world officially denies the Truth, and therefore denies the power of Christ to overcome. So the world keeps trying out these theories -- like "harm reduction" and the laissez-faire attitude towards drugs and fleshly pleasures -- and when they fail, as they have, continue this futile search for truth ... when the Truth is staring them in the face. And as they keep searching, more people's lives are destroyed.

We have to keep reminding ourselves, GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN ME THAN HE THAT IS IN THE WORLD!

And a note to him that is in the world: we're staying.