Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Middle East - what does God really want?

Man, that looks like a pretentious headline, doesn't it? Couldn't think of anything better ... and maybe that's exactly the headline we need here. See, as people's revolutions catch on across the Muslim world -- first Tunisia, then Egypt and now Iran is getting nervous -- it's easy to think that maybe Islam is on the verge of blowing itself up. (My daughter had just left Egypt, where she'd been staying with a Christian family for 2-1/2 months; I'd say she got out just in time.) I'm seeing some Religious Rightists who can hardly contain their glee.
But not so fast. While it's easy to return evil for evil in this case, the prophet Isaiah received a word about this that we should consider.

In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the Land of Egypt, and a pillar at the border thereof to the Lord.
And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt, for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors, and He shall send them a Saviour, and a Great One, and He shall deliver them.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.
-- Isaiah 19:19-20; 23-25

"In that day" generally refers to the Jesus Era -- when God has come to deliver His people. This prophecy tells me a number of things, beginning with the fact that the One True God will be known in Egypt -- through Christians, albeit generally persecuted, unable to hold public worship meetings and having to keep their heads down. But the Saviour is promised to the Egyptians, just as much as to the Israelites and the Assyrians.

Then there's the prophecy of the "highway" between Egypt and Assyria. Assyria is modern-day Iraq, and that appears to refer to a connection, of sorts, between those two countries.

And right bang in the middle of it is Israel.

But does that mean Israel will be caught in a deadly squeeze between two sworn enemies? No: because God also declares Israel shall be "a third" with the other two countries, a blessing in the midst of the land, and that Egypt and Assyria will also be blessed.

How can that happen? Well, back in the 50s, a US diplomat said he hoped the Arabs and Israelis could settle their differences "like good Christians". That remark has been often interpreted as an example of Good Ol' American Ignorance, but he may have inadvertently hit on something.

It comes back to those three little words: "In that day ..." When Jesus is allowed to reign over that part of the world, He becomes the Great Equalizer. God declares to Isaiah that these are all His people, whether they're of the "chosen nation" or not, for as Peter writes, "[followers of Christ] are a chosen generation ... a peculiar people ... which in time past were not a people but are now the people of God ...." (1 Peter 2:9-10 KJV).

It makes sense, too. Have you ever stopped to wonder why that relatively tiny strip of the Earth -- that "highway" linking Egypt and Assyria would be barely 1,000 miles long: maybe the distance between Vancouver and Regina -- has been such a flashpoint ever since the Canaanites told Abraham and his household to leave? Why is there such persecution of Christians in the Arab world? Not because Arabs are evil -- God Himself says they're His people and the work of His hands and promised to take care of the descendants of Ishmael; but because the enemy is trying to do everything possible to prevent Christ from getting a toehold in the area and thereby foil God's plan.

The enemy loves futile battles, doesn't he?

But Christians, far from rejoicing over this internecine struggle and generally maintaining a sneering or hostile tone towards Islam, need to be praying: praying for Jesus to be revealed to Muslims and Jews alike; praying for those who are called to evangelize in that area to hear the call and be protected (because it won't be an easy job); praying for Truth to prevail.

Praying, in other words, for God's will to be done. He's already stated that will: we have to get onside.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Other Side of the Boat

Twice in the Gospels, Jesus gives an instruction to His disciples to do something that they initially wonder about. In Luke 5, after going out in Simon Peter's boat to address the crowd that has followed Him to Lake Gennesaret, He tells Peter to "launch out into the deep and let your nets down for a draft" (Luke 5:4 KJV).

Peter reminds Him that they'd been out fishing all night and had caught nothing. "Nevertheless," he says, "at Thy word I will let down the net."

And what happens? They catch so much fish the net breaks and they have to call over another boat to help haul in the catch and the boats are in danger of sinking.

In John 21, Jesus calls to Peter and John and the others, "have you caught anything?" They say no, so He tells them to drop their nets over the other side. According to John, they didn't know it was Jesus, but they do it anyway. And again, they bring in an enormous haul.

Both times, Peter is overwhelmed at the presence of The Lord: in John 21, as soon as John recognizes Him, Peter -- who was, apparently, naked (one of those fishermen's superstitions, I gather), throws on his robe and leaps into the water. In Luke 5, he flings himself at Jesus' feet and says, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

We'll sit on that one for a bit, but right now, let's look at the idea of casting your net on the other side of the boat. Peter and company were plying their trade as commercial fishermen; but this time, they were having little success. Along comes Jesus, an outsider to their trade, with some simple advice: do what you're doing, only do it differently. And the result is overwhelmingly successful.

Do what you're doing, only do it differently. Don't we run into situations like that from time to time? We have God-given skills and knowhow, but get into a rut where we seem to be going nowhere using our own measure of success. It certainly happened to me. I'd spent over a quarter-century writing, broadcasting and occasionally dabbling in acting, and had been successful enough to make me think I had something to contribute. Then one day, about a year after the call to Ministry had become too strong to ignore -- and about six months after I'd prayed to God to take over my life and move me to the place He wanted me to be -- I heard Him say, "I want you to take those gifts I have given you for writing and communicating and give them back to Me."

And as I did that, little by little, I found my groove -- and my Ministry. And little by little, God started weaning me away from the worldly measure of success to the point where working at a major-market broadcast outlet is no longer my life's ambition.

I'm using the same gifts He gave me, but for Him now. He has blessed me in myriad ways, both in the success of the Ministry and in my personal life. I dropped my net over the other side of the boat -- and I also rowed out into deeper water: beyond my comfort zone.

(Believe me: going into Skid Road and telling people they don't need to live the way they're living, or going up to a drug dealer and asking him if this is what his life will look like in 10 years -- assuming another drug dealer hasn't blown him away -- is Beyond My Comfort Zone.)

When you combine your God-given gifts with the leading of the Holy Spirit, the results can be overwhelming -- as Peter found out.

But there's a reason why we need to listen, not be overwhelmed, and follow that leading -- and it's not just because we want a new way to be personally successful.

It's because others around us benefit, as well. Peter's net (in Luke 5) broke and he had to call over another boat to help (James and John, in fact). The blessing that came on Peter for being successful literally and figuratively spilled over and started benefitting others. In other words, others around us benefit from our own obedience. God doesn't bless us in order to benefit us solely: we are expected to make sure others get spilled-on.

I know of others who have allowed God to "tweak" their gifts: businesspeople, for example, who bring their leadership and management skills into Ministry; the pastor at the church where I fellowship -- Westpointe Christian Centre -- is also the Worship leader, and he told me he played in a reggae band in his pre-saved days. (He shaves his head now, but I keep trying to imagine him in dreadlocks ... nope, not happening ...) Now he uses those same gifts for the Lord, and we have some of the most awesome Worship times I've ever experienced.

So what about you? Have you dropped your net over the other side of the boat? Have you been led in a different direction with your gifts, once you gave them to the Lord? Have you thought you needed to re-invent your life, only to find that all God needed was to "tweak" your gifts?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Another clip from dad

Last month, I posted a clip from my dad's TV series, Klahanie - The Great Outdoors. When I was growing up, dad was a monster with a 16mm film camera. Most people -- if they shot home movies at all -- used an 8mm piece, but dad bought a professional-model 16mm piece of equipment, which he used, among other things, to shoot stock footage for Klahanie. The camera would often travel in the trunk of our car, and if dad saw something, he'd pull over, whip the camera out, and fire off several feet of film. On top of it all, he recorded a lot of my growing-up with this camera, and in the 90s, he edited his favorite bits together and had them transferred onto VHS tape.

Much of it is probably like watching paint dry, but the clips do stir up memories. Interestingly, some of the incidents I remember from watching on the screen, but many of them I remember from my own perspective at the time.

Tucked away on this "keepsake" tape, which I rediscovered while digitizing it to make DVDs for dad, is this clip of rather historical interest. In 1965, Stirling Moss (now Sir Stirling, OBE) visited Vancouver. Not sure why, but it was a big media event, and the major photo-op was held at Westwood Raceway in Coquitlam. The track is long-gone, replaced by housing developments and a golf course, inter alia. So Stirling, who had retired in 1962, was to put on a racing display in a Lotus (I think it was). And who better to race against him than BC's Minister of Highways, Phil Gaglardi?

Why would I say, "who better"? Because Gaglardi got the nickname "Flyin' Phil" for good reason: a notoriously leaden foot on the accelerator. He had received at least one speeding ticket at the time, and I remember a newspaper headline, "Gaglardi 'Like A Bloody Maniac,' Cop Says".

Dad was at the media event. I'm pretty sure he shot at least some of this footage (although I do see him in one of the shots, so this may be a mix or someone else was using his camera), and that would explain how he came to have it. Anyway ... enjoy!

One more thing ... the graphic says "1966". I'm pretty sure it was '65. My bad.