Category Archives: Faith and Sports

Nuggets of Hope 21 – The Hope of Glory

The hope of glory.

The runners in this photo were both running for the prize. They were running to win. They were running with focus and determination.

One of them is my young friend Rebecca Greer. She is an exemplary young lady. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic she has continued to train and stay in shape.

Why does she do this? It would be easier not to.

The answer is that she has vision and a purpose that enable her to see beyond the limitations of this present time. She is living for fulfillment. She is running for the joy of it. She is running for the hope of glory.

God has designed humans to want fulfillment. We are made for joy. We are made for glory. We are made for the glory of God.

I would never want to minimize anyone’s positive achievements in this life. We all need hope and purpose to sustain us. Young people need the motivation of believing that there is a point to their efforts to live a productive life.  But the energy of youth does not last forever, and so we need to ask ourselves whether we are spending the substance of our lives for a prize that is temporary and fading, or for a prize that is eternal and will never lose its luster.

Many of us feel that our plans, hopes and dreams have been placed on hold by this pandemic. Just yesterday I lost perspective for a few hours and needed a sister in Christ to remind me of my focus. The specific challenges are different for each person, but all of us are in a battle to hold on to hope. In the midst of that battle, it’s good to lift our eyes and look to the heavens, to the One who is seated on the Throne.

Why is this pandemic happening? There are many possible answers to that question. But in the end, no circumstance is outside of God’s control. Wicked people contrived to put Jesus to death, but God had a higher purpose. It’s up to us which narrative, which script, which agenda characterizes our life. It’s up to us whether these few months of pandemic are wasted time or fruitful time.

Like Rebecca, we can choose to continue training during this time. Physical training has some value in leading to a better life, so I continue to work out and ride my bike. I do this because I want to remain fit, productive and positive in my focus. I still have some years left in this life, and I want them to be good ones. But for what purpose? What is my ultimate goal? What is yours? If we make the daily choice to let Jesus work on the inside of us, to teach us His thoughts and His ways, the benefits will be eternal.

Writing from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul wrote these words of encouragement to his dear friends in the church at Philippi,

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

Although he was in prison, Paul wasn’t obsessed with his own troubles. His confidence was in God, and so he was able to encourage others with the hope of their eternal inheritance and God’s faithfulness.

I believe that promise. It’s one of the Scriptures that I speak over my life almost every day, and it has changed the way I think. Today and every day, I am choosing to fix my eyes on the hope of glory.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Living like a winner

Being an Ottawa Senators fan can be discouraging. The best you can say is that it is an up-and-down experience.

Last night’s game was an example. The Sens started the game full of enthusiasm against the high-flying Tampa Bay Lightning. They outshot the Lightning in the first period and were leading 1-0 when the period ended. The Sens were playing like a team who believed that they could win the game. They looked as though they were in it to win it.

But then, little by little, the Lightning began to exert their superior speed and skill. First they tied the game, then they took a 2-1 lead.

Up until this point the Sens had still been competitive, but once the Lightning began pulling in front, and especially after their third goal, the Sens began to look as if they knew the game was lost. Although there was still enough time to turn things around, they were no longer playing like a team that believed in themselves. They were still exerting an effort, but you could tell they were frustrated and discouraged. Predictably, they lost.

What happened?  The Lightning knew that if they didn’t get rattled, but just kept playing their game, they would win. And they did. Of the two teams, it was the Lightning who were in it to win it. The Senators wanted and needed to win, but (from my perspective at least) didn’t really expect to.

If you see it differently, I won’t argue with you, because my point isn’t really about last night’s game. It’s about the nature of hope, and how it functions in our lives to keep us motivated.

The Bible frequently depicts our life in this age as a battle with the forces of darkness. At times (like the Senators) it seems as if we are destined to lose. It seems as if the powers arrayed against us are far greater than our ability to overcome them.

This is how the Israelites felt when they faced the Philistines in the days of King Saul. The Philistines had weapons of iron, and horses and chariots – none of which Israel had. The Philistines also had a great champion, a giant of a man. His name was Goliath. Who could stand against him? The situation was hopeless. Or at least, so it seemed. Yes, God had delivered Israel from Egypt centuries before, and led them into the Promised Land. Yes, he had given them the promise that if they were obedient and faithful He would always be with them to deliver them, and that Israel would be the first of nations through whom all the earth would be blessed. But all that seemed far away now. They knew they hadn’t always been obedient and faithful – far from it – and their enemies had gotten the better of them. The situation was hopeless. They saw themselves as a beaten people.

But in the midst of that time of despair, God raised up a champion in the person of the young boy David, the youngest son of Jesse. Against all odds, David defeated Goliath in what has become a classic metaphor of the underdog stealing victory from the jaws of defeat.

Why was David successful?  Because he knew his God, and he expected God to give him the victory.

We, of course, have a far greater champion than David. We have Yeshua (Jesus), Israel’s Messiah and the Redeemer of the whole earth. Like his ancestor David, against all odds He faced death on behalf of his people – and won. But the victory he purchased was not just for that time alone. It was for all people of all places and times.

Yesterday Marion and I, along with hundreds of others, were richly blessed as we shared in the memorial service for Teresa Narraway, a wonderful woman of God who left this life earlier than most. She died of cancer at age 58. But although she succumbed to death at an earlier age than her family would have hoped, she lived like one who expected to win the race of life. In fact she knew she had already won. All she had to do was stay in the battle, and keep her eyes on Jesus. Marion and I weren’t close friends with Bob and Teresa – our paths parted after only a couple of years in the same church family – but as I followed the saga of Teresa’s final few months on Facebook, and then heard story after story at yesterday’s memorial service, I was deeply moved at the testimony of a life well lived.

It wasn’t that Bob and Teresa never made any mistakes. But from the time they met Jesus, His life became their life, and His victory their victory. There were still ups and downs, but they knew the victory was theirs in Christ, and they followed wholeheartedly wherever He led. Throughout their lives they have served Christ through serving others, and they have done so with all their heart.

That is why Teresa’s memorial service was such a celebration. Yes, there were tears, but there were also many hugs, much laughter, singing, dancing and many wonderful stories. Why? Because she lived her life like the winner that she was.

That’s how I want to live my life too. Thanks, Bob and Teresa, for being such a wonderful model to so many. The story is not over. Your legacy – and your reward – will be greater than you know.




I was riding my bike along the Rideau River cycle path, pedaling through familiar parkland, on the last leg of my half-hour ride home from work.  The river was on my right, partly obscured by a narrow strip of wooded land. A strip of open parkland was on my left. There was the usual after-work traffic along the cycle path, but nothing to suggest that an accident was about to happen. Everything seemed perfectly normal.

I had two meetings that evening – both quite important. I was enjoying the ride, but I wanted to get home, get showered and changed, and prepare for the evening.

Then it happened. As is often the case with accidents, there was little warning. My attention was focussed on an oncoming cyclist on the other side of the pathway, and I was adjusting my position accordingly. There were also some pedestrians on or near the path, and I was conscious of needing to avoid them as well. Consequently, I wasn’t looking to my right, or I might have noticed some movement in the bushes by the river. Suddenly a mid-size dog bounded out of the bushes onto the path directly in front of me. The next thing I remember, I was on the ground, screaming in pain. I had gone down hard. All the major joints on my right side – shoulder, elbow, hip and knee – were throbbing.

After half a minute or so, I managed to get up, and found to my relief that I could still move my shoulder. This was my first concern, as four years previously I had dislocated a shoulder in a similar accident.  I was a little dazed, and had painful scrapes and road rash all along my right side, but had no serious injuries. Several people stopped to make sure I was all right. I thanked them all and told them I would be OK.

I checked out my bike and found that it was basically intact. So, after waiting a few minutes for the pain to subside to a tolerable level, I got back on the bike and rode the short distance home – a wounded warrior seeking comfort and shelter. I have never been more happy to reach the safety and familiarity of my own back yard.

After I had showered and washed my wounds, Marion bandaged the worst one and put ointment on the others. But it wasn’t until she asked me “Is your head OK?” that I realized something remarkable. My head did not hurt at all. It was totally fine. I did have a few seconds of very mild lightheadedness, but absolutely no pain and no symptoms of concussion. Then we both realized that I ought to take a look at my helmet. I took a look at it, and saw two cracks on the right side – a little one and a big one.

When I thought about the cracks in my helmet, I realized that I had been protected from what could have been very serious harm. A bruised hip and shoulder, and scrapes along the elbow and knee, are really no big deal. Today, four days later, I am well on the way to recovery from all these minor wounds. But if I had landed hard on the pavement without a helmet, who knows what the outcome would have been?

Paul the apostle wrote many letters of advice and instruction to young churches full of new Christians living in a hostile world. He knew he needed to give them plenty of hope and encouragement. He told these new believers that they were like stars in a dark night sky. He told them that in the midst of the darkness of a corrupt and dying world, they were children of the day who could look forward to the glorious new world that God had promised. He also said that in the midst of the struggles of living in a culture that was mostly hostile to their faith and values, they could equip themselves by putting on faith and love like a breastplate, and the hope of salvation like a helmet. In this way their hearts and minds would be protected.

Marion rightly reminds me that I need to wear my bike helmet every time I go out on my bike. I confess that in the past, on occasion I have not worn it when I was going for only a short ride on a hot day in the neighbourhood. On those muggy July days, a helmet is hot and sweaty, and sometimes you don’t want to wear it. But since my recent accident, my helmet has proved its value to me, and I will wear it every time I ride my bike. There was no way I could have predicted my accident of a few days ago. I could need my helmet at any moment.

In my email inbox I receive daily bulletins detailing some of the struggles of Christ-followers in lands where being a Christian makes you a public enemy. When your home could be burned, your pastor could be jailed, your daughter could be raped or forced into a marriage she does not want simply because you and your family are Christians, you need a hope that circumstances can’t destroy. You can’t wait until persecution hits to secure yourself with this hope. The hope of salvation has to be your daily companion, because you could need it at any moment.

Sometimes, we don’t feel like turning off the TV or the laptop or the tablet or the smartphone to immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Sometimes we’d rather entertain ourselves than feed our spirits with worship. Christians in Canada have it pretty easy and our need for the hope of salvation may not seem all that pressing. But what are you going to do when your mother dies, or your father gets laid off, or your best friend is on drugs, or your marriage is falling apart, or your employer goes bankrupt, or you are facing sexual temptation, or someone in your life needs hope and you have none to give? What would you give for an intimate knowledge of God when disaster comes? If you have no real life with God – if your “faith, hope and love account” is bankrupt – what will you do when your next door neighbour or your friend at work or school is hungry for answers? What will you have to feed them if your cupboard is bare? And what will you do when persecution comes to Canada? What will you do when Jesus returns? How will you answer him?

I could take my helmet with me and strap it onto the back of my bike, and say that I have my helmet so I’m OK, but it wouldn’t do me any good. You may say you believe the Bible is the Word of God, but if you don’t read it, it does you no good. As for me, I can truthfully say that I know the Word of God quite well. But if I don’t pay attention to the Word I know, it doesn’t do me a bit of good. I can say that I know Jesus, but if I don’t listen to Him, what good is it? I know lots of worship songs, but if I don’t take time to worship the Lord with my whole being, what good are the songs?

The only way that I know of to put on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet is to do it every day. Every day I need to turn to Jesus, renew my mind with His word, turn away from distractions and pour out my heart to Him in worship. Daily I need to be quiet with Him and listen to what He wants to say to me. This is how my hope stays fresh and bright and alive. Even two or three days without setting time aside to give my full attention to Jesus, and I can tell the difference.

I can’t afford to ride my bike without a helmet. It’s foolish. My helmet is my protection. I know that now, and I will never ride without it again.

In just the same way, I can’t afford to travel the pathways of life without wearing the helmet of the hope of salvation. I need to anchor myself in Jesus every day. He is ready to protect me, empower me and fill me with hope so that I’m ready for every circumstance – but it’s up to me to put on my helmet.



What kind of Canada?

I am writing this on the eve of Canada Day.  Prince William and his bride Kate have just completed the first day of their highly-anticipated  visit to our land.  Here in the nation’s capital, the Canada Day crowds are expected to be much larger than usual.   Many people are eagerly looking forward to getting a glimpse of the newly married royal couple. In part, I believe, that’s because William and Kate represent the hope of a new beginning for the royal family which has seen such turmoil ever since Charles and Diana’s marriage began to come apart.

Tomorrow’s Canada Day festivities will be a chance for Canadians to show our affection not just for the royal couple, but also for our country.  Our Prime Minister has taken to sometimes ending speeches with the words “God bless Canada”.  Just as most Canadians seem to genuinely wish this young couple well and want their marriage to work out, so most also genuinely want our nation of Canada to be a happy, successful, blessed land.

Though many may think of God’s blessing as something akin to good luck — you either have it or you don’t, but you can’t do much about it — the Bible does not support this view.   The blessing or favour of God is sovereign — that is, we can’t control it, we can only receive it as a gift — but it is not random or arbitrary.  God’s word makes it very clear that the choices we make, as individuals and as a nation, have everything to do with the extent to which we experience the blessing of God.

Several weeks ago, a team of young runners set out on the One Nation Run, a cross-Canada campaign to raise awareness and funds towards the elimination of child poverty in Canada.  By all accounts, the run is going well.  The runners are encouraged, support is growing, and donations are coming in.

Like any physical exercise, running is exhilarating, but it’s also hard work, requiring a considerable amount of self-discipline.  Why do they make the effort? They are inspired by a vision of  a more just and compassionate society.  These young runners are devoting their time and energy to promoting a Biblical value – they are speaking up for the weakest and most vulnerable in our land.  They are depending on God for their strength, and I believe their righteous cause attracts his favour.

In total contrast to this purposeful and selfless activity stands the chaotic and senseless behaviour of the violent, alcohol-fuelled mob that torched vehicles and looted businesses in the streets of Vancouver a few weeks ago after the Canucks lost to the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.  These events prompted much agonizing and soul-searching, everyone wondering aloud what makes people behave in such a destructive, senseless manner.  I mean, aren’t Canadians basically good, decent people?  Other nations might be perverse, greedy and selfish – but not us.  Canadians are good – right?

In the aftermath of the riots, I found myself disturbed by the many expressions of anger and even hatred towards the rioters.  The parents of  Nathan Kotylak, the young water polo player who was suspended from the national team for his part in the riots, found it necessary to leave their home and shut down their business temporarily as a result of the many threatening and abusive messages they received.  This was in spite of the fact that their son publicly confessed his part in the mob activity and openly acknowledged how wrong his actions had been.

Why were people so angry with the rioters?  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying the rioters’ behaviour was right — far from it.  I’m just saying that most Canadians are living under the illusion that we are basically good people and that Canada is basically a good country, populated by good, decent people like us.  The riots totally violate this illusion, so to reinforce our false image of ourselves as a good nation populated by good people, we portray the rioters as perverse exceptions to the essential goodness of the Canadian (or Vancouverite) character.

The Bible paints a very different picture of human nature.  It’s not a popular view these days, even among Christians – but the Bible clearly portrays human nature as thoroughly corrupted by sin, and says that until we are born again and our hearts are restored, we are not capable of being good.  We can only consistently produce the fruit of righteous behaviour by the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, the instruction of the word of God and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The Vancouver riots shouldn’t surprise us.  They are the inevitable outworking of a society that has – for the most part – turned its back on God.  Conscience has to be shaped, and in the absence of a relationship with Jesus, one’s conscience will inevitably reflect a mixture of truth and falsehood.   I have atheist friends who maintain that they can be good without God.  I maintain that whatever goodness and idealism they display comes mostly from being raised in a culture that is based on Biblical values, whether they realize it or not.  To take just one example, whereas those raised in a Biblical value system place a high priority on truthfulness,  there are belief systems (including Islam, although it’s not politically correct to say so) in which deception is seen as acceptable and even admirable.  My point is that the farther our culture gets from God, the more it seems natural to us to do and approve those things that the Bible calls evil.  But since we still have some sense of right and wrong, and we don’t want to think of ourselves as unrighteous, we are quick to condemn those – like the Vancouver rioters – who do things that even our weakened consciences can recognize as evil.

On the stones of the Peace Tower three verses of Scripture are inscribed.  One of the verses, Proverbs 29:18, declares: where there is no vision, the people perish.  Another translation puts it like this: where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.   The rioters on the streets of Vancouver found it relatively easy to cast off restraint because they are the products of a society that has chosen to ignore the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  By contrast, the runners in One Nation Run – as well as all others who have chosen to live as disciples of Jesus – have a vision and a revelation to live by.  Because Jesus has opened their eyes and brought them from death to life, they have the power to resist evil and let His light shine through their lives (Philippians 2:14-16, Matthew 5:13-16)

So, what kind of country do we want to live in?  Do we want to be part of a nation that has cast off all restraint, where everyone does as he sees fit?  Many would say this is freedom, but the Bible declares that in fact it is bondage.   Or, do we want to live as citizens of a different Kingdom – the heavenly Kingdom that is coming to earth – in which Jesus rules and his Spirit instructs our hearts in His ways?

I know what kind of country I want to live in, and which Kingdom I want to belong to.  Do you?


Going for the gold

The Vancouver Winter Olympics are underway! After months of anticipation, the games are finally a reality. Go, Canada, go!

Like most Canadians, I have been enjoying the games. The opening ceremonies were spectacular and did a good job at honouring Native culture. The fence around the cauldron is unfortunate, and the weather has been wacky, but the games continue, and overall most Canadians seem genuinely enthusiastic. Despite some negative press and complaints about the inevitable glitches, there is lots to cheer about. The accomplishments of the athletes are truly impressive, and their level of dedication to the training and preparation process is a good reminder of the value of discipline and sacrifice. Some of the contestants have had to overcome great obstacles to get to where they are. When I hear the stories of some of the individual athletes, I am struck by their willingness to sacrifice and endure pain and hardship for the sake of an opportunity to compete.

Many of the sports also highlight the importance of teamwork, and there can be high drama when a less-favoured but cohesive team scores an upset as a reward for their passion, perseverance and team effort. Thursday night’s hockey game, in which the Swiss team came within a hair of defeating Team Canada, was a prime example of this. The Swiss team had far less “star power” than Team Canada, and was not expected to win. They also had a hot goalie, a core of players that had been practising together for months, and that intangible element of desire and passion – and they almost pulled it off.

So was Switzerland’s almost-win a victory or a defeat? It depends on your perspective. I’m guessing that the Swiss are proud of their team today – as they should be. Even though I’m cheering for Team Canada, secretly I’m happy that the Swiss came so close Thursday night. Their near-upset was a good reminder for Team Canada that it takes more than talent to win a tournament, and that over-confidence (aka pride) can be costly.

The Swiss hockey team’s effort Thursday night was also a great demonstration of those intangibles – team play, courage, perseverance, giving your all for a great cause – that make the Olympics so exciting. The Hudson’s Bay Company has hit upon a very compelling advertising theme for the Olympics with their slogan We were made for this.  Just as significant is the Believe theme chosen by CTV and Rogers for the games. These advertisers have put their finger on the desire of the human heart to believe in something beyond ourselves and to give our best for a high calling. Events like the Olympics remind us that there is more to life than the everyday, humdrum routine of work, eat, sleep. There is glory to be won, there are prizes to contend for, there are great causes to embrace.

For most of us, though, Olympic glory can never be more than second-hand. When it comes to the Olympics – or, for that matter, the SuperBowl or the Stanley Cup, or American Idol, the Academy Awards, and so forth – the most I can expect to do is take pride in someone else’s accomplishments, not my own. I have no illusions about ever being a superstar in any form of athletics or entertainment.

This thought doesn’t worry me, because in the end, contests like the Olympics aren’t really that important.  The reason they are valuable is because they remind us of the contest that really counts. It’s the great cosmic battle between darkness and light, and the future of the human race is at stake. The good news is that the final outcome has already been determined. Heaven’s champion has already run his race and has won the gold medal for us. But unlike the Olympics, we get to do more than just watch – we get to run too. Amazingly enough, unqualified though we may be, we all have an invitation from Jesus, the Victor, to be on his team. If we run the race, we are guaranteed a share in His victory.  Everyone who joins His team gets the gold. In fact, we must run if we want to obtain the prize that is waiting for us. If we don’t run, we forfeit – to our eternal loss. But even though we’re guaranteed a share in His victory if we run the race, it’s no cakewalk. This race involves faith, training, courage, sacrifice, and life-long perseverance.

In the end, Olympic glory will fade. There is only one prize that will endure forever – the prize of God’s smile, His approval. Compared to this prize, nothing else ultimately matters. It’s the reward for turning away from the self-preoccupation that is so characteristic of our age, and choosing to live my life for the pleasure of the One who sacrificed His life for me.

I’ve made my choice – I’m going for the gold. How about you?


Change your underwear

According to published reports, Ottawa Senators‘ centre Jason Spezza will continue to change his underwear despite his recent scoring streak.   Unlike some hockey players who continue to wear the same (unwashed) underwear during a winning streak, superstitiously fearing that a change in their apparel will disrupt their good fortune, he will wear clean underwear every day.  Spezza, you see, does not credit his success to his undergarments.

It is amazing, really, what people will do to get good luck or to avoid what they consider to be bad luck.  Hotels and office buildings frequently do not have a thirteenth floor, considering it bad luck.   Of course, the thirteenth floor is still there – they just assign it a different number (like 12a or 14).   Some believe that throwing a pinch of salt over one’s shoulder wards off bad luck.  Others try to avoid black cats, believing that they bring bad fortune – though some cultures see black cats as bringing good luck, not bad.  Many read their horoscope and take it seriously, believing that it tells them something about their character and future prospects.   Lots of people say things like cross your fingers or knock on wood, implying that doing this will bring good luck or ward off bad luck.  At least one of Canada’s prime ministers was known to consult mediums, looking for reassurance from the spirit world. Many people will visit the booth of a fortune-teller at the local county fair, and nowadays psychics market their services quite openly, apparently attracting plenty of customers.

Superstitious practices generally are based on some form of belief about the supernatural.  The avoidance of black cats is probably based on a medieval belief that witches sometimes appeared in this form.  Throwing salt was supposed to ward off evil spirits.  Mediums are supposed to be able to put us in touch with the departed who can give us guidance, reassurance or comfort – and so on.  But whatever the specific beliefs that underlie a particular superstition, the motivation behind such practices is a desire for control.

The world can be a frightening place.  Many things happen to us, or could happen to us, which we fear we cannot control.   All of us are aware that in the physical realm we have to contend with wars, natural disasters, diseases, pollutants and other hostile forces.  What if, in addition to the physical realm, we have to contend with possibly hostile spiritual powers as well?  In that case, the reasoning goes, we need all the help we can get – we need to enlist the help of whatever beneficial powers might be out there, and we need to ward off the schemes of dark powers in any way open to us.  And if we can get insight about the future through fortune-tellers, mediums or tarot cards, why not?

Why not, indeed?  Well – it all depends on what you believe about the universe.

If you believe in the reality of the spiritual realm, but you don’t really trust any of the powers out there, you may use various superstitions or magical practices to try to manipulate or influence otherwise hostile or indifferent powers to do you good and not harm.  With some variations, and at the risk of oversimplifying, this is the basic worldview and mindset behind Wicca and all forms of paganism.   Haitian Vodou (see my last post) is a good example of such a belief system.  The idea is that spiritual powers are real, but not necessarily friendly.  Some are helpful and some are harmful, and they are also potentially open to influence.  So, it is in one’s best interest to learn how to influence the spiritual powers, co-operating with the helpful ones and seeking to avoid being harmed by the nasty ones.

The mindset behind such belief systems is essentially self-centred, the key to success is knowledge, and the goal is power.  The problem with this approach is that you never really know if it’s going to work.  It might, or it might not.  You may think you have a pretty strong hand, but if  someone else with more power than you comes along and trumps you, you’re in trouble.  You can never be sure.  One can see this basic insecurity reflected in the Harry Potter movies and books, and all forms of fantasy literature.  People who place their hope in superstitions or various forms of magic can never be truly secure.  The best they can do is to hope that everything will pan out in their favour.

If you believe that we’re entirely on our own, and that all events have a natural (physical) explanation, then you probably aren’t reading this blog – but if you are, you will of course agree (being a completely rational person) that all superstitious practices are totally nonsensical because there are no spiritual powers out there to affect us, for good or ill.  However, like the pagan, you can never be totally secure if you hold such a belief system.  Ultimately you are not in control, and you’re not really sure who is – so you do the best you can, and take your chances.   I’m not 100% sure, but my guess is that this what Jason Spezza believes.  It’s how an increasing number of post-Christian North Americans live their lives.

But if you believe that you were made in the image of the God of the Universe, that He cares about your life, and that He has the power to preserve and bless those who entrust themselves to Him, then things look very different.  As one who has placed his hope in the Holy One, I don’t deny that there are many things I can’t control, but this thought doesn’t frighten me.  I know that my Redeemer has come, that He has risen from the dead to conquer the powers of evil, and that He is coming again to establish His Kingdom on the earth.   I know the spiritual realm is real, but instead of trying to placate a plethora of potentially hostile powers, I place my trust in the One who has won the right to rule over all other powers, and whose name is love.

Consequently, I have no need for superstitious practices, and I don’t need to worry about the future.  I still make plans, but my trust is not in my own plans but in the One who is ultimately trustworthy.  I can make use of every legitimate means to improve my life, but ultimately my hope is not in these secondary methods, but in the One who made heaven and earth, and to whom I belong.  Because I don’t live for myself, but for His Kingdom and glory, I can trust Him to look after me.  That doesn’t mean nothing bad will ever happen to me – in fact, Jesus made it very clear that his followers should not be surprised by trouble – but it means that even in the midst of trouble I can have peace, because I’ve read the last chapter of the book and I know how it ends – I know who wins the battle.

So – will I still change my underwear the next time I beat Joe at racquetball?  Well – first of all I have to beat him, of course – which is an uncertain proposition at best.  But if I do, it won’t have anything to do with my underwear – or his, for that matter.   Not only that, I am totally unimpressed by horoscopes, unafraid of black cats, and have no fear of walking under ladders.  I also choose not to complain about the weather, or worry about my health or the stock market.  If I can make something better, I try to, but I find that life goes better if I place my concerns in the Lord’s hands, do my best, and live free from worry and anxiety.   He knows the future, and I have found that my life goes much better if I trust Him to manage all the stuff that I can’t really control anyway.   Just some food for thought …


Reflections on Tiger Woods

We have probably all had our fill of news reports and speculation about the deeds and misdeeds of golf star Tiger Woods.  Tiger-bashing suddenly became a popular sport early in December as his life came under the spotlight of scrutiny after a bizarre car crash and revelations of numerous extra-marital affairs.  The one-time hero, his Mr. Clean image forever tarnished, suffered a dizzying decline in just a few short days from the heights of adulation to the depths of public ridicule, scorn and rejection.

It’s interesting to me how quickly people condemn Tiger – as if the rest of us were innocent.  Not that his actions don’t matter.  If indeed he did commit adultery – not just once but several times, according to the stories – this is a very serious matter.  If there is a hierarchy of sins, betraying the trust of a spouse is surely near the top.   However, those of us who are quick to condemn Tiger would do well to remember Jesus’ response to the crowd that had assembled to stone the woman caught in adultery: If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.

Am I saying sexual faithfulness is unimportant?  Not at all.  I would be the first to contend for the importance of faithfulness in marriage.  I’m merely pointing out a fact that we love to forget in our haste to condemn and mock such an easy target: none of us is innocent.  When we condemn Tiger Woods we are in effect condemning ourselves, because although most of us may not have done what he has done, none of us has a pure heart.  Only those who have had their eyes opened to their own broken condition and their need for a Saviour are capable of responding appropriately to a tragic story like this one.  It is only as we surrender our pride and come to the foot of the cross that we even understand what purity is.  We need to learn to see such events through the eyes of Jesus, the Lamb of God – the only one who was truly pure, the only one who has the right to condemn anyone – yet who willingly bled and died for those who rejected him, so that they could be forgiven, healed and set free.

So what do I think about the Tiger Woods saga?  I think it’s tragic that his wife and children have had to undergo such betrayal.  Children need fathers who are trustworthy.  I feel sadness for Tiger and his wife Elin Nordegren as the most intimate and sordid details of their lives are displayed openly for the world to see.  Was it naïve of them to expect their privacy to be respected?  Of course.  Do they deserve this?  Maybe.   Are we any better?  No.

Does that mean Tiger is innocent?  Not at all.  Unless he comes to repentance, he will face the wrath of God.  But if we persist in our superiority and judgments, so will we.   So rather than condemning him, I choose to pray for him and his family.   Yes, they are rich and famous, but they are still lost and broken like everyone else – as this unfortunate saga surely demonstrates.  I take no delight in their misfortune, however deserved – Lord knows I’ve made enough mistakes in my life – and I sincerely hope and pray that they both have their eyes opened to their need for a Saviour and that they get their lives back on track.

It’s easy to condemn those who mess up – and it seems to be especially popular to point fingers at the very public failures of the rich and famous.   We live in a culture that is preoccupied with celebrities.  We worship them until their image becomes tarnished, and then we love to hate them.  We do this because we are blind.  If we understood our true position before God, we would instead ask Him to grant them mercy and the gift of repentance.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  It is the one gift that all of us need – rich or poor, famous or unknown.  When we look at the fallen Tiger Woods, we are in reality looking at ourselves.  The sooner we realize that, the better.