Tag Archives: honesty

Last night I had the strangest dream

I rarely remember my dreams.  When I do, it is usually because they are significant.

This morning I awoke with what seemed like an odd dream fresh in my mind.  In the dream I had travelled on St Patrick’s Day to the border town of Prescott, ON or Ogdensburg, NY (I’m really not sure which – I had the impression that I was in both places at once.  It’s strange what happens in dreams). It seems I was there with a group of friends but I don’t recall any of them. We all went into a large building to get ready for some special activity which seemed very important at the time – I was quite caught up in the excitement and anticipation of it. I remember thinking that I had a lot of money to spend and I felt quite rich. I had several US twenty dollar bills as well as several Canadian twenties and tens in my wallet. I went to what seemed like a ticket counter in this large building and spent quite a lot of my US cash to buy tickets.  When I was about to spend my last US twenty, the ticket guy said to me “You might want to keep that in case you want to go down the street and get pizza later”. When I woke up I realized that the tickets I had bought were all for gambling. I was in a bar where there was going to be a large St Patrick’s Day party.  They were getting the green beer ready.  I had apparently been planning to go along with this group of unknown friends for an evening of drinking and gambling.

Then I woke up. I thought to myself, “Why would I be so excited about something like that?  I think gambling is stupid, it has no appeal at all for me, and while I like the occasional beer, I hate the idea of celebrating St Patricks Day – or any special day – by setting out purposely to get drunk.  Why would I dream about something like that?”

I asked the Lord for understanding because I knew the dream was probably significant. As I prayed, I sensed that if I began journalling,   the meaning would become clear. I started writing and as I wrote, the Holy Spirit began to reveal the meaning of the dream. The interpretation of the dream was fairly detailed and specific but here is the core of it.

This culture is sick and getting sicker. It has traded in almost everything of real value (the money in my dream) for trivialities that are worth nothing at all (the tickets entitling me to gamble : at this point I realized the significance of having kept one twenty for something of actual value – pizza, i.e. real food).  It has believed liars and no longer wants to listen to the truth. It celebrates the feast day of a great, noble, heroic and godly man by getting drunk and gambling away its inheritance in his name. It is no longer worthy of being preserved. It will endure for a while longer because I am giving its people time to wake up before I destroy them.

Not a very encouraging message, you say? That’s what I thought too. All around me I hear sincere, earnest friends in Christ speaking messages of relentless good cheer, and I get this bizarre dream with the sobering interpretation. A lot of my friends already think I’m a bit of a nutbar – what will they think if I proclaim a message this sombre? Yet I have been sitting on a sense of foreboding for several months now – as though things are going to happen in the next few years – big things, momentous things – that will shake our complacent, entertainment-driven, self-preoccupied culture to the core.

I knew it was not insignificant that the dream took place in a border town. I had the sense that the dream straddled both countries, and as I prayed the Spirit confirmed this perception.

I then asked if there was not some good left?

Yes, there is some good left. That is why I am allowing time for repentance. I still have a remnant in both countries of people who love me. But for the most part both these nations have forgotten what made them great, they have become accustomed to peace and plenty without recognizing the price of integrity and sacrifice that made them strong, and they think nothing can shake them from their secure position.

Even most of my people are asleep. They see my blessings and get drunk on them, and do not realize that it is time to repent. Like Samson with Delilah, they have thought that they could have whatever they wanted with no consequences, and they have been lulled to sleep. They talk of my glory and my Kingdom as if there were no crisis coming. Yet on those who truly fear my name, I will pour out my grace and my power. To those who truly revere my holiness, I will reveal my glory, and they will indeed have entrance into my Kingdom.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not without hope. In fact I am full of hope. I know that Jesus is Lord and that he will reign as undisputed king across the whole earth. I believe in the Kingdom of God – not just an ethereal heavenly realm, but a real kingdom on a real restored earth. I know that God has a relentless, pursuing passion for the people he has made, that he loves to save all who will humble themselves and throw themselves on his mercy. I know that he gave his Son’s life for the world and that he loves to heal broken hearts and restore shattered lives. I know that even now in many places there are outpourings of the Holy Spirit accompanied by signs and wonders and miracles of various descriptions – what the book of Hebrews calls the powers of the age to come. But I also know that our culture has lost its moorings and is rotting at its core, and that debt-fuelled living has made us economically vulnerable despite our seeming prosperity. As well, I know that there is a dark power rising in the Middle East that wants to rule the entire world and is quite seriously bent on destroying Christianity, Judaism and Western civilization. This is no exaggeration. This monster has been biding its time and gathering its strength for a long time and we have for the most part closed our eyes and ears. Soon it will not be possible to do so any longer.

I have been reluctant to speak about such things because I know that the people of God need above all to be encouraged. But what kind of encouragement is it to speak a message of peace when warnings are what is needed?

Around the world – especially in the Middle East and Northern Africa, as well as parts of Asia – Christians are being threatened, persecuted and killed in increasing numbers. In several Western European countries, synagogues are being attacked, Jews feel themselves increasingly vulnerable, and cities have no-go zones where Sharia law rules and police are afraid to go. Yet in comfortable North America we are too politically correct to talk or pray about such things. Maybe it isn’t a positive enough message. But Jesus warned us that such things would happen before he returned. The gospel would be preached to all nations, accompanied by miracles, signs and wonders; and at the same time, persecutions would increase, Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies yet again, a great enemy of God’s people would arise, there would be a final time of conflict and then the Lord would return in power and glory to establish his throne openly on the earth.

I believe in the glory of God. I know the glory of God will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. I know that there is great potential for transformation of lives and communities even now, and I am committed to seeking the welfare of my city and nation. I know the government of Jesus will increase and fill the earth. But my Bible also tells me that this cannot happen without intense testing, purging and shaking. The testing is already underway and it will increase. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.

I remember hearing the story of a man who had been a Pentecostal pastor in Germany in the 1930s. Hitler had brought peace, prosperity and order to Germany. As the saying goes, “He made the trains run on time”. Surely all must be well? And if we had reason to believe that maybe everything was not quite so rosy – well, best not to say too much about it.

The church that this man served was close to the railway tracks. On Sunday evenings during their prayer meeting they could hear the trains on their way to the death camps. Although they knew where the trains were going, and also knew or at least suspected what was happening at those camps, no-one talked about it. Instead, they sang louder during their prayer meeting to cover up the noise of the death trains that would later be seen as their nation’s shame.

David Carson, president of Intercessors for Canada, wrote a searching article a few months ago in which he compared the present times to 1938 in Canada. Everything seemed to be going on as normal. Life was quite pleasant for most people. The Depression was coming to an end. Neville Chamberlain came home to Great Britain from meeting with Adolf Hitler and declared, “I believe it is peace in our time.  Go home and sleep quietly in your beds.”  A little over a year later, the world was at war (a war about which I heard many stories from my parents, who at that time were a young engaged couple living in the occupied Netherlands). Among other horrors, six million Jews were killed in the gas chambers. Almost one million Canadians fought in that war – close to ten percent of the nation’s population at that time. And it was not even the final great conflict of history – just an advance warning. You can read David’s article here.

Am I making predictions of specific events? No.  That’s not the message the Lord gave me. He simply told me it is time for the church to wake up and begin recognizing the signs of the times.

A popular message? Probably not. A hopeless message? Certainly not. A necessary message? Yes, I believe so. One of the qualities of the end-times church – the glorious Bride for whom Jesus is eager to return – is that it is a church that prays prayers of prevailing faith. It is time to pray in a way that most of us have probably not prayed before. When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth? That’s a question each of us has to answer for ourselves.



Humour, honesty, humility and holiness

I haven’t laughed so hard in a long time.

Last Wednesday evening at Life Group, we had an absolutely hilarious time talking about childhood adventures and various embarrassing and humorous moments in our lives.   (For those who aren’t familiar with Life Groups, they are small groups of people within a church who meet together in homes to build friendships and support and encourage each other.  Some churches call them small groups, connect groups or cell groups).  Anyway, to return to my story – at Life Group last week, we laughed more than I have laughed in a long time.  It all started when we got talking about raising children, and I mentioned that Marion and I still occasionally hear stories from our children about some childhood misadventure that we knew nothing about.  This started the stories flowing, and for the next hour or so we heard story after story about each other’s lives, punctuated with much hilarity.

This might not seem like a very spiritual way to spend an evening, but as I listened to the stories and the comments that were going round the circle, I realized that in sharing our misadventures, foibles and embarrassing moments, we were doing something very significant.  Telling stories on ourselves in an atmosphere of faith helps us to understand ourselves and one another better.  It gives us an opportunity to grow in love, humility and honesty.  The letter of James – one of the most practical books in the Bible – instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed (James 5:16).  In an atmosphere of faith, laughing together about our foibles can be a form of confession and repentance.  One young woman in the group said that she used to be very concerned about others’ opinion of her.  This of course is very common.  It’s called pride, and is a major stumbling block that keeps us from a healthy, productive relationship with God.  This young woman said she found the shared laughter very freeing.  I believe all of us found the same thing.  It’s hard to stay puffed up with pride when you are laughing at yourself.

I am in the middle of doing year-end bookkeeping for my incorporated IT consulting practice.  I am a stickler for getting my bookkeeping right.  Accurate bookkeeping is important to me because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also important to me because I don’t want to get a nasty surprise down the road, when my corporate tax statement goes to CRA.  If  there are hidden surprises in my company’s books, it could cost me dearly.

The apostle John (1 John 2:27-28) reminds us to let ourselves be instructed by a real, not counterfeit, anointing so that we will be confident and unashamed at the coming of the Lord.   Honesty before our friends – in an atmosphere of humility and dependency on God’s mercy – provides a climate in which the true anointing of the Holy Spirit can operate.  This true anointing teaches us to walk in the light, with no pretending, no masks, genuine love, and therefore no need to be embarrassed or ashamed before the Lord.   The result is holiness – not artificial, external holiness but the real thing.

Having shared our stories and laughed at ourselves and one another, we sang a simple song of thanksgiving, broke bread together and prayed simple, unvarnished prayers for each other before heading home.  The prayers were real because we were being real with each other.  I believe God was pleased with the way we spent our evening.

In fact, I was thinking that we could rename our life group and call it a 4-H club.   Humour – honesty – humility – holiness.  Yeah – 4-H !  Great new name for our life group.  Pat and Beth will be so pleased.

Wait – didn’t someone already think of that name?


Will someone please just tell the truth?

I turned to the CTV news this morning and discovered that another aspiring politician, erstwhile Toronto mayoral candidate Adam Giambrone, has had his private infidelity exposed and has stepped down from the race to succeed outgoing mayor David Miller.  When the story first broke and it appeared that Giambrone was planning to stay in the mayoral race, one of the most perceptive commentators on the story observed ironically, “Don’t worry, a politician’s private integrity has nothing to do with his public integrity. Right…”

In a post on the Tiger Woods saga a few weeks ago, I commented that none of us is in a position to condemn public figures for their personal moral failures.   I stand by this assertion, but that doesn’t mean that the rapid decline in standards of public integrity isn’t a cause for concern.  I can’t help noticing that Canadians seem increasingly cynical about the truthfulness of politicians, business people, spiritual leaders, employers, and other authority figures.  Effective leadership in any arena requires that trust be established.  In an atmosphere of general cynicism about the motives and integrity of leaders, this task becomes much more difficult.

The Torah contains a fascinating chapter (Leviticus 27) on vows.  Essentially these rules were put in place as incentives for people to keep the vows that they had made to the Lord.  The unstated assumption behind this teaching is that in our fallen, corrupted condition, we humans are inclined to try to weasel out of promises if they become too costly or inconvenient.  By the time of Jesus this had apparently become commonplace, prompting him to address the issue head-on by saying that making vows or oaths is a bad idea.  His point was that people of integrity don’t need to use vows or oaths to certify that what they’re about to say is really true – they just tell the truth, all the time.  So, for example, Jesus would say that swearing on the Bible in court should have no impact on your testimony; if you are truthful, you are truthful all the time.

It’s easy to become disappointed or even offended at leaders who are untrustworthy.  However, since we can’t change others but only ourselves,  a more productive response is to examine our own hearts.  Do we exhibit the qualities of truthfulness and trustworthiness that we look for in others?   Jesus said, Let your yes be yes and your no be no.  Anything more than this comes from the evil one.  In other words – please just tell the truth.

The choice to walk a straight path rather than a crooked one is a daily decision; it’s a reflection of our basic convictions about life.  The book of Proverbs (10:9) reminds us that our truthfulness – or lack thereof – will eventually become visible to all.  There is no “truthfulness switch” that can be turned on or off at will.  Integrity may not seem very exciting and it’s not always convenient, but it is absolutely foundational to a believable testimony and a stable and productive life.

Do I want the people I work with to know that they can believe what I say without question?  Then I need to practice truthfulness all the time – even when I have just made a mistake, and an honest report might make me look bad.  Even if I look bad because of my mistake, in the end an honest report will win me a better reputation than a lie to save face.  And in the eyes of God – whose verdict is the only one that ultimately matters – truthfulness always looks infinitely better than any attempt to hide or camouflage the truth.

Do I want my children to be truthful with me?  Then I need to be truthful in all my dealings.  If I cheat on my taxes by making meal or travel claims that don’t reflect reality just because I can get away with it, should I be surprised when my child cheats on an exam?  If I can lie when it’s convenient, why can’t he?  If I ask my child to tell an unwanted caller that I’m not at home, I shouldn’t be surprised later on to find my child betraying my trust.  If she can lie for me, she can lie to me.

Do I want to have good sex with my wife?  Then I need to be transparent with her.  Sex is not only physical – it is about emotional and spiritual intimacy.  I can’t expect my wife to desire intimacy with me if I’m hiding things from her.  A liar is a divided person; but she didn’t marry part of me, she married all of me.  If I expect my wife to be excited about being with me, I need to bring my whole self to the marriage bed.

Do I want to please the Lord more than I want to please myself or anyone else?  Do I genuinely believe that He is trustworthy and rewards those who place their trust in Him?  Do I understand that truthfulness and humility attract the favour of God?  If I understand these things, then I will be highly motivated to ask God daily to cleanse and train my heart, and make of me a person whose character reflects His integrity and uprightness.

Will someone please just tell the truth?  Good question.   Let’s be that person.


A man with a true heart

Nathanael  ( John 1:43-51 )  was a man with a true heart.

Although he was one of the twelve original apostles, Nathanael doesn’t get a lot of air time in the gospels.  Compared to Peter, James and John, he barely gets mentioned.  Yet Jesus gave him one of the highest of compliments when he called him a man of complete integrity.

He wasn’t a big name.  To use a hockey analogy, although he made the team he wasn’t a top six forward.  He was what hockey fans call a character player, and Coach Jesus strongly affirmed his value.

What was it about Nathanael that so impressed Jesus?

I believe it was his humility and his honesty.  Here was an honest skeptic who allowed himself to be persuaded and became an honest believer.  He was no polite religious hypocrite.  He wore his convictions on his sleeve.   When his friend Philip told him about Jesus, Nathanael had some doubts as to whether a rabbi from Nazareth could be the Messiah, and he made no attempt to be polite and hide his doubts  – but at the same time he was humble enough to accept Philip’s invitation to come and see.  And when he met Jesus, it only took one brief conversation to totally undo Nathanael’s defenses and bring him to his knees.  When he found a leader with integrity, a true shepherd who could read his character and speak truth to his heart, his response was immediate and genuine.

Nathanael didn’t come to Jesus with great expectations.  He didn’t come looking for Jesus to do anything for him.  He simply came with an inquiring heart, looking for reality.  Although his expectations weren’t high, Jesus promised this humble, honest man that he would see great things.  He would see the door to heaven opened and the way to heaven revealed.

Lots of people had encounters with Jesus during his time on earth, but only a few of them were changed in a lasting way by those encounters.  Nathanael was one of those who was changed forever.  After that initial conversation with Jesus, Nathanael’s name isn’t mentioned again until the very last chapter of the Gospel of John – the one where the risen Jesus has breakfast on the beach with his disciples, and commissions Peter to feed his sheep.   Nothing is said about what happened to Nathanael between those two events.  But this much we know – he stood the test, he stayed on the team, and he got to be part of the victory celebration.

Much of the church in North America today seems to be easily impressed with what impresses the world around us.  Maybe we think this is the price of relevance, but if so, we’re dead wrong.  If we are going to bear lasting fruit we need to cultivate the kind of attitude that we see in Nathanael – a man of integrity, a man with a true heart, a man who was not impressed with himself but instead was impressed with Jesus.


Deeply moved

This post will be a bit different.   Yesterday I read the entire history of Brian Bloomfield’s fight with liver failure due to Hepatitis-C.   I don’t know Brian but I’ve met his son Josh through my son Joe – they are the same age and share a group of friends.  I’ve heard Josh lead worship (he’s a great worship leader) and got to know him a bit when he designed a great web site for a business that I was helping Joe to start.

Anyway, I knew Josh’s dad had been going through major health struggles but I had not followed the story in detail, having lots else on my plate like most of us.  Yesterday I had some time on my hands, and I had just noticed a link to Josh’s blog in an e-mail that I had received from him.   I read the entire blog and was amazed and deeply moved.   To make a long story short, Josh donated part of his liver to save his Dad.   The transplant was a success, and while his Dad is not out of the woods yet,  his Dad now has a chance at recovery and a normal life.

You can read the whole story here.   I’m including it here because I was so affected and inspired by this example of a son’s love for his father, a family’s commitment to each other during a challenging time, and a church’s support for one of their own.  Josh doesn’t gloss over the gory details, but through it all, the transforming power of faith in Jesus, and love for one another, shines through.   To Josh and the entire Bloomfield family – thanks for sharing your story.


Being real

I sometimes tell people that the older I get, the less I know.  I don’t mean that I’ve forgotten lots of stuff – although that’s probably also true … can’t remember for sure.  What I mean is that I am no longer so fixated on having all the answers.  I think I’m finally starting to realize that God is God and I’m not … as a result, my relationship with God has gotten a lot simpler and a whole lot less frustrating.

I have learned some things, though.  One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that God is looking for integrity and honesty of heart.   A lot of what goes on in our culture is about image.  We often mock politicians for being insincere but the truth is that there’s something in all of us that wants to look good – to impress others.  But God is not impressed with any of the things that we do to impress ourselves or others.  I once heard Graham Cooke say that God doesn’t get disillusioned with us when we fail because He had no illusions about us in the first place!  When we try to fool ourselves and others, God is not fooled.  He sees us as we really are.

That thought can be disturbing and a bit unsettling as long as you are still trying to impress others, or trying to convince yourself that everything is OK when you know it’s really not.  Once you give up that attempt, it’s strangely comforting to be dealing with a Being who sees you exactly as you are, speaks only the truth to you, and is committed to helping you see yourself – and all of life – the way He does.

If you want to know about seeing life from God’s perspective, a great place to start is by getting to know Jesus.  He is a perfect reflection of God’s character.   He is totally, unwaveringly truthful, will puncture all your illusions, and then when you finally collapse He will pick you up and show you amazing kindness, unlike anyone else on earth.  That’s because He doesn’t come from earth – He comes from heaven, to reveal his Father’s goodness to a race that has been captive to deception for a long time.