Wednesday, December 17, 2008

On Faith and other things by Bono...

I like this quote, attributed to Bono:

Belief and confusion are not mutually exclusive. I think belief gives you a direction in the confusion. But you don't see the full picture. That's the point. That's what faith is...

It's in this video:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Credible Witness...

The apostle Paul has had an enormous impact on our civilization. He was perhaps the child of a mixed-marriage being both a Jew and also a Roman citizen. As an adult he became a member of the Pharisees, one of the major sects within Judaism at that time. He was a serious scholar and obviously passionate about his beliefs.

No one denies he lived. No one denies his authorship of much of the New Testament. No one claims he was uneducated or unstable - his writings won't permit it. No one makes a serious case that he was an impostor or a fraud - his beliefs cost him too much for that. And despite any ongoing attempts to reinterpret some of Paul's arguments, the accuracy of his writings as we have them, stand the test.

This man was a credible witness. As credible as any who has ever taken the stand in any court room throughout history. I was thinking of this today as I read Paul's letter to the Galatians. I was suddenly astounded by the power of his simple explanations of his belief:

... I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, ...was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. ...

I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.... Galatians 1 (11 - 20)

(this video portion is from the book of Acts, but Paul's story is the same)

And such was Paul's unwavering message until the end of his days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Father's Financial Times

I've been wondering a lot over the last year or two about what "investing" should be for a Christian. I don't have such a large portfolio of investments that Warren Buffet is in danger of losing his spot as the world's wealthiest man... but when you add up all the small investors like me we DO have a huge impact on the global economy. So, how should I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, be investing?

I don't have a complete answer to that yet, but here are some thoughts that are certainly part of the answer:

1/ The current world economic system, regardless of the politics surrounding it, is based on one thing mainly. That is - to reap the resources provided by the earth (trees; plants; minerals; metals; food; etc.) and then turn them into "products," to create what we call wealth. This wealth is originally the raw materials themselves (primary industry); but then more importantly all the economic activity generated by the product-izing (secondary industry). This all sounds familiar from way back in my 7th grade social studies schooling. And I believe there's a third level of economic activity in this model as well? But the key point is that ultimately it all spools back to the basics provided for us by the earth itself.

Within reason there is nothing wrong with this concept - but the fact is, reason usually has little to do with it. The way we have historically implemented this concept is to rape the earth, giving next-to-nothing back - least of all a sense of gratitude to the Great Giver, and paying no respect to anyone whose current livelihood gets in the way (i.e. indigenous peoples or animal populations.)

Then "we" set about moving that wealth into the hands of the fewest number of most wealthy and powerful people. The more humane economic systems do allow for it to trickle up a little more slowly through the fingers of the unwashed masses along the way.

So, my primary point of reference for Christian investing has to be to recognize that this current paradigm is not God's. That immediately poses a conundrum, for even so-called ethical investing only seeks to avoid some of the worst excesses of capitalism, but doesn't really go far enough towards developing a Kingdom of God ethic. From my observations in the Bible, I'd say that a Godly economy is all about gently using the earth's resources to bring about a world where every person is nurtured towards a fulfilled life as a child of God. And of course monetary concerns are only one small slice of that concept.

2/ A second point - Jesus' challenge to the "rich young ruler" in that biblical encounter, was: "If you would become perfect, sell everything and give it to the poor, then come follow me." No wonder the fellow went away sad! What a huge challenge. As a citizen of one of the wealthiest nations in the history of the world, how do I (and all western Christians) relate to this story? Is this also what Jesus demands of us? Is it safe or wise to generalize that statement to all wealthy Christians of today (i.e. most of us in Canada, the US, western Europe, Australia and New Zealand, etc..)?

Whatever conclusion we come to, this certainly has to be part of the thought process. As do Jesus' following statements: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven." and thankfully, "With God, all things are possible!"

At the very least I think it's safe to say that, we Christians must hold on to our wealth very loosely, being generous to a fault in order to build up the world around us towards God's vision. Any close look at how Christians and our Churches are currently using this wealth should make us very uneasy.

3/ As I look at ways to invest, I find that most of the investment opportunities are simply contributing to the way things have been historically. And much of what is passed off as growth in these investments isn't really (as so sharply illustrated by the current crash). And furthermore, most of this system is fuelled by greed.

I'm currently analyzing my RSP account to find out what my financial counsellor has us invested in. It's educational and will require some thought as to how to change some of this. Also, this morning I discovered that it is possible, for example to invest in educational institutions of one sort and another. And I'm sure there must be health-related endeavors that could be good investments too? Much more research is needed along these lines.

4/ Also, I know that there are groups who are helping undeveloped parts of the world develop an economy locally that will be self-sustaining, and will lift the local people out of a life of bare subsistence. Many of these initiatives are being done in the name of Jesus - as a new form of practical evangelism and world development (World Vision; PACTEC; Canadian Food Grains Bank; etc.). These endeavors need to be supported and encouraged. But how to do this in a sustainable way?

One way might be to set my capital needs at some reasonable target value in my personal investments, then any growth generated above and beyond that, I can use to fund these kinds of endeavours that don't have any financial growth per-se?

I think there's even a biblical parable that would support this concept. Luke 16:1-9 has always been somewhat enigmatic, but I think this principle of re-directing worldly resources towards God's economy is the under-lying principle that Jesus is getting at.

So, instead of making my investment goal to amass as much wealth as possible, it would become: To build up enough wealth to provide a sensible (restrained) lifestyle in retirement for myself and my immediate dependents - then above and beyond that to divert income into "kingdom work," where there are no specific economic returns to be had, but much more significant spiritual ROI (returns on investment).

And along the way, I can also look at how generosity would apply. My contributions as a Christian, shouldn't be limited to just my local church, but should extend to a much larger concept of God's work around the world, and should not be locked in to the old covenant's ten percent tithing. If anything, tithing (giving the first ten percent to God) is just the starting point.

To conclude - I don't have hard and fast answers yet to this concept of Christ-honoring investing, but I'm working on it and I think I can develop this into a viable way to wisely manage the wealth God as allowed me to handle. I hope so. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Church marketing - Java-lujah!!

A gentle poke at the funny world of church "marketing." ... Oh too true...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Are Christians too dependant on church?

In 2003, Willow Creek Pastor, Bill Hybels, commissioned a 3-year survey on spiritual growth for their 20,000 member church and thirty others. The results are now in.
  1. "The church and its myriad of programs have taken on too much of the responsibility for people's spiritual growth."
  2. "The church is most important in the early stages of spiritual growth. Its role then shifts from being the primary influence to a secondary influence."
  3. "The church is extremely important in the early stages of [spiritual development], but its main activities-like weekend services and small groups-decline in importance as people [grow closer to Christ]."
  4. "We have created an unhealthy dependence and inappropriate levels of expectation."
  5. "[Christians] need to look beyond the church to grow.Our people need to learn to feed themselves through personal spiritual practices that allow them to deepen their relationship with Christ."
Just how important do you feel that church should be in a person's spiritual life?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Worship Without Walls

Circular Reasoning, or Evidence?

When I explore the universe I find that all the heavenly bodies are shaped into orbs or massive spirals. I've yet to see a planet or galaxy shaped like a cube. So I conclude that there are forces inherent to our universe that favor certain shapes over others. I may not completely understand all these forces - apparently no one does - not even Stephen Hawking. But I believe that these forces can be studied and understood to the limits imposed by my finite mind.

Similarly, I observe how the world is, and how we humans are. I've found no better explanation for all this than that expressed by Jesus (whom I believe to be the Christ/Messiah). Again, I believe that God Is but I can never fully understand this - apparently no one on this side of eternity can. After all how could the Eternal be fully contained within the Finite?

Even so, I can know much about God's nature and character within my finite human limits through the life and teaching and character of Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. For Jesus also claimed (and produced evidence to support this claim) to be a fully divine expression of God as well. My mind reels at this, accepting without fully understanding -- just as it does with gravity, electromagnetic force and molecular attraction.

I don't consider my belief system as finished, but rather as a good start to learning more by the actual day-to-day living out of these beliefs. That in itself is a life-long challenge - to live in complete harmony with my avowed beliefs.

I've been accused of circular reasoning in some of my expressions of this belief, but I'm convinced that I'm sincerely following the evidence as I've seen and experienced it.

Am I right? Time will tell.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

More Art of Worship

A short excerpt from a thought provoking site regarding church paradigms:

"...You need the poet to teach you new ways to see; “Pay attention to the poet, you need him and you know it,” sings Cockburn. So why, then, do we keep using the arts for little more than glorified sermon illustrations? Music as the emotional tag that gets us opened up for the preacher?

Is it possible to create the kind of Christian communities wherein the poets are listened to, nurtured, and supported? In real ways? What might it look like to take seriously our deprivileged and exiled status, and began to rise to the challenge of retexting our communities not only with the preached word – which is something I’m pretty committed to – but also the word painted, sculpted, sung, chanted, filmed, danced, performed and offered in every way imaginable… literally imaginable! Most churches, including my own, have a full time preacher and a part-time musician, but why don’t we have a poet or a painter on our staff? A writer in residence? A film-maker? A director? A choreographer?

... And the angels peer expectantly because they know how deeply we need to be re-immersed in our foundational story; how badly we need to be fundamentally and imaginatively retexted; how powerfully we need to relearn how to sing the Lord’s song in this strange land."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

U2 clip and comments by Bono

"Where The Streets Have No Name" and a clip from Bono speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Is Christianity Logical?

I am currently reading Francis Shaeffer's - "He is There and He is Not Silent."

It is short, but a heavy go as it is close to a university lecture on philosophy and religion and why the Christian worldview is logical given the evidence of the world and the human condition. Often his references to the Greek philosophers and modern philosophers like Kant, Nietzsche, and so on, go over my head -- but I highly recommend Schaeffer for anyone who thinks that the Christianity is illogical. Schaeffer refutes that very convincingly - in language I can (usually!) understand.

Unhappily, most religious folks don't bother reading deeply, and most critics prefer to set up the "religious straw man" represented by shallow, foolish Christians, and so seldom engage the Christian worldview at this much deeper level.

(Which works well for them, but misses the point of why belief in Jesus Christ has been around for over 2,000 years and shows no signs of "going away." i.e. - There actually is substance and Truth behind it.)

So, if you want to know if Christianity can make sense in your head - can satisfy both the heart and head needs of an intelligent person - you have to dig out deep-thinking Christian authors on your own. (i.e. Schaeffer, C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, G.K. Chesterton, and so many others).

It is worth it - at least if you reject it, you're rejecting it on a much more intelligent level!

"If there were no God, there would be no atheists." -- Chesterton, G.K.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jesus' Dramatic Monologue in Matt 23

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A monologue is an extended, uninterrupted speech or poem by a single person. The person may be speaking his or her thoughts aloud or directly addressing other persons, e.g. an audience, a character, or a reader. ... As a literary device, it is most common in dramatic genres...

Matthew 23 contains one of the most dramatic monologues in the entire bible. Within the context of Matthew's Gospel, it represents the climatic point in Jesus' public ministry. In no uncertain terms he pleads with the religious power-brokers of his day, confronting them for their unwillingness to hear his message. He acknowledges their God-given authority, then admonishes them for abusing it.

I love this scene and Bruce Marchiano's portrayal of Jesus. Unlike many other presentations, here Jesus is not merely condemning their hard-hearted attitudes, but rather he is pleading with them as a parent might plead with a beloved child who is insisting on following a path to self-destruction. This is Jesus' last attempt to turn their hearts. And it is clear that after this public 'outing' they will not let Jesus leave the region alive. He has sealed his fate.

I especially love Jesus' cries of "O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem. You who killed the prophets... " There is no Righteous Joy in seeing someone turn towards self-destruction (despite the apparent glee that some "christians" seem to express at the fate of their enemies -- forgetting Jesus' admonishment to "love your enemies...")

I think much of the Power-Church-Religion that goes on today ought to listen carefully to this speech. In so many ways this kind of "Christianity" actually becomes the "Scribes and Pharisees, ..." that Jesus is addressing.

Or so I believe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Music, Wonder, Theology

I'm helping organize a concert in town next month for one of my favorite musicians, songwriters - Steve Bell. Here's a short intro I've cobbled together from some of his earlier work.

P.S. He's not a gnome - the screen is squished slightly due to video formatting "issues..."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Grand Theft Jesus

“Grand Theft Jesus will annoy a lot of the sanctimonious neo-Puritans of the Religious Right–and that’s good! For everyone else, especially those seeking a full-throttled Christianity that actually reflects what Jesus taught, Robert McElvaine offers one heck of a ride.”
—The Reverend Barry W. Lynn, executive director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and author of Piety and Politics

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dispatchs from my throne room...

Just the other day, I was seated on my throne*, ruling over the parts of the world God has entrusted to me and I began to think how over the years I've listened to Christians, albeit, in a humorously speculative mindset, discuss how they would rule over “five or ten cities” in the future – in The World Tomorrow, as we used to call it.

The concept of “ruling over” anything in this world comes from Luke 19:17**, as well as the many other passages explaining that all authority on earth has been given to Jesus Christ, and that he, through us, currently reaches out into the world.

So, anyway it dawned on me that my Christian friends always framed those humorous scenes in the future rather than in the now - and that they were directing their “cities” from the top down. That is, in the same fashion of the world as we see around us currently where a Big Honcho or King or Prime Minister or President issues his or her decrees and minions jump to implement their wishes...

Then the words of Jesus finally sunk in: “...Not so with you!***”

Now I've come to believe that Jesus has given us “cities” to rule over right now! Wherever we find ourselves working and living. And we are to rule these cities by becoming servants to everyone.

Imagine the impact we Christians could have on the world if we just got this much. Imagine the opportunities that exist in our own communities to rule! There are hospitals and prisons full of lonely people waiting to be visited and comforted. Where folks need to be liberated from illness both physical and spiritual. There are sick to care for. There are down-trodden who need justice and need advocates. There are hungry people to feed, homeless people to shelter. And lost people who need to find their Good Shepherd.

If we-the-church would just get on with this much and redirect most of our energy there, the impact we'd have on the world would be staggering and way beyond our current rather feeble efforts.

This is how Christ will eventually take over the world! (Matt. 5:5)

Or so I believe.


* My throne is the seat of a John Deere lawn mower belonging to an animal rescue center where I volunteer.

** Luke 19: 15-17
"He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

"The first one came and said, 'Sir, your mina has earned ten more.'

" 'Well done, my good servant!' his master replied. 'Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.'

*** Matthew 20:25-27
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society
[NIV at IBS] [International Bible Society] [NIV at Zondervan] [Zondervan]

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Set on Edge

I may have to re-surrect the "set on edge" theme for a blog - but twist it.... sigh... Apparently the D in TED stands for "design" ... (Technology, Education, Design... yes?). Well, I find it sooo hard to listen to introductions in TED lectures and elsewhere where the speaker gushes on and on about how "nature" designed these amazing things!

Here's the Wikipedia intro to the word "Design" (emphasis mine)...

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Design, usually considered in the context of applied arts, engineering, architecture, and other creative endeavors, is used both as a noun and a verb. As a verb, "to design" refers to the process of originating and developing a plan for a product, structure, system, or component. As a noun, "a design" is used for either the final (solution) plan (e.g. proposal, drawing, model, description) or the result of implementing that plan (e.g. object produced, result of the process). More recently, processes (in general) have also been treated as products of design, giving new meaning to the term "process design".

Designing normally requires a designer to consider the aesthetic, functional, and many other aspects of an object or a process, which usually requires considerable research, thought, modeling, interactive adjustment, and re-design.

To speak of Nature designing is at least anthropomorphic and at worst self-deceptive. The language used throughout these presentations is full of intentionality, philosophic and aesthetic judgments that render one outcome better than another, ... on and on it goes... unavoidably using language requiring a designer, conscious decisions and AT LEAST a value system to evaluate the outcomes.

Speakers so often ascribe all this to a process supposedly driven by chance, with no consciousness, no self-awareness, no mind, no personality. This just doesn't make sense to me. It violates normal use of language and logic. And it seems rather apparent to me - that if every thing in our own experience is formed by choices and through thoughts and efforts (and this is what is being CELEBRATED and deemed worthy in the TED lectures) then why should the Universe Itself be any different? Surely the one simply reflects the other... ?

If the FIRST CAUSE is accidental then I do not understand how anything following on from that can be imbued with meaning. But if the FIRST CAUSE is purposeful and meaningful then Everything following on from that can also be meaningful (but doesn't have to be).

Call me stupid, but I can't wrap my mind around this un-God prejudice. Just as I can't look at Terri's blogs or Paul's Machinima or France's Doll's and cry out "Wow! Look what the internet designed all by itself!"


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

4 Questions & 3 Observations

Ravi Zacharias has a wonderful ability to clarify issues:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Mission News

This is the kind of stuff that goes on in the name of God all over the world, every day and gets little notice. Certainly not in the mainstream media, as a rule. Too bad, because it would help provide a larger, more accurate picture of what faith and even religion are about:


Mission Aviation Fellowship resumes flights in volatile Kenya

by Maria Mackay
Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2008, 10:15 (GMT)

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has resumed flights in Kenya after temporarily suspending them last Thursday over security fears for staff.

MAF planes are being used to evacuate people from areas of violence and instability as well as help with relief efforts by bringing vital supplies to those in need.

With the exception of one day of suspended flights, the ministry has flown throughout the crisis for the Red Cross, Intensive Care Air Ambulance, Gospel Fire International and Diguna among others.

Political heavyweights the European Union and the UN, as well as the US, intensified pressure on Kenya’s politicians who are still squabbling over the outcome of the December 27 presidential elections.

"All political parties in Kenya should recognise that it cannot be business as usual in Kenya until there is political compromise which leads to a lasting solution that reflects the will of the Kenyan people," the EU said in a statement.

MAF pilots have flown staff members of the Catholic Relief Services ministry to the trouble hotspot of Eldoret, where 30 people were locked in a nearby church and burned alive.
Catholic Relief Services is co-ordinating relief efforts for a number of aid agencies there and the MAF flights have been used to bring urgent supplies, including blankets and mosquito nets to thousands of refugees there, some of whom have lost their homes and their livelihoods.

MAF came to the aid of Empowering Lives International, which needed to transport staff back to Nairobi where they were flying back out to the USA, as well as move out other team members in danger.

Don Rogers from Empowering Lives International said, “Threats came to our director that our whole compound may be burned because we were caring for people regardless of their tribal affiliation.”

Safely back in Nairobi, Mr Rogers wrote, “Only an organisation like MAF would have been willing to go out of their way for us. MAF picked us up – prayed before the flight – and in every other way blessed our family and ministry, as well as a dozen others who were able to get on to the same plane with us.”

Last week, MAF pilots Roland Sedlmeier and Jane Wambui flew to the volatile area of Tinderet for the Diguna charity to evacuate some of their team members.

The Diguna team reported, “Many team members, as well as most of the home children, are not from the local tribe. As such, they are now seen as intruders, and could potentially become targets of attacks.”

More than 600 people are feared to have been killed and 250,000 displaced during the post-election violence.

MAF staff in Nairobi remain safe, the ministry said.

“The situation is constantly changing and we are closely monitoring events,” said MAF, a Christian organisation whose 130 planes provide a lifeline for people in developing countries where flying is a luxury most cannot afford.

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Shack - a second thought...

(Jesus speaking to the main character, Mack:)

"Who said anything about being a Christian? I'm not a Christian."

The idea struck Mack as odd and unexpected and he couldn't keep himself from grinning. "No, I suppose you aren't"
"Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Budhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans and many who don't vote or are not part of any Sunday morning or religious institutions. I have followers who were murderers and many who were self-righteous. Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into my brothers and sisters, into my Beloved."

"Does that mean," asked Mack, "that all roads will lead to you?"

"Not at all," smiled Jesus ... "Most roads don't lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you."

What are we waiting for?

Genesis 3:15 (speaking to the serpent)
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel."

Matthew 22:44 (speaking to the Lord)
" 'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." '

Romans 16:20 (speaking to the church)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.

As the hands and feet of Christ in this world, it seems pretty clear that it is under our feet that Satan is being crushed. That is, it is through all the means the church has at her disposal; worship, prayer, fasting, meditation and expressing our faith through love (Gal.5:6), that Satan's domain is destroyed.

Why do we continually "Seek God's Will" for the church to the point often, of not taking action? Are we waiting for a telegram (or should I say email) when scripture makes it clear that we have our general commission and there are tens of thousands, even millions of ways for it to be carried out - as many ways as there are churches and individual Christians. If we will actively live an authentic faith, it's going to happen.

I'm also reminded by scripture that our task is not so much to build the church as it is to BE the church:

Matthew 16:18 (The Message) (Jesus Christ speaking to his disciples)
... I will put together my church, a church so so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Shack - a first thought

So, as I started reading, I came across this paragraph about the main character, who's life has been rocked by tragedy:...But in spite of his anger and depression, Mack knew he needed some answers. He realized he was stuck, and Sunday prayers and hymns weren't cutting it anymore, if they ever really had. Cloistered spirituality seemed to change nothing in the lives of the people he knew.... He was sick of God and God's religion, sick of all the little religious social clubs that didn't seem to make any real difference or affect any real changes. Yes, Mack wanted more, and he was about to get much more than he bargained for."

I began to identify with the lead character at this point ... getting interesting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good Study Resources

Despite the mangled doctrines the Worldwide Church of God promoted for many decades, there was an underlying respect for studying the bible with a whole mind and heart -- which you could say, is what eventually saved the church from mis-interpretations originally injected by Herbert W. Armstrong.

Interesting how that worked out.

At any rate, they now publish some of the best biblical reference sources available. After experiencing how pride and failing to differentiate the main plain things from the secondary things, can easily lead folks astray, there is a continual humility in their works and a willingness to acknowledge those areas where Christians differ.

Just a re-discovery I share....

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Shack

This book has been getting a lot of attention - sometimes from surprising sources - It's not often that people claim that a book drastically changed their perceptions of God. Especially a little work of fiction as this is.

I'm usually leery of "the latest fads" within Christendom ... but I sense there may be something authentically different going on here. I'm going to get hold of a copy and I'll report my own insights. FWIW

The Bakery - By Max Lucado

A beggar came and sat before me. “I want bread,” he said.
“How wise you are,” I assured him. “Bread is what you need. And you have
come to the right bakery.” So I pulled my cookbook down from my shelf and began to
tell him all I knew about bread.

I spoke of flour and wheat, of grain and barley. My knowledge impressed even
me as I cited the measurements and recipe. When I looked up, I was surprised to see he
wasn’t smiling. “I just want bread,” he said.

“How wise are you.” I applauded his choice. “Follow me, and I’ll show you our
bakery.” Down the hollowed halls I guided him, pausing to point out the rooms where
the dough is prepared and the ovens where the bread is baked.

“No one has such facilities. We have bread for every need. But here is the best
part,” I proclaimed as I pushed open two swinging doors. “This is our room of
inspiration.” I knew he was moved as we stepped into the auditorium full of stained-
glass windows.

The beggar didn’t speak. I understood his silence. With my arm around his
shoulder, I whispered, “It overwhelms me as well.” I then leaped to the podium and
struck my favorite pose behind the lectern. “People come from miles to hear me speak.
Once a week my workers gather and I read to them the recipe from the cookbook of life.”
By now the beggar had taken a seat on the front row. I knew what he wanted.

“Would you like to hear me?”

“No,” he said, “but I would like some bread.”

“How wise you are,” I replied. And I led him to the front door of the bakery.
“What I have to say next is very important,” I told him as we stood outside. “Up and
down this street you will find many bakeries. But take heed; they don’t serve the true
bread. I know of one who adds two spoons of salt rather than one. I know of another
whose oven is three degrees too hot. They may call it bread.” I warned, “but it’s not
according to the book.”

The beggar turned and began walking away. “Don’t you want bread?” I asked him.
He stopped, looked back at me, and struggled, “I guess I lost my appetite.”
I shook my head and returned to my office. “What a shame,” I said to myself.

“The world just isn’t hungry for true bread anymore.”

I don’t know what is more incredible: that God packages the bread of life in the
wrapper of a country carpenter or that he gives us the keys to the delivery truck. Both
moves seem pretty risky. The carpenter did his part, however. And who knows-we may
just learn to do ours

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Those whom I love I rebuke...

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees...

These words of Christ echo across two thousand years. This was the pivotal confrontation that sealed his fate. After this denunciation of the religious powers of Jerusalem, there is no way he will be allowed to leave town alive.

This portrayal by actor Bruce Marchiano, is truly inspired. For just as a loving parent might plead and confront a wayward child who is bent upon his own destruction, Marchiano reveals a Jesus crying out from a broken heart to the very people who claim to represent God. Yet their hearts are so far from this one True God. And in his never-ending compassion, that God rebukes them and confronts them with righteous indignation and love. Yes, love.

For this is the God who claims to be Love. Who commands "Love your enemies..." Therefore, how could He himself act out of any other motive but love? And still they once again turn their backs and walk away! How heart breaking:

So, here is Bruce Marchiano's amazing rendition of these passages:
(Unhappily this critical speech is cut over two segments, so please view the second immediately after the first. Also the sound is a little off. These excerpts are from "The Gospel According to Matthew" as produced by The Visual Bible.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Worship Wars

I haven't forgotten the item about worship and music and such.

This recent comment from Plain Truth Ministries emphasizes how divisive and hurtful an issue this has become:

Worship wars
This is a serious issue with my family. My husband no longer goes to church because of the repetitive modern music. My children go because they do not have a choice but it is effecting them. I have heard, "Why should I be made to go to church when dad doesn't go?" It doesn't help that two of my children are musicians and my husband knows music. It didn't help when my daughter offered to play with the worship team, and was told she couldn't because she reads music and they "wing" it. I think the director should come to one of the high school's jazz concerts. My daughter will be doing ad-lib.

We always arrive late to miss the worship portion of the service. I have been asked why we always come late. I was told by the elder asking that he didn't care for the music either -- but that we need to worship God. Does God want you to fake worshiping him with music that grates on you?? I will always believe it should be heartfelt. My husband likes the meat of the sermons but notes that when we arrive late and everyone seems to be in a trance, still singing the same line for minutes on end, he just does not want to return.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Animal Welfare Advocacy

As someone who holds the life and teachings of Jesus in very high regard, I'm always looking to understand my own views of life, the universe, and everything. I'm always seeking a consistent, coherent view of reality upon which to base my life (and yes, even this coherent viewpoint contains much room for mystery! I know that I'm incapable of knowing ;-)...

I don't have much to say about how other worldviews consider the role of animals in our world, but It troubles me that Christians, (and many other people apparently, judging from the statistics on abandoned and euthanized pets) view animals as a commodity - just like a toy doll or teddy bear. Something to use for our own amusement, but throw away if they become inconvenient.

Thanks to this blog sent to me by a friend, I've discovered this book - which seems to deal with the topic from a Christian perspective. I'll buy it asap and post what I find:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beyond worship towards WORSHIP...

The word worship within Christianity has been scrunched down into a very narrow definition. Another side-effect of "religion." When Christians talk about it at all, they generally mean a scripted few minutes of church ceremony that revolves around congregational singing. Which can be part of the bigger picture of worshiping God but when we limit ourselves to this concept we rob ourselves of so much more. And this "small worship" can even be an uncomfortable experience for those of us who are not singers, or demonstrative, artistic people.

Worse, this narrow viewpoint inadvertently throws oil on the the fires of never-ending worship wars. Some folks like new music; some like old music; some like loud music; some like soft music; some like lots of music; some like very little music; some like instrumental music; some like easy-to-learn music; some like deep, thought provoking music; some like unexpected turns in the melody and harmonies; others don't. On and on it goes.

(...edited this section out - based on a particular video which youtube took down)

Frankly, when my heart is moved to worship, no one! and I mean NO ONE can prevent me from worshiping, and conversely when my heart is NOT ready to worship, no one! can push me into it.

Worshiping God in spirit and in truth, day by day, action by action, choice by choice, is such a huge thing, it actually hurts me to see it shrunken and mistreated this way.

I'll try to express more of what I'm getting at in other posts. Hopefully this post and won't just tick people off and cause even more "worship war" ...

Now, here's a video I discovered, featuring a young woman obviously singing about worship as a very real and personal experience - good job!:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Play God... A Thought Experiment

If you had the power to ressurrect people to a new life in a world beyond this one - a universe that includes this one but reaches beyond, into dimensions yet to be explored, how would you decide who to resurrect and who to leave in their graves?

And then now would you govern that new world?...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Tony Campolo - Inner City Ministry

This presentation lasts about 45 minutes, but it's well-worth the time. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in people-oriented ministry:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Burning Ember

Steve Bell writes songs that often include amazing analogies for God and His work in us. These help me dig deeper into the mystery of God and life. They help me deal with the conundrums presented by a world where suffering co-exists with good and joy and love and faith. And that being open to all the goodness life has to offer, brings at the same time, a fresh awareness of all the other.

Here is such a song (as first presented in symphonic version with the WSO:)

"Somehow I know, we'll all be whole, in your burning..."

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Power of the Gospel...

Check out these facts as they scroll across the screen, then listen to the challenge issued by Tony Campolo to me and to you:
The original video has been taken down. It scrolled numbers about the billions of dollars spent on church "stuff" by Christians, compared to how much it would cost to end hunger, and disease on our planet. This was followed by a sobering challenge by Tony Campolo for Christ followers to stop living like an image of the culture around us, and to really follow Christ by investing our money into better choices. In the absence of that video, I can at least offer this video of the song:

It's Friday ... But Sunday's Comin'

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jesus Christ, Superstar 2000 Trailer

The rock opera, Jesus Christ, Superstar is a powerful piece of art based on the last seven days of Christ before his crucifixion. This intro to a "Making of..." video is included on the DVD I recently purchased. I think it serves as an excellent trailer for the show itself:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Three Laws

After living a few years and pondering on this universe we find ourselves immersed in, I've decided there are three great laws at work here and much of what we're about is learning to deal with these.

The first Law is the Law of Chance. Stuff happens. Much of it is beyond our control. Earthquakes shake, accidents occur, and you or your loved one just happens to be on the wrong street corner the morning someone with a 45 cal. weapon goes postal. It's awful. It forces us to realize how far we are from being in control. The bible says somewhere that "time and circumstance happens to everyone" (I'll find this and post it later)...

The second Law is the Law of Consequence. We actually do have some small control in some areas of life. Pretty much this is limited to that realm we each occupy called "the self." That's were my little kingdom pretty much begins and ends - yours too. So, because I do have authority over how I think, what I do, when and how I do it, I also have to be responsible for the outcomes. The Consequences. If I do a crappy job of building my house, it'll probably fall down sooner rather than later. If I treat people around me poorly, I'll probably have fewer and fewer people around me - or vice versa. The choice is mine.

The third Law is the Law of Love. This is the over-riding, and most powerful law. It always trumps the first two. It's the law that allows us to live in a world of happenstance and not go nuts worrying about it - and recovering and growing even when "bad things happen." This is the law that provides for God's grace towards me and you, and likewise our grace towards one another. It's the law that releases us from the tyranny of an eye-for-an-eye justice that leaves the whole world blind. It's the only hope ultimately that the human race has for any kind of future that we'd actually want to live in. It is the law that Jesus came to make more evident, although like the other two laws, it has always been in effect.

Or so I believe.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Night Flight

We climb through 10,000 feet and we point the Airbus A320 toward Montreal. Below, in the soft darkness of early evening, the lights of Chicago slide by. I take advantage of a quiet moment to enjoy the view from the flight deck. "Hey Dave, look over here," I call my first officer's attention to the view out my window. We're climbing out of the earth's shadow. "Now we can say we've seen the sun rise in the west." He smiles.

Then he draws my attention to the eastern horizon. "Wow," I eloquently state. "That's so awesome." The harvest moon is rising in shimmers of luminescent gold. Overhead the sky fades from crimson and dark blue to black as the brightest stars begin breaking through. "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers … " Psalm 8 echoes in my mind. I also recall something a friend once told me: "When we open ourselves to wonder, God can speak."

Soon we are at 37,000 feet and cruising towards the falling night. We move our chairs close to the front windscreen, our noses almost pressed against the glass inside the darkened cockpit — like staring into the world's largest aquarium. We begin to share a mutual sense of awe and amazement at the night sky.

"I think it's a little like that spider on my back porch," I muse. "My attempts to understand the universe are a little like that spider trying to comprehend my house, my yard, the surrounding city. How would he even be able to think of such things — it's beyond his capabilities." I pause to sip on a cup of hot tea. "And how does he perceive me as I loom over him. That must be like me trying to comprehend God."

"I don't know if I believe in God," Dave counters. I'm pleased that he is comfortable enough to express his doubts to me. "If we are God's children then wouldn't He be more obvious to us? Wouldn't He teach us His language for example, to guide us and help us? We do that with our own children."

I take another sip of tea, letting his response sink in. "That's a great question." I turn the thought over in my mind. "Does God have a language?" How would we even recognize it? How can I grasp this? I try to imagine myself as a newborn baby lying in a crib hearing, yet not comprehending, as my parents coo and aah and speak words of love.

The steam rises from my tea and fogs my glasses. Below, the complex web of Toronto's lights turn into softly diffused blurs of yellow and gold. The steam feels good on my face.

Does God have a language? Jesus is called "the Living Word." That must be significant. I know the Bible tells us in ancient days God spoke to us through the prophets, but in these last days by His Son (see Hebrews 1:1). I recall Jesus' new command, "Love one another … " The mist on my glasses slowly clears.

God is Love!

Is it possible that love is the very language of God? That love is not only the message but also the language that conveys the message? Marshall McLuhan once said "the medium is the message." Maybe I'm beginning to understand. Maybe God's love surrounds us as surely as warm blankets enfold the newborn baby. He surrounds us in constant whispers of sunsets, stars and warm tea. I want to reflect more on this, but the lights of Montreal are coming over the horizon and we are about to get busy again.

"Dave, that is one of the most profound things I've heard in a long while. I hope we can continue this another time." Dave nods. "Sure." Maybe he's a little surprised? He calls for the pre-descent checklist and we begin the landing preparations. As we gently glide towards the earth, I marvel as I observe stars setting in the east.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Don't Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down!


I just discovered Eric Bibb - and I love it:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Is God an egomaniac?

As you read the Bible, you can't miss the fact that God wants us to worship him. For example, it's the beginning of his contract with ancient Israel: "You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3

And Jesus obviously considered this a fundamental requirement in his own life: "Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " Matthew 4:10

So it's clear - Worshiping God and Him Alone is a big deal.

Orion Nebula M42 formed by the explosion of a star at the end of its life (NASA, STSci.)

Has this ever made you wonder if God is an egomaniac? Maybe just a little bit? Aw, come on - you can admit it. You won't be struck by lightning! Has it never made you wonder why he's so stuck on himself? After all, if anyone else went on like this, you'd probably want to distance yourself from them - not worship them.

Someone once told me that they had "no use for the unreasonable God of the Old Testament". They went on to tell me that basically they preferred more inclusive ways to worship. Ways that allowed for them to decide who and what to revere.

In short, they thought God was an egomaniac. Or worse.

But is he? Or could it be that He is simply truthful? Think about it.

Ice Melting on Walden Pond, April 2001, "Water indeed Reflects Heaven"(Thoreau).

If I believe in a Creator Being who exists independently beyond time and space - If I believe that this One and Only Creator brings everything else that exists into being - including me. If I believe that this One and Only Creator upholds the vastness of the universe by his very thoughts, and keeps me alive by his love and will, then just what are the consequences of such belief?

Surely the most reasonable reaction on my part is to recognize his worthiness. To place this Creator at the head of everything. Worship simply becomes the most just and sane response.

I'm not writing this in a "holy rolly" tone of voice. I'm not writing with heated tones of religious zeal. I'm simply stating the plain truth. Logic demands that I take these claims by God as simple statements of fact. And conclude that God is the Ultimate Realist. The Teller of Truth.

When he says "Worship Me" he is simply being realistic. He is the One and Only Being to whom worship is the logical reaction.

As simple as that.

Sea Star on Vancouver Island

Monday, February 18, 2008

Search Me O God - YIKES!

As I continue in my church's Read The Bible in 90 Days challenge, I'm now at the Psalms.

In psalm 139, David requests God to plumb the depths of his character to, "... see if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." This is a common theme in many of David's psalms. I started wondering how God accomplished this with David - and by extension, with me.

Could it be that David prayed such a prayer just before spying Bathsheba on the neighboring rooftop? Which let to a revelation that King David was an adulterer, a liar, a murderer, a thief, a traitor and many other despicable things. (Isn't it interesting how honest the Bible is about the duplicity and 'human-ness' of it's heroes? No idol-worship or white-washing allowed!)

And so, through this horrible misadventure, David's request is blatantly answered by God as Nathan confronts him. I love the King James version where Nathan pronounces: "Thou art the man!"

God never stopped leading David "in the way everlasting" despite David's failings. We see a different spirit in the King in Psalm 51 - which I always imagine as being written during the time that David was fasting and pleading with God over the consequences of his sin. 2 Sam:12

Don't take my imaginings as 'gospel' - the timing of when these psalms and other accounts were actually written is uncertain. But the concept that God works in our lives in all instances to reveal to us who we truly are is valid. Romans 8:28 says God uses, the good, the bad and the downright ugly, to bring about ultimate good in our lives if we give him permission.

It takes a lot of guts to pray the way David prayed. But we can trust that God has our ultimate good at heart. It will be worth it.