Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hate

"I call on you not to hate, because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair, and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking,"

This quote accurately describes the effects of hatred. Hatred is a poison to our souls. It causes us to become the very thing that we hate. Most people hate because they (or someone else) has been wronged - that wrong can be real or imagined. A person who hates believes that they have not been treated fairly. This hate blinds us and causes us to treat the person that we hate unfairly - so we become that which we hate.
Now I want to state that I have never hated anyone passionately. However that may not be true. In fact it would be just a denial of the truth (and I would really like to deny this truth because good Christians do not hate). I can think of a person in my who I really loathed, I would like to say that it was not hate (more denial?) My feelings toward this person did exactly what the quote said it would do. It made me treat them unfairly - always expecting the worst and always seeing the worst. It made me blind to possibility that they could change. It truly closed all the doors of thinking. Yahweh took me on long journey to forgive this person and to learn to love them.

An interesting note about this quote. It comes from Saddam Hussein. You know that evil dictator who is sentenced to hang. In light of his execution he wrote a letter. In the letter he stated the above quote and also said "I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us". I was a little bit shocked to hear Saddam say these things. But then I realized that I really know very little about him and everything that I do know comes from the media.
You can read about it at cbc. (By the way I found it some what interesting that this story is already off the front page of their website)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Making Disciples

In my past couple of posts I have been exploring what I think are the three foundational things about Christianity: Loving God, loving others and making disciples. I have been asking the quesiton what would this look like. To be totally honest I think that the first two questions are actually easier to answer. This is often what our church talks about - loving God and loving others. And I want to say that this is a good thing. However we sometimes leave out the whole making disciples thing. Or prehaps it would be better to say that we leave the making disciples to the some of the minstries in our churches and do not feel responsible to do it ourselves.
Well if we are going to explore what does it mean to make disciples than we should know what a disciple is. So what is a disciple of Jesus Christ. A disciple is a person who loves Jesus and wants to follow him (which means that they will love people). Now a lot more couple be said on this whole issue but I am not going to do that right.
So what does it mean to make disciples?
  • This is everyone's responsibilty not just the pastors or the leaders
  • A willingness to challenge people
  • A willingness to encourage people when you see good things
  • Praying for people
  • A willingness to share our stories about how God has worked in our lives
  • Sharing with people what we are learning from the bible
  • Studing the bible together
  • Praying with each other
  • Helping others know and follow Jesus
  • Being intentional in our families
  • Willingness to talk about our whole lives (not just the safe things)
Well these are a couple of the things that I can think of. Any other thoughts?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Loving others

In my last blog I listed some things that I think would be evident if we loved Yahweh more and more. Today I am going to explore what would it look like if we truly loved each other. Once again I am going to just ramble (which means I am going to post things in the order that they come to my mind and not in the order of importance).
What would it look like if we truly loved each other:
  • We would be praying for each other
  • We would work for the best of the other person
  • We would serve the other person
  • We would see the good in the person and not just the bad
  • We would build them up and not tear them down
  • We would let other people know that we love them
  • We would be honest with each other
  • We would confess our sins to each other
  • We would bless others and not gossip about them
  • We would spend time together
  • We would laugh and cry together
  • We would help each other
  • We would welcome the stranger in
  • We would care about the poor and the outcast
  • We would see Jesus in other people
  • We would challenge each other
I believe that the essence of it is that we would live in real community with each other, a community that is open and loving, supporting and challenging.
To live like this will take God in us.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The future

So in my last post I mentioned that the church's foundation is loving Yahweh, loving others and making disciples. I said that this really needs to get fleshed out. Perhaps a way to flesh this out is by asking what would it look like if we were doing this?
Now by asking that question I feel like I am beginning by stating that we are not doing this. I am not sure that is the case. I believe that programs in our church are built out of the conviction that we need to be doing these things. My intent in asking this question is not to challenge what we are doing but to look into the future.
So what would it look like if we loved Yahweh more and more? Now I am just going to start to ramble out some thoughts that I have (feel free to state what you think and to challenge what I am writing down).
  • We would have a desire to learn more about who he is
  • We would not get caught up in our little wish list but rather get caught up in Yahweh's wish list
  • We would be engaged with the people on the edges (just like Jesus was)
  • Our worship would be full of life (regardless of the style)
  • We would have a longing and desire for the Bible
  • Our service would be characterized by dedication and commitment
  • We would tell other people about him
  • We would want to experience him in real relationship
  • Our creativity would be unleashed
  • We would be more confident because we will know that Yahweh loves us
  • We would be willing to take risks for him
  • We would seek to hear his voice and obey him
  • We would pray
  • We would pray in groups and with others
  • We would do whatever it takes to get closer to him (this includes things like fasting)
  • We would begin to see Yahweh everywhere (in the news, in our friends, in our enemies)
  • We would be more critical of our culture
  • We would be more gracious and loving
Looking over this list I see that I am no where near to where I should be. The next question is how do we get to where we do love Yahweh more and more?
But I think before I even begin to explore that question I will explore what would it look like to love others? And what would it look like to make disciples? For I believe that all three of these are very inter-related.
What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 04, 2006

The DNA of a church


I have been doing some thinking about why I am a pastor? And what is the church? And what does it mean that I am a leader within the church? Why am I doing what I am doing?
Fall has been a very busy time for me. It has left me feeling like I am doing many things to just stay afloat. Instead of energizing and being a catyalst for the church to move into future I feel like I have been kind of maintaining the status quo. Don't get me wrong. I think that there are many good things happening within the church - assisiting the new comer families, working in prison ministry, children's ministry, youth ministry, ect. Wonderful things are happening within the church. I just want to become more intentional in my role within the church. With Pastor Gary leaving I can see that there are going to many things that need and should be done. Which means I need to know why I am here and what I am suppose to be accomplishing. Right now I do not have the answers.
However I heard Robert Logan describe the church and state that the DNA (the building blocks, the essentials of life) for the church are three things: Loving God, loving others and as we go making disciples. I believe he is totally right. So when I think about extending the Kingdom of God it means loving him and others and making disciples. This is the basics that I have often been taught. But it is good to come back to this and build upong these things. They are going to have to be fleshed out for me. But they give a place to start.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Advent

This Sunday is going to be the first Sunday of Advent. It is hard to believe that the fall has gone by so quickly. I personally feel like it should still be September (though the snow and cold weather bring me back to reality). Advent is a season of expectation. We wait with expectation for the coming Christmas. In fact in my house my girls did a count down to when they got to begin to open their advent calenders (which was this morning. They were up at 6:30 - I don't want to image what time they will be up on Christmas morning).
However advent is not just about waiting for Christmas it is celebrating that God came into the world, that God is in the world, and that he is coming into the world. Advent is about expecting God - finding him in the past, finding him the present and waiting for him to come again. The question that I am going to try and ask my self this advent season is where is God right now? Where is he working right now?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Baptism

On Sunday night our church had a baptism and communion service. It was totally awesome. There was a good group of people there. The people getting baptized ranged in age from a teenager to 87. It was amazing. I love hearing the stories about how Yahweh is working in the lives of people. It is these stories that let me know that Yahweh is real and is at work in our world.

One of the great highlights of the evening was that my daughter had communion for the first time. I was serving communion so I did not get to be right with her when she took but her mom walked her through the whole thing. I know that she is still little but it is totally awesome to see her taking steps to draw closer to Yahweh. I am so proud of her.
It was a great evening. One that I will remember for a long time.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Vision for Ministry meeting Part III

Another thing that happened at the vision to ministry meeting was that Nathan mentioned something to me in passing. But I have been thinking about it a lot. When we were talking about how we can invite people into our church (see the post from a couple of days ago) someone mentioned that we need to make the service more youth friendly. Nathan our youth pastor leaned over and said “What the youth really want is they want to see that God actually makes a difference.” Youth do not necessarily want us to change our musical style (right many young people are being drawn into more liturgical churches). They want to see and experience the power of God. So the questions we need to ask is “Does God make a difference?” As thought about this I began to ask more questions.

Does he actually move within this world like we Christians claim he does?
Will he actually help people overcome addictions?
Does he truly set us free from our sins?
Does he really want to be in relationship with us (a real relationship)?
Is he actually always with us?
Does the Holy Spirit really empower us to live godly lives?
Does he guide us?
Does he really answer prayers?
Does he give spiritual gifts to all Christians?
Does he heal people?
Does he work miracles?
Does he actually discipline us when we do wrong?
Does he make us new creatures?
Does he grant wisdom?
If I follow him will I find a life that is worth living?
Is God real and will he do what he says he will?

We know that the Sunday school answer is yes. But do we really believe that? Do we really live it and pray it? Do we testify about this?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Vision for Ministry meeting Part II

There was actually a lot of stuff said at the vision for ministry meeting (if you weren’t there than you missed out). One of the questions that was asked was do things need to get redefined in order for us to become a more caring church. At my table I threw out two things (which I happen to feel very passionate about).

The first was the term ‘missionary’ I feel that this term needs to be redefined. Too often we view people that we send to a different culture and most specifically to a different country as the only missionaries. (On a side note I wonder if this is why some of our inner city missionaries have a hard time raising money. They are not far enough away.) This type of definition allows us to believe that we do not have to as active in sharing our faith because we are not actually missionaries. If we send someone to China to work in a book printing factory as a missionary we would have expectations that they would be doing what they could to reach the community. Do we have the same expectations for the people we send to Friesen’s? Should we? I am not sure it will work to redefine missionary but we need to do something so that people realize they are ministers of the gospel. Every Christian is a minister not just the ‘pastors’ and ‘missionaries’ (one of the reasons that I am sort of against ordination, but that is another topic for another day).

The second term that I threw out was ‘family’. Now our table did not really get a lot of time to discuss this (actually on all the questions we would just be getting going when Lyn would tell us time was up). I believe that if we are going to be a ‘caring church’ we are going to have to get a bigger picture of family. When I said this someone else who was not from this community looked up and said “Oh. You must have moved into this community as well.” Family is often viewed as one of the primary care giving units. If you have family then you will be cared for. (Now I know that this is actually often wrong and that care is more than just showing up for a couple of family holidays. But this is the preception.) But if you do not have family where do you get your care? Families are tight knit groups that do not allow other people to really enter into them. In fact in many families if you are not born into it you will never really be part of it (even if you marry in). (Another little side note. This is why I do not like the term ‘church family’). The bible calls us to have an expansive view of family. Conversion is really a move from our biological families to the family of God. If we are going to care we are going to have to actually see other Christians as our real brothers and sisters.

These two things family and missionary need to be held together. If we are solely focused on missionary than often we are just after people to pray the sinner’s prayer and not real discipleship. If we get too focused on family than we need never see a need to reach to those who are outside of the family and invite them in.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Vision for Ministry meeting

The other night our church had a 'vision for ministry' meeting. For most of the evening we discussed what does it mean to be a ‘caring church’. Now I have to be honest when I first read the questions that were going to be discussed in the bulletin I wanted to gag. This entire focus on ‘caring’ I felt was too inner ward (I personally think we have spent way too much time looking at our belly buttons). However Lyn did a fantastic job in his opening talking about how a ‘caring church’ does not only care for itself but also cares for the community and the world. A ‘caring church’ is a blessing to everyone around. This was awesome and set the tone for the entire conversation that followed. Through out the conversation that followed I noticed that we have an interesting concept of evangelism. For many of us evangelism is equal to church attendance. Most of the evangelistic comments had to do with how do we make our church services more inviting. There was very little talk about how do we get ourselves into the community.

Then at our table Steve (who I love because he drops tuff questions on the table) asked if we need to care for ourselves better than the world will see and come. In other words our love and support for each other would be the testimony. I want to say yes but…Too often I have seen groups become so inner focused that no one else can get in. I actually see this all the time in bible studies. They love and support each other and their group is really strong and good but they will not reach out. The call is will we love and support the least not just those who are like us.

Steve also stated that we should get back to basics. We have ministries for everything when what really needs to happen is that we just have to do it. We need to love each other not just have a bunch of ministries that give some kind of care. It is every person's responsibility to show love and care for their nieghbours, friends, family, enemies and strangers. When we live like this we will be a 'caring church'.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanks God


God is moving in our community and all we can do is say thanks.
Just over a month ago our community was approached by MCC to sponsor 4 refugee families. With only two days decide one of the churches (Seeds) stood up and said that our community will take this on. It was a total step of faith. They believed that this is what God was calling our community to do and they believed that he would supply what was needed. In fact their faith went even beyond this. Within days as we began plan for the arrival of these families they stated that we were going to have to consider what to do with the left overs that God was going to provide. In other words they were not expecting God to just supply the need, they were expecting God to provide so generously that at the end of the process we were going to have sit down and say what do we do with this stuff. That was just over a month ago.
Today three of the families arrive. And God has worked through his people to supply what was needed with left overs. We were meeting today and someone stated that all we have to do is ask and God provides what is needed. For example on the weekend we set up the apartments that people would live in. There was lots of everything however we were missing some beds. A couple of people were discussing what to do. They decided that before going out to buy beds they would wait and see if God would provide. I do believe it was that day that someone donated that beds that we needed. Well we still needed a mattress. So it was decided that on Monday we go and buy a mattress. However before that could happen someone dropped off a brand new mattress. And today I got another call from someone with a mattress (who I have to tell that we do not need it). This story has played itself out over and over again in the month.
God is good. And the people in this community have been responding to the call of God. As I stated at the beginning all we can do is say thanks God and thanks to his people who obey.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Speaking the Truth

A couple of nights ago I was in a meeting and someone read Psalm 15. The whole Psalm is about who can dwell in Yahweh's sanctuary. It lists a whole bunch of things like: "walk is blameless", "does what is righteous", "no slander" and on and on.
One line really stood out for me. In verse 2 David says that the people who get to live with Yahweh speak "the truth from his heart."
So often when I have read this verse I have just focused on the word truth. As Christians we actually get very worked up about defending the truth. We write books, argue, debate on TV about truth. Looking at my shelf I have books and books that are claiming to write the truth (even though some of them disagree with each other). We are worried about people wandering from the truth. Now I am not saying that these things do not have some value (some more than others). But this verse says that they speak the truth from their heart.
From our heart not from our head. We love to talk about the truth in our heads. But do we speak about the truth that is in our hearts. My head may tell me one thing but my heart may tell me another. Sometimes I know all the right words and answers but there is still a sense of doubt within my heart. Do I speak the truth of the doubt within my heart? Do I express my feelings?
Being in a Mennonite culture I have come to realize that we do not speak about what we feel. If we have a problem we just do not show up. Instead of speaking from our hearts and telling what is wrong in the church (for fear of offending people) we just change churches.
Yet to live with Yahweh we have to speak the truth from our hearts. We have begin to express our feeling to each other. Does this mean that we may offend people? Yes. We do need to have some tact I believe. Not just unloading on anyone and everyone.
On the other side is the reality that we have become ready to hear people speak the truth from their hearts. Our hearts sometimes feel really crappy stuff. Sometimes our hearts are filled with doubts and questions. Sometimes our hearts are confused. Can we allow people the freedom to speak these things?

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Emerging Church

What is the emerging church? The emerging church is actually very hard to define. The emerging church is not a denomination or a group or a fellowship or even an association of churches. In fact in Winnipeg some of those who are regarded as leaders in the emerging church do not want to be called the emerging church. Those who are connected with the emerging church come from all denominations and from many different cultures. This means that there is no statement of faith or doctrinal statement or even a set of core values that provide structure to the emerging church. Even the name emerging church indicates some of the difficulty in defining it. Emerging indicates change and growth. One of the very questions that is asked in the emerging church is “what are we emerging to?”
But even with all these difficulties people are still using the term emerging church. So has to mean something. But what?
Well I am going to express my understanding of the emerging church. (I am sure that I am going over simplify some things, misrepresent other things and even fail to even mention some important things. But it is important to express something, if nothing else to generate discussion). Now there are certain assumptions which I think are characteristic of the emerging church. They are: missional, embracing questions and experiential.

Missional

The church has a mission to the world. This is not something that the emerging church has recently discovered. We have known this all along, right from the very beginning of the church. Jesus gave us the great commission and told us that he was sending us out into the world. And the church has lived this. There are the great missionary movements, the Billy Graham crusades, seeker sensitive churches, evangelism training and so on. There are a couple of things which make the emerging church missional focus somewhat different.
First, as Michael Moynagh states, “Emerging church with a mission heart is different. It does not start with a pre-
determined mould and expect non-churchgoers to compress in. It begins with the people church is seeking to reach, and asks 'What might be an appropriate expression of church for them?'” (http://emergingchurch.info/reflection/michaelmoynagh/index.htm)
The emerging church has the belief that what we do is shaped
by our culture, language and assumptions. In other words church as we know it is a cultural expression of our understanding of the Bible. Since we are called to reach people in different cultures church will look different in these different cultures.
A second possible difference in the missional focus of the emerging church is who does mission. We have often believed (or at least practiced) that the professionals do mission, we stand in the background and support. We send out full time missionaries, hire full time ministers. When it comes to evangelism we bring our friends to hear a professional speaker and then have a stranger to council them. The emerging church is emphasizing that we, all us, are on a mission. We are all missionaries, we are all ordained (by the Holy Spirit) ministers. Mission is not for the professional, mission is for the church.
A third focus in its missional understanding is that the church is here for the world. The emerging church believes that we are to bring heaven to earth. Just as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Mission to the emerging church is not just about getting people to pray a prayer. It is about bring justice and peace to our world. Do
not misunderstand a key part of the mission is to bring people to surrendering their lives to Jesus as King. It is only through this that people truly discover justice and peace. But it is also very important to live justly and to bring justice and peace to people even if they never surrender their lives to Jesus.

Embracing Questions

Another aspect of the emerging church is its willingness to embrace questions and live in mystery. The emerging church does not believe that it has everything together. It views itself on a journey to discovering Yahweh.
The emerg
ing church is actually very skeptical of anyone who claims to have it all together, to have all answers. The emerging church does not believe we will ever be able to arrive at all the answers (at least on this side of the grave). Our minds are too limited to fully grasp and understand Yahweh. Therefore the emerging church believes that there will always be an element of mystery in our faith, an element that we cannot completely explain.
Since the emerging church does not believe that we have it all together they believe that we can learn from other people. P
ractically this means that the emerging church embraces many different denominations. They believe that every denomination has something to offer.

Experiential

The emerging church is not interested in just knowing about Jesus and God they want to experience him. They are not interested in religious rules they want to live in a real life giving relationship with Yahweh. Faith becomes viewed as a dance. The goal of a dance is not to have obeyed all the rules. It is to embrace the music and the passion of the dance. Rules can provide a structure but they cannot provide heart.
So when the emerging church gathers together they are not interested in just talking about God (though that does happen) they want to experience God. Practically this means that a worship service can possibly be more interactive than a typical service.
The emerging church believes that as people we have a desperate longing and hunger for God and spirituality. A God and spirituality that is not just believed but is experienced.


This is a very brief overview of how I understand the emerging church. What do you think?


Thursday, November 02, 2006

National Novel Writers Month


This month is National Novel Writers Month. Which simply means that you are encouraged to write a 50,000 word novel this month. The entire point of it is to get people to write. The philosophy behind it is that we often over edit ourselves. We begin writing something but then we get very critical of it. We try and edit it but never really get any where. So we just do not write. However in trying to write a novel in one month you do not have time to stop and edit what you are writing. In fact you are guaranteed to be writing absolute junk. But if we start with the assumption that what we are going to write is totally awful then we can actually write. Then when it is written and finished we can edit it.
So I started writing yesterday. I have a ruff idea of a story but nothing very firm or detailed. My story is going to have grow and develop as I write. Well I hope you find the time to write this month. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Guitar


I used play my guitar a lot. When I was in Bible school I was playing for almost 3 hours every day. However sometime after leaving Bible school my arthritis began to act up. I have arthritis in my hands. So for several years my guitar became less and less. I can actually remember crying because I could not play my guitar very much. Usually it would be about 5 minutes (1 or 2 songs) before I could not play any more. I went to the church and had the elders anoint me with oil and pray over me. It did not help at all. Then when I travelled to the Philippines for a year with my family I did not bring my guitar. And actually I hardly missed it. When we got home a few years ago I began to talk off and on about selling my guitar. I even had someone really interested in buying it. But I just could not part with it.
Then a miracle happened. About a month ago I picked it up and decided to play. I played for over 30 minutes with no problems. Well other than being really bad because I have not played in years. But my hands did not hurt! I can only praise Yahweh for that. So over the past month I have been playing my guitar again. It is totally awesome. Now I just have to figure out how to be a decent guitar player.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Government

Today I am a little bit upset with my government. The conservatives have done several things in the past week that have really annoyed me.
First thing that they did was Vic Toews introduced a bill in that would make it easier to make people dangerous criminals. Now I have to admit that I do not know the specifics of this bill. But it seems to indicate the overall response the conservatives have to justice - tougher sentences. There is no conversation about how to help convicts get adjusted so that they reenter society. The conservative answer for everything is tougher sentences. However tougher sentences do not bring justice. Tougher sentences are not a deterrent. Tougher sentences do not help rehabilitate prisoners. In fact our whole justice system seems to be a joke. It appears that our system of justice is not really about justice but is about punishment. Instead of trying to do something good the conservatives introduce stupid bills which may win them some votes but do not bring justice.
Second thing that really bugs me is the new environmental bill they have brought forward. What a joke. Within the bill it states that there would be no strong caps on green house emissions until 2020 or 2025. Now that is a long time away. I am wondering why wait that long. In 2020 will the conservatives still be in power? And we all know how well the bills of an opposing government last. After all the Liberals said we will meet Kyoto. Conservatives get into power and say no. To me it looks like another way for them get a couple votes without really doing anything but talk.
This brings me to the third thing that they did this week that bugs me. They threw Garth Turner out of their party. Now I do not really know who Garth Turner is (I just heard about him this week). But it seems like (according to the news) that his crime was telling people what he thought. And apparently his thoughts did not always line up with the conservative majority. So the conservatives decide to throw him out. Now the problem I have is that I believe that everyone should have the freedom to speak without being punished. But I guess the conservatives disagree. If you disagree with them then they are going to just toss you out.
Now I am actually glad that the conservatives are in power. If nothing else to just get a change from the corruption and bold face lying of the liberals. But over all I am very displeased with many of the things that conservatives are doing. Many people voted for a change. So far there has been no change or in my opinion the change is for the worse. I guess this is why we need to always lift them up in prayer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What kind of world do we live in?

What kind of world do we live in where children try and kill other children. I just read on cbc
about a group of kids locking another kid in a shed and lighting it on fire. This seems so beyond just bulling or calling names or even hurting someone else. They seemed to have a desire to really harm and even kill the kid.
The kid who was locked in the shed has spinal bifida. He was different. This appears to be the only reason that the other children decided to attack.
Now what really gets me is what kind of society raises children to act like this. We can try and blame the kids all we want but the reality is that they are products of our society. We stand around all arrgonant and proud that we have this great society with all its freedoms. We proclaim that this is the best place in the world to live. In fact we feel that the rest of the world should become more civilized like us.
Children killing children is anything but civilized or free. Our society is messed. We need to take responsiblity for the way our society is. We cannot look to the government to fix these things because the government is totally powerless to do anything.
We need to pray. And our prayers have propell us into action otherwise our prayers just become a way in which we blame God for the mess we are in.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Derek Webb - New Law

My friend Gary passed this on to me. Interesting.

Worship

"One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend."
(Stanley Hauerwas)

Is my liturgy good or bad? Do I sing sappy, sentimental songs that eventually lead to bad ethics?
I do not want to say that my worship is bad or that the songs that I like to sing are sappy and sentimental. I can more easily point out how other people's worship is bad and how the songs that they sing are sappy and sentimental. But I should really look at my life first.
I think I get into sappy and sentimental when I sing songs that I do not mean or do not understand. I remember singing as a child "Put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness..." What on earth is "spirit of heaviness"? Or I sing "I feel like dancing" when I do not feel like dancing. Or "I raise my hands" when my hands are at my side. Now I am going to quickly defend myself. I think I can do some of this in my heart, without doing it in my body. At least I think I can. I could very well be wrong on this one.
Another way that my worship is bad is when it does not focus at all on Yahweh but just focuses on me or something else. Prayer that just about my needs and requests (no praise, no thanksgiving, no praying for others, no confession).
Through true worship I encounter Yahweh and this changes me to reflect his image I need to very aware of my worship.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Forgiveness

Most likely you heard about the shooting in the Amish school, where a man shoot and killed several young girls. Well the Amish are truly amazing. They have begun to demonstrate such Christ likeness in this situation. One person stated that while he was in the kitchen with the gunman's family "an Amish neighbor came to the house and wrapped his arms around the father of the dead gunman. 'We will forgive you,' the man said." (Lancaster online)
The Amish have not only expressed forgiveness in their words they have also begun to demonstrate it in their actions. They have set up funds for the families whose children died or were wounded and for the gunman's family. (cbc) Instead of being bitter and unforgiving the Amish have chosen the way of Christ.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Grandma


I would like to pay a small tribute to my Grandma. On Monday I attended her funeral. She was 88 when she died and had been married for 59 years.
My Grandma was an amazing woman. Her heart and passion were fixed on Jesus. For many years her and my Grandpa spent many years on the mission field. They made the decision to give up many of the things that we all desire to serve God. And serve God she did. One of the great things that she did was to pray. I discovered at the funeral that she would pray for her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren every day. This means that she prayed for me my whole life. I am sure that her prayers have made a great impression on our lives - greater than we realize. She was also a woman who would surprise you. She a very humble and quiet person but would do things that we very surprising. At the funeral I discovered that she once voted Green. This really surprised me because I was sure she would have been conservative %100 and never green. She also continued to want to learn. When she was in her 80s she was still memorizing portions of scripture. A few weeks before she died she got her first computer. In fact they tell me that some of her last words were "email".
I am privileged to be her grandson. She always inspired me to be a better person.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The temple of God

The church is called the temple of God. In Ephesians 2:22 the apostle Paul states that we "are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit." We are viewed as the temple of God because it is where the Spirit dwells not because we are so righteous and good. It is important to note that this is the work and grace of God.
However the other interesting thing in this text is that we are not finished. In the book Images of the New Testament Church Paul Minear states that we are not to imagine a finished temple but a temple that is in construction.
We (personally, the local congregation and the universal church) are places where God is working. Places where God is in midst of constructing a temple. Yes, we are the temple now because the Spirit dwells in us at the present time. But this is not a passive dwelling but rather it is active.
The picture that I have in my head is one of buying a house. A person can buy a brand new house move in and relax and live. Or a person can buy a fixer-up. A house where you move in and dwell not to just relax but to repair and improve. We are fixer-up temples. Places where God dwells fixing and repairing his home. Not just minor repairs (like changing a light bulb) but actually a radical and total renovation.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Preaching Re-Imagined

I just finished reading Preaching Re-Imagined by Doug Pagitt. Ok so I did not read the whole thing. I skimmed most of the chapters. But I believe I got the essence of the book. I actually found it a little repetitive.
Doug states that our preaching is just like making public speeches and we need to change that. Instead of giving speeches he believes we should be inviting people to interact and engage themselves in the sermon. In other words people should help prepare, deliver and discuss the sermon. None of this should be done by one person alone. Preaching should be a conversation where we are all changed.
I totally like his ideas. However the question becomes how do we do this? How do I begin to invite people to be a part of the conversation?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jesus Loves me


I was listening to a speaker last night (Richard Showalter). He was talking about how the love of God can propel us in our ministry. One of the stories that he told was about a research team that decided to try and figure out the characteristics of a successful Christian leader. Their plan was survey (or evaluate) different successful Christian leaders and figure out what characteristics they had. Then compare and eliminate all the ones that did not match. So the end result would be that they would have a list of characteristics that all the leaders had in common. So they did their study. They asked questions about prayer life, bible reading, public speaking, and so on. When they finished that all the leaders only shared one characteristic. They were all convinced that God loved them.
This sense of being loved and being loved by God effects our entire lives. It is this sense of being loved that allows us to truly move forward. It gives us the confidence to risk and even fail.
Now I have grown up in the church so of course I have heard that God loves me. But do I really, really know that? Do I feel it in my bones? Do I allow God's love to define and redefine me? Do I constantly seek love in other areas of my life? Do fail to risk because I am scared to fail because I feel that will effect how God loves me? Am I ready to receive God's love?

"Jesus loves me this I know..."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dogs


Ever since my family came home from holidays my kids and wife have been wanting a dog. It seems like everyone else has dogs. So my kids have been asking and asking to get a dog. My oldest daughter informed me the other day that she was not a cat person but a dog person.
I have been holding out. I feel like a city under siege. But I developed a plan. The first part of the plan was to get the kids to realize how much work a dog is (I have already convinced my wife somewhat). So one day we were sitting at the table for supper and I began to attacked with reasons we should have a dog. Well very confidently I began my attack plan. I asked "who is going to feed the dog?" The girls said they would. "Who is going to walk the dog?" Once again they would. "Who is going to wash the dog?" They would. Now it time for my killer question, "and who is going to clean up after the dog?" I sat back confident I now had them. My confidence only grew as all three girls sat silent. Finally one spoke up "Well Dad you have to do something." Ok so I lost round one. But I was not finished yet. The next part of the plan was to dog-sit our friends dog for the weekend. This way everyone could experience exactly how much work a dog. My problems began to develop in the fact that I picked the wrong dog. The dog we got was a wonderful dog. It never barked. It was very good with the kids. In fact by the end of the weekend I began to feel like having a dog would be a really good thing. I have a feeling that I am losing the battle. But as of yet we still do not have dog. But if my kids continue to attack I may very well fall.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sermon

This Sunday I am preaching on Philippians 1:20-30. In this passage Paul talks about living for Jesus the King or dying and being with Jesus. Throughout the whole thing he talks about how he is not ashamed and will not be ashamed. He then calls the Philippians to live their lives like that.
It has been very interesting walking through this passage because my Grandma is dying. Right now she is in the hospital and I have been told that she will not live many more days (in fact I have heard that it may just be a matter of hours - but no one knows for sure). So I have been thinking about the life that my Grandma has lived and been thinking about how Paul tells us to live. My Grandma (and Grandpa) are excellent examples of the type of life that Paul is calling us to live. Through out their entire lives they have sought to have the message of Jesus proclaimed. They have traveled all over the world telling people about Jesus. They are amazing examples of faithfulness to our King Jesus. My Grandma has not always been the one to talk but her life and presence have shown so much about who God is. This of course does not mean that they are prefect. Paul was not prefect either (sometimes I sense in his writing his continued 'shame' at persecuting the church). But the story that captured my Grandma was the story of Jesus. She has lived her entire life inline with this story. When she departs it will be better by far for her - for she will get to be with Jesus. Her death will leave a great hole here. And the reason that it will is because she has lived such a good and godly life.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Simply Christian

I just finished reading Simply Christian by NT Wright. It is a very, very good book. Tom (that is NT Wright's name) writes about what it means to be a Christian in our world today. Apparently it is sort of like Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. If you are looking for a good book read this one. A couple of the highlights.
Tom states that there are a couple of ways that we view God and the world. First is that God and the world are totally joined together - that they are one. This is pantheism. So prayer in this setting becomes discovering one's true self. In fact all spirituality in this view can become very me focused (because if everything is god then I am god.)
Second view is that God and the world are totally separated and distant. This is deism. Prayer in this setting is like talking to a distant God who may or may not hear and who may or may not respond. Also within this view the goal is to escape this wicked and corrupt world.
Tom states that these two views are not the Christian view. So there is a third view. That God is separate but close to the world. In fact there are places where heaven and earth interlock and overlap. Within this view the goal becomes the salvation of the world (pantheism says nothing is wrong and deism just wants to escape, let the world burn). Prayer is one of those places where heaven and earth interlock and overlap.
Often Tom shows how as Christians we have bought into either pantheism or deism.
I am going to finish off this entry with a final quote from Tom
"Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new that is dawning. That,quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world. God's new world, which he has thrown open before us." (Simply Christian)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Knee surgery

On Tuesday I had knee surgery. It was just a minor surgery - they cleaned out some cartilage. But it has me off my feet for a couple days. So I have reading lots of books, playing video games and watching TV.
One of the books I have just finished reading was traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. It was a really good book. Anne tells it as it is. She has this courage to look into her life and see what she is like and then to write it down so that the rest of us can see it as well. It reminded me that spirituality is messy. I would like everything to nice and neat and simple but it isn't. We are really all messed up people - some of hide it better than others (of course that is just another way that we are messed up). Which means that our spirituality is messed up and is messy. What amazes me is that God still works inspite of all this. He seems willing to get messy with us and work with us where we are at. Of course the whole point is that he is not willing to leave us in our mess. But he also never gives up on us.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Spiritual Gifts

I am getting totally sick and tired of hearing about spiritual gifts. Now I have to admit that at one point I was a devoted disciple of spiritual gifts and believed that every person had to know what their gift was and serve in that area. But I have been converted (de-converted) for better or for worse.
In case you do not know what spiritual gifts are let me explain. Spiritual gifts are gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to people to serve and extend the Kingdom of Jesus the Messiah. There are all kinds of gifts - I have seen many different lists with many different gifts. Now I do believe that spiritual gifts are biblical and that the Holy Spirit does give them but I am beginning to have a problem with how the church is using spiritual gifts.
I am not sure how long ago - but it was a while back - the church began to teach that everyone had to know what their spiritual gift was and then serve in that area. I personally gone through the process of discovering my gifts many times - and have in fact lead other people through this. But I have begun to see problems with this. It sounds good in theory but practical is a little more difficult.
First problem is figuring out what gift God has given me. The usual way is to take a survey. The problem with the survey is that it focuses on past experiences - not sure how else they would write a survey but this still causes problems. You see if I have never done something then how would I know if I have the gift or not. If I have not preached how would I know whether or not God has spoken through me. The other problem is that every survey has different gifts listed (and actually often define them differently). So if I am suppose to know my gift what happens if that survey does not have my gift listed? Another problem with finding my gift is that I believe God gives gifts for a period and then gives a person a different gift. So now I have to constantly say "I had this gift but I need to double check and see if I still do have it."
The second problem with the way that spiritual gifts are used is that instead of empowering people it seems to stop people from growing. It is amazing how many times I have heard the expression "that is not my gift." Instead of trying new things and being stretched we retreat to doing what is safe. Now my God is a god who likes to stretch me and push me into new things. But it seems that people are using spiritual gifts as an excuse for not growing.
This leads me to the third problem is that I see people using spiritual gifts as an excuse to be disobedient to God. They state it is not my gift when God has commanded them to do it any way. For example on Sunday my church was having a picnic and a stranger wandered into our area and looked around. He was obviously not a part of our group. But no one went up to him. No one showed him any hospitality. On his way out of our group my wife and I caught him and talked to him. Now I have to confess that I did not see him - my wife did. And if I did see him I am not so sure I would have gone up to him anyway. But the point is that no one did. I am sure we all have our excuses (and some of them are valid) but everyone had an excuse? I am sure some people would even use the excuse "it was not my gift. Hospitality is for someone else." Now no one said this in this case but I have actually heard people use their gift as an excuse for disobeying God.
So I am tired of spiritual gifts. My advice to people is learn to pray, read your bible and listen to God and then do what he says whether it is your gift or not.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stories

Who owns the story of a people? When I first heard this question I thought it was a strange question. Of course I thought no one owns the story of a people. The story belongs to everyone and we must listen to everyone to come to the truth.
However my Dad, Darryl , is quoted in an article that states that this is an important question (you can read the article by going to coffee with Warren and then clicking on 2006 columns and then clicking on Who has the Right to Tell the Aboriginal Stories? - July 12). My Dad states that: "The story is who we are. The story is the people, the people are the story." We are defined by the stories that we tell and by the stories that we do not tell. The stories that are held together are what make a people a 'people' instead of a group of individuals who live near together. In fact stories can make a people a 'people' regardless of the distance between them. Since stories are what really define a people who has the right to tell their stories? My Dad points out a couple things in the article. First is that if the person telling the story is outside of the culture we need to be asking what might they be missing. Would people of that culture tell the story differently? Would the person telling the story be making distinctions that the culture does not (in other words how is their culture affecting the way that they tell another culture's story). Second, is we need to asking why is this person telling the story. For this will affect how they tell the story. Everyone has slant.
With all this said I ask the question again "who owns the story?" I said at the beginning that no one owns the story and all must be listened to get to the truth. However what truth are we talking about? The truth of why certain things happened? Different cultures will give different answers this question. Our culture which denies the "super-natural" looks only for natural explanations. Other cultures will look for "super-natural" reasons. Who has the truth? Also there are times when I can hardly explain rationally why I do something. Why would I think that I will be able to give a definitive answer on why something happened in history? (This does not mean that should not seek these answers but that we should realize our answers are shaky at best). Or perhaps the truth we seek is the truth of the people, who are these people. Then it seems that the people have first dibs on their story. The way they tell their story has to take precedent over how others tell their story. Though I do recognize that we do not define ourselves in isolation. Others also define us by the stories that they tell of us - so we need to also hear those stories (though often those stories will say more about the people telling the story then about the people the story is about).

So what stories are we listening to? Who is telling those stories? Why are they telling them?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Beige God

One of our summer interns, Rachel, wrote this rant on "the Beige God". It made me want to grab a paint can and start painting.

We serve a beige God.

We prefer our God isn’t too exciting—not completely blank and white, but just the appropriate shade of off-white, with not too much brightness or richness in colour. He may have different shades of nice, warm, beige, but still only beige. I mean—look at our sanctuary!

How does that translate into our worship?

Well, we worship our concept of God. If we viewed God as distant, then our building might have plain white walls, and wouldn’t be that interesting or inviting. If we viewed God as diverse, like the people He’s created, then our building would be a hodge podge of different colours and cultures. If we viewed God as exciting and inviting, then our building might be warmly lit, with bright, vibrant accents, giving a focal point to things which will invite us to contemplate our God.

Beige, to me, means we worship a safe God. Beige won’t disturb anyone’s colour scheme too much—you can match it with almost anything—and the colour isn’t going to distract anyone. The different shades of beige might be different parts of God that we bring out in our worship, but it is nonetheless all beige.

Now, putting the actual sanctuary aside, the God we tend to worship is beige in character. He does not disturb our lives too much, and He does not invade our minds too often. He is fine with us just sitting still in the church service, looking like good people, even if our minds are focused on anything but Him. We don’t think God would be red—He wouldn’t get angry, would He? He’s pretty safe, and we don’t need to be in fear of Him, do we? God wouldn’t be blue and vast and powerful like an ocean—allowing disasters to create character in us?

We might hear, on Sunday morning, about a God who disturbs people and pulls them out of their comfort zones, but it is easier to hold on to our comfortable, undisturbing, beige God.

He wouldn’t ask us to do anything we wouldn’t enjoy, would He?

He wouldn’t want us to do anything that might take a lot of effort, would He?

He wouldn’t want us to quite spoiling ourselves by only doing what we want, would He?

He wouldn’t want us to actually forget about ourselves and love people without an agenda, would He?

Of course, He would. But do we actually listen? Are we willing to let go of our beige God?

God is shown through the Bible… and He does get angry…

When people don’t do the good they should do

When people do good, but only because they want something in return

When people see each other as projects instead of people

When people judge instead of seeing one another’s hearts

When people come to church, but don’t come to meet God

When people don’t care for each other, but only look after their own needs

God is also a God who gives gifts—and expects them to be used for Him.

So, when people have a passion for youth, they are to use it.

When people are good administrators, they should know they are needed—and then use their gift to help people who are not.

When people are gifted, we need to recognize it in each other, and help each other find those gifts.

But then—the most important part is that we need to use those gifts. That is part of being the diverse body of Christ. And if God is beige, then our gifts are boring, and not alive, because we only see certain gifts, and don’t recognize others as important.

God is also big and worthy of awe, but He is also close. And he does care for us, and love us, but because of that love, He does not let us be as we are. He asks us to leave ourselves behind. And the life He calls us to good, but is not safe. It is not beige.

The pastors this summer have done a very good job of encouraging us, and taking us out of our comfort zones… were you listening?

“At the centre of the conversion process is the destruction of our own image of God in order to allow God to be God for us: or God who not only is other than what we are, but is also other than what we want God to Be.”

~ Jacques Pasquier

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I am in love

Today is my 10th wedding anniversary. Last night we watched our wedding video. It was really cool to see so many people from our past. It made both of us wonder where some of those people are. We also realized that we had really good music at our wedding. I had forgotten how awesome some of the songs were.
The great highlight of being married for 10 years is that I feel like I am just getting to know Cindy. My wife is the most amazing person I have met. She is so complicated, beautiful and smart. She continues to surprise, stun and amaze me. I love her more and more every year.
Well there is only another 70 years to go until we reach our 80th wedding anniversary.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wrongful love

The other night I watched V for Vendetta. It was an interesting movie. The part that fascinated me was that the bad guys were conservative Christians. I sat and I wondered is this how the world sees us? In the movie Christians had taken over the state and were suppressing freedom. One of the things the Christians were doing were throwing people into jail because they were gay. I felt bad that Christians were getting such a bad rap in the movie. However then I read an article online called Wrongful Love. In the article it mentions how a Christian school kicked someone out because their mother was gay. What a stupid thing for anyone to do. We are called to love. Instead Christians throw someone out because they are associated with someone who does not live as we expect them to. It is important to note that the student was not doing anything wrong. They were expelled because of their mother. This made me think. Sometimes Christians do get a bad wrap in the media. However too often it seems that we deserve that treatment. I know that there are many good Christians doing many good things - and I wish these would be highlighted more in the media. But the reality is that sometimes people who call themselves Christians are really stupid, unloving, hateful, arrogant losers. Makes a person wonder why God still loves and uses us.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Disciples

I was just listening to Ray Vander Laan. He is a historian, focused on the culture of the bible. He runs a website called follow the Rabbi (you should really check this site out it). Anyway I was listening to him talk about what it meant to be a disciple. It was really interesting. One thing really struck as he talked. He told a story about when he was taking a class from a Jewish professor. The professor was saying that a disciple is consumed with a passion to be like their master. He then looked right at Ray and said that Christians claim to be disciples of Jesus. However unless they read the gospels every week then they are not really his disciples.
That is right. Reading the gospels every week. And he means reading the whole gospels not just part of them. My first response is that he has to be crazy. But another part of me asks do I want to be like Jesus? How badly do I want to be like Jesus? Enough to read the gospels every week?
My prayer is that my desire to want to be like Jesus will increase.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Terrorism

Well it seems like a day to talk about terrorism. A couple of my friends talked about it on their blogs - Nathan and Jack. I also just started to read Simply Christianity by N T Wright. In the first chapter he talks about justice. So since I am thinking about it.

Terrorism is a very loaded word, especially since 9/11. People seem to use this word about anyone who works against them. It seems to often be used to get a emotional response instead of a rational response. If someone is a terrorist then we have the right to use "whatever means necessary" to stop them. This includes bombing civilians, kidnapping, torture, ect.
One of the problem is that the definitions that are used to describe terrorism seem very vague. Wikipedia states "Terrorism is the systematic use or threatened use of violence to intimidate a population or government and thereby effect political, religious, or ideological change." And "The United States Department of State defines terrorism as "Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorist) The first definition would seem to include the use of any military force in any country to bring about change. This would include the invasion of Iraq by the US, the invasion of Afghanistan by the UN, and the invasion of Germany by the allied armies in WWII. It seems to be me that there is a difference between a military operation and terrorism. Though the more I think about the issue the closer the two seem to be. The second definition does not really help that much more. Since we are often willing to bend the rules for groups who fight against "bad" governments. The definition also removes the state from being able to commit terrorist actions. Though I think many would consider the Chinese response to Tiananmen Square to be terrorism. So we are left with a loaded word that we cannot really give a good definition to.
Despite this draw back people continue to use the word to try and polarize the issues - we are totally right and the other guy is totally wrong. I see this so much in the Israel/Hezbollah conflict. Israel and their supporters state that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization and must be crushed. Hezbollah states that the acts of Israel are acts of terrorism. Who is right? I would say both of them.
In the end what I would like is for us to stop calling everyone a terrorist and state exactly what actions we do not agree with. Once the action is defined to then discover why the person/organization/state felt the need to this action.

Friday, August 18, 2006

mid life

Someone told me today that our church is in a mid life crisis. The church is over 50 years old now. I wondered what does it mean for a church (or a person for that matter) to be in a mid life crisis.
Well, it seems to me that a person in a mid life crisis is often examining their life. They often look back with great longing to their youth. In fact many try and reclaim their youth. Which is why men buy sports cars and pick up young women. A teacher of mine stated that mid life crisis is a time when a person looks over their life to see if what they had committed their life to was worth it. So often people despair in this time because what they committed to is not really worth their life. The other dynamic is that in mid life people start to realize that they are going to die and things are going have to change. They come to conclusion that they are not going to be young forever. This is another reason that they try and reclaim their youth - well they still can.
But what does all this mean for a church stuck in mid life crisis? Well it means that it is examining itself. It could be struggling with what it will become like in the future. Will it try and reclaim the past like a 50 year old man acting like a teenager? Or will it move into the future? Also both people and the church are really facing death. People physical death, for the church it could be death of programs. The one big difference is that if the church does not embrace the future (including death and change) then it will really die. If a person does not embrace the future they will just look silly until they die.
It should be interesting seeing where Jesus is going to lead the church. It will also be interesting to see if we are willing to follow.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Folklorama


Last night I went to folklorama with some friends. It was really good. We went to the African and Caribbean pavilions. The performances at both places mainly consisted of dancing. Though at the Caribbean one there was the limbo and steel drums. Dance and culture appear to be mixed together. In fact as I looked through the book the two things that were common at every place were dancing and food (with the exception of the Belgian pavilion - they were all about beer and food). Food and culture going together makes sense because we need to eat to live. And food would become linked with culture because different cultures eat different food due to their location. However dancing and culture? It is almost as if human beings have an intrinsic need to dance. Like we need to express ourselves in some way and the only way that we can do that is by dancing. Since we are expressing ourselves and we are products of our culture dance and culture mix. If this is true (we need to dance) - which I think is true - then a couple of thoughts come to my mind. Why do Mennonites have no dance? Possibly because we love to suppress all emotion? Second thought is what kind of dance will Canada have? Canadian culture is just beginning to emerge and is not defined. If it does emerge what will our dance look like? Or will we just bring together different dances from different parts of the world?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Searching for God Knows What

I just finished reading Donald Miller's book Searching God Knows What. Through out the book Donald explains that we were created to live in relationship with God and allow him to define who we are. However Christianity has often made our relationship with God to really be a formula. Instead of living within relationship we do three steps to make God happy or to be happy ourselves. The problem with the formula is that it removes us from living with God to having a god that we control.
Now as I thought about this - us using a formula to relate to God - I realized that this is how I was taught to preach. My teachers drilled into my head that I needed to have three steps or points in every sermon. As a result this is often the way that I preach. I give them three steps to experience joy instead of inviting them to relate to Jesus. And the reality is that relationships are messy and cannot be contained in three little points.
Of course this creates a problem for me. I am not sure how to preach outside of the formula.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Holidays


I am back from holidays. They were great. It was really nice to see the mountains, ocean and of course my family. We did a lot of things with our family in the two weeks that I was there: flying, hanging out, going to the beach, hiking, making a waterside, rafting down a river, playing games, building a house ...
One of the neat things that happened on this holiday was meeting family that I did not really know or had never really meet (I do not consider having meet someone if I was only three the last time I saw them).
My uncle who lives out east was also out visiting at the same time. Now I had meet my uncle a couple of times but do not really know him. We got into a couple of very good conversations. He explained that he was beginning to follow Jesus. He told me that he did not want to be pious. In other words he did not want to act more holy than he is. He believes that God accepts him as he is so he has given everything to God and God has to lead him to change. It seems that he does not want to get bogged down with rules but has a willingness to be totally surrendered to God. This is totally awesome.
I also meet my great aunt (actually I meet a couple of them). My aunt had lived in Africa for 48 years as a missionary. She had stories to tell about how God had worked in her life. Two stories that she told me really stuck. One was just before she headed out onto the mission field. She was praying wondering if God would help when through an open window flew a sparrow. The sparrow dropped dead at he feet. She was reminded that Jesus said that God knows every sparrow who dies and we are more important than them so do not worry. She then went to Africa. The second story that she told was when she went to the mission field the last time - when she was 72 (or perhaps older). The field asked her what she wanted to do. She said she wanted to live in a grass hut and tell a certain people group about Jesus. That is amazing commitment and dedication.
It was neat to see one on the beginning of the journey and another who has been so faithful in the journey.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I just finished a paper on hell. I actually found it to be a totally fascinating topic to study. I have heard lots about hell but had never really bothered to spend any time studying it. My opinions on hell were formed by popular opinion not on fact or careful study of the topic.
One of the major problems that I have with hell is the way that church uses hell. Often hell has been used induce fear in people. Using fear as a motivating factor we try and get people to do a couple of things. We try and get people to become Christians. I remember going to play at a church that was about what happens right after death. Some were welcomed into heaven and others were sent to hell. Hardly no imagination went into what heaven is like but hell was vividly portrayed. The goal was to scared non-believers to become Christians. The problem with this is that God wants us to come to him out of love not out of fear. Christianity is more than just praying a little prayer is about being a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We also use hell to try and motivate Christians to share the gospel - but once again I do not think fear is good motivating factor. In fact I believe Christians should never have fear as the primary motivating factor in their life.
Now hell is a reality - though it is not what I think most people think it is. So how should the church use it? Well I believe there are two ways. One is to highlight to people that life matters. The choices that we make here on earth are significant. We get to shape who we will become. Tom Wright states “Those who persistently refuse to follow Jesus, the true Image of God, will by their own choice become less and less like him, that is, less and less truly human.” (Following Jesus). The second thing is to realize that hell can become a reality here on earth. I was talking to a friend who was iRwandada during thmassacreer. He talked about walking through streets filled with dead people. He stated from that point on he could never water down hell. Tom Wright also states that so often we use passages in the bible that we think refer to hell after death when they really refer to hell here on earth. Any use of hell should motivate to be concerned with this world. After all we are to extend the Kingdom of God on earth which means the opposite is possible - hell on earth.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I just came back from Miller's Grad. The first thing I want to say is congrats to all the grads. You guys have done a great job. I wish all the best in the future.
Of all the addresses that were made I would have to say that Don Wiebe's was the best by far. (This is of course excluding the valedictorian. Richelle did a good job). Don talked about being citizens and making the world a better place. One thing that he said really stood out to me. He said to be a good citizen in the 21 century we need to be curious. Don never explained this statement at all. But it made me think what is it about curiosity that makes us better citizens.
It helps us be innovative. We need new ideas and ways of doing things if our world is going to become a better place. For the past several hundred years we have been destroying our planet. It only within the last few years that we are admitting to what we are doing. Though most seem reluctant to change. We cannot keep on doing the same things that we used to be doing and expect our world to become better.
curiosity also leads to discovery. Some discoveries can be used for evil. In fact all of them. But some can be used for great good. Discovery of the world that God has created has the potential to make us better people.
curiosity can keep us alert and alive. It is through being curious that we experience the world, God and others. If we are never curious then we never learn anything new, nothing new about God, others or our world. When we stop learning I truly believe we stop living. To live is to discover and experience.
So I totally agree with Don. curiosity will make us better citizens.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Environment

I have often wondered about the role of the church in helping protect the environment. In the Genesis passage we humans were given the responsibility to manage the world. I would have to say that we have done a pretty dismal job at it. We are destroying the world. Our actions seem to be throwing everything out of balance. I just read an article which states that the rise in hurricanes could be from global warming. global-warming
Now as a church we have been slow to respond to this. Many feel that the environment is not a spiritual issue and therefore the church should not get involved. However I believe that every issue is a spiritual issue. The Bible does not separate things into a spiritual category and real world category. They are held together. To follow Jesus means to follow him in this world seeking to live out his kingdom. Now I do not believe that we are going to be able to establish the Kingdom of Jesus Christ fully here on earth. We are to long for heaven - where the Kingdom is established. As we get more obessed with heaven we will begin to live it out here on earth. I believe that this is the call of the church.
Which brings me to ask: How should the church respond to the environmental issue? Destroying the world is not living out heaven here on earth.
I found an interesting site that measures how much of an impact on earth a person makes.
footprint on earth

Friday, June 16, 2006


On Tuesday evening I was initaited into being an adult. It is offical I am no longer a youth. Tuesday was not my birthday. What happened was that I was playing soccer with a bunch of people. Outside of myself and another man everyone who was playing was under 20 - well for the most part my wife and another women played for a few minutes. This other man received the nick name Grandpa. I did not think it was that terrible. He does have kids who are in university so technically he could be a Grandpa. However I got the nick name Old Man. I was shocked. Old Man!!!! I am not that old. At least I did not think that I was that old. This was my initiation. The young people no longer view me as one of them. I am now offically in "old" category.

Monday, June 12, 2006

How to Read a Book

I have started to read a book called How to Read a Book. One of my friends recommended it to me. He said it was one of the best books that he had ever read. It is actually really interesting. I had my doubts with that kind of title.
The book states that there are different levels of reading. The one that we most often do is elementary level reading. As I read the book I realized that this was totally the way that I read most of my books. It goes on to give rules for how to read books in such a way that you get lots out of them. It also teaches how to skim a book. Since it says that lots of books are not worth reading in depth.
A great book highly recommend people to read it.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Goat Killing

A couple of my friends in town love goat meat. So last night we went out to a goat farm and butchered three goats. This was actually the first time I had ever seen an animal get butchered. And it wasn't that gross. My kids came and watched as well. They told me this morning that it was a lot of fun to see the goats get killed.
I was amazed at how much of the animal that my friends took. They only left a couple of the intestines - but cleaned and took must of them - and the skin. They even took the heads.
At one point just there was a skinned goat leg on a table. The girls were watching it. They told me that it was moving. I told them that it was their imagination or they were bumping the table. But they insisted that it was moving so I took a look. And there on the table this leg was twisting. It was really weird.
This whole experience was something that was out of my comfortzone. But I would do it again.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Yesterday I asked what is my Dream? What is the vocation or calling that is on my life? I want to say it is to extend the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Yet this seems so broad and vague. Extending the Kingdom of Jesus Christ could mean a lot of things - anything from working in politics to being a doctor to working with kids. There was one qoute that our teacher gave that really makes me think. She said that our vocation was "The place where the heart's deep gladness meets the world's deep hunger".
What is my "heart's deep gladness"? Well, one thing my heart gets very excited about is teaching and discussing things. And how does this relate to the "world's deep hunger"? I believe our world is hungering for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is looking for signifance. We want to know that we are making a difference within this world. I believe it may be my vocation to teach people about the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. To let them know that they can live for something greater than themselves.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

My Dream

Last week I took a course called Mentoring Young Adults. It was a very good course. The teacher Sharon Daloz Parks was excellent. One of the things that we talked about was a "Dream".
A "Dream" is the vision which drives our lives. That thing which guides every decision that we make. It is our calling or vocation. That which gives meaning to everything that we do.
Sharon believes that every person's life is motivated by a "Dream", either intentional or by default. If we are not intentional about our "Dream" then most likely we will buy into the one that our culture gives to us.
One of the things that we did in class was talk about what "Dream" our Canadian culture gives to people. There was a book written called Sex in the Snow which stated that the ultimate goal (Dream) for Canadians was to be happy. And how does our society tell us to be happy: get a house in the suburbs, be in love with someone, have a couple of kids, have a cottage at the lake, take vacations in Mexico (or somewhere warm), be busy, entertain yourself, gratify every pleasure that your have. I summarized it like this - make enough money to buy enough toys to entertain yourself and your family.
This has an appeal to me. But I want my life to matter. Also looking around in our world achieving this cultural Dream (having all the toys) does not really seem to bring happiness.
So the question becomes what have I intentionally committed my life to? What is my Dream?