Wednesday, May 23, 2018

book review: it's not that simple

Title: It’s Not That Simple: Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide Today
Author: Jean Echlin, Ian Gentles
Publisher: The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research
Date: 2015

When this book was written, Canada was in the midst of legalizing euthanasia an assisted suicide in Canada. Jean Echlin and Ian Gentles made a strong argument for the provision of fully adequate palliative care in Canada that has largely been ignored.

Echlin and Gentles do an excellent of tracing the history of euthanasia and assisted in the modern world and the multitude of abuses in jurisdictions that have gone this route.

This book was published before MAID – Medical Assistance In Dying – was made law in Canada, but they point to some of the ways jurisdictions were planning on abusing the system. [if there is a way to abuse a system, some will find a way]. The Quebec announced ahead of the new law that hospitals and palliative care institutions will not be allowed to opt out of offering euthanasian services. They are also moving in the direction of having doctors not identifying euthanasia as the cause of death, thus hiding the numbers of people impacted.
I am aware of at least one person walking into an Ontario Emergency Room and asking to be euthanized, fortunately, the staff was able to get the person the mental health bed they needed.

As the book suggests, we will see euthanasia and assisted suicide become the norm in Canada. We will see abuses – individuals who are “too expensive” to care for will be euthanized as we continue to devalue human life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

book review: Surprise the World

Title: Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People
Author: Michael Frost
Publisher: NavPress
Date: 2016

Michael Frost has written a short, practical introduction to living missionally. The word “missional” gets thrown around by so many, and often in ways that miss the point. Frost makes it clear using the acronym BELLS. It has to be a good book if it uses that word, right!

  • We BLESS people, both inside and outside the church.   
  • We EAT together, sharing meals with believer and unbelievers alike.   
  • We LISTEN to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit as we engage with those around us.   
  • We intimately LEARN Christ as our leader and model for making disciples.   
  • We see ourselves as SENT by God to everywhere life takes us.

Frost takes a chapter to unpack some of the meaning and then the living out of each word. He outlines some very practical steps and ways of doing this. 

Missional living, as Frost defines it (and I think he is right) is about being on mission with God for the sake of those who don’t yet know God. Surprise the World, is a simple (in the sense of straightforward), practical, easy to read book on how to live missionally. 

It is well worth reading. It is worth even more as we begin to live it out. And therein lies the issue. We can read the book and think it’s great. But will we live it?

Saturday, February 10, 2018


A couple of articles on Haiti
how Haiti became poor

A brief history of how the rich world brutalized and looted Haiti, a country the US owes its very existence to

The history of Haiti is complex - far more complex than Trump is willing to admit, and probably more complex than he is willing to try and comprehend. We tend to hear bits and pieces, mostly around voodoo and a pact with the devil. But there is far more.

Without Haiti, the history of USA and probably all of North America would be much different.

And no matter what you think of Trump and whether he said what he is alleged to have said (he has made enough on the record racist comments), his comments are totally inappropriate. Because no matter what the colour of skin, no matter country a person is from, they are people created in God's image.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

book review: Life in the Wild

Title: Life in the Wild: Fighting for Faith in a Fallen World
Author: Dan DeWitt
Publisher: The Good Book Company
Date: 2018

In “Life in the Wild”, Dan DeWitt aims to help us better understand, from a Biblical perspective, where we are and how we can live in the world around us.

Life in the Wild” is an exploration of living in what DeWitt calls “the wild,” the place between the Garden of Eden and eternity in God’s presence. 

Life in the Wild” is, in at least some senses, an exploration of the opening three chapters of Genesis, and specifically the consequences of the fall. All of us have a longing for what was lost and a longing for the blessings that are to come in the future, but now, we are stuck in a place that is marred by sin. DeWitt walks us through several areas of life to show us not only how to survive but how to thrive in the wild (which we can’t actually do by ourselves). 

I’m not going to summarize all the chapters, but a few highlights are his excellent description of guilt and shame, their relationship to each other and their differences.

The second area I would highlight is the idea of stewardship of the earth being a Christian duty. Sadly, not many Christian worldview books highlight this. Too many Christians view this as a secular/liberal thing to do.

If you are living between Eden and eternity, this book is for you. Read it and be encouraged for your journey “in the wild”’ rooted and grounded in biblical truths and the hope that one day all things will be made new. The book is accessible, short, full of hope, helpful for anyone with questions about “life in the wild.”

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christians are materialists

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. John 1:14 The Message
That is what Incarnation means. Simple. Straightforward. Not loaded with "ifsands, and buts." But this, according to the last 2000+ years, it is the way things are.

Many religions and philosophies deny the reality or the significance of the material, the flesh. 

Moses at the burning bush was told to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5). Incarnation means that all ground is holy ground because God not only made it but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here.

One of the blunders religious people (even many who call themselves Christians) are fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God. This is God's world... and today we celebrate that he came and "moved into the neighbourhood."

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

what type of Jesus

In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) Ricky Bobby is praying at dinner: 

Ricky: “Dear lord baby Jesus… we hope that you can use your baby Jesus powers to heal… Dear, tiny infant Jesus, we –"
Carley: “Hey, um, you know, sweetie, Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him, ‘baby.’ It’s a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby.” 
Ricky: “Well, I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace, you can say it to grownup Jesus or teenage Jesus or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.” 

And isn't that the issue or the problem. 
We make Jesus into the type of Jesus we want him to be.
We don't listen to who he said he is or what he announced. We recreate him in our image.
This Christmas season listen to what the Gospels say about Jesus.

Join us this Christmas Eve at 5:45pm

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Greetings from Scum of the Earth Church

This is from Jessi Heilman who oversees the women’s homelessness initiative and women’s ministry at Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, Colorado, where her husband Jesse serves as pastor of the church. (they call themselves Jessigirl and boyJesse). This congregation reaches “the right brained and left out.”
Brothers and Sisters,
If you have talked with either Jesse or I recently, it is no secret that life at Scum of the Earth is a beautiful, though not always enjoyable, mix of life and death.
It is extremely exhausting & life-giving. It is fascinating & repetitive.
Somehow, we are a constant story of redemption & hope and a story of unbearable burden & pain.
Some of you immediately understand what I am talking about, for your experience of Kingdom on Earth gives similar feelings. Trauma, loss, pain have been your story too. Others of you may have no idea what I am talking about.
No matter where your understanding is as you read this letter, it is important to remember that our God is amazing. His work is incredible.
As my deeply wounded friend so wisely disciples me in often…
His ways are not our ways.
I spend more time than I’d like, asking God about Job. I get the overall picture—God calls the shots, even Satan has to submit to Him. No matter what we experience, we can praise the Lord & celebrate His ways.
I am comforted to know this and thankful to have Scripture to give us insight into how the relationships between God, man and Satan plays out.
As someone who deals regularly with spiritual warfare & demonic attacks, I take confidence that Satan is not allowed to just do as he pleases. We have a sovereign Lord who rules & as Psalms declares, “whatever the Lord pleases, He does…”
I’m so glad He decides what’s going on.
But here’s the thing, when I read Job I think, “I hate his story. Job, who ‘was perfect and upright, & one that feared God, & eschewed evil’ is picked to experience suffering & deep wounds at the hands of the very One he praises & trusts.
Lord, I believe it is somehow good because you are good, but honestly, I hate that this is Your method of receiving praise.”
I don’t like that (Job 5) “He wounds, but he also binds up, he injures but his hands also heal.” How about You not wound and injure people, Lord?
I want the God Who Heals & quite honestly, I can be angry & bitter when He won’t.
I used to think that Job was the exception, that God made an extreme example of him so that we could clearly learn to praise God in all things.
I no longer think this.
After years of walking alongside sisters & brothers who experience trauma & loss & struggle & suffering day after day after no matter how much they submit themselves to Jesus, I know that the methods used with Job are still the methods God often chooses today.
It comes in all forms: Depression. Death. Illness. Rape. Neglect. Nightmares. Rejection. Addiction. And more.
These struggles provide opportunity for lies of shame, jealousy, anger, & abandonment to take root and overwhelm.
My spiritual family is plagued with suffering & pain & we are to praise Him for it.
Can we mourn and struggle? Yes.
But we are to lavish our praise to the Lord.
“For my thoughts are not Your thoughts, neither are Your ways my ways., declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55)
“Embrace the pain.”
I remember saying this to a woman at Scum as she was in the final stage of labor & about to give birth for the first time.
It has since become something I say on repeat as I disciple others.
“Embrace the pain & it will produce life.”
I say this because I see it all over Scripture. I see it in the story of the Israelites as they journey away from Egypt and towards the Promise Land.
I see it as Jesus ministered to people on earth and placed Himself on the cross. Hardship & suffering… pain. Accepting & surrendering…life. I see it all over Scum of the Earth.
I recently sat with a suicidal woman who asked me, “Jessi, why? Why do I have to suffer? I beg God to help me, to relieve me, & He won’t. Why won’t He heal me? I can’t keep living with this pain.”
I wish this was the first time I had heard these words, but these thoughts are common among my believing sisters.
I’m tired of having to give the reminder that our loving & faithful & kind Father may choose to have us to suffer until we die.
But I do speak these things, because they are true.
We don’t have promises that God will heal us this side of heaven, but He may. Either way, we can choose to embrace the pain and find the life that He has provided for us.
Life that can be & should be enjoyed. Life that is abundant & generous to others.
That day she chose to embrace the pain, to trust God with the cleaning of her wounds & she found that He loves & cares for her—no matter what. Likely this embrace is temporary, that same pain will rise again & attempt to consume her.
When this happens, she will have one more experience to remind her she is was held and will be safely held once again.
“You stand with the least likely to succeed until success is succeeded by something more valuable: kinship.
You stand with the belligerent, the surly, and the badly behaved until bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear.” ― Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion 
The choice to engage in sacrificial love can leave us beat up & in tremendous & diverse pain.
Think of our Savior on the cross.
I feel weak & weary because there never seems to be enough of us able to stand up strong under the weight of the darkness.
All of this exists in the truths that God sustains us all. God provides. God is Healer.
And His ways are not our ways—His ways are best, and good and more whole than we can imagine.
Those are my current thoughts & I wanted to share them with you because you have journeyed with Jesse & I in ministry. You have been present, faithful & sacrificial supporting us as we minister to others.
Some of you have met our Scum family members, poured out prayers and concerns & met needs that we couldn’t.
And some of you have chosen the burden of caring specifically for Jesse and I – loving us, checking in on us, listening to us, holding us to account.
For all of this we are so very grateful. It is super hard and rewarding to work at Scum – it is much better that we get to do it with you.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The gospels tell different stories about Christmas

When you read all four gospels, you quickly realize that while Matthew and Luke tell parts of what we call “the Christmas story”, Mark and John don’t mention angels, shepherds, the manger or any of the other usual features of the Christmas story as we know it. 

This doesn’t mean that they ignore the fact that God became man. Mark begins this way: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God which pretty much lays his cards on the table.
John makes an even bigger statement about Jesus and who he is: 
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God.

You see neither Mark nor John see the Bethlehem nativity story as being central to what they want to say. “In the beginning”; you might feel that you’ve read those words somewhere before. John starts his Gospel by echoing the words of Genesis and as he does so, he does two things.
First, he sets out the amazing contention that Jesus, the man he knew and was friends with, was present and active at the creation of the universe. The Word was with God in the beginning. All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. We sometimes get rather blasé about this. But this is an amazing statement and if it is true, it changes the world completely.
But John is doing something more by mirroring the opening of the book of Genesis; he is picturing the story of Jesus as a new creation narrative. Jesus wasn’t just involved in the original creation, but his life, death and resurrection point to and announces a new creation. When God became man, born to Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, the whole world changed. The Christmas story isn’t really about angels, shepherds, wise men, little donkeys or any of the other stuff of Christmas, it is about the re-creation of the whole world and a re-establishment of the fundamental relationship between the creator God and his creation. John has a way of taking us deeper into what God was doing in Jesus – he was making all things new.

Monday, December 04, 2017

John 16:1-4

I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.
For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.
3 This is because they have never known the Father or me. 
Yes, I’m telling you these things now, so that when they happen, you will remember my warning. I didn’t tell you earlier because I was going to be with you for a while longer.

We are reading through the Gospels this fall. Today's reading is John 16. Here Jesus warns of the mistreatment His followers can expect. He disarms our fears by noting the most important things. 
If the Spirit is within, there is no reason to fear. In fact, the church will thrive under persecution. Yet as human beings we are obsessed with power and political prominence as a means to influence the culture. 
As dual citizens of both God's Kingdom and this kingdom, we have an obligation to strive for justice and freedom through the transforming power of the Spirit in people’s lives. Rather than exerting temporal power, the real work of the Kingdom often thrives under fierce attack and opposition. 
Jesus warns his followers that sometimes persecution will arise, not just from those who are clearly against the gospel, but from those within the sphere of religion, who think they are doing the godly thing, but who clearly "have never known the Father or [Jesus]" 16:3.
In this day and age of confusion, selfishness, empty rhetoric, persecution in many places, and rejection of God, Jesus calls us to know him, to walk with him, to remain rooted and grounded in him, to trust him.

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Gospel of Mark and Advent

We are slowly backing our way toward Christmas. This gradual backing up toward the nativity story will reach its completion on Christmas Eve when we finally tell the story of the birth of Jesus

Mark’s gospel is notoriously clipped, almost to the point of being terse. No long introductory lead-in here, nothing resembling a back-story; just “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” or as Eugene Peterson puts it, “The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here.”

And so it begins. There are two verses setting the story in the context of the writings of the prophets: One from Malachi: See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; One from Isaiah: the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’’; and then all of 4 verses into the gospel we are introduced the wild character of John the baptiser.

Mark’s original audience, would have heard those references to the prophets as being even more significant than we might think. They looked back with yearning to the days of the prophets, for in their own day God seemed in some ways very remote. The Holy Spirit had not been sent since the days of the prophets and the voice of God which had spoken directly to the prophets was no longer heard direct. In the old days, it was believed, God had been in the habit of piercing through the heavens to come to men’s assistance, but now, despite all their prayers, that seemed a thing of the past. There was still, however, a deep hope that in time God would again open the heavens and intervene directly to save his people.

By citing those prophets of old, Mark is pointing toward that very hope: “See, I am sending my messenger,” it is in motion right now.

But it isn’t just Mark who makes that connection, it is John the Baptist himself. All of those little details about where he lived, how he dressed and what he ate are actually a kind of citation of the prophets.

Mark quotes these figures from the past, but John embodies them.

I’ve made this observation before, but it bears repeating. John is engaged in a kind of performance art or street theatre. Everything about how he presents himself and what he says intentionally invokes the prophets of old, and both his original audience and Mark’s earliest readership would not have missed that fact.

It would be as if someone in our own day put on the 18th century garb of John Wesley, rode up to the church on a horse, and started to preach spiritual revival. Many of us might imagine the poor guy was crazy, and some would assume he was simply grandstanding, but it would be hard to miss the idea that he was calling people back to something; perhaps to something we’d all but forgotten we’d been dreaming of.

That is precisely what the Baptist is doing here. He comes “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” Mark tells us, which is a message that had deep resonance with that of the ancient prophets. “Turn things around in your life,” John says, which is urgent business. “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me,” and for John this means that the coming one will lay you flat on your back if you keep living the way you’ve been living.

“I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit,” warns John. And being plunged into the Holy Spirit will hurt like hell if you keep on going the way you’re going.

John is fiery, make no mistake about that. Yet his fiery speech is ultimately hopeful, both because he is convinced that God is about to rip open the dividing line between the heavens and earth, and because he really does believe that repentance—literally “turning around”—will make his hearers ready for the coming day of judgment. He thinks, in other words, that people can actually hear his call, change their ways, and prepare the way.

And in this sense, Mark is absolutely right on when he connects John the Baptist to the prophet Isaiah, who similarly embedded his strong speech with deep hope.

Now it’s also important to read the fire of his speech against the background of what we hear from the prophet Isaiah. “Comfort, O comfort my people,” the prophet begins, and he is speaking to a people who had all but forgotten what it might mean to be comforted.

Writing after the destruction of Jerusalem to a people trapped in the prison ghettoes of Babylon, Isaiah knows something of humanity’s failing and sin, and of human fragility. "All people are grass,” he writes, with no more permanence than a flower of the field. And though “The grass withers,” “the word of our God will stand for ever.”

And yet this word is finally one of comfort. Yes, Isaiah is clear that “the Lord God comes with might”—something which fits very clearly with the message of John the Baptist—and that valleys shall be lifted and the mountains and hills be laid low.

These are big images, you see, and yet ultimately he casts it all in almost startlingly pastoral and gentle terms. He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Isaiah points us right through the wildness and through the fieriness of John toward the reality of Jesus, which is why Mark made the connection in the first place.

“[P]art of the point of Mark’s picture of John,” claims N.T. Wright “is precisely that when he spoke of the Mightier One we look around and see Jesus. It is like that moment in Revelation 5 when looking for a lion, we discover a lamb.”

And so with us, in this present season of Advent. Surely we are to be awake and prepared for what God is always threatening to do in our lives and in our world, and that does mean being aware of the messiness and fragmentation of our own selves.

But you know, when we speak with expectation of the return of Christ, it isn’t something that should fill us with fear, for this Jesus is the one who has promised to “feed his flock like a shepherd (and) gather the lambs in his arms.”