Saturday, April 12, 2014

big tent evangelicalism

One of the things that has happened to evangelicalism over the last couple of decades is it has become increasingly narrow. Andy Holt in venn magazine issues a call for Big Tent Evangelicalism
I long for a big tent Church. What good does it do any of us to break off into like-minded sub groups, perpetuating the us-vs-them mentality?
Jesus was called a “friend of sinners.” Do you know what that means? It means that he was kind to the broken. It means that the wounded and hurting, the outcasts and the rejects were drawn to him. Do you know what all of these people have? They have baggage. They have stuff that makes them hard to love. 
Jesus is still drawing these kinds of people to himself. Do you know who they are? They’re you and me. If you have come to Jesus, it’s because you’re broken, you have baggage, and you have stuff about you that can, sometimes, make it hard for others to love you. And that’s okay! Because we’re all in the same boat. Whether we admit it or not, we are all the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the Samaritan woman, the frightened Pharisee, the impetuous Zealot. We are all the “sinners.”
Jesus had a big tent. The Samaritan woman had almost everything wrong about theology and the Scriptures, but there was room for her. Nicodemus had all the right answers, but was too afraid to openly follow Jesus until after the crucifixion. There was room for him. Martha was a Type A who knew what her place in life was, and there was room for her. Mary dared to sit at Jesus’ feet like one of the disciples – like one of the men – and there was room for her. James and John were audacious enough to ask to sit at Jesus’ right and left when he came in glory, and there was room for them. The lot didn’t fall to Barsabbas to replace Judas, but there was still room for him. There was room for Paul and Peter and Apollos and Junia and Priscilla and Timothy and Titus. There was room for the Roman centurion and for the confessing thief.
Maybe I'm a slow learner, or a dreamer, but we still don't get the explosive nature of God's Kingdom. When you bring people together - sinners, redeemed sinners - they start to let their brokenness show and things can explode. It is grace that keeps us all together. It is the Spirit of the living God that keeps the kingdom from blowing up. But, sadly, we prefer our own way(s) and so we push away anyone who dares to disagree. 
Apart from listening to the Spirit and walking with the Spirit we are not living in this much needed grace.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

biblical literacy

Many studies show that we [this applies to our society as a whole, but I am writing specifically about those who claim to be Christian] are increasingly becoming biblically illiterate. You can check the various bible societies for exact stats.
There are several types of illiteracy.
  • The illiterate. There are people who are illiterate or functionally illiterate, often because of generational poverty, mental health issues and/or substance abuse. 
  • The illiterate because they did not grow up with the Bible. This is a good type of biblical illiteracy because it can change with time as people begin to read and understand the Bible.
  • The illiterate because they have difficulty reading the Bible. In my experience, this is often older folks or people who grew up in fundamentalist churches that rely on the KJV. This is often a hard group (especially the fundamentalists) to help understand that newer translations are valid and can be helpful for their spiritual life.
  • Then there are the illiterate because they simply don't read the Bible. It is this last group that saddens me so much. 
If we claim to be people who walk with and follow Jesus, then:
  • Why don't we read and study and meditate on the scriptures? 
  • Why do we think we can know the heart and mind of God, if we seldom read the scriptures?
  • Why do we think we can reduce the scriptures to Facebook posts and Twitter tweets?
I love how Rich Mullins once responded to the question:
   "What is your favourite Bible verse?" 

Being and becoming people who follow Jesus and walk this missional journey with him is rooted in our being people who listen to the voice of God through the scriptures and by the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Trinity Western University [TWU], an evangelical Christian university in Langley, BC, received preliminary approval, last month, by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Province of BC to create a new law program. 

Several groups including the University of British Columbia [UBC] and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society are protesting the move. 

At issue is a requirement on the part of TWU that staff and students acknowledge the school’s faith-based values and beliefs; this includes signing TWU's Community Covenant which states that: 
"The University’s mission, core values, curriculum and community life are formed by a firm commitment to the person and work of Jesus Christ as declared in the Bible.
Both UBC and the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society take issue with the Covenant saying that this conflicts with “a lawyer’s obligation of non-discrimination” and exclude potential students and staff who identify as LGBTQ. 

At issue are the statements: 
"Members of the TWU community... commit themselves to:... observe modesty, purity and appropriate intimacy in all relationships, reserve sexual expressions of intimacy for marriage, and within marriage take every reasonable step to resolve conflict and avoid divorce"; 
"community members voluntarily abstain from the following actions:... sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman". 
What we have here is not so much discrimination, although I think one could probably argue that those who hold to marriage as being between a man and a women are being discriminated against, as it is the refusal to recognize: 
(a) the restriction of sexual intimacy to marriage; and, 
(b) the sacredness and oneness / exclusiveness of marriage. 

And yes, Christians have failed at both of these, but neither of these values are held high within the LGBTQ or QUILTBAG [Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer] communities. 

Even more telling, is that neither UBC or the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society have done their homework. The issue of TWU’s Community Covenant has already been ruled on by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2001, the Court ruled in Trinity Western University v. British Columbia College of Teachers that the British Columbia College of Teachers had no legal justification for refusing to accredit TWU’s graduates on the basis of TWU’s Community Covenant. The Court found no evidence that TWU’s students, who had signed and abided by the Community Covenant, demonstrated any discriminatory behaviour in the exercising of their duties as teaching professionals.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Olympic Hockey and Religion

Like most of Canada I watched the gold medal games (as well as some of the other games). Those Olympic hockey games were the only games I have watched all the way through this season. In comparison, most of the NHL games I have watched are pretty lame. But it's not NHL hockey that I want to write about.

Sunday morning the headlines blared the gospel of Canadian Hockey, as our men triumphed on the Olympic rink, just like our women did a few days earlier. Much of Saturday and Sunday's news was about how brave, patriotic Canadians were getting up very early Sunday morning and braving frigid temperatures to heroically make their way to the pub to watch the big game. There were even video clips of mosques and churches that decided to show the game before morning worship. The overall mood was exultant. 

This is what it means to be Canadian, we rehearsed to ourselves, over and over again. 

At one level, this idea that "hockey is Canada’s religion" is simply hyperbole. It simply say that hockey matters to Canadians

But behind all that there is a hint of truth. If hockey is like a religion, then, among other things, it is saying that our identity and value is tied to our winning the gold medal. Hockey is what brings us together. 

But maybe the hyperbole over hockey says less about Canadians’ love for hockey and more about our diminished worldview. Maybe it's not: “We love hockey so much that it’s almost like a religion!"; but, “There is so little else that matters to us and our identities are so frail that we will settle for a bunch of millionaires who happen to have been born on the same chunk of dirt as us winning a hockey tournament to give our lives meaning and purpose.” Maybe the statement “hockey is Canada’s religion” isn’t so much about how much hockey matters to us, as how little religion (and more importantly faith) does. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

kingdom of God and home

The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know. We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.”
~Frederick Buechner

silence & speech

The mark of solitude is silence, as speech is the mark of community. Silence and speech have the same inner correspondence and difference as do solitude and community. One does not exist without the other. Right speech comes out of silence, and right silence comes out of speech. 
Silence is nothing else but waiting for God’s Word and coming from God’s Word with a blessing. But this stillness before God’s Word will exert its influence upon the whole day. If we have learned to be silent before the Word, we shall also learn to manage our silence and our speech during the day.
Bonhoeffer, Life Together, 79 (thanks to Len Hjalmarson

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alive in the World

Jackson Browne, sings "Alive in the World"

I want to live in the world, not behind some wall
I want to live in the world, where I will hear if another voice should call

To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world
With its beauty and its cruelty
With its heartbreak and its joy
With it constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy
And the infinite power of change

To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world
To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and fully arrive in the world

Jackson Browne is a songwriter who not only sings about injustice but does something about it.
This song is a prophetic challenge, rebuke and inspiration for followers of Jesus to get out from behind their walls [Sunday services, isolation] and get alive in the world. John says 1:14 “The word became flesh and moved into the neighbourhood.” Jesus was God alive in the world! He is God with flesh on, Jesus on our doorstep.

And this is where we live out our theology, our understanding of who we are in Christ. God is not far away, out in space somewhere, behind some cloud; no, God is alive in the world. 

As a church, we are to live the Word outside the leather covers of our printed Bibles and/or the plastic/metal covers of our smartphones/tablets. That Word needs to become "alive in the world." God with flesh on. Jesus on the doorsteps. Grace on the streets. Alive in the world!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

book review: Jesus on Every Page

Title: Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament
Authors David Murray
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Year: 2013

David Murray's book "Jesus On Every Page" is an exploration of how we see Jesus in the Old Testament, without getting all weird. This is a book that looks at a subject that tends to be restricted to academia.

"Jesus On Every Page" is divided into two sections. The first part is told in a biographically fashion, taking us on his journey of seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. 

The second part of the book is an outline of 10 principles for seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. his approach is not simply "here are the references to Jesus in the OT" book, but here is "what you need to look for as you read, study, listen, and meditate on Scripture." I have never been a big alliteration person, so this section I found a little annoying. The other minor issue, is that it would have been nice to have the numerous scripture references as footnotes rather than endnotes.

If you buy Jesus on Every Page by 30 August, he offers some additional free resources on his web page.

Disclosure of Material Connection: 
I received an advanced reading copy from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

duathlon [update]

I am getting ready for the Orillia Duathlon this weekend (August 18). I have run lots of 5 / 8 / 10k races - but I have never raced on a bike & never entered a duathlon before. 

As the time gets closer I get more nervous / anxious. I start to feel (or imagine) extra aches and pains. I begin hearing noises coming from my bike. At the same time I am reasonably confident that my training is on course [7 rides (avg 30K at 25kph) and 7 runs (age 7K at 5:25/km pace) in the last 10 days].

My goal is to
(a) finish
(b) finish in less than 2.5 hours
(c) ideally finish in less than 2.25 hours

So even though I am nervous, I am looking forward to it

I did it. I completed my first duathlon. And was very pleased. I finished in 2hr & 2minutes - which was far quicker than I imagined. 
I will certainly consider doing another duathalon, but next time I need to borrow a good triathlon / road bike... that would drop me well below 2hrs... is 1hr 50minutes a possibility?

Thursday, August 01, 2013

book review: outreach and the artist

title: Outreach and the Artist: sharing the gospel with the arts
author: Con Campbell
publisher: Zondervan
date: 2013

Con Campell has written a great little book on outreach. It's not a book that fits the typical evangelical evangelistic model - but I liked it. I appreciated lines like:
"...I suspect that no one has been converted 'on the spot' at any of my 250 evangelistic jazz nights. That's okay with me, because that's not really what I'm aiming for..."  
Campbell who is a jazz artist (although his book is not restricted to jazz - although there would be nothing wrong with that!) suggests that his jazz nights are like a first date: 
"Aim for a first great date. Aim to spark someone's interest to find out more. Aim to provide an overwhelmingly positive experience of Christianity. Aim to move someone one step along the way..."
For those of us in parts of the world, other than the USA, it is nice having a book written from a non-America perspective (Campbell is Australian). 

  • The opening section of the book is about "outreach with the arts"; about how a church might use an arts event as an opportunity to speak a gospel message.
  • The 2nd section is about "outreach through the arts"; where the focus is on the medium not as a means to the end of sharing a message, but that the work is a good end in itself, informed and shaped by the message of Jesus. 
  • The 3rd section is about "outreach to the arts"; which includes how the church relates to artists and the temptation to make art an idol.

The church has not always had a good history with the arts. This book is a good corrective and conversation starter for any church that is genuinely interested in sharing the gospel with artists using a variety of art mediums. 

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program.
I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

Thursday, July 04, 2013

book review: Jesus on Justice

title: Jesus on Justice: Living Lives of Compassion and Conviction
author: Don Posterski
publisher: World Vision Canada
date: 2013

Don Posterski has been an important resource for the Canadian church for many years now, keeping us aware of trends and issues facing our culture from a biblical perspective.

This recent book on justice is an excellent example of his clear writing that calls us, both as individuals and as the church to action.

Each of the four sections - Including the Excluded; Challenging Cultural Practices; Confronting the Powerful; and, Advocating for the the Oppressed - identify three groups, as well as a chapter on digging deeper into a current related issue. Don tackles a group by exploring (a) the historical predicament; (b) encountering God in the biblical story; (c) current challenges; and, (d) prayers of response.

Jesus on Justice is not a big book - it's only 191 pages long - but there is a lot packed into it. It would make a great study book for a small group who are interested in exploring justice issues. Even then, it would have to be carefully led, because it would be easy to become overwhelmed with the depth and multitude of issues we face in our world. However, that should never be an excuse for ignoring or pushing aside our response to these vital issues. 

Some Christian will, sadly, reject Posterski for advocating collaborating with other faith groups, and for his refusal to try and recover cultural control by Christians. Posterski is right when he states: 
"If justice for all is torpedoed when people are relationally alienated from each other, then surely, we can all begin by extending the same freedoms to others that we would like to receive ourselves."
One minor quibble: while the pages are printed on a nice heavy stock, with good use of colour, this does it make it difficult to underline and write notes in the margin.

I would highly recommend Jesus on Justice.

I received this book from World Vision Canada in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are my own.