Thursday, July 12, 2018

book review: the fingerprints of God

title: The Fingerprints of God
author: Robert Farrar Capon
publisher:Wm. B. Eerdmans
year: 2000

Capon, makes you think. Whether you agree with him or not, he makes you think. In this little book (163 pages) he explores some of the images in the Bible and in church history that point to God.

In this book, he tackles some of the mistakes of some of the church fathers, he calls it "transactionalism" - the old left-brain idea that one must contribute something -  sacrifice, repentance, good works, or whatever - to deserve the free gift of forgiveness and grace given by God. 

He argues that the Reformation kicked transactionalism out the front door, proclaiming salvation by grace, through faith, (not works), but let it right back in the back door by stipulating that faith was the current coin of the realm.

In his unique style, Capon has the Holy Spirit saying (in a dialogue among the Trinity at the beginning of the book), "They're going to paint themselves into a corner and say that the unbaptized go to hell or even that sins after Baptism make forgiveness flake off like a bad paint job, and that unless Christians go to confession for a second coat before they die, they'll go to hell too. Oh sure. We've also agreed on this Reformation business where I convince them that nobody has to do anything to be forgiven except trust the grace that Jesus has already given everybody. But give them a hundred years after that and they'll manage to turn faith itself into a requirement for grace: no faith, no forgiveness. Out the window again goes the free gift we've given them once and for all; and back in comes forgiveness as a deal that's good only as long as they behave themselves."

Capon explores how some of the church reformers such as Irenaeus, Athanasius. Luther, Calvin and Melanchthon, while contributing invaluable insights essential to a true reformation, still slipped into this transactionalism. 

Capon says he was originally planning to call the book "Re-forming the Reformation" and I think that may have been a better title for the second half of the book. And is probably even more relevant for today, with the rise of neo-calvinism.

I would have liked to see more exploration of images. Capon roots his exploration mostly in his discussion around Literalism/Fundamentalism vs. Liberalism (turning the Bible into a book of ethics and denying the mystery). He, I believe, rightly says both views are mistakes. God can use whatever device he wants to tell the STORY of scripture - images in poetry, hyperbole, allegory, parables, and yes, even literalism - even though that is used far less than some think.

One of the key things that Capon repeatedly says in this book that it is essential that we continually come back to Who Jesus Is... not just focus on what he did. As important as that is, if we lose sight of Who Jesus Is we miss his mission, his incarnation, his role in creation, his relationship within the Trinity... in fact, we miss Jesus. And that is the whole point... to know Jesus.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

book review: deep impact

title: Deep Impact: keys to integrating theology and psychology in the treatment of complex traumatic stress
author: A. E. Gilles
publisher: World Alive Press
year: 2016

A.E. Gilles writes about complex trauma from the perspective of personal experience, as a psychologist and as a pastor.

She provides a great overview of some of the dynamics of complex trauma. While the book is short, and is not intended to be a textbook on the issue, it is an excellent introduction to something the church does not often recognize. She also provides some helpful approaches and resources to assisting people with complex trauma.

book review: The 49th Mystic

title: The 49th Mystic
author: Ted Dekker
publisher: Revell
year: 2018

I have not read much of Ted Dekker before. This novel is an immersive journey that mixes suspense, fantasy and spiritual truths into a compelling whole. While this is part of a "circle series" I think this works as a stand-alone... although I am awaiting part 2 in the fall of 2018.

Dekker alternates between scenes from the present and those from a radically different future. The character development and storyline are complex and intriguing. 
In addition, there are extra resources available online The 49th Mystic 

If you are looking for a compelling read this is well worth it.

A free copy of this book was provided by Resourcing Leaders

Thursday, June 28, 2018

book review: resurrecting religion

title: Resurrecting Religion
author: Greg Paul
publisher: NavPress
date: 2018

Religion is a polarizing word. It is often reinterpreted into something it is not. 
We have all heard the meaningless phrase "I'm not religious. I am spiritual." Religion has an identity crisis.

Greg Paul, pastor of the Sanctuary in downtown Toronto has something to say about true religion. It is a reflection on the implications of the book of James. 

I enjoy Greg's writing - I have read his other books, have heard him speak and have met him. Greg is a great story teller. A story teller who draws us not just into the story, but to see Jesus in the story.

As can be expected, "Resurrecting Religion" is about the good news of Jesus being lived out where widows, orphans and strangers are the guest of honour, where everyone is welcome, everyone is a newcomer to God's Kingdom, where the last are declared first.

Greg's writing is informed by years of practice and activism, rooted in contemplation.

I would highly recommend "Resurrecting Religion." You will be encouraged and challenged. And see Jesus and his kingdom a little clearer.

A free copy of this book was provided by Resourcing Leaders

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

film review: Samson

Title: Samson
Release Date: 2018
Production: Pure Flix Productions, Boomtown films

I am hesitant about biblical movies. They are often low budget, telling big stories, which is not a good combination.

That said, Samson, is a good film. It's not a blockbuster. It doesn't show all the guts and gore (which seems to be all too common in films these days) nor does it emphasize the sexuality. Some will argue that it should have showed more violence or sex to be true to the biblical account. The Bible is filled with flawed individuals like Samson because that's the whole point of the story. It makes the redemption at the end strike a cord with the viewer. So yes, they watered down some aspects of the story to make it more family friendly. It doesn't include everything in the biblical account, but then it doesn't promise to do that. It tells the (modified) story in an entertaining way.

Some of the production values are a little weak:

  • Some of the beards look like really cheesy beards that are looked glued on. 
  • And the King of the Philistines wears a crown that looks like it was taken from a Three Wise Men Christmas pageant.

A couple of other weak points:

  • They gave Samson a brother which doesn't make any sense. 
  • The screenwriters were almost afraid to have Samson and Delilah spend more than ten minutes together at any given time for fear of things getting too "sexy". They could have found ways to develop a relationship on screen without jumping into sex. 
  • Delilah feels more like pretty wallpaper than an actual character. She "loves" Samson, but we never get the why, because while she's always around she's never given anything especially interesting to do. 
While the film has some flaws, it's not a bad film. In fact, it definitely works if you want to start your kids off on a "Bible lite" movie that you won't need to cover their eyes to watch with. 

A free copy of this movie was provided by Resourcing Leaders

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