Friday, December 30, 2005

Meditation On Sabbath

Shavath (verb): To cease, desist, rest
Shabbath (noun): The seventh day of the week, a holiday
One Sabbath, Jesus was strolling with his disciples through a field of ripe grain. Hungry, the disciples were pulling off the heads of grain and munching on them. Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!" Jesus said, "Really? Didn't you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry, how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat? And didn't you ever read in God's Law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it's not held against them? "There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant - 'I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual' - you wouldn't be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he's in charge." When Jesus left the field, he entered their meeting place. There was a man there with a crippled hand. They said to Jesus, "Is it legal to heal on the Sabbath?" They were baiting him. He replied, "Is there a person here who, finding one of your lambs fallen into a ravine, wouldn't, even though it was a Sabbath, pull it out? Surely kindness to people is as legal as kindness to animals!" Then he said to the man, "Hold out your hand." He held it out and it was healed
(Matthew 12:1-13, The Message, emphasis supplied)

“If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God's holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,' making money, running here and there - Then you'll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all. I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob." Yes! God says so!”
(Isaiah 58:13,14, The Message, emphasis supplied)

For as long, then, as that promise of resting in him pulls us on to God's goal for us, we need to be careful that we're not disqualified. We received the same promises as those people in the wilderness, but the promises didn't do them a bit of good because they didn't receive the promises with faith. If we believe, though, we'll experience that state of resting. But not if we don't have faith. Remember that God said, Exasperated, I vowed, "They'll never get where they're going, never be able to sit down and rest." Somewhere it's written, "God rested the seventh day, having completed his work," but in this other text he says, "They'll never be able to sit down and rest." So this promise has not yet been fulfilled. Those earlier ones never did get to the place of rest because they were disobedient. God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David's psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen, don't turn a deaf ear . . . And so this is still a live promise. It wasn't canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn't keep renewing the appointment for "today." The promise of "arrival" and "rest" is still there for God's people. God himself is at rest. And at the end of the journey we'll surely rest with God. So let's keep at it and eventually arrive at the place of rest, not drop out through some sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:1-11, The Messasge, emphasis supplied)
May you enter into the rest of God's salvation this sabbath day.

Scriptures and lexical information via

Thursday, December 29, 2005

New Mug



I was a little younger and a lot less heavy when the old picture was taken, so I figure it's time to update the mug shot on my blogger profile.

I guess I have nothing better to do with my time when my wife takes off on a one hour shopping trip with my mother that lasts the whole day?

The Heresy Of Explanation

I just bought The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary by Robert Alter for a price that still makes me shudder. I happened upon it during a short trip to Powells, and having read Alter's incisive Art of Biblical Narrative in college (I highly recommend it.), I knew this book was not to be passed up. And after finishing the introduction, I know the book was worth the expense.

Alter's philosophy of translation is to retain as many of the literary elements in the biblical text as are possible to express in English, and as an accomplished scholar of Hebrew (ancient and modern) and English literature he is qualified to undertake the task. His major criticism of contemporary English Bible [As a Jew, Alter uses the word to refer to the Old Testament.] translations is that in seeking to convey the precise meaning of the Hebrew words and phrases in their immediate context, they loose the levels of speech, puns, rhythm, repetition of words, and other artistic elements present in the original Hebrew on which the literary value of the Bible depends. Alter calls this "the heresy of explanation", for much of the spiritual value of the narratives in the Old Testament (particularly in the Torah and Former Prophets) is dependent upon its literary integrity.

Of course, not all of the literary elements can be perfectly captured in English. So Alter has included a commentary on the text in the form of extensive footnotes which highlight historical, literary, and linguistic items that bring out the meaning of the text. These comments comprise approximately one-third of the text in his book.

Here's an example of Alter's work taken from Genesis 2:5-7.
On the day the LORD God made earth and heavens, no shrub of the field being yet on the earth and no plant of the field yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not caused rain to fall on the earth and there was no human to till the soil, and wetness would well from the earth to water all the surface of the soil, then the LORD God fashioned the human, humus from the soil, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living creature.
7. the human, humus. The Hebrew etymological pun is 'adam, "human," from the soil, 'adamah.
Notice how Alter retains the indefinite sense of the Hebrew verbs, translates 'adam in its gender-neutral, universal sense, and works the Hebrew pun into English? Absolutely brilliant. I plan to read this book over the next couple of months and then write a full review contrasting it with Eugene Peterson's The Message.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

New Digital Camera

Self-portrait in half-profile

My best gift this Christmas was a Canon A620 (Only complaint--uses the flash too much). Now I can post pictures! Here's some early studies in digital photography.

Wife At Work

The Wife And I
by Steven Hamstra

Steve and Mom

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

Ok; I can't be a total Scrooge, Grinch, Harod, etc. this Christmas season. I am going to be flying back to the USofA to see my family, so I'd better Christmas-cheer up. In the mean time my posts on apokalupto will be sparse, so don't expect too much until after the New Year's.

And, for the record, I do enjoy Christmas music. It's just that there's about a half-dozen songs that get so overplayed during this season that I have to cast my vision farther afield to find Christmas songs I can enjoy. Here's the lyrics to a real Christmas classic from 1582, Personet Hodie. (I prefer Gustav Holst's arrangement of this song for male voices accompanied by organ.)
Personet Hodie

Personent hodie
voces puerulae,
laudantes iucunde
qui nobis est natus,
summo Deo datus,
et de virgineo ventre procreatus.

In mundo nascitur,
pannis involvitur
praesepi ponitur
stabulo brutorum,
rector supernorum.
perdidit spolia princeps infernorum.

Magi tres venerunt,
parvulum inquirunt,
parvulum inquirunt,
stellulam sequendo,
ipsum adorando,
aurum, thus, et myrrham ei offerendo.

Omnes clericuli,
pariter pueri,
cantent ut angeli:
advenisti mundo,
laudes tibi fundo.

ideo gloria in excelsis Deo.
(via The Hymns and Carols of Christmas)

And for those of us who aren't Latin scholars, a translation.

On This Day Earth Shall Ring
trans. Jane M. Joseph

On this day earth shall ring
with the song children sing
to the Lord, Christ our King,
born on earth to save us;
him the Father gave us.

Id-e-o-o-o, id-e-o-o-o,
Id-e-o gloria in excelsis Deo!

His the doom, ours the mirth;
when he came down to earth,
Bethlehem saw his birth;
ox and ass beside him
from the cold would hide him.


God's bright star, o'er his head,
Wise Men three to him led;
kneel they low by his bed,
lay their gifts before him,
praise him and adore him.


On this day angels sing;
with their song earth shall ring,
praising Christ, heaven's King,
born on earth to save us;
peace and love he gave us.


(via The Hymns and Carols of Christmas)

News: Ford Forbidden, Alternative Arranged

adventist today | Adventist Church Authorities Forbid Dr. Desmond Ford'’s Participation In Spiritual Renaissance Retreat

Dr. Desmond Ford was a popular Adventist evangelist and theology professor from Australia who claimed that the doctrine of the investigative judgment, the only distinctively Adventist doctrine, can not be shown from the Bible. This resulted in a church conference, known as "Glacier View", to decide if there was truth in Ford's assertions. A good summary of that conferencee is posted on the adventist today website.

Now I don't exactly support Ford's theological deviations from Adventist orthodoxy. In fact, I agree with the church's decision to defrock him and wouldn't allow him to preach in my pulpit. But to say we can't have open dialogue with one of the key players in a pivotal event of our church's history twenty-five years after the fact is to say that we value doctrinal hegemony more than truth.

I don't undertake to criticize church administration lightly; heaven knows they get enough of it for the tough decisions they have to make. However this decision to intervene in the affairs of a para-church organization by twisting the arm of its leader, a church employee, is ham-handed and gives credibility to those who claim Fords arguments were so good that the church had no alternative but to silence him. I believe our church's doctrinal discussions would have more fruitful results if we spent less time attacking error and more time presenting truth.

It was also a dumb administrative move because it's unenforceable. Conference organizers who are not employed by the church are apparently setting up another venue for Ford's presentations, and the other presentations are being worked around Ford's schedule. As they say, the show must go on.

UPDATE (28.12.05): adventist today | Adventist Today Hosts Dr. Desmond Ford Presentations On The Gospel In Monterey, California

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

EGW: Recruiting and Training Volunteers

I'm currently reading through the recent Ellen G. White compilation Pastoral Ministry. It's a great little book I go to when I feel I need to be held accountable. Ya, I know; it's kind of wired. But every now and then I have to bring my ministry before an authoritative source and see where I'm falling short, otherwise I start to feel like I'm spinning my wheels. The section on "Recruiting and Training Volunteers" has some great quotes.
Look not to the ministers to do your work; sleep not as did the foolish virgins, who had no oil in their lamps. Have your lamps supplied with the oil of the grace of Christ. Should every one in the church let his light shine forth to others as God designs he should, what a work would be done. A living church will be a working church. Bring your powers to Jesus; put them into exercise. Think, meditate, watch, and pray. A close connection with Jesus will increase your power of accomplishing good, your intellect will be strengthened. (Review and Herald Sept. 22, 1896 emphasis supplied)
It is often the case that ministers are inclined to visit almost entirely among the churches, devoting their time and strength where their labor will do no good. Frequently the churches are in advance of the ministers who labor among them, and would be in a more prosperous condition if those ministers would keep out of their way and give them an opportunity to work. The effort of such ministers to build up the churches only tears them down. The theory of truth is presented over and over again, but it is not accompanied by the vitalizing power of God. They manifest a listless indifference; the spirit is contagious, and the churches lose their interest and burden for the salvation of others. Thus by their preaching and example the ministers lull the people into carnal security. If they would leave the churches, go out into new fields, and labor to raise up churches, they would understand their ability and what it costs to bring souls out to take their position upon the truth. And they would then realize how careful they should be that their example and influence might never discourage or weaken those who it had required so much hard, prayerful labor to convert to the truth. "Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." (Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 2, 340 emphasis supplied)
Often congregations get the idea that they are there to support the pastor in his ministry, when it is the pastor who is there to support the congregation in its ministry. Natural Church Development calls this idea "empowering leadership", one of the eight quality characteristics of growing churches. The message I see in this for me is that my leadership is too long on theory and short on practice; I need to do more work with souls in order to teach my members how.

What do these testimonies say to you?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Drunk Driver

I have to blog this to unwind; it's been a crazy night. My wife and I were second on the scene after a drunk driver was thrown out of his rolling car when he lost control on a icy corner doing about 120 km/h. The thing is, I feel like I could have done more to prevent it.

I was leaving Fairview after a board meeting (really good one, too) and noticed that the driver in front of me was driving erratically. (This reads a lot like the statement I wrote for the RCMP.) I'd followed the guy for about five minutes, debating weather or not to call 911, when he pulled out to pass a car just 200 yards away from an oncoming vehicle. That did it; I told my wife to call the cops.

So she gets on the phone and they tell us to get the make, model, and license plate from the truck he was driving. By this time he's doing 130 and way ahead of us, so I speed up and catch up to him. Now he's doing 80, so I passed him and my wife got the details.

Then the 911 operator hangs up and tells us the police will call back. When the cop called us we were heading into this massive coolie that the Peace River runs through. He told us to pull over at the bottom of the coolie, let the guy pass us, follow him out of the coolie, and he'd call us when we got to the top.

I parked well off the shoulder just before the guy came barreling past and did himself in. We quickly drove to the visitor's center and called 911 and then went to offer assistance (my wife's an RN). The guy was puking blood and reeking of alcohol; the cop pretty much left us and the guy coming across the bridge that he almost hit to look after him until the ambulance got there.

I was telling the cop that I regret not calling them five minutes earlier, because he might have been able to pull the drunk over and stop him. The cop just said, "You know what? He got what he deserved. I'm just glad he didn't take anyone with him."

But should we hope people get what they deserve. I mean, if we all got what we deserved we'd be dead. I told him I'm in the business of saving people and I would liked to have done better to help that man, stupid though he may have been.

I'm tired. Maybe I'll have this all figured out in the morning. I was at that scene for over an hour--way too long. Good night.

Picture of the Dunvegan Bridge by Chad Anderson via Structurae.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Feeling Left Out

I feel left out of Christmas. It's not that I don't enjoy the holiday, I do. But I don't get hyped up about any of the things you're supposed to like about Christmas.

Christmas trees have no intrinsic value for me. My wife practically had to withhold "marital relations" to get me to set up the Christmas tree with her, which turned out to be a nice way to spend time with her. But I would have preferred a game of scrabble to hanging bling on the tree.

Likewise garish, multi-colored Christmas lights, kitschy yard decorations, and the Santa Claus myth fail to evoke feelings of holiday cheer. I can't comprehend what people get out of these tasteless displays. It's like arriving at potluck late and having to eat cold, dry, and soggy food while everyone else raves about how good it was.

And on the spiritual level, Christmas doesn't really feed my soul; it's an appetizer that's trying to be the main course. Honestly, look at how much space to the gospels spend on Christ's birth compared to his death. The first advent isn't even mentioned in two of them, yet which is the bigger holiday, Christmas or Easter?

But I still celebrate the stupid holiday. Why? Why not simply denounce it as pagan and be done with it?

I guess I still find virtue in having a day off to get together with family, give each other gifts, and express "peace on earth, goodwill towards men." I would prefer it without all the trappings and decorations, but some people don't. So why spoil their fun when I can safely vent my feelings on forum that's so public it's anonymous? Now that's a Christmas miracle!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Music Video: As Long As You Love Me (Asian Boyz Remix)

And who said Asian people have no sense of humor?

via Google Video

News: Another Canadian Police Officer Dead

The Globe and Mail | Police officer slain in Quebec

I've lived in Canada for more than six years, off and on. One thing I found different about this country was that you didn't hear about cop killings, that is until the Meyerthorpe massacre this spring. I hope we're not in for a round of copycats.

Gun violence is a major issue in the upcoming election, with Prime Minister Paul Martin proposing a total handgun ban. This campaigning follows a spate of killings in Toronto, one during a funeral at an Adventist church. My country is worried that the border with Canada is a back door for terrorists into the US, but Canadians ought to be more worried that US gun culture is spilling into Canada.

Top Five: Ways To Unwind

Board meeting night again--ugh! It actually went fairly well tonight, but they're always such a pain. I guess I'm just tired after a really full week. I haven't taken a day off since last Sunday. Oh well, my Christmas holidays are coming up soon.

So, in honor of hard days and late nights waiting for my wife to get home from work (she's an RN), here's my

"Top Five Ways to Unwind"
  1. Play computer games
  2. Read Ministry magazine
  3. Cook a snack
  4. Listen to Northern Lights
  5. Search "adventist" on Technorati
Yah, we pastors sure know how to party. If things get really out of control, I get my wife to make me a cup of decaf before I go to bed. And then...well you don't want to know what happens then.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Review: The Trinity

During the past year I've been exploring the doctrine of the trinity from various practical and theological perspectives. The book that has helped me the most from the theological perspective is The Trinity: Understanding God's love, His plan of salvation, and Christian relationships. I blogged about one of the discoveries I made in this book in my post "Water of Life".

The purpose of The Trinity is to defend the Adventist doctrine of the trinity from attacks from within and without. The book is the result of a collaboration of three professors at the Adventist Theological Seminary. Woodrow Whidden assesses the Biblical evidence for and against the doctrine, John Reeve covers the development on the doctrine from the second through sixteenth centuries, and Jerry Moon traces the doctrine from the reformation to American Protestantism and finally the Adventist church. The book concludes with a short section on practical implications by Whidden.

All four sections of
The Trinity make for a compelling read if you are interested in the topic, and the fact that the word "trinity" is never used in the Bible means that most Christians would do well to give this topic some serious, critical thought. I was especially impressed by the section on the Biblical evidence and by the chapter that covered the development of the doctrine in the writings of Ellen White, both of which presented plenty of primary evidence with insightful analysis. I should also say that I've never found early church history as interesting than it was in connection with the doctrine of the trinity.

My only major beef with The Trinity is that I wouldn't be able to give it to anyone who doesn't believe in the trinity. The authors (especially Whidden) use such a confrontational, apologetic tone that the defenses of any anti-Trinitarian would be raised to the place where they would have difficulty maintaining an open mind. This book seems to have been written with the questioning Adventist in mind, yet even I sometimes wondered if there wasn't some angle the authors weren't presenting because it would have been out of line with their doctrinal understanding.

Question of the trinity touches on many other aspects of Christianity (e.g. the atonement, the nature of Christ) that I believe that a solid understanding of it is important for every Christian. I would recommend The Trinity to any Adventist reader seeking a better understanding of the doctrine. The discussion of John 1:1 and of Ellen White's writings on the trinity alone make this book a recommended resource.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Blog: prez update

Ever "wonder what a conference president does"? The president of the Illinois Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Ken Denslow, is blogging to answer that question. He's been at it since the end of November, posting weekly updates of his activities.

Ken is to be commended for his vision and transparency. I think blogging is an excellent way for a leaders in a somewhat removed position to build a sense of closeness or rapport with people you can't possibly meet face to face on a regular basis. I just hope Ken has the courage to "keep it real" during the challenges he is sure to face during his presidency.

Welcome to the blogosphere Ken. And to you other church leaders out there: start a blog!

prez update

First Funeral

I'm doing my first funeral on Monday. It's for an eighty-eight year old man who literally died with his boots on, getting ready to clear a quarter-section of bush with his CAT. He had just driven it up on his truck bed and got in the cab when he up and died in his wife's arms. His only request was to be buried with his boots on.

Every time I get up to preach on Sabbath morning I feel %100 inadequate, and that feeling is twice as bad right now. What can you say in the presence of such profound feelings of grief and loss? The English language hardly seems to equip the preacher to handle the moment. To me, words are almost inappropriate at such a time.

Yet the family is counting on someone to give the man a decent send off, to say some good things about his life and bring to mind the hope of meeting him again. So here I sit, trying to figure out what I'm going to say. I'm confounded by the privilege of the trust they have placed in me, the pastor.

And now I must remind myself that it's not about me. The only good sermons I've preached have been when I humbly told the Holy Spirit that I wasn't up to the task and that He was going to have to take over. Now I'm going to have to pray that prayer twice as hard, so please pray with me.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

News: Rice - Torture Treaty Applies Overseas

BBC | US 'shifts' position on torture

Is the Bush administration finally listening? The sad thing is that it's called "shift".

Music Video: Feeling Reserved

I think it's interesting how rap music has been appropriated by diverse people groups to express their oppression. "Feelin' Rezerved" by War Party is an example from my corner of the world (Alberta, Canada). The song has all the strengths of good rap--tight rhyme, word play, beat track--and a positive message. I can't say the same about the production value of the video, but it has some moments. Check it out.

"Feelin' Rezerved" War Party (video)

War Party has tons of their music plus more videos available for free download at their website.

News: 10 Years For First Online Wedding Couple

ANN | First Online Wedding Couple Celebrates 10 Years

And now for something completely different...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sermon Summary 12.3.05: Dead or Alive?

The message in book of Revelation to the church in Sardis is a spiritual alarm clock for a sleeping church (Rev. 3:1-6). This church is resting on the reputation of their previous accomplishments, sitting on a one point lead with two periods left to play. But God knows that this church is sleepwalking; that they are dead in their sins.

Sardis is in serious need of revival, to live again, and so Jesus comes to them as the one "who has the seven Spirits of God." This is a seven-fold concept of the Holy Spirit that reflects His ability to be wherever He needs to be. The church in Sardis needs the Holy Spirit because only the He is able to give life to a dying church (Eze 37:14).

But the church members in Sardis have their part to play as well. There are some things that only God can do to bring about revival, like pour out the Holy Spirit, but there are also some things that only we can do. So I take the next part of the message as sort of a "how to" manual for revival.

First, they must wake up, engage, and realize that a spiritual war is going on. Second, they must build from their strengths and not let these things slip as well. Finally they must realize that the game isn't over yet, that there is work left to do, otherwise it will be a very unpleasant surprise when the buzzer sounds.

True revival is grounded in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. Revival does not replace our need of His salvation covering our sins nor our need to follow His example. Instead it seeks, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to live out the eternal life He has promised, making this future reality a present experience.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Review: The Message Remix

I picked up The Message Remix, a thought for thought translation for the Bible by Eugene Peterson, because it was on sale. My wife already had The Message, but I thought Remix would have a new hip-hop, wazzup style or something. It turns out the only difference between The Message and Remix is that Remix has verse numbers in the margins.

Peterson's translation approach was an attempt to capture in every-day English the style and impact of the every-day Hebrew and Greek the writers of the Bible used. The product is a very readable devotional Bible that is acclaimed by many, including U2's Bono. I like it because Peterson's insights into the text come out in his translation using language I wouldn't have anticipated.

The major draw-back of this approach is the assumption that the Bible was written in a single, accessible style. True, some parts were, but there are variations in style between the writers of the Bible, and some of there styles were easier to understand than others. When reading The Message you don't feel like you're reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; but just Peterson. I would have preferred that he attempt to reflect in English the different styles of writing in the Bible with the ambiguities that attend them.

But, of course, this isn't the point of a thought for though translation, which attempts to convey and idea and not just language. And, with Peterson is a scholar acting in a pastoral role, explaining the text and smoothing out difficulties. What we have in The Message is a record of how the Word of God has impacted on man's understanding of the Bible.

Here's one example of Peterson's style and (in my opinion) one of his better efforts.
The Word was first,
the Word was present to God,

God was present to the Word.

The Word was God,
in readiness for God from day one.

Everything was created through him,
nothing--not one thing!--

came into being without him.
What came into existence was Life,
and that Life was Light to live by.

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness,
the darkness couldn't put it out....

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 1:1-5,14 The Message)