Monday, August 21, 2006


One of the experiences of ministry for which I am most grateful is that of serving people who aren’t going make it–the Alzheimers and cancer patients. People who know they will die (or loose their mind) within a matter of months or years can tell you a lot about the meaning of life and sanity. But sometimes what they say is not so important as what they do.

I’ve noticed that the group of people who have the hardest time dealing with terminal conditions are those who try to justify their existence through their work. The reason they have such a hard time is that every capability by which they attempted this is being slowly stripped away. Self-justification is difficult at best when you can even wipe your own bottom.

The lesson I take from this is that the value of my life is not the sum of my abilities, activities, or accomplishments; because these will all be taken from me in the end. To push it a step further, it cannot be related to my knowledge, attributes, or character; because these will cease to exist when I cease to exist. To put it bluntly: These dying people force me to realize that there is no permanent thing about me which justifies my existence.

You’ve read the prescription. Now take the pill.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How To Tell The History

The past weekend there was a 25th anniversary (of the building) homecoming at my larger church, and many former members and pastors attended. I was given the devotional at opening program on Friday night, after which there was to be an open mic for sharing and reminiscing. Facing the prospect of spending the better portion of two hours listening the people three times my age going on and on about things that happened when I was barely conscious of my own existence, I decided to preach a message on how to tell the history of a church.

The following three points were gleaned from a study of Deuteronomy 1-3 where Moses addresses Israel on the borders of the Promised Land:

  1. Own your mistakes (Deut. 1:26-28). We didn’t do everything perfectly, or we’d be in the Promised Land by now. So don’t pretend that everything was good in the good old days. Instead, own the mistakes so we can learn from them.
  2. Recite the victories God gave you (Deut. 2:7,33), and be sure to give Him the credit. These stories build faith, and faith is necessary if we are to cross the Jordan. Things will get worse before they get better, but if we know God is with us, we can face any battle.
  3. Declare God’s will for the future (Deut. 3:28-4:1). Now that we know what God did with you, tell us what He wants to do with us. Instead of escaping to the past, we must live for the future. What is the will of God toward our church?

These three lessons have the capacity to transform anniversaries from meaningless exercises in self-congratulation into spiritual landmarks that pass the torch to the next generation. At least, that’s how it felt in my church last weekend.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

How Much Land Does A Man Need

As we pack and unpack I ask, do we really need all this stuff. Today we went out and bought even more…stuff. Stuff we need? I thought so, but as I look around our half-packed, half unpacked possessions I wonder.

Reminds me of a short story by Leo Tolstoy. Take a few minutes to read it if you haven’t already. For the parable is mightier than advice.

Friday, August 04, 2006


Today, for the first time, I experienced actual hatred for another religion. Not disapproval of one of its followers nor disbelief in its teachings, but total hatred of its entire system of belief and deep suspicion of any adherent. It was scary.

A spokesman for moderate Muslims has resigned from the Muslim Canadian Congress, citing death threats and safety concerns.

Tarek Fatah said his wife and daughters encouraged him to step down as communications director for the organization following an alarming number of threats and harassing phone calls.

“I’m just exhausted, it’s too much,” he told CBC.

“I’m physically drained and fatigued and disappointed by how much leverage these extremists have,” he said.

Fatah said he has been assaulted both verbally and physically, including an incident in which he was attacked at an Islamic conference in Toronto by dozens of young Muslim men.

He also said that an associate informed him of a discussion she overheard in which young men were discussing how Fatah should be killed.

Fatah said he’s reported the threats he’s received since 2003 to Toronto police, who are investigating the allegations.

(CBC News)

When a man in a Western liberal democracy can’t speak his mind with regard to the teachings of a particular religion for fear of physical violence, that makes me angry. I’ve stuck up for Islam in a lot of discussions, but today I seriously considered the side of those who would limit immigration and aggressively deport undesirables.

How do I begin to consider this situation redemptively? The gospel doesn’t teach us to insulate ourselves from persecution; it tells us to love our enemies. But what does it mean to love those at odds with the most fundamental teachings of the gospel?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mini-review: Ender's Game

If you're looking for a good sci-fi book to read over the remaining portion of the summer, I recommend Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's not a monumental epic nor a classic for the ages, but it does speak some deep truths about the nature of human relationships, leadership, and self-motivation. Plus, it's a cheep paperback you won't feel guilty about buying when you're supposed to be spending every last penny on home renovations.

Plot synopsis: A 6-year old, martial prodigy, Ender, is taken to a military academy in space where he plays games designed to mold him into the admiral who will save Earth from an iminaent space invasion by a superior alien force.

What I liked about Ender's Game:
  • Boosted my EQ
  • Good action
  • Inspires resourcefulness
  • Cool SF concepts
  • Explores individual responsibility
What I didn't like about Ender's Game:
  • Writing that seemed too 'adult' to be from a child's point of view
  • Side story that seemed specifically designed to get you to buy the next book in the series
  • Tended towards 'fantasy' aspects of sci-fi as opposed to 'hard sf'
Recommendation: A novel well worth reading--Even people who aren't sci-fi fans should enjoy it.