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)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Quiz: Middle Earth Race


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

I knew it! "Hommmm. Hummmm. Let me think about this pooost...[rumble]"

Middle earth is the land imagined by J.R.R. Tolkien in which the stories of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place.

News: Iraq Hostages

BBC NEWS | Fears for Iraq hostages on video

The hostages are members of an organization called Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group of Christian peace activists who go to violent places and get in the way, try to diffuse tensions, and do community work projects. I totally respect these guys and their commitment to peace and reconciliation. I don't agree with total pacifism, but in a prevailing climate of war Christians need to demonstrate the higher path.

I wish the Adventist had an outreach organization like this but since WWI institutional Adventism has shied from activities that directly challenge government policies
. Of course, such actions are not with out risk. The BBC reports that the kidnapping was most likely politically motivated and the video is probably the last time we'll be seeing those brave people alive.

Pray for Tom Fox, Norman Kember, James Loney, and Harmeet Singh Sooden--that they will have the strength for what lies ahead and that God may be glorified in this situation.

Monday, November 28, 2005


My home has been invaded by Stephan, Mikael, Jules, and Summera. Even though they have Swedish names, they're from the China which is kind of confusing. I guess it explains why they're compact and functional as well as stylish and trendy.

That's what you pay for at Ikea, the supersized, furniture Wal-Mart from Sweden. What you don't pay for is anything you can do yourself, like getting your furniture from the warehouse shelves, transporting it home, and assembling. All this extra labor on your part means nice furniture for low prices.

That's assuming you can get it home, (I had to take the desk out of this box so it would fit in the trunk.) assemble it properly (Read, no study, the manual.), and do it all with out scratching the finish (I'm ordering Ikea stain as I type this.) The other thing that worries me is the "Made in the People's Republic of China" stickers. Is Ikea a sweatshop operation; anyone know?

If you've never been to an Ikea superstore, you should go at least once and experience a new definition of the word 'big'. I literally takes four hours to walk through the monolith of consumerism (with a wife who insists you look at this and that). That's also about as long as it took me to assemble my desk.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Holidays: American Thanksgiving

apokalupto will be on hiatus for a week as I'm taking my holidays. I'll be driving to Edmonton for a concert and the waterpark. Then we head south to the in-laws in Cochrane for some R&R, American Thanksgiving, and possibly skiing. I also plan to do some reading and write an article or two.

News: Adventists Should Embrace Environmental Concern

ANN | Adventists Should Embrace Environmental Concern, Church Experts Say

Wonder how long it took 'em to figure
that one out.

The interesting thing is that two of the three 'experts' cited are from the health arm of the Adventist church. Adventists find spiritual significance in living a healthy lifestyle (we're quite good at it), and the M.D.s cited in this story realize that it's hard to be healthy if your environment is polluted.
The theologian took the old stewardship of God's creation line, but arguing for environmental concern because we are stewards of our bodies is new to me.

This health argument is a good one. If we actually understood that our body temples are made of "dust", we'd find it important to care for the "dust". It remains to be seen if this will become mainstream Adventist thought, but it's worth noting that the most 'liberal' ideas in Adventism have entered through the health movement (e.g. vegetarianism).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Article: Racist

Since were on the topic of college and racism, here's an editorial I wrote for my college newspaper a couple of years ago (with a few edits).


By David Hamstra

Lately I’ve been wondering: Am I a racist? I’ve never asked myself that question before. I just assumed that I wasn’t, because I was raised to believe racism is bad. But now I’m wondering whether I’m a racist myself.

Consider the evidence: It was easy for me to say I wasn’t racist when I was living in Minnesota and Montana, where I grew up and went to school. As a white, upper-middle class American, I was exposed to very few people from other races, and those who I did meet had generally adopted the white American culture. Now isn’t that really a racist attitude—that people can have other cultures but not around me.

But wait a second; I’m not that bad. I’ve since traveled around the world and enjoyed various cultures. I even went to work at a Spanish speaking church for a year. I came to school in Canada because I wanted to experience life in a different country. My best friends at this school are a Portuguese-Canadian, a Moldovan, and a Korean; I’m even going to marry a Canadian. I enjoy all the cultures of the world and want to experience as many as possible.

I’d better stop there; before I start sounding like the patron saint of multiculturalism or something. I’ve got my dark side too, although I don’t like to admit it. This dark side resides in a deep, emotional level of my being and takes shape in the form of stereotypes and prejudices.

It tells me black people are too loud and don’t study enough and that Koreans are uptight and study too much. I think that Russians are cynical and materialistic and Hispanics are lazy and never on time. And, most hypocritically of all, I think that Serbs, Croats, Israelis, and Palestinians are racists.

Wow, I don’t really seem like a nice guy anymore, but we’ve all got this dark side don’t we? As an American living in Canada, I get this sort of thing all the time. I think Americans are probably the most disliked race in the world. Apparently I’m narrow-minded, have a poor knowledge of geography, and am overly patriotic. I’m also expected to account for President Bush’s decisions and apologize for American foreign policy since WWII. So we’re even now; if you can be racist against me, I can be racist against you.

What a terrible way to live. I hate it when people stereotype me, and I don’t want to stereotype people either. We can talk as much as we want to about the characteristics of different races, but it is people who are important.

That’s why I’m so thankful to have come to CUC. I have come to be good friends with people of many races at this school, and that has helped break down my stereotypes. For example, I don’t consider my Eastern European friend to be either cynical or materialistic, and that challenges my stereotype. That doesn’t mean that something so deeply rooted can instantly leave me, but it does mean that I can approach Eastern Europeans with a more open mind.

Having an open mind is the key. When I meet an American, I don’t think of him as an American but as a person. However, when I meet someone who looks like an American but speaks with an Eastern European accent, I think of her as an Eastern European and assign those Eastern European qualities to her. In some ways this helps me approach her in a culturally sensitive way, but it also inhibits me from getting to know her as she is.

So am I a racist? I don’t even know how to define racism, but I think the fact that this question bothers me indicates that I am not. Yes, I have my stereotypes and prejudices, but I’m trying to keep them from affecting my interaction with people from other cultures. My opportunities for fulfilling friendships and exciting experiences are limited enough as it is without the constraints of racism. No, I am not a racist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Poem: Discrimaniggawhitegurl

I'm not a huge fan of peoms, but this one in Spectrum magazine caught my eye. It's by a student at Oakwood College, a predominantly Afro-American Adventist university.

by Katie J. Roddy

Like Ashley "the pieces of me" are scattered throughout these
trees, these acorns, and these Oaks
Been here for twenty years, see this here is all I know
Grew up not showing what shade I was knowing
Guess I didn't see the difference between me and the next
shade of brown girl
Maybe I was ignorant or just livin' in King's Dream world
Took fifteen years for me to understand the problem
Been five more and still and I still haven't solved it
It's been real and it gets tough
And these two together make me real tough enough
Almost called it quits in high school, me and Kim said this is
So I left the place that I grew up in
Still calling it home 'cause it was where I was raised and born
And all they would say was Katie come back you know you're
In other words you're too cool to be the race you are so
we gladly accept you into ours
But I took it as an insult almost causing me to revolt
But I sat back and realized that I know and they don't
What if I called ya'll white
Would you still have black pride or would it make you angry
My father came here in the sixties back when Oakwood didn't
take kindly to those white
So any story I could ever bring to my mom and him
They'd say Katie we're been there done that came back and
took a nap
And you see we're still standing outlasting many of the
"Reverse Racists"
Two wrong don't make a right
And these two wrongs don't make me white
They make me fight for what is right
Why reject someone for being born who's different from your
Why get mad at me for falling in love with someone who's
"too black for me?"
That's ignorant Open your mind 'cause we're running out
of time
The Lord is coming soon and in heaven there's no room for
(Published with permission)

Powerful and insightful. I think racism happens not only when you look down on the members of another culture, but also when you expect them to interact with you in terms of your culture. My ideal is to have the culture of a Heaven that includes "every nation and tribe and tongue and people" (Rev. 14:6)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

News: McCain's Torture Amendment

Newsweek National News | Torture's Terrible Toll

Senator John McCain has an excellent editorial in Newsweek in which he argues a no-tolerance policy on torture by U.S. personnel. That McCain himself was tortured in a POW camp during the Vietnam war makes this statement from his editorial all the more interesting:
Until about 1970, North Vietnam ignored its obligations not to mistreat the Americans they held prisoner, claiming that we were engaged in an unlawful war against them and thus not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions. But when their abuses became widely known and incited unfavorable international attention, they substantially decreased their mistreatment of us. (emphasis mine)
Does McCain see a parallel here? Perhaps the Bush administration claiming that Guantanimo detainees have no rights under the Geneva Conventions has something to do with it. Or the explaining they had to do when "abuses became widely known". McCain is right: relaxing the rules regarding torture has started a slippery slope that ends with the United States being no better than those we fight in the name of 'freedom'.

McCain is currently in a battle with Bush over an amendment "that would ban the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody". Did I mention that McCain is a leading Republican in the U.S. Senate and that the majority of Senate Republicans (including the Senate Majority Leader) voted with him against Bush's wishes? I knew there was a reason I used to vote Republican. I guess that's one more thing that changed after 9/11.

The Alcohol Question

Is it Biblically permissible for Christians to drink alcohol in moderation? I found a text in my study of Leviticus that put this question in a new light for me. It is a command given to Aaron the High Priest after his sons were slain by the LORD for offering strange fire while drunk in the tabernacle.
Then the LORD said to Aaron, "You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle. If you do, you will die. This is a permanent law for you, and it must be kept by all future generations. You are to distinguish between what is holy and what is ordinary, what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean." (Leviticus 10:8-10)
This time I saw the significance of this passage in light of the New Testament teaching that the church is called to be a "kingdom of priests to our God" (Rev. 5:10) who offer our bodies as living sacrifices in a 24/7 act of worship (Rom 12:1). The New Testament also teaches that the church is the temple in which we minister (Eph. 2:21) and that even our bodies are the "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19).

Now if God didn't want alcohol in his Old Testament tabernacle, would He want it in his New Testament temple? If priests were unable to properly serve God in the tabernacle after drinking, are we able to set aside our lives in a worship response to God with a mind weakened by booze? I used to think the Biblical evidence could cut either way on this question (Pro. 31:6), but I've since concluded that the Bible teaches abstinence.

The New Testament does teach the alcohol may be used medicinally (1 Tim. 5:23), but also says that we should get our kicks from the Holy Spirit, not alcoholic spirits (Eph. 5:18). From this I take a broader Biblical principle that all drugs are good when they serve a medical purpose, but should not be used recreationally.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rememberance Day

In 1931, Parliament adopted an Act to amend the Armistice Day Act, providing that the day should be observed on November 11 and that the day should be known as "Remembrance Day".
(from Canadian Heritage)

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
(from Arlington National Cemetary Website)

Universal Soldier
by Buffy Sainte-Marie

He's five feet two and he's six feet four

He fights with missiles and with spears
He's all of 31 and he's only 17
He's been a soldier for a thousand years

He's a Catholic, a Hindu, an athiest, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew
and he knows he shouldn't kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you

And he's fighting for Canada,
he's fighting for France,
he's fighting for the USA,
and he's fighting for the Russians
and he's fighting for Japan,
and he thinks we'll put an end to war this way

And he's fighting for Democracy
and fighting for the Reds
He says it's for the peace of all
He's the one who must decide
who's to live and who's to die
and he never sees the writing on the walls

But without him how would Hitler have
condemned him at Dachau
Without him Caesar would have stood alone
He's the one who gives his body
as a weapon to a war
and without him all this killing can't go on

He's the universal soldier and he
really is to blame
His orders come from far away no more
They come from him, and you, and me
and brothers can't you see
this is not the way we put an end to war.
(from Buffy Sainte-Marie)

"And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." -Jesus of Nazereth
(Matthew 24:6)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

News: Sanitarium Health Foods Would Sue to Protect Granola Trademark

adventist today | Sanitarium Health Foods Would Sue to Protect Granola Trademark

Sanitarium is the foremost health food company in Australia, making Australia's most popular breakfast cereal, Weet-Bix, as well as peanut-butter, soy milk, and meat substitutes. Sanitarium is owned by the Adventist church to which it gives 100% of its profits. In a reprint
on it's website from The Australian, Adventist Today presents a case of corporate bullying "with Sanitarium threatening small manufacturer Whisk & Pin with legal action unless the company withdraws its application to register 'mountain granola' as its trade mark."

But what Adventist Today doesn't tell you is that what we in North America call "granola" is commonly referred to
in Australia as "muesli". During the year I spent there I don't think I ever heard an Australian use the word "granola". So the outrage that Adventist Today's North American readership will feel toward this church owned corporationon for trademarking a generic term will be largely unfounded.

The Aussies are probably outraged, too, but for a different reason. They always cheer (not "root"--Down Under that means having sex) for the under-dog. They'd hate to see a big company like Sanitarium intimidating a small start-up with lawyers.

News: Soap Opera Highlights Youth

ANN | Britain: Soap Opera Highlights Youth, Offers Help

What a cool idea! A Christian soap that's not afraid to get dirty with real life problems (drugs, teen pregnancy, bullying). Cast with real kids and not professional actors. Very cool.

Top Five Ways I Sabbath

I was asked tonight how I, as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, have a Sabbath (that is, a day of rest on Saturday). My wife immediately spoke up and said that we basically go from 9 to 5 on Sabbath doing church work. It's true, of course, that I do a lot of my work on Sabbath--preaching, teaching, meetings, visiting, etc.--so am I breaking the Sabbath?

I've heard ministers appeal to Matthew 12:5 to justify a hectic Sabbath schedule: "On the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent." Yet I believe that we are in the priesthood of all believers (Rom. 1:6), so I can't really argue that a different set of rules apply to me. Yes, pastors need the Sabbath, too; and sometimes more so than others.

I asked myself, how do I rest on the Sabbath and break my everyday routine? How do I keep it holy and set those 24 hours aside God? So tonight, here are the:

Top Five Ways I Sabbath:
1. Enjoy the company of believers
2. Worship God with my church
3. Serve my church with the gifts God has given me
4. Abstain from secular entertainment and concerns
5. Take a nap

I don't think that's different than how the Bible teaches any other believer should keep the Sabbath. The difference would be that I sometimes take Jesus statement that it is "lawful to do good on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:12)" a little too seriously (sometimes my Sabbaths are quite exhausting). But I do not consider the work that I do on Sabbath to be part of my paying 'job' but rather a gift of service to the church.

(Now if only I could get my sermons finished before sundown...)

For more about the Sabbath check out this Bible study.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Water of Life

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb...(Revelation 22:1)
It's amazing how studying the most arcane doctrines can yield inspirational truths. I'm nearly half way through The Trinity, an apologetic work written by three seminary profs who take on the anti-Trinitarian tendencies found in some Adventist groups, the JWs, the Unitarians, etc. So far it has helped me to better understand the Biblical evidence for the trinity, but at the end of the chapter "Trinitarian Evidences in the Book of Revelation" I found something awesome.

Revelation 21:9-22:5 symbolically describes the glorious church descending out of Heaven to inherit the Earth through her relationship with Jesus. It is called New Jerusalem, except that unlike the old Jerusalem it has no temple. This is because the city itself is a temple, a sanctuary having the same cubic proportions as the Most Holy Place in the temples of ancient Israel (Rev. 21:16, 1 Ki. 6:20, Eze. 41:4).

if this tripartite symmetry reflects a triune God we should expect to find evidence that the three Persons of the Trinity dwell within this metaphorical temple. The passage is littered with references to "God and the Lamb", which of course refer to the Father and the Son. But where is the Holy Spirit?

Read the passage at the beginning of this post again. Did you catch it? Now check out these passages.
For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants.(Isaiah 44:3)
If you believe in me, come and drink! For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within." When he said "living water," he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him.(John 7:38,39a)
The Holy Spirit is the river that flows from the throne to feed the tree of life and give life to the inhabitants of the city. What a beautiful symbol! It fits perfectly with the function of the Holy Spirit who makes what the Father and Son do in the throne room a life giving reality in the hearts of believers (see this study).

It's hard to put into words how I feel about this image of the Holy Spirit. It's like I imagine diving into Him and drinking up God's refreshing love. This song says it best:
I Can Hear Your Voice
Michael W. Smith
I'm in the river that flows from your throne
Water of Life
Water of Life
It covers me and I breathe again
Your love is breath to my soul

I can hear Your voice as You sing over me
It's Your song of hope breathing life into me
I can feel Your touch as I come close to You
And it heals my heart
You restore and renew
(from SeekLyrics)


Does advertising make sense? It does if someone's willing to pay you to do it. I've just added Google AdSense keyword ads to apokalupto to see how much money this blog is worth. (I'll probably donate it to ADRA or something.) So far I've made $0.00. Start clicking on ads people!

If you think I'm selling out or just hate ads in general, leave a comment.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

apokalupto - A Trendsetter?

Via FilmChat:
Mel Gibson is finally working on his follow-up to The Passion of the Christ, reports Variety:
Gibson wrote the script and will direct "Apocalypto," which, sources say, is not religious in theme. Pic begins production in October in Mexico for a summer 2006 release. . . .

Gibson will not star in "Apocalypto" and may not use a star for the film, which is set in an ancient civilization some 3,000 years ago. The title is a Greek term which means "an unveiling" or "new beginning."
I must be a trendsetter. Check out the following timeline:
  1. June 16, 2005 - I christen my blog with an obscure Greek verb.
  2. July 22, 2005 - Mel Gibson announces his new movie, entitled with the same obscure Greek verb.
Coincidence? We think not.

The difference between "apokalupto" and "apokalypto" is whether you transliterate the Greek letter upsilon to the English alphabet with its lowercase equivalent "u" or uppercase "y".

FilmChat, a Christian film critic's blog, has an update on Apokalypto.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Bible Studies: 13 The Remnant

Here's another Friday Bible study. This one looks at the sometimes contraversial Adventist doctrine of the remnant from a Biblical perspective. You can find the previous study in the series here. is good website to look up the scripture refrences. As always, your feedback is welcome as these studies are a work in progress.

Study 13: The Remnant

  1. The remnant are the survivors of national catastrophe; the remnant of Israel’s demise would receive the p________ of God (Deu. 3:11; Gen. 45:5-8; 2 Kings 25:30,31; Jer. 23:3).
  2. In the spiritual sense, the remnant are those of all nations who accept the promise of salvation by faith and are spared when sin is d_________. (Rom. 9:25-30, Rom. 10:21-11:6).
  3. The remnant are defined by a time of testing, such as the 1,260 year p___________ of the God’s people by the church authorities of the Middle Ages (Dan. 7:19-25, Rev. 13:1-10) [3.5 years or 42 months = 1,260 days of years].
  4. The last remnant will be those who t____, o____, and t_______ of God in spite of Satan’s climactic assault on their relationship with Him (Rev. 12:13-17, Rev. 14:12, Rev. 19:10).
  5. The last remnant promote true worship of God as he d_______ it as opposed to the idol set up by the beasts (Rev. 13:11-15; Dan. 3:1,4-6 Rev.14:6,7; Ex. 20:11).
  6. The last remnant proclaim the ultimate doom of spiritual Babylon, which symbolizes spiritual c_________, enforcement of religion, and supplanting God with religion (Rev. 14:8 Gen. 11:1-9; Dan. 3:28,29; Rev. 17:1-6).
  7. The last remnant warn about the deadly consequences of i_____________ or utilizing the human principles of Babylon and thus receiving its ‘brand’ (Rev. 13:16-18, Rev. 14:9-11, Gen. 1:27,30). [Six was the Babylonian holy number.]
  8. Instead of the mark, the remnant of all ages have their redemption s______ by Holy Spirit in their hearts (Rev. 7; 14:1-5; Eph 4:21-24,30-32; 2 Cor. 1:22).

1. Promises. 2. Destroyed 3. Persecution 4. Trust, Obey, Testify 5. Desires 6. Confusion 7. Internalizing 8. Sealed

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Song: Step by Step

We never sing the verses of this song, and that's a shame.
Step by Step
by Rich Mullins

Sometimes the night was beautiful
Sometimes the sky was so far away
Sometimes it seemed to stoop so close
You could touch it but your heart would break
Sometimes the morning came too soon
Sometimes the day could be so hot
There was so much work left to do
But so much You'd already done

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days

Sometimes I think of Abraham
How one star he saw had been lit for me
He was a stranger in this land
And I am that, no less than he
And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach

Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days
(from ChristianLyricsOnline)

I like to think of "Step by Step" as a road song for the Christian life. I love how Rich identifies with Abraham in the second verse as a reminder that we are destined to journey to a promised land. Rich Mullins was killed in a car accident in 1997 on his way to a benefit concert.

(Calling Out Your Name) is a "webpage dedicated to the music and message of Rich Mullins".

Review: Pride and Seek

Pride and Seek: an unexpected spiritual journey is this year's young adult devotional from Review and Herald Publishing. I normally don't pay much attention to these devotional books, being of a more intellectual persuasion. (Yes, that's my weakness; don't exploit it.) But when I saw the book was a mini-autobiography by Seth Pierce my interest was piqued.

I knew Seth Pierce for about 6 years as a child and pre-teen. We were in the same grade, Pathfinder club, and his father was the pastor of our church; until he left Seth's mother for another woman. I remember having a sense of disorientation at the time (Can pastors get divorced, mom?), so I can only imagine how this would have effected Seth. He kind of drifted out of the church about the same time I went to academy, and we've only had the loosest of contact since then.

In Pride and Seek Seth describes the twists and turns of his "spiritual journey" from being an Adventist preacher's kid to a nominal-Christian who became a lay youth pastor in a charismatic mega-church and ended up at Union College studying to become an Adventist minister. I know. I gave away the plot, but it's nothing the back cover of the book won't tell you.

The real attraction of Pride and Seek is it's compelling portrayal of an Adventist boy's insider experience with pentacostalism and all that goes with it--vibrant worship meetings, powerful prayer experiences, speaking in tongues, getting slain and drunk in the spirit, etc. The experience of charismatics has been a question on my mind for some time now, and Seth has valuable insights into what we can learn from them and what pitfalls to avoid. I recommend it on this basis alone.

Pride and Seek's weakness is the theoretical places Seth doesn't take the issues he has raised. For example, he discusses his experiences with speaking in tongues at great length but doesn't devote half as much space to explaining the Biblical passages dealing with the subject. Because we're talking about a devotional book, that may be a bit like criticizing Star Wars for not explaining how the hyperdrive works; but this reader would have preferred more explanation of the texts (and for George Lucas to explain the hyperdive to me).

Pride and Seek is written in an easy and accessible prose
that will appeal to a wide audience and it has the credibility of first-hand knowledge. While reading it my thirst for a deeper experience with the Holy Spirit was renewed. I especially recommend this book to young adults of my generation who will resonate with Seth's experience.

Seth Pierce's articles have been published in the Review.

In June I blogged about my exprience with clergy misconduct at the same church a few years later.