Tuesday, December 7, 2010
That rather tiresome group, the "freethought" lobby -- a/k/a atheists -- has resurfaced, purchasing ad space on public transit, where they intend to run a series of ads either questioning or outright denying the existence of God. I've blogged about the discussion that happened almost two years ago when they tried this, and now they're trying to raise the hackles of pretty much every group that they feel doesn't use hard science to back up its claims.
I understand these adverts will use the late Carl Sagan's declaration that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence".
I don't know if any church group will try to respond with an ad campaign of its own. My advice is that there shouldn't be one. Why pay good money to advertise something that's so doggone obvious? Most churches I know of that have that kind of bread are spending it on helping the poor, healing the sick, comforting the brokenhearted -- you know, activities that prove there is a God.
Oh, yeah ... and praying for those who don't believe. But that doesn't cost money.
I will -- as our forefathers have -- defend to the death their right to say what they feel and to advertise it; I also know that I was very much in that camp at one point: maybe not outright denying there was a God, but refusing to accept that He played any kind of role in day-to-day life or that I had any responsibility to Him. I figured science -- and my own intellect -- knew best.
And I learned the hard, painful way how wrong I was about my intellect ... and the humbling, gratifying way how wrong I was about His being "distant". And in my own free thought, of my own free will, I came to Him.
The "freethinkers" are just as lost as I was. But remember: Jesus wants us either ice-cold or red-hot -- anything else, and He'll spew us out of His mouth on Judgment Day.
So I won't argue with these people and I would encourage any other Believer to sit this one out. Remember: arguments rapidly deteriorate into exercises in "who's right" rather than "what's right", and as Bishop Noel Jones says, you could win an argument but lose a soul. Instead, we need to reach out to these folks and simply -- as James Aldrich says -- love them until they ask why.
I do pray that the "freethinkers" open their minds to the idea of God, and that if they want a "discussion", they lead the hand by providing "extraordinary evidence" that He doesn't exist -- because I guarantee, that's the most extraordinary claim of all.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
He said, “I thirst”.
Wait a minute: when He met the woman at the well, as He was travelling through Samaria, He told her that He was the source of Living Water, and that anyone who drank that water would never be thirsty again. And now, here He was, the very source, saying “I thirst”.
That shows how He had taken on all the sins of the world – those committed at the time, as well as every sin committed since Adam stood by while his wife bit into the fruit, and every sin that would be committed until Jesus returns – and was wrung dry. It was almost at that point that He said, “it is finished”.
Because there was one more thing to be done. The world had to offer Him something to top Him up again and quench the thirst. And what was it? Vinegar. It can look like water (if it's white wine vinegar), but don't take a long, deep drink of it. It's wine, that's become old, sour and useless for quenching thirst. Wine – the representation of His blood – that cannot be drunk.
Isn’t that what religion does to Jesus? Whether it’s the ABC (Anything But Christ) philosophies or the imposition of rituals or taking Scripture out of context to create something that “sounds” holy and righteous but misses what Christ is about, the world, having wrung Jesus dry with its sin, guilt and shame, tries to replace His living water with a cheap, rotten substitute.
And it was only then that Jesus’ work was done. He had poured out His living water on the earth, and it was now proven that nothing the world had to offer could replace it.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Do you know where those statements come from? They’re from the Bible, and they’re the words of Jesus Christ (the first is in the Gospel According to John (ch. 6, verse 37) and the second is in the Book of Revelation (ch. 3, v. 20)).
Here’s another: They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. That’s from Matthew, ch. 9, v. 12 (Mark and Luke also record it).
Are we not all “sick” in some way? Wouldn’t we all like to be well?
Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about “inclusiveness”: There is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Letter to the Romans, ch. 10. v. 12-13)
“Lord over all” ... “rich unto all” ... “whosoever” ... can’t get much more inclusive than that! (When Paul refers to “the Greek”, he’s talking about people outside of “God’s chosen people” – the Jews. In other words, as far as God’s concerned, we’re all the same.)
The Prophet Isaiah wrote, more than 700 years before Jesus came: Thus saith the Lord ... mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people ... yet will I gather others to Him, beside those that are (already) gathered unto Him. (ch. 56, v 4-8 – edited.)
Inclusive? God wrote the book!
Businesses, organizations, etc., tend to have a vested interest in being “inclusive” – good PR, grant eligibility, among other things. But God’s interest is simple: He made us, He loves us and He wants nothing but the best for us. His Word promises that as we draw close to Him, we can expect healing, prosperity and most of all ... HOPE.
Without HOPE, why bother trying to stand against the drugs and the booze and the mistakes of the past that bring us to a destitute state? Without HOPE, why bother trying to live? And yet our greatest hope comes when we finally admit that we have no hope – we can change nothing in our own strength. But once we surrender and say, “Lord, I can’t do this – it’s up to You!”, something miraculous starts to happen. God sends a message that He’s got it covered and you can stop worrying.
The Bible tells us of a woman named Hannah, who was unable to have children. It hurt her more than anyone could imagine: she couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, cried often. One day she went up to the temple to pray and basically pour out her heart to God, begging Him to give her a child. Once she prayed – with some affirmation from the priest Eli – she went back home with a smile on her face and started eating again. Within a year, she had a baby – one of the greatest Prophets of them all, Samuel.
That is hope. Hannah was no more pregnant when she left the temple than when she went in, but she had handed off the situation to God and left Him to sort it out; as far as she was concerned, it was a done deal. That same kind of hope is available to us, just by handing off our problems, our situations and even our past slip-ups to God.
What does God expect from us? This is My commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you. (John’s Gospel, ch. 15, v. 12) That’s it: love God above everything, and love others ahead of yourself – the way Jesus loves us.
It’s a pity that many people think that you have to be “perfect” or “ready” to be with Jesus. Look what Jesus said about the “sick”: He doesn’t expect us to be “well” when we come to Him. Making us “well” is His job. (In fact, God requires us not to worry about ourselves and how “bad” or “good” we are, and instead look outward – towards Him and towards the people around us.)
Want to know more? Pick up a Bible and read for yourself. God gave us His Word on paper so we can all know what He wants from us and what we can expect from Him – and it’s a two-way conversation. You don’t have to go to a guru, bend yourself into uncomfortable shapes, whack yourself with a flatiron or pay one red cent. If you find something strange or contradictory, you’re not alone, but don’t worry: it’s just God’s way of keeping the conversation going.
The Holy Ghost ... shall teach you all things. (John 14:26)
We give out Bibles at Gospel Mission (when we have them) because we know that once people taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34), they don’t want anything else. We’ve been serving up God’s Word, straight no chaser, since 1929. And we see results: people find hope, get happier, move forward with their lives. People who felt they were rejected learn that they’re good enough for Jesus.
Now that’s “inclusive”!
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I refer to the Vancouver Canucks' regular season NHL debut -- Oct. 9, 1970.
It was a different time then. It was actually possible to phone a sports team and ask them to set aside a couple of tickets at the "Will Call" booth and pay for them when you got there. Mastercharge and Chargex were getting a foothold, and there was no such thing as Internet bookings. As soon as the opening date was announced, I remember writing to the Vancouver Canucks' office and stating that my dad and I would like two tickets, topmost row of Pacific Coliseum, right over centre ice, and enclosing the money order. The tickets came a couple of days later.
I'd been to games at Pacific Coliseum before. My peewee hockey coach, Ted Wetmore, sprang for tickets for us all to go to the first game in the brand-new arena in 1967 (an "interlocking" game between the Providence Reds of the American League and the Canucks of the Western League -- the Big Chickens* beat the Canucks, 3-2).
There was no question Ted had money: he owned a Volkswagen dealership in West Vancouver and kitted his teams out in blue and white sweaters with a big Volkswagen logo on the front and socks to match (this, at a time when it was considered a luxury for a team to have all the same sweaters). He was also quite the hockey player. He must have been in his early 60s when he coached us, and he would always close out our practices with a little self-indulgence: taking the puck and skating in on a breakaway against me -- the goalie. I remember his bald head and cardigan, tongue sticking out the side of his mouth, old-fashioned straight stick (he hated the newly-popular curved sticks "you can't shoot a backhand with those stupid things!"), and wire-rimmed glasses. The only thing that didn't quite register in time was the puck -- until it bounced out of the net behind me. Ted (he insisted we first-name him) has probably long since shuffled off this mortal coil, but Wetmore Motors is still there at 22nd and Marine.
Anyway, enough of digressions. Dad and I did go to that first-ever Canucks game in the NHL. On that Coliseum opening night in '67, dad came along but discreetly sat in one of the last rows in the corner. I went and sat with him in the third period, and we realized we really liked the wide view you got from there. That's why I insisted, in my letter to the Canucks office, that we get seats in the last row over centre ice.
It's interesting what comes back to you when you think of something from that long ago:
-- standing ovation for Dale Tallon, who was touted as another Bobby Orr, although Hal Laycoe didn't seem to know where to play him: defence? Forward? Centre? Right wing? They were so certain Dale would be the Next Big Thing, they gave him #9, which was long regarded as the "star" number (Gordie Howe, Rocket Richard and Bobby Hull all wore #9; so did Wayne Gretzky in his earliest days, the story goes, as a paean to Gordie, but when he arrived at Sault Ste Marie, someone else had #9, so he switched to his famous #99). Eventually, though, Tallon was switched to #19.
-- chorus of boos for Tom Campbell, then the mayor of Vancouver. I know my parents weren't crazy about him, but really, booing the visiting politician was The Thing To Do in those days (still is, I guess). It wasn't until the home opener in 1972, when Dave Barrett, fresh off his big victory in the provincial election, was introduced for the ceremonial faceoff, that I actually heard a sitting politician actually get cheered.
-- disappointment that my radio hero, Jim Robson, was not calling the play-by-play for Hockey Night In Canada that night. Danny Gallivan came in from Montreal to do it.
-- minor disappointment that the Canucks were wearing white. Up till that time, the NHL home team wore the "coloured" uniform, while the WHL home teams wore the white uniform; I was looking forward to seeing the cool blue-and-green uni's. No joy. It would be 1975 -- when I was living in Montreal -- that I would see those in a game up-close.
-- the late George Gardner's heroics in goal. He was a great, solid backstop -- exactly what the Canucks needed in those shaky first minutes -- and a bit of a fan favourite, being one of the holdovers from the WHL team.
-- the stark reality that the Los Angeles Kings really were the better team that night. They'd beaten the Canucks twice in exhibition play.
-- the exhilaration of Barry Wilkins' goal -- as I recall, it was a low slapshot from about halfway between the point and the slot, followed by that satisfying CLANK! as it hit the back iron of the net behind Rogie Vachon and then, half a second later, the ear-splitting, stomach-loosening eruption of the crowd.
-- the final score: 3-1 LA. It was disappointing, but to an endless optimist like myself, the feeling was, "what did we expect? The team is new."
In 1979, I was walking past the Quick Stop Skate Shop on Hastings Street in Burnaby. There's still a sporting goods store on the site, but it has a different name. Hanging on a hanger was a Los Angeles Kings jersey -- purple with the gold crown on the front -- the original design; #18 on the back.
"Is that for sale?" I asked.
"Where'd you get it?"
"The boss knows the Canucks' trainer, so he got this."
I went to the credit union, pulled out $40 (I was working on a TV series at the time, so I could afford that princely sum -- about like paying $100 today), and came back. Clearly, it was a game-worn jersey, but remember - the "sports collectible" market didn't take off until almost 10 years later.
Back at the TV studio, I wore the sweater proudly, and one of the production members, who was from LA, noted it and said, "#18 - that's Bob Berry".
I thought that was cool, because I knew Bob Berry graduated from Sir George Williams University, and so did I -- albeit many years after he did and it was called Concordia by then (1977). It took a few years for the realization to sink in.
Game-worn jersey from the 70s in Vancouver.
Bob Berry scored the first goal in the Canucks' first regular-season NHL game.
Could it be ... ???
And here we are ... 40 years later. There'll likely be a reunion of -- or at least thoughts for -- some of the principals from that night -- like Jim Robson, Orland Kurtenbach, Dale Tallon (who became a very successful general manager in Chicago). I wonder how many of us ticket-holders are still around -- there would have been 15,571 (since every Canucks' game was recorded as a sellout that year, the paid attendance figure is burned into my memory, along with the late Tom Peacock intoning "and we thank you," when he'd announce it in the third period of each game)?
Many of us would have been kids then, going with our parents. What memories do they have, I wonder? What's burned into their minds?
And one more thing: it's 40 years on -- and the Leafs still haven't won the Cup.
*The name "Reds" had nothing to do with a Communist plot brewing in New England: it was, rather, a reference to the Rhode Island Red, a chicken indigenous to the area. I have no idea how the club fared during the McCarthy era, when Cincinnati's ball club officially changed its name to the "Redlegs".
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
One of the earliest pictures he has of me is as a 2-year-old, standing nose to nose with a fawn in Stanley Park. A little baby with a little baby. (I remember a couple of years later, my mother took me to a concert, when Leonard Bernstein brought the New York Philharmonic to Vancouver (did he really play at the Forum?) -- and they played Debussy's Afternoon of a Faun. I thought it was a nice piece about a baby deer.)
But back to Stanley Park. It was my first encounter with a wild animal. Later, when the "Children's Zoo" opened, we got to get up-close-and-personal with a lot of animals you wouldn't ordinarily see; and while staged shows in the Aquarium and caged -- or otherwise boundaried -- animals in the rest of the zoo were interesting, there's no substitute for that kind of contact with another species.
Amid all the hubris of the "saving" of the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, there was the nemesis that the Stanley Park Children's Farmyard -- formerly called the Children's Zoo -- would be closed. Its last day will be January 2, 2011 -- the day after the annual Bright Nights Christmas festival closes. The reason? It lost a quarter-million dollars last year. Bloedel was also a money-loser, but that was blamed on construction of the Canada Line, which limited road access to Queen Elizabeth Park and the Conservatory for a couple of years. (How a viable business can go into the tank because of only two years of limited access is a question for smarter economic minds than mine, but to this unlearned and uneducated one, maybe there were problems before then? Here's one: I was born and raised in Vancouver, and have not set foot in the Bloedel Conservatory in well over 30 years. Hmm.)
But maybe it's easier to "sell" a Conservatory -- with a built-in spectacular view of Vancouver and the North Shore from the top of Little Mountain and a gourmet restaurant -- as a tourist attraction than it is to promote "another petting zoo". After all, bringing in the tourist dollars is a bigger deal than something that would entertain and educate young local children and deepen their appreciation of animals and, by extension, farming and the source of their food. (I had no problem with the knowledge that the little lamb I played with on one Sunday could well be the star of someone else's souvlaki the next Sunday -- after all, it wasn't the Stanley Park Children's Abbatoir ...)
(A loss in the neighbourhood of $250,000? The City of Vancouver is spending 100-times that much, setting up separated bike lanes.)
You want to know how to bore a young kid to tears? Take them to a flower and plant exhibit. That's probably why I haven't been to the Conservatory since the mid-70s: too many memories of wanting to be someplace else. But I could have spent hours at the zoo -- the "regular" zoo or the children's zoo -- no problem. But that little bit of joy for a kid -- some gentle education -- sadly takes a back seat to economics.
Kids are being required to grow up too fast these days. (There are "advocates" who want them to explore their sexuality while they're still children, which reminds me of Goldie Hawn's one-liner on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In in the 1960s about petitioning Congress to lower the age of puberty); maybe this is just another sign of the times. You want to go to the Children's Farmyard kid? Sorry: it's closed, 'cause it wasn't making money. Why is it important to make money? Well, lemme tellya .....
The last lesson of the Children's Zoo? Sad, dontcha think?
Monday, September 13, 2010
The lady at the bus stop didn't even know me, much less Terry Jones, yet this seemed a fitting conversation opener for a Sunday morning. Personally, I've been training my tongue not to call people names -- especially not a fellowservant -- no matter how much I disagree with them, so it was hard to set myself in agreement with her calling the pastor an idiot. Yet -- hey, let's be honest -- it was hard to disagree.
But while it's easy to dismiss Terry Jones' 9/11 stunt as simply someone getting his Warholian 15 minutes so he can now be differentiated from the guy in Monty Python's Flying Circus, it's also possible to look past it and see where God is involved. Has he not -- wittingly or unwittingly -- been used by God? The response from other Christian leaders has been pretty consistent: this is not the God we serve, and this is not the way to go about witnessing Christ. Even our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, uncharacteristically spoke of his own faith, saying "my Jesus is a God of tolerance". In the process, I believe this is helping the Body of Christ get re-focused on what we're called to be, and that calling is not to go around hating people of other faiths -- no matter how holy or righteous the reason.
I dealt with this in a previous posting back when Pastor Jones' plan was first announced, and pointed out that declaring what we hate -- no matter how much we think God hates it -- is not what we are called to do. We could also consider this:
"Though I fervently declare my loathing for the things God hates and have not Love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
"And though I know every word of God's Old Testament Law; and march in protests and rail against abortion, Muslims, homos and even my country's President if his agenda doesn't suit me; and have not Love, I am nothing.
"And though I dare police to cart me off to jail* because I ought to obey the laws of God rather than the laws of man, and have not Love, it profiteth me nothing."
It comes down to this: the moment we put on Christ -- to use another of Paul's expressions -- we're supposed to behave differently, think differently, live differently than we did BC. No matter how much darkness rises up in the world, our Light is supposed to overpower it -- and if we can't do it with our Light, then there's something wrong with the connection.
Paul writes, "in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men" (I Cor. 14:20). We are supposed to be totally unschooled and inexperienced in malicious behaviour: but when it comes to understanding of the Word of God and our commandments from Jesus (WDJTUTD?), we have to be mature, adept, perfect.
Jesus told us that in the last days, we'd be called on to defend our faith, and that's something we do every time we witness Christ to others (Matt. 10:19). If the Holy Spirit is to give us the words we need when we need them and the Holy Spirit is the spirit of Love, could He possibly instruct us to burn another faith's holy book or otherwise act hatefully towards them?
If we use the Terry Jones experience as a stone on which to whet our almost-blunted purpose, then we see God at work, after all. God has used people in much more loathsome ways to get His Will accomplished: Calvary comes to mind.
*Some years ago, a friend of mine and his wife were planning to take part in an anti-abortion rally, where the protesters planned to challenge a court order preventing them from getting within a certain distance of an abortion clinic. On the day of the rally, my friend and his wife were praying, and the Lord told them, "don't go". So they didn't. Turned out, some people were arrested and charged with criminal contempt of court. Not long after that, my friend and his wife were called overseas as missionaries -- and they couldn't have obtained their passports if they'd been arrested at that rally and come out of it with a criminal record. Their ministry work has touched countless lives over the past 20 years, but who knows if they would have done anything if they'd been disobedient that day?
Sunday, September 5, 2010
My advice: don't take the bait.
Don't succumb to what was, essentially, The First Temptation of Christ: to dispute the point that began, "if thou be the Son of God ....". For Jesus, even responding to the Devil's statement would be to admit that there was the slightest possibility that He wasn't the Son of God. Instead, Jesus simply said, "it is written ...." No debate. No discussion. Stand on the Word of God and do not waver.
For us, that's important, because that is the very weapon we have at our disposal as believers, and that's all we need.
So no matter how tempting it is to stew on the concept and think of a well-constructed, rational argument, all that does is play into the devil's hands and take the fight onto his turf. Rational thinking cannot withstand faith, and as the Apostle Paul says, anyone who believes in God has to begin by accepting that He exists, and since no one has seen God, that's a matter of faith.
A little while ago, I blogged about another statement of Hawking's, that mankind had to make plans to colonize other parts of the galaxy(ies), or else we'd become extinct. That might have been taken as a wake-up call to the situation on Earth, but his theory that the Universe could have come to be without God runs deeper than simply promoting science over religion.
If God did not create the Universe, then to whom are we accountable. The idea of our accountability is based in that fundamental statement in Genesis 1:1 - "In the beginning, God created the Heaven and the Earth". If for some reason we reject that, then what good is a God at all? Why should we be accountable to Him? Why should we follow commandments? Why should we love Jesus and love our neighbour as ourselves and lay down our lives for others, whatever the cost or level of inconvenience?
Take God out of the picture, and we're left alone with our own intellect to get us through life. What many think of as freedom of thought is really aimless direction. What is the foundation of any kind of morality? Laws by governments that can be changed the instant a party ticks off enough of the electorate? Being "nice" or "tolerant" towards someone? If my intellect is as good as it gets, I'm in big trouble. I need God, through His Holy Spirit, to show me what to do and how to do it, and if this God didn't even create the Heavens and the Earth, then He's really not much better than I am so why should I owe Him any obedience at all?
Worse -- take God out of the picture and you take Love out of the picture. God is Love, and Love cannot be explained by any kind of reason. Take Love out of the picture and the concept of laying down one's life for someone else can only happen if it's convenient for someone: if it makes them look good or saves someone's life because the person laying down his or her life would miss them. For that very reason, Man could never have conceived of unconditional Love.
But as Christians, we know that, and because we know it -- it's not a theory for scientists to debate, publish and peer-review -- there's absolutely no point in debating Hawking's theory or giving it the time of day; even if we think that we've come up with the perfect slam-dunk to shut it down.
Consider Eve. In her zeal to defend her right standing with God, she embellished on God's instructions regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil -- saying God had said not even to touch it -- and, by essentially lying about God's word, giving the devil an opening.
Consider Hezekiah's troops (II Kings 18), faced with the Assyrian envoy not just trash-talking their military abilities but trash-talking the God of Israel Himself. Every soldier kept his mouth shut, having been being ordered not to respond to the envoy's increasingly blasphemous rantings. That's how we have to be.
Besides, to respond would be to judge Prof. Hawking, himself. It's possible to be "sincerely wrong" about something, and we are only called on to pray for those who are misguided. I believe God is using Hawking as a means of dragging the atheists to the brink of the abyss and then, in a glorious revelation of His own, showing Himself to Hawking in a way so brilliant, so glorious and so incontrovertible, that Hawking will have no choice but to repent and retract his statements ... and in the process, bring other atheists into the Kingdom with him.
That is, in effect, what happened to the Apostle Paul. He was by no means the last person to be knocked off his horse and become one of the Lord's greatest supporters, and I believe Stephen Hawking is a prime candidate for a shaft of light, himself.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
If you're going to have a heart attack, it's best to have it in Oak Bay, where you're just a 3-iron shot away from Royal Jubilee Hospital -- one of the best ticker wards in the country. In fact, it was because of mom's heart attack in 1988 -- which happened while they were house-sitting for a friend in Esquimalt -- that they made the decision to sell their condo in West Vancouver and buy a place in Oak Bay. But that's another story.
Dad had a "significant" heart attack, and it reached the point last Wednesday where the medical team -- three earnest young doctors and a cardiologist -- discussed the situation with dad, Amelia, me and dad's neighbour Gail, and told us flat-out that there was a very real possibility that dad could take a bad turn. Noting the "do not resuscitate" instruction on his Living Will, they wanted to confirm that that was, indeed, dad's wish. It was.
Today, I've been informed that dad would likely be released from hospital in about a week and allowed to go home. On Monday, the nurse told us that his signs were definitely improving: his heart rate was stabilizing (although he'd had an irregular rhythm during the night, so they added a blood thinner to his medication); his blood pressure, while still on the low side, was climbing again; his kidneys, which had been failing, were making a comeback. There was definite cause for optimism on our part, and the fact that he was being moved out of Coronary Care into a "general" ward suggests the doctors think so, too.
Through it all, people have been praying. My circle of friends is very steeped in faith -- the faith for healing and also the faith that leads one to seek God in all circumstances, regardless of whether they "look good" at the time or not. My son Aidan, for example, is very much a word-faith type: speak the positive and expect the positive -- your words frame your world. On Wednesday, after the medical team had given us The Talk, Aidan declared confidently, "it's not his time yet".
Back in Vancouver from spending time with dad in Victoria, I spent time with the Lord. I felt I had to pray something, but what? Really: what do you pray when an 87-year-old man has a heart attack? If you believe we're generally allotted 70 years, anything beyond that is gravy and grace, so what if this is his time? Do I pray for healing and complete recovery and basically set myself against God's will? I'm praying for my will, but that's not what we're supposed to be praying for.
Aha! I thought: dad's worst fear is that he won't be able to go home again (while in hospital, he's talked of little besides going home and being in his garden and tending to his bees) and that he'll have to go into a "home" -- or should I say, retirement centre for seniors with healthy, active lifestyles?
Right: I'll pray for that. After all, dad's been so fiercely independent all his life, that going into a "home" would kill him -- pun intended. And that's where the Lord stepped in. "How do you know that's not My will?" And then He left me to think it over.
Why would it be God's will for dad to go into a retirement home? Perhaps to give him the chance to allow others to care for him. Perhaps to let him know that fierce independence is highly over-rated -- and leads to broken hips and nervous neighbours (and family members). Perhaps to let him know that it's Quite All Right to rely on others.
Or maybe God has something else up His sleeve. I got to thinking about Hezekiah, whose near-death experience is written up no fewer than three times in the Bible: 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32 and Isaiah 38-39 (which tells me there's a pretty significant "take-away" here). Having heard a prophecy that he was about to die, Hezekiah prayed that he would go on living; God heard his prayer and gave him another 15 years.
But Scripture also tells us that Hezekiah did not "render according to the benefits he received" and that God's anger came on him. Moreover, in his pride, Hezekiah showed off his worldly goods and treasures to total strangers from Babylon, and Isaiah prophesied that all of those goods would be carried off to -- where else? -- Babylon.
So somewhere along the line, Hezekiah blew it. He had been walking according to God's ways, and spoke of that in his prayer to live longer. But once granted that prayer, his "heart was lifted up" (2 Chr. 32:25), which is an expression meaning he was overtaken by pride, and he did not do ..... something in keeping with the Grace God had shown him.
What Hezekiah was supposed to do isn't clear, but we can see that God was keeping Hezekiah around for a reason, and that reason was not because He liked Hezekiah's face.
God has His reasons for keeping us all around and for the Grace He grants us in other ways. Do we render according to that benefit, or do we, like Hezekiah, become prideful and take our eyes off Him?
This evening, as I was walking in the West End, I saw a young woman nearly buy the farm before my eyes. She was engrossed in a conversation on her cell phone, and stepped off the curb right into the path of a car. Perhaps the car was further away than it appeared from my angle, but it certainly looked close. The car stopped and she continued crossing, hardly missing a beat in her phone call.
Does she have any inkling, I wonder, of the grace she had just been given? Or would she simply think -- if she thought about it at all -- that she was "lucky", and keep on with whatever she had been doing? God grants us grace of additional years more often than we might think. Do we take advantage of that grace to serve Him better?
So what prayer for an 87-year-old man? That he would receive the grace of additional years of life and then, having received that, seek the Lord for the reasons why he should get that grace and pursue them.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
- Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" Peter answered, "Yes."
- Jesus said to him, "then hunt down the lousy rats who did this to Me and make them pay for it!"
- Then Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" Peter said again, "Yes, Lord, I do."
- "Then track down everyone who doesn't believe in Me now and shake a finger in their nose and say, 'Sinner! You are going to hell!'"
- And a third time, Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?"
- Peter was getting grieved to hear this question again, and said, "Lord, You know all things: You know I love You."
- "Then seek out all things that you think offend God and march and protest and declare how much you HATE them in My Name!"
Of course, we know that's not what happened on the banks of Galilee after Jesus had returned from the grave. Jesus' instructions to Peter were, "feed My sheep". So why do some professing Christians act as though the scenario above were Jesus' instructions to us?
The latest perversion of the calling of Christ is found in an entry at a ministry called Dove World Outreach -- offering up 10 reasons to burn a Koran. A lovely response to that was posted by Christine Smith in the Bible Cafe for Women, pointing out that this notion does not further the Kingdom -- at least as far as bringing non-believers to Christ is concerned.
The sad thing is, so many Christians think the way to promote the faith is to declare fervently what they hate. I have a friend who's a very fervent believer and desperately wants to serve the Lord, but never misses a chance to forward emails with links to "Christian" websites that promote hatred -- hatred against abortion, gay marriage, Muslims, even President Obama (and are we not called to pray for our leaders, not disrespect them?).
We get so hung up in wanting to be like Jesus and kick over the tables in the temple that we forget a key question:
What did Jesus tell us to do?
He left us with one commandment: that we love one another.
He told us that people should see the glory of God through our works -- not through the things we don't like.
He told us to forgive our enemies, not try to bomb the living daylights out of them: otherwise, what makes us different from the Unsaved?
He told us not to call people names -- something I've previously written about.
He told us to offer the other cheek if someone hits us on the first one. He told us to give our coat to anyone who steals our sweater. He told us -- through the Proverbs -- to give our enemy food and water and so pour "coals of fire" upon their head: not to burn them with a guilt trip, but to release the Holy Spirit over the situation.
Look at it this way: people who offend God are condemned to Hell. We who have seen the Light are called to prevent that from happening. But can we do that if we talk and act just as hatefully as the people who oppose us? Our words, our actions, our very thinking, has to be so loving and bright and glorious that the darkness others walk in doesn't have a chance. Or put another way, we can't promote the Kingdom of Heaven if we keep making Hell look like a viable alternative?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I don't know how the statement came up now: Hawking's been saying it for at least the past four years. He says that, with our intelligence, we have the ability to affect the environment for good or ill, but with the rate of population growth and resource depletion, plus human tendencies towards greed and aggressive behaviour, we have little choice but to work towards a propulsion system that approaches the speed of light and prepare to move out.
At first, I thought it was hyperbole: something to shake people up and spur them to action on issues affecting the Earth. But then, reading Prof. Hawking's interview, it appears he's serious and believes it is possible to build a propulsion system that can approach light speed and carry a whole lot of people to new frontiers.
How about that? A man-made Rapture -- an interesting variation on the false Christs Jesus warned us about. Mind you, all I saw in the interview was Prof. Hawking saying that mankind is capable of coming up with the technology to do it: I didn't see anything about how much money would this cost and who would pay for it -- heck: ever try to get a rapid-transit system built?
Nor did I see how six billion (the last I checked) people would be moved out. Maybe he's punting that question over to the ethicists for one of those delightful angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a-pin discussions -- who would be allowed to colonize? who would be left behind on the scorching, uninhabitable planet?
(My answer: those with faith enough to see that this is not, nor cannot be, sanctioned by God.)
One observer on Twitter summed up what many environmentalists may be thinking: "or," he said, "clean up the mess we have".
Good retort -- which is why I thought maybe Prof. Hawking was trying to use a shock tactic. But there's a third option: get right with God.
Let's take a look at the current scorecard:
- lethal heat wave in Russia
- devastating flooding in Pakistan
- largest landslide in BC history
- earthquakes in Chile, Haiti, China, California
- underwater oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico
- a new "superbug" hitting Europe
and there's a lot more I can't think of, offhand.
Environmentalists look at these and claim that it's proof of global warming. But the last three in that list have little to do with global warming (although I read a couple of months ago that some scientists were looking to see if there was a link between earthquakes and climate change: the idea that, if glacial ice melts, then the glaciers become "lighter" and exert less pressure on the earth, thereby making it "easier" for earthquake action to take place; even one of the researchers says it's a MAJOR stretch to make that reasoning).
Remember: I'm not a climate change denier -- although I prefer to call the situation "global weirding". My issue is that we're using ineffectual tools to fight this battle -- we're looking in the wrong places for solutions, and for whatever reason, a lot of us don't want to acknowledge that the right place to look even exists.
See, God does not want His creation to be destroyed, and in fact, His word promises that it won't be. He loves the Earth and the Earth loves Him back (Psalms 96 and 98 make that clear). He's also stated that He plans to come and live here, and we have a job to do, taking care of the Earth and everything that's in it.
What's more, He promises that, if only we turn to Him and repent and go back to seeking Him, He will heal the land (2 Chr. 7:13-14). And if we've sinned and offended Him by the way we've treated the Earth -- using its resources beyond our ability to replenish them (Gen. 1:26, 28) -- Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross allows us to repent of those sins and move forward with a clean slate.
We need to stop obsessing on the environment. Yes, we've had a lot to do with the environmental trauma that appears to have escalated over the past few decades. But now we have to recognize that there's very little we, as a species, can do in our own power to fix it. We've already found that out: after 60 years of concerted, well-meaning, earnest action (I'm going back to the Cold War days, when efforts started to escalate to save mankind from himself), by all reports, things are getting worse.
We need a new paradigm and we need to admit that we can do nothing by ourselves -- not even Jesus could, don't forget (John 5:30). Praise God, that "new" paradigm is actually the oldest one around: His Word and His promises. And the bottom line is, we have to admit our powerlessness, place it all before God, and re-focus on what Jesus instructed us to do: "occupy till I return".
That means, love one another; love God above all; do good works so others can see God's glory; trust in the Lord and don't lean on your own understanding; do not judge. And when it comes to the environment, assert the authority God gave us back in Eden: be fruitful, multiply, replenish the Earth and subdue it. And that does not mean worship it.
And here's a challenge: if God leads you to do something and it appears to run against conventional environmentalist thinking ... go with God's leading and trust that He'll mitigate any environmental impact. He will not tell you to do something that damages His Work.
And remember those human tendencies towards greed and aggressive behaviour that make Prof. Hawking believe we can't survive on Earth? Yeah, like I want to be cooped up in a spacecraft for several years with greedy, aggressive people! But as we turn towards God and walk closer with Him, we bring those tendencies captive in Christ. I know: a lot of my own "human tendencies" came into captivity once I met Jesus.
Considering that Jesus warned us there'd be days like these -- filled with the signs He said would foretell His return -- there's a certain urgency to our re-focusing on Him and re-committing to The Great Commission.
And whether He comes back in 2030 -- 2000 years since He was crucified -- or before I finish writing this, we can't afford to roll over and play dead and wait for the Rapture (the real one, I mean): we have to get busy -- but get busy doing what God told us to do -- not what the world keeps telling us to do.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
It's been the home of the "wholesome trottin' race" for many, many years, and now it's owned by Great Canadian Casinos. A couple of years ago, Great Canadian installed slot machines at the track -- not satisfied with already having an enterprise where, as Bob Hope famously said, the windows clean the people -- and I seem to recall racing enthusiasts were solidly onside, saying the added attraction would "save" the industry.
I've written before both here and at "Rev. Downtown" about how I feel about gambling in general and the addiction to gaming revenue. I believe that, because it's an offence to God -- essentially, putting more trust in the random generation of numbers than in His provision; it also involves somebody losing, and I don't believe God would ordain something where someone loses -- money generated through that enterprise is not blessed. As I've pointed out elsewhere, charities and health-care systems receive a lot of money from gaming, and yet they're still crying poverty. With all the billions of dollars sucked into gaming coffers, wouldn't some of that poverty have been alleviated by now?
So it really shouldn't be a surprise that the horse racing industry is now worried that live racing at Fraser Downs is in danger, even with the installation of slot machines.
Interestingly, I recall the wailing and gnashing of teeth that occurred when tobacco companies were forbidden to sponsor sports events. The sports organizers were afraid that their events were going to die, and indeed, some of them did. Yet, a great many found new, less lethal, sponsors and are still going. The question is, do proponents of live horse racing have sufficient faith -- both in their sport and in God's willingness to bless it -- to wean themselves off gaming revenue?
One problem: the gaming company owns the track. This should be a cautionary note for anyone who enjoys thoroughbred racing at Hastings Park.
The other problem: any addiction is a genie that's incredibly hard to cram back into the bottle.
Friday, August 13, 2010
That's based on a contest run by the Washington Post a few years ago, in which readers were invited to create new words from existing words using just one letter. You could add, delete or change a letter to make this new word. My favorites were:
- karmageddon -- that's like, a really bad scene? where all the bad stuff that everyone's ever done comes back on them? and people get killed? and everything's destroyed? and it's, like, a real bummer? and
- reintarnation -- the belief that when you die, you come back in the next life as a hillbilly
Another example is one the British humourist Denis Norden coined: tauntering. He described that as a "labour-saving word to describe one man tottering (carrying a load of stuff) while another was sauntering (and carrying nothing)". Of course, the fact that he had to expend so much labour on explaining what the word meant rather defeated the labour-saving intent, but there you go ...
Anyway, the Post didn't really have a name for this type of new word, so I came up with one: morphologism -- from a couple of Greek words meaning changing a word.
Alas, I don't think the Post ever re-ran the contest, which is personally disappointing because not only had I coined a term for these words, I'd started thinking of some of my own, to wit:
- pestulence -- the state in which your home is overrun by teenage girls
- decafitation -- in which, until you've had that first cup of coffee, you just can't get your head into things
And now comes the ex-gov., with refudiate. It may come across initially as a malapropism -- named after Mrs Malaprop, in Richard Sheridan's 1775 restoration comedy, The Rivals, who mangled the language with such remarks as "promise to forget this fellow - to illiterate him, I say, from your memory" and "Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs!". (Other examples include the weasel character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, who said that all his information had been "duly corrugated" and the sportscaster who commented on a contract dispute with a player that was settled when the club president stepped in: "xxxxx has a way of getting involved and exacerbating the situation".)
But refudiate actually makes some sense, AND it's a one-letter change in an existing word. The definition is a bit of a challenge, but that's not what's important right now. I'd like to have some fun with this and see what others come up with. Submit your suggestions as comments, and please make sure I know how to reach you. Might even find a prize to send to the best one -- although that's a little like tying a pork chop around my neck so my dog will play with me.
And I don't even have a dog.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
This touched on something that had bugged me: the question of what to do when a couple who's been living together decides they want to get married and want to be married in a church. Some pastors balk at this, or suggest strongly (if not make it a prerequisite) that they live apart for a while leading up to the wedding.
For various reasons, I've had a hard time with that, fearing that it might drive away a couple who are just overcoming the belief that Christianity is some kind of exclusive club. And frankly, I've not been able to find a Scriptural basis for this reluctance.
So I mentioned this to Ron in a comment on his blog, and he asked if I'd do a guest post -- which I've done.
Talk about poking an issue with a sharp stick! Read the comments and see for yourselves: there's a variety of positions, some Scriptural, some legalistic, all very well thought out. I don't agree with them all -- and nor should I, in a free exchange of ideas. It appears very much that this is an issue that God has left us to sort out in cooperation with the Holy Spirit: there's no definite "thou shalt not ..." commandment relating to this, but we definitely have to keep seeking Him and cannot rely on "going with our gut" or whatever "feels right".
So through this wondeful dialogue, I'm starting to develop a kind of clarity and -- as so often happens when you're seeking an answer from God -- it's nowhere near what I'd expected.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Of course, fuelling the gambling addiction has grown from the government's own addiction to revenue, and while Stephen doesn't come right out and say it, I will -- as I have before: gambling is sinful. It's a smorgasbord of things God warns us not to get into, like sloth (trying to get something for nothing), envy and greed. Gambling means we put more faith in the turn of a card, the roll of the dice or a random generation of numbers (assuming you're dealing with a square house that doesn't fiddle that number generation) than in the Creator of the Universe, Who has promised to provide for us.
And look at the fruits: why are the organizations that supposedly benefit from gambling revenue still crying poverty? Why do sports teams, arts organizations and health-care endeavours suddenly face being wiped out when their lottery-money grants are cut? Where is the blessing? Could it be that, when you throw in your lot with the world's way of doing things, God holds back? (Remember Jesus' words: "your Heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask Him." The unstated condition is that we have to ask. And if we're too busy chasing lottery revenue to ask Him to supply what we need, we won't get it.)
At least the government adverts for gambling have stopped using the lie that gaming revenue helps these organizations. (They've substituted it with something worse, I'm afraid: that insipid tag-line, "know your limit - play within it", which is like telling an alcoholic that "just a little taste won't hurt".) The percentage of revenue that's actually doled out is minuscule: as I've said before, if you really want to help such groups, take the money you'd spend on lottery tickets or at the casino and hike it straight over to them. Cut out the middleman. And watch the blessings come back on you, full measure, shaken together, pressed down and running over.
I'm surprised they haven't adopted that as a tag-line. If they ever did, I'd avoid government offices, the BCLC headquarters and the ad agency, because the forecast there would be for lightning with a strong probability of fire and brimstone.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Hizzoner is by no means alone in the league of leaders caught saying or doing rude things. There was Richard Nixon, caught on tape using male anatomical references to describe Pierre Trudeau; Trudeau, for that matter, raising his middle finger to protesters outside his train in Salmon Arm, BC; Ronald Reagan doing a mike check and saying “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
There are others (although I greatly doubt whether Queen Elizabeth would really say "buggah!" when her Land Rover broke down, as portrayed by Helen Mirren in "Queen").
But politics aside, what bothers me is the rush to justification for using profanity. One columnist in the Vancouver Sun came out with a "history" of the F-Bomb. Another cited a study that found profanity is a reaction to pain. It's as if people who are offended need to lighten up -- "everybody" does it now (in a follow-up story, Mayor Gregor talked frankly about his language on the rugby field in younger days) and we should be more tolerant. Translation: don't get outraged; just acquiesce and abase ourselves to accommodate the lowest common denominator -- even if we voted for him. (I didn't.)
Apparently, someone got paid for that study, which really could have been published in the journal Duh. I could have saved them a lot of money with my own experience -- or at least, cashed the check, myself. As a 22-year-old acting student in London, we were given an exercise to imagine that a heavy metal gate had slammed shut on our hand and then act out our reaction.
Being of a "progressive" mind at the time, my "acting" involved grimacing in pain and "dropping the f-bomb", and then adding la bombe "c*", in French, just to show off my bilingual gifts.
Later that afternoon, I went back to my squalid little garret in a B&B a few blocks away, and as I closed the door I was distracted by something: a gust of wind blew the door shut on my hand, thereby proving that my "performance" in class was amazingly true-to-life. But I digress ...
To me, profanity is a cop-out: it's the mark of a badly written play, an unfunny comedian or a punk who tries to project a tough-kid image. When I came to Christ, one of the changes that happened to me was that I became greatly offended at hearing the f-word and other profanity. I used to have a rather foul mouth, myself; profanity still slips out on occasion, I'm ashamed to say -- even ashamed if it happens when I'm alone and supposedly no one can hear me.
Swearing is a reaction to pain? That's the same as a wounded animal -- but aren't we actually higher beings than animals? The Bible also warns us against acting like the heathens: we are to follow the way God wants us to follow -- not the base reactions of animals.
But it seems that the world's agenda has always been to try to get us to accept that we're really no better than the animals -- and considering we're supposed to be caring for and protecting them and all of God's Creation, that's kind of a silly concept. We can't allow ourselves to be dragged down by excusing "animalistic" behaviour -- whether it's in our actions or our words.
The Commandments God gave us -- for our own protection, don't forget -- involve dealing with situations in ways that don't involve reacting like animals but responding like children of God: with circumspection, wisdom and, at the heart of it all, with prayer. As with everything else, though, following those commandments is a "learned behaviour" -- which is why we have to be commanded to do it, come to think of it. We can also do what David did, and call on God to set a watch over our mouths. I might point out that David was under a whole lot more pain and pressure than Mayor Gregor. We can do it: it just takes a sense of responsibility and a refusal to let ourselves and others excuse base behaviour.
Jesus, James and Paul all warn us to watch our tongues and not to give offence: Jesus says that if we so much as call someone a fool, we're in danger of hellfire. How much more do we risk by calling someone a " ******* hack"?
*That would be the French word for the wine cup Jesus passed around at The Last Supper -- it's apparently one of the vilest things you can say to a Quebecois, as I found out when I jokingly (I thought) said it to Rene Simard when I was his dialogue coach on his English-language TV show. He looked like I'd hit him with a halibut. When I realized the impact of what I'd done, the show was long out of production and contrition was a bit late.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Urban studies specialist Gordon Price reported on Prof. Jaccard's talk in its entirety.
I'm sorry to say that I think the headline on the CityCaucus item is misleading. It says that humans lack the capacity to prevent climate change, which is not what Prof. Jaccard said, at all, according to the body of the story. I actually agree with the premise in the headline: to use the Apostle Paul's description, we're beating against the air, accomplishing nothing, with this "fight" against climate change -- and, as I've said before, we're dangerously close to trying to fight against God's plan.
All that being said, it's interesting reading Mike's and Gordon's posts and some of the comments, because they all remind me of one of those goalmouth scrambles in a hockey game where the puck misses on one side of the net ... then the other ... then over the top ... goes everywhere, in fact, but into the net. Those commenting seem to be all around different points and arguments, except for the one that should be staring us in the face.
While Prof. Jaccard says the grand delusion is that the actions we're taking now can actually solve things, he doesn't say whether it's any less delusional to think that eliminating all human-produced greenhouse gases would stop or even make a dent in climate change. I posed that question to the eminent scientist Bill Rees in the spring of 2009 and did not get a real response then, either. (Not that I pushed for a response: it was at a dinner for some international-development environmentalist types where I was a guest (my wife is a former member) so I didn't want to spoil the party by pushing too hard with the notion that maybe the emperor had no clothes. Besides, someone else -- one of those cloyingly apologetic visitors from the US who seemed to be ashamed of being white, male and American (no, it wasn't Mike Moore) -- had made a remark that the "Bible-thumpers" had been holding up progress on climate change, so I had a feeling I wasn't in sympathetic company.)
Prof. Jaccard says our desire for "good news" is blinding us to what he says is the problem. And maybe that's part of it: we're so focused on the problem, whether the perceived solution involves eliminating climate change (as if) or reducing our contribution to it, that we miss the real Good News.
I've written about that good news elsewhere, but it bears repeating: our treatment of God's Creation has been Original Ecological Sin. God instructed us in Genesis 1 to "be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it". We've had no problem with the "fruitful and multiply and subdue" part, but we've failed miserably at replenishing. But the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross was not just to draw us closer to God, but to give us a chance to step away from our past sins (repent) and start with a clean slate. In environmentalist terms, that means to repent and move forward as proper stewards of Creation.
But stewardship of Creation is only a part of our walk with God, and we have to remember that. We cannot obsess on that one area at the expense of the rest of that Walk, which also involves loving one another, reaching out and helping those who need it, spreading the Gospel: things that, at times, may seem at cross-purposes with the environmental movement in the way they need to be accomplished.
Of course, Satan -- the god of this world -- wants to keep us from seeing that Big Picture, which is why he's snookered people into this raging debate and discussion and doomspeak over the most contentious element of environmental concern: climate change and the role of humans. Air quality? Water quality? Land use? Pretty much a slam-dunk when it comes to human involvement in those. But climate change? Still a lot of theories and a lot of questions and a lot of doubt, and that's just the way Satan likes it. After all, he's not interested in whether Creation survives: he just wants to keep us depressed and at one another's throats so that we don't turn our hearts and minds towards God.
If we ever did, we'd see that God promises that, if we turn away from our wicked ways, repent, and turn back to Him, He'll heal the land. Open-and-shut, if you ask me.
Environmentalism is about sustainability. Jesus is about abundant life.
Environmentalism is, at its heart, very inward-looking: how can I reduce my "carbon footprint". Jesus is about looking toward others and seeking God above all else. When He promises that "all these things will be added unto [us]" when we do that, He's talking about the things we need to survive -- including a healthy planet.
There's one more thing we need to understand. Nowhere in the Word of God does it say that earth is going to be around forever. One of the failings of the hard-core environmentalists is that they act and speak as if it's supposed to, and God clearly tells us that, sooner or later, there are goingto be big changes. He's told us what His plan is; we have to stop trying to fight it and find out instead what our role in it is.
That's Good News. One wonders why certain eminent scientists don't want us to look for it.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
(As well as being a lot of fun, it was wonderful to see Sarah-Jeanne Hosie on stage again. I knew her as a teenager in Victoria and her mother rescued a play I was directing by taking on the choreography. Now, Sarah-Jeanne is the Next Big Thing in Vancouver musical theatre as an actress, dancer and choreographer.)
But the play also got me to thinking about kids and competition and fun. The idea of a spelling bee is very much like the idea of Reach For The Top, the TV quiz show in which I played for two years in the 70s. I loved playing and I loved winning, which our teams did consistently -- except for the two times we were faced with the psychological game from our opponents. Somehow, that seed of doubt about our own game put us off just enough that we second-guessed ourselves -- and in a game that requires split-second decision-making, like whether one has the answer and whether to push the buzzer button, that's anethema -- and we lost those games.
It also connected in my mind with Jim (not his real name), who played little league with my son and who, I recently learned, is now in the majors. There was no question Jim was good: he'd remind anyone about that -- including other kids on the team -- any chance he got. He'd been well-schooled and taught by willing parents and coaches, but they left out that important x-factor: attitude and a measure of humility.
My son, who was still of the mindset that, at age 9, youth baseball was supposed to be a time to learn the game and have fun, was a frequent target for verbal abuse because his skill level was considerably lower than this Jim's. In a playoff game, Jim actually asked the coach, loudly, if he could pinch-hit for my son if his turn to bat came, even though he -- Jim -- had already batted. That game was the last straw, and I spoke to the coach about Jim's attitude and the effect it was having on my son. "Yes, kids are entitled to have fun when they play," he agreed. But I saw no change in his approach.
(My daughter, on the other hand, who's about five years younger than my son, was considerably more vocal, and would unleash a torrent of abuse on Jim from time to time. She was NOT putting up with anyone going after her brother.)
That experience more or less ruined baseball for my son. He hung in there for a couple more years, but I wasn't able to teach him the basics (I'm an horrendous teacher) and coaches didn't seem willing or able to work with individuals, and he left the game just before the bantam level.
For me, I find I have difficulty looking at other hot young prospects in the majors. The commentators rave about their skills and talent and I wonder how many other children had their experiences ruined because the resident little league phenom couldn't keep things in perspective.
In another posting about a year ago, I wrote about Al Jordan, who had just passed away. His son Randy was another kid phenom, but as much like "Jim" as I'm like Hercules. We played hockey together briefly in peewees -- until it was determined it wasn't fair to the other kids to play against someone that gifted and he was moved up to an older age group. Randy was brilliant, but he never talked about it. His play spoke for itself, and he also understood that, if you're that talented, you help others bring up their game.
"Let's skate and pass," he said to me at one practice. We just skated up and down the ice, passing the puck back and forth. He showed me how to "lead your man" -- passing the puck just ahead of your teammate so he could skate into it, maybe making him speed up a bit so he can be near top speed when it hits the stick. Randy's attitude wasn't "lead your man ... ya dummy!", but "lead your man ... teammate". And somehow, the fact that I was being taught by someone who otherwise was my peer made the lesson stick through all these years.
(Randy also imparted another insight that's stuck with me to this day. He knew I had a yearning to work in radio, and one day, when we were playing Junior-B baseball (or, more accurately, we were on the same team: Randy was a starter; I occasionally got into the late innings if the game was already pretty much decided), he passed on a helpful hint he'd learned from his dad. "Smile when you're announcing," he said. "It opens up your facial cavity and turns that into a resonating chamber." Even now, when that mic goes on, my cheeks rise just a little.)
It would be nice to think that the "Jim"s of this world are the exception and the "Randy"s are the rule. Maybe the young major leaguers I look at so cynically are actually the kind who would take a less-skilled teammate aside and give them a helpful hint or just a word of encouragement -- even hearing Randy shout from the dugout, "Come on, big 1-3! Base-hit, buddy!", was enough at times; maybe they were less-skilled, themselves, and benefitted from hearing from one of those phenoms. When we are gifted, God calls us to be giving. And that's an attitude that only comes from one place: parenting
I think Brian Lord's remembrance of Al Jordan in that blog entry gives an insight into Randy's upbringing. Indeed, there's a lot to be said about parenting and perspective: remind kids, for one thing, that we do not function independently of one another. Things we say and do, our behaviour and our attitude, affect others. Don't listen to the cop-out that we have to be responsible for the way we respond to something: we are called to speak and act in love, putting others well ahead of ourselves, asking God to keep a watch over our lips. That's one of the lessons the kids learned in Spelling Bee, and it's something in which we could all use a refresher course.
For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks - not that you won or lost -
But how you played the game.
-- Grantland Rice
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Bike Month in Vancouver (June) has been marked with interesting and encouraging features in the local media about cycling and how to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. But an item in the Georgia Straight this week encapsulates just why I cringe at "bike activist" efforts like Critical Mass.
The article profiles the outrage of a cyclist who, horror of horrors, received a ticket from a police officer for violating the rules of the road. She's indignant that she got the ticket during Bike Month, when we're supposed to be promoting cycling.
Can somebody explain the connection?
Oh - I know: it's the same thinking that, with public transit in Vancouver carrying over 300,000,000 rides a year and packed SkyTrains during rush hour, suggests we should make transit free to encourage people to take transit.
Actually, Bike Month is exactly the time to start handing out tickets and letting cyclists -- veterans and newbies alike -- that they're subject to the rules of the road and those rules are taken seriously.
But what's incredibly telling is the advice this woman received from a bicycle activist: publicize the date that she goes to court to challenge the ticket, so she can get lots of supporters out. A packed courtroom, reasons the activist, can have a great effect.
"Great effect" for what? Intimidating the judge? Hey: it worked for inSite; nothing like a mob of paid-off druggies* staring at the judge with a lawyer pleading that these people's lives are at stake if they don't have a safe place to do illegal drugs to make the judge decide it's a health issue and not a criminal matter.
(*One of the fellows who comes into Gospel Mission told me last year, "I missed out on $35 by not going to the court that day" -- the going rate, apparently, for a supporter. He then proceeded to tell me about getting a free trip to Victoria and a box lunch so he could help demonstrate on the lawn of the Legislature in support of InSite. A couple of weeks ago, he showed up with a large swelling on his arm. He'd been shot -- with a needle: a "friend" tried to inject him with crystal meth and missed the vein, so the drug -- and infection -- ravaged his arm. I suppose some would say that was a great argument for a safe injection site, but really it's an argument for GETTING HIM OFF THE DRUGS NOW, because the safe injection site was there and he STILL ran into trouble.)
But I digress: the cycling activist apparently wants to intimidate a judge into deciding that people on bikes are exempt from the law.
And this is why I want to take a bag full of marbles to the next Critical Mass ride.
I'm a cyclist. I ride to work often; my wife and I ride a lot. It's a wonderful way to get out, spend time alone but together, if you catch my drift. As part of the transportation strategy, cycling has an important place and I think the city of Vancouver is doing some great things in retrofitting a city that was built on motorized traffic to be friendlier towards "active" transportation.
But spare me the load of self-righteous cow cookies that cyclists somehow deserve beatification because they're doing something wonderful for Mother Nature. As they might say in another part of the continent, that dog don't hunt! Give me cyclists -- and motorists and pedestrians -- who see themselves as responsible members of society and who obey the laws and respect one another: then we'll start taking real steps towards a livable city.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
The paper was probably being facetious (although lightning is included in an insurance contract as an "act of God"), but I'd say there's more than an atom of truth to that, in light of my earlier blog entry on the disaster. The fact is, our science and technology got us into this mess: how can we expect science and technology to get us out of it?
I'm reminded of the account of the prophet Elisha at the waters above Jericho in II Kings 2. The waters are polluted, the land is barren, women are miscarrying, and nothing the people of the city have been able to do has cured it. So they turn to the Man of God. Instructed by the Holy Spirit, Elisha calls for salt in a new, unused jar, throws it into the water and declares the Word of God that the waters are healed. And they were.
As it was at Jericho, we don't need more science and more technology. We need to return to the basics (salt) and God, through His Word. People would be surprised at how quickly He'll respond.
God is trying to get our attention! Enough with the oil, already, He says! Extract ONLY what you can get without destroying My Creation and use it wisely! Stop fussing about being "self-sufficient" and remember that I promised to make a great nation of Ishmael. They're My children too, so learn to live in peace!
This has also been a knock to those who called President Obama the "Messiah". If anyone thinks that pointing fingers and talking angry is leadership, they're in a sad state. I don't think people want to hear how he's going to hold BP's feet to the fire and make them pay; nor do I think people want to hear him say "I told you so" about "fossil fuel addiction"; nor are they particularly interested in his new Clean Energy Policy when their livelihoods are going down the tubes. You can't stem an oil blowout by pointing a finger.
The President's response to this may have another motive: steer people away from his own comments about offshore drilling prior to the blowout. Bill Maher, not noted as a Republican, pointed out Obama had said, "It turns out the oil rigs today generally don't cause oil spills. They are technologically very advanced."
Sorry, America -- and the Nobel Prize Committee and the Canadians who gushed, a year and a half ago, that "we" had finally elected a "different" president -- he's just another politician.
Another Very Convenient Truth:
Looking through Scripture the other day -- reading up on something completely different -- I came across Amos 3:15 "And I will smite the winter house with the summer house and all the houses of ivory shall perish ... saith the Lord." Isn't that a prophecy of seasons being turned upside down: the very thing that appears to be happening with "climate change"? Why are we even bothering to fight it? Clean up our own environmental act and take proper care of Creation because God commanded us to do it way back in Genesis: but don't let's kid ourselves that we can actually win the battle against climate change. Turn back to Him and stop worrying.
Friday, June 11, 2010
This is a Biblical look at the environmental issue and provides, I believe, hope and a new focus. I've had no success so far in attracting a publisher, but it's a message that needs to get out -- especially with current events like the BP oil disaster. My blog entry on that builds on the premise of the book.
So I am posting the entire outline here on the blog, in hopes that there is a publisher out there willing to take on this project. It doesn't have to be a "Christian" publisher, per se: Jesus' message was for all, and so is this message.
If you're a publisher interested in finding out more and receiving some sample chapters, please contact me and we'll discuss this further.
A Very Convenient Truth
How to see that you’re not troubled with environmental fears
· Christians who are concerned about the environmental trauma today, but who are also concerned that things seem to be getting worse, despite mankind’s concerted efforts.
· Environmentalists willing to look at another way of approaching the issue.
Current events (as of June 2010) like the BP oil disaster, the volcanic eruption off Iceland, devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and China and a Big Scare on the California-Mexico border should be getting the attention of people that something big is going on. Add to that the outbreaks of war around the world, the continuing threat of terrorism and the accelerating slide into a “me-first” self-absorption in Western society, and you can start to see some of the signs the Jesus foretold of His imminent return.
Just one problem: environmental issues – particularly global warming/climate change – have grabbed center stage, to the point that society is obsessed with that issue, and any warnings are not being heard.
The title of the book notwithstanding, A Very Convenient Truth is not an attack on Al Gore or an attempt to get into the scientific debate over global warming/climate change, whether it exists and whether humans are responsible either for its cause or cure. Neither is it yet another voyage into eschatology. Rather, A Very Convenient Truth looks at the global warming/climate change issue and encourages people to step back, take a breath and consider how God looks at it.
One of the premises of the book is that, despite lots of action on a number of fronts, things appear to be getting worse, not better. It’s worth asking whether God has, in fact, been blessing the efforts so far to mitigate the problem.
The book argues that God has not been blessing these efforts, largely because He’s been “frozen out” of the discussion. And yet, as the Creator, shouldn’t He be the first one to be consulted?
The Thesis and Argument
The current environmental dialogue is driven by fear, obsession and a nagging sense that humans are responsible for its cause and cure, and that while well-meaning action has been going on for decades, humans should be doing more.
A Very Convenient Truth points out that this general guilt trip is a poor motivator to begin with. It’s either someone else’s responsibility, or one’s own needs at that particular time far outweigh any environmental concerns. There is also the sense – not without good cause – that the problem is far too big for people to address.
A Very Convenient Truth begins with the position that environmental trauma is very real, but that people need to change their thinking to look at environmental responsibility in terms of their overall relationship with God. That’s an important concept, because it shifts the paradigm from the current view as a battle against the effects of climate change (which could easily degenerate into a battle against God’s plan) to one where we are allied with God.
From the standpoint of environmental protection and stewardship, putting that into the context of one’s personal relationship with God raises the stakes considerably, because now there is a very real Authority to answer to – considerably higher than one’s own conscience or a guilt trip put forth by activists and the media.
But there’s more. If you’re a Bible-believing Christian, you should know that you hold a trump card, because if there’s a problem with your overall relationship with God, it usually means there’s a sin involved. Praise God, there is – and that’s good news.
The sin lies in what A Very Convenient Truth calls “The First Great Assignment”: Genesis 1:26 – 2:15. God put man in the Garden of Eden with instructions to “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it” and to propagate Eden around the earth. Our failure to do that is the sin at the root of the current environmental trauma.
And that’s good news, because in Christ, we can repent and receive redemption at the Cross. Just as with any other sin, we can come to Jesus, “go and sin no more” and re-commit to the First Great Assignment. But it’s not as simple as adopting environmentalist actions and philosophies and adding “in Jesus’ Name” to the end. That’s because many of those actions and philosophies run at cross-purposes to the Will of God.
A Very Convenient Truth looks first at the ways you can tell God has been left out of the discussion – the ways that the enemy has taken over all sides of the dialogue, in fact. Then we start to unpack what God does say about taking care of His Creation, the burdens we’re supposed to carry and those we’re not, and how Creation feels about God.
In all, the book argues that the solution to “saving the planet” lies in integrating environmental responsibility with all the other aspects of our walk with Christ. As we focus on serving God – He promises to deal with the worldly matters, including environmental issues. That promise is summed up in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sins, and will heal their land.” (emphasis mine).
Besides, the book also points out, Jesus warned us there’d be days like these: days that He said would precede His return. Events that have been linked to global warming/climate change are arguably the very signs Jesus foretold 2,000 years ago: there is really nothing humans can do to stop these events from happening. But we’re not to roll over with our paws in the air and hope that the Rapture comes first. There are things we are instructed to do, which includes following God’s instructions for His creation.
Preface: Welcome to the NDZ (No Doomspeak Zone)
The environmental dialogue is filled with “doomspeak”: a sense of dread and hopelessness on all sides. Dread and hopelessness are not “of God”, and this book promises to inject much-needed hope into the discussion.
Introduction: A section detailing some of my own credentials – both as a broadcaster and as an evangelist – discussing how the issue has been close to my heart since I was quite little. It finishes by noting that God’s perspective on the environment – through His Word – provides a failure-proof guarantee.
1. The Manufacturer’s Guarantee
This chapter begins with what is essentially the “foundation Scripture” for the whole book: 2 Chronicles 7:13-14. God essentially takes responsibility for sending “natural disasters” like drought, disease and pestilence, but says the solution is for His people to turn back to Him. It also states my own belief that climate change is happening and that humans are responsible for it, but not in the way conventional wisdom says.
2. The Climate of the Climate Change Debate (Satan stirs the pot)
This looks at the signs that God has been essentially left out of the discussion of climate change/global warming. Fear, confusion and failure are three of the top signs that Satan has been getting his fingers on the whole issue; greed, self-righteousness, the religious spirit and the bitter, personal attacks on all sides are other signs. When we find ourselves crying out, “What is truth?”, it’s likely that, as it was with Pilate when he asked that question, we’re actually staring the Truth in the face.
3. The First Great Assignment
The Truth, of course, is Jesus, so the answer is to look to the Word of God to make things clear. If anything in our lives is out of joint, chances are there’s a sin involved – a falling-away from God. And we don’t have to look far to find the sin we have committed that has led to the current state of environmental trauma. In Genesis 1:26, 28 and 2:15, we see what I call “The First Great Assignment”, which essentially is to care for the earth and propagate the Garden of Eden around the world. Looking out the window today, you can see how well we’ve done that job.
4. A Matter of Love
In this chapter, we look at the environmentalist mantra, “if you love this planet” and show how silly the notion is when compared to the interactive love we experience with God. We love God because He first loved us, but we’re not the only ones: Scripture also tells us how non-human Creation loves Him. That’s important as we consider the “dominion” God gave us humans over the earth: we need to strike the balance between enjoying Creation as God intended us to, and taking care of it, because Creation is in a two-way love relationship with God, too.
That’s why we need to walk in lock-step with God about this issue, or else we’ll either stomp all over everything – or wind up worshipping the creature over the Creator. At times, acting on God’s Will may seem out of line with environmentalist thinking, but we need to believe that obeying God’s Will cannot be damaging to His Creation. We are also able to rise above any judgment or condemnation – either by us or against us – that come from going against “green principles”.
5. Personal responsibility – can we really “Think Globally”?
This chapter looks at the concept of “God’s Plan” and the role humans play in it. The environmental movement makes a big deal out of the big picture, but the Word of God tells us that we can’t see the big picture and we’re not expected to. He gives us individual assignments – the ones we can handle – and we need to trust that He will bring all the pieces together to form the global picture.
As humans, we tend to do what we think is right, rather than what God tells us to do – and, like the servant who buried his master’s money rather than invest it, run into a lot of trouble. Instead of Think Globally – act locally, we need to Think Godly – Act Obediently.
6. Sustainability or Livability?
“Sustainability” is a watchword of the environmental movement – and public policy-makers everywhere. But many places – Vancouver, for one – pride themselves on their “livability”. What’s the difference? Which is more important? Does one necessarily follow the other? Is it more blessed to live or to sustain?
7. The Godly Environmentalist – the land Sabbath, tithing and the “One Tonne Solution”
As with anything else in the Word of God, environmental matters are not dealt with simply in theoretical terms. There are practical applications, particularly in the Old Testament laws. The Land Sabbath spelled out in Leviticus is one such application. How does tithing fit into the picture? What else can we glean from Scripture to direct us towards Godly environmental solutions? How does political involvement mesh with the Christian walk?
8. The Fourth “R”
In addition to the environmentalist “3 R’s” – reduce, re-use and recycle – there’s a fourth in the Christian perspective: righteousness. Over and over again, God’s Word connects unrighteousness with environmental degradation. A lot of environmentalist thinking is inward-looking: cautioning people to watch their own “carbon footprint” and beware of the impact of their own actions. But that goes against the calling of Christians to put the needs of others ahead of their own. The chapter states baldly that our earth has become corrupted as its people have become corrupted. When people try to look at the walk with Christ as something separate from caring for God’s Creation, they’re really falling for another Satanic “mis-direct”.
9. Greater works than these …
Without faith, the writer of Hebrews says, you cannot please God, and John notes at the beginning of his Gospel that as many people as believe on the name of Jesus are endowed with the power to be God’s Son(s). Faith is a tremendous weapon that we have and we have a responsibility to use it. We can rebuke natural events and focus on glorifying God in all things. The chapter also encourages Christians to “count the cost” and include environmental impact in the “costing-out” of anything they do. This includes the step of faith of abandoning some things that appear to be good if we can’t replenish the earth at the same time. We need to have the faith that if we turn away from potential gain by abandoning the action – clearcut logging, mining in a sensitive area, drilling for oil in a wildlife refuge – God will provide what we thought we could obtain and then some.
10. So long ago, the Garden …
Is Satan over-playing the “fear” card? Some people appear to be taking a stand against the fear being promoted on all sides. We also take another look at The First Great Assignment, and ask what the “Eden” is that we’re supposed to propagate? Is it the “physical” Eden of Adam and Eve, or is it a state of being? And we come back to the Foundation Scripture we started with: Solomon’s prayer and God’s response in 2 Chronicles 7.
11. And finally … (the call to arms)
This chapter begins with a Word from the Lord I received while the first edition was in its final stages. He says that the land is “fighting back” against us because it has been polluted by blood shed in sacrifices of ourselves and our children to Mammon and by our own disobedience. But as we propagate Eden around the world – spreading the Gospel, as explained in Chapter 9 – we spread the blood of Jesus over the land and cleanse it that way. We close by urging Christians to use environmental matters, as spelled out in the book, as another means of reaching the unsaved with the Gospel. But since the Word of God also ties our own walk with Him to the state of the land, we need to make sure that walk is an example people want to follow. In other words, it’s up to us – individually and collectively, as the Body of Christ – to take that first step.
i. Scripture references – with some explanatory notes, for readers who don’t have Bibles
ii. How I Got My Car – a description of a “faith project”.
iii. Wrong Way Goes The Right Way –the tale of Roy Riegels, the star college football player who recovered a fumble in a Rose Bowl Game and, by running for the wrong goal line, cost his team the game – but gave the world a story of salvation, grace and a second chance.
A Very Convenient Truth contains some challenges for readers, Christian and non-Christian:
1. To Christians, do you believe the Bible or don’t you? This is an issue that can cause us to look away from God as we try to “do better for the sake of Mother Earth”, but the Word warns us against worshipping the Creation rather than the Creator, and His Word also gives us specific promises that as we re-commit to Him – through The First Great Assignment – He will restore our land.
2. To environmentalists who have been trying in vain to repair damage done by centuries of human action and inaction, the challenge is whether they really want to see a solution. Many environmentalists (as the book notes) are not Bible believers, so the question is whether they’re open-minded enough to consider that there is an alternative to bashing their head against the wall.
3. For everyone, the challenge is to keep looking for signs of hope and clarity in an area dominated by fear, confusion and frustration. Those elements are not “of God”, and it’s important for us to focus our attention on what is.
Marketing and Promotion
All-told, I’ve been doing something in front of a microphone or a camera for over 40 years as an actor, a broadcaster and as a corporate communicator. When A Very Convenient Truth first appeared in a self-published edition, I made appearances on three Christian talk radio stations: Seattle, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St Paul.
I have also spoken at two churches on the subject (Westpointe Christian Center in Vancouver and Victoria Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Victoria, BC), and have been refining that talk for future use. I would make myself available for a “circuit” of talk shows and speaking engagements to support the sale of the book.
There are also opportunities using the social media. I produced a series of short talks and posted them on YouTube and on Tangle, supporting them with notifications on Twitter. Some revelations were written in my blog, “Convenient Truth” (http://veryconvenienttruth.blogspot.com/), also promoted on Twitter.
Excerpts of the book could also be published in a Christian magazine.
I also see possibilities for developing a workbook so church “small groups” can discuss ways of becoming a “Godly environmentalist”, following Scripture to see what God will bless, what burdens we have to carry and what burdens we are not to worry about.
I have covered environmental issues from the standpoint of the “sympathetic journalist”, giving air time on radio and TV to environmentalists at a time when they were still considered to be fringe-element tree-huggers. It was the logical progression of a lifetime of listening to, embracing and sometimes even espousing against-the-grain thinking, which often put me at odds with others. This latest book continues that trend, only now, as a committed Christian, called as an Evangelist, this against-the-grain thinking is an attempt to shake out of the groupthink that encompasses so much of the environmental dialogue.
I was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, and graduated with a BA in English from Concordia University in Montréal. After trying my hand at freelance writing and acting, I landed in broadcasting, working in a number of markets in Western Canada, including Vancouver, Regina Saskatchewan and Victoria BC. I did just about everything: news, sports, talk and played the morning-show sidekick on Victoria’s top radio station; I also produced and presented a series of environmental features for local TV in Victoria.
I received the 2001 Environmental Journalism Award from The Skies Above Foundation (Canada), recognizing my persistence in bringing environmental issues and their advocates into the media mainstream in British Columbia.
By then, I had come to Christ (in 1999) and was called into Ministry in 2002 with what turned out to be two main purposes: to minister to the urban poor on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (at Gospel Mission, where he is assistant pastor) and to bring this new message on the environment based on the Word of God, rather than the worldly prescriptions of the mainstream environmental movement.
My day job is as a communications specialist with TransLink – the regional public transportation authority – which has given me further insight into the “corporate” side of the environmental movement and the way public policy is being driven by environmental fears.