Saturday, November 26, 2005
According to Barna's research, by the year 2025, "I expect that only about one-third of the population will rely upon a local congregation as the primary or exclusive means for experiencing and expressing their fait; one-third will do so through alternative forms of faith-based community; and one-third will realize their faith through the media, the arts, and other cultural institutions." Pretty radical stuff, yet not especially surprising considering the number of people I know who have "dropped-out" of church in the last couple of years. For the most part, these people would still consider themselves believers, but the local church and its institutions don't hold any appeal for them. So where do we go from here? This is where Barna spends the majority of his book.
He considers what a Revolutionary looks like, what a Revolutionary is looking for, what the local church needs to do in response, and how to become a revolutionary yourself. Note that becoming a “revolutionary” doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on your local church; it simply means living a radically different lifestyle and being the church in your community. Barna again, “These extreme God-lovers reform the culture simply by being true representations of who God made them to be. They do not create and enforce a carefully plotted and meticulously deployed agenda of reform. They simply live a holy and obedient life that a society suffering from the stranglehold of sin cannot ignore.”
There are many ramifications of this revolutionary shift and Barna is not afraid to tackle them head on: what will happen to church attendance in the next 20 years? How will this affect pastoral staffs? And who’s going to supply the funds to keep a church running? Good questions, all.
Label it what you will, there is a movement afoot in the church and George Barna has written a book that will provide a perfect summary for those who want to understand what the fuss is all about. It just might inspire you to start a revolution of your own. YYYYY
Friday, November 25, 2005
On the downside, most of the discussion (that I heard anyway) centered on inner-city churches, and working with the urban poor. Great stuff, but what about us who live and work in a white collar, middle-class, suburban setting? How do we go about engaging people with the message of Jesus when for the most part, they are happy, satisfied, self-sufficient people? It would seem to me that we too have to conceive of new ways of "doing church" that meets these folks where they are at. This is my struggle...not that I want to plant a church, but I definitely want to be the church in my neighbourhood. I guess that makes me a church plant! I guess that makes all Christ-followers a church plant! Hmmm...now that's something to think about!
Here are some interesting stats I picked up...
Total evangelical congregations in Canada (all denominations): 9,401
Largest denomination: Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada: 1,106 Congregations
Number of people in Canada for each evangelical church: 4,035
Province with the greatest number of churches per capita: New Brunswick
Province with the least number of churches per capita: Quebec
Thursday, November 03, 2005
"So I press on until all of the flash and noise the world attempts to drum up will result in no effect on me whatsoever. Where I was once the one weeping, wailing, and waving my arms to get the world's attention with no actual result - now the roles have reversed.
I will not be distracted by the explosions I now know are frauds.
I hear the bombs and will not be swayed.
I see the flashes and will not be blinded.
And when the enemy takes his best shot - by the grace of God, I will remain unmoved.
Because the world and I have traded places.
I am now grounded in the rock.
And because Jesus is my anchor -
It is the world who is the flashbang."
Monday, October 17, 2005
I can’t say I made any great discoveries about the band or the influence of the gospel in their music. That being said, if you are a casual fan of U2 or have wondered about where these guys stand in terms of their faith in Christ, this is the book for you. I’ve heard so many comments like, “supposedly these guys used to be Christians” and other such remarks. Believe me, if you’ve really read their lyrics, even during the Achtung/Zooropa/Pop years, you would find a deep faith that is seeking to take the Kingdom to the darkest corners of the world while not being afraid to deal with all of the doubts and hypocrisies that those of us who are called Christ followers often try to ignore. If anything, the book falls into the trap of becoming an apologetic for Bono, painting him as a bit of a saint when in fact, he has many shortcomings just like the rest of us.
There are also some interesting details here that I wasn't aware of about the early influences on the band and the environment in which they grew up. But perhaps the most interesting thing I learned was about Bono’s best friends – Gavin Friday and Guggi of the Virgin Prunes. I’m a big fan of Gavin Friday’s solo work so it came as a bit of a surprise that he was, for a short time, part of the Shalom Christian fellowship that Bono, Edge, and Larry were also a part of. It was also fascinating to find out that Adam, for so many years known as the non-believer in the group, the partier who enjoyed all of the excesses of being a rock star, has now come to a point of faith as well.
Stockman goes through each album in the U2 discography to identify the Christian themes that are woven throughout the lyrics from I Will Follow on their first album through to Yahweh on their latest. The only point to be aware of is that Stockman does not draw on any personal interviews with the band. His body of research consists of quotes from previously published articles, books, and interviews. Not the end of the world, but don’t be looking for new material here either. While not on the same level as John Waters’ brilliant book Race of Angels, it is still a worthwhile read for the casual and the hardcore fan alike. YYYY
Friday, October 14, 2005
Sunday, October 09, 2005
But Tom's voice was more than simply that of a baseball announcer; it was synonymous with the promise of summer, even while the snow still lay on the ground at the start of the baseball season in April. Just as the previous generation came to love the voice of Foster Hewitt with his Saturday night greeting, "Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States...", those of us born in the late 60's into the 70's will always remember Tom's affirmation that it was indeed, "a great day for baseball..."
He introduced me, and thousands of others, to this game that was so popular with our neighbours to the south, but was a whole new experience for those of us in the land of sticks and pucks. From Bill Singer’s first pitch in 1977 to Joe Carter’s World Series winning home run in 1993, Tom was our constant companion and a kid’s best friend in the long, hot days of summer.
Just this year I started listening to baseball on the radio again. There’s a certain tranquility that comes from listening to the play-by-play and the familiar, old-fashioned lingo unique to the baseball diamond. But this time, it was different. With Tom unable to call the games anymore, I had a very real sense that the world had changed. The voice that had so often reminded me of lazy summer afternoons in Toronto had been silenced and along with it, was my ability to go back to a more innocent time when all that mattered was the ballgame and what time I had to be home for dinner.
Baseball is an old game; a game of traditions that should be respected and not easily exchanged for the unfamiliar. While the new broadcast team does a fine job, Tom Cheek was the voice. He will be greatly missed.
Friday, September 23, 2005
I've been slowly working my way through Simon Schama's book The History of Britain Vol. 1, based on the video series of the same name. It's a great read, but one episode in particular has really grabbed my interest.
Ever heard of Alfred the Great? Neither had I but this guy's story is the kind of stuff Mel Gibson makes movies about. So Mel, if you should stumble across this post, get busy! There are tons of resources online to find out about Alfred, so I'll just give you the executive summary.
Alfred the Great (849-899 AD) is the only English monarch ever to be given the title "the Great" by his people. As a young man Alfred had wanted to become a priest and a scholar but that wasn't to be. As Britain became overrun with Danes (Vikings) who subjugated the native Britains to slave hood, Alfred's father king Aethelred of Wessex, the only remaining independent kingdom, decided to fight rather than try to negotiate like so many other kings had done - to their own ruin (Vikings didn't make very trustworthy negotiating partners!)
The Danes were temporarily defeated, but in the battle, king Aethelred was killed, leaving Alfred's brother Ethelred as king. Ethelred died a short time later, however, and Alfred became king of Wessex at the age of 21. When the Vikings invaded in early 878 the people of Wessex were devastated and Alfred was forced to live in a swamp with a few of his remaining men. From this swamp, they would slip into town for food and supplies as they made preparations to battle the Danes once again. One great story has Alfred getting chewed out by a peasant woman, who was unaware of his identity, for burning some cakes on a fire. From Wikipedia: "Preoccupied with the problems of the kingdom, Alfred let the cakes burn, and was taken to task by the woman on her return. Upon realizing the king's identity, the woman apologized profusely, but Alfred insisted that he was the one who needed to apologize. The thought that Alfred, during his retreat at Athelney, was a helpless fugitive rests upon the legend of the cakes. In truth, he was organizing victory. ”Truly, an officer and a gentleman!
At this same time, Alfred had disguised himself as a harpist and snuck into the Viking camp to discover their plans! When the two armies met at the Battle of Edington in 879, Alfred and his army won a decisive victory. Not only did he defeat the Viking king Guthrum, but Guthrum converted to Christianity and lived out the rest of his days as a farmer in East Anglia.
From the website of the British Monarchy: "By stopping the Viking advance and consolidating his territorial gains, Alfred had started the process by which his successors eventually extended their power over the other Anglo-Saxon kings; the ultimate unification of Anglo-Saxon England was to be led by Wessex. It is for his valiant defence of his kingdom against a stronger enemy, for securing peace with the Vikings and for his farsighted reforms in the reconstruction of Wessex and beyond, that Alfred - alone of all the English kings and queens - is known as 'the Great'."
What a great story! I can't believe no one has made a movie out of this!!
For more info visit:
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don't let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that's my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that's not so easy.
Assayas: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn't so "peace and love"?
Bono: There's nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that's why they're so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you're a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Assayas: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It's often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Assayas: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let's not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows …
Assayas: So you won't be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Assayas: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: … [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson's. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved … by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Assayas: Didn't he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: "Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper."
Assayas: I don't remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Later in the conversation:
Assayas: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that's normal. It's a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Assayas: I haven't heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we've moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Assayas: Well, that doesn't make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics—in physical laws—every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It's clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I'm absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that "as you reap, so you will sow" stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I've done a lot of stupid stuff.
Assayas: I'd be interested to hear that.
Bono: That's between me and God. But I'd be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I'd be in deep s---. It doesn't excuse my mistakes, but I'm holding out for Grace. I'm holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don't have to depend on my own religiosity.
Assayas: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there's a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let's face it, you're not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That's the point. It should keep us humbled… . It's not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Assayas: That's a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it's close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world's great thinkers. But Son of God, isn't that farfetched?
Bono: No, it's not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: "I'm the Messiah." I'm saying: "I am God incarnate." And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You're a bit eccentric. We've had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don't mention the "M" word! Because, you know, we're gonna have to crucify you. And he goes: No, no. I know you're expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he's gonna keep saying this. So what you're left with is: either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we're talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we've been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had "King of the Jews" on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I'm not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that's farfetched …
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: … [I]f only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. …When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s--- and everybody else's. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that's the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.
From Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas, by Michka Assayas, copyright © 2005 by Michka Awwayas. Used by permission of Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. For online information about other Penguin Group (USA) books and authors, see the website at www.penguin.com.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
As I said in my previous post, I've been called a U2 fanatic at various times in my life but I'm really not much into the cult of celebrity at all. As a matter of fact, it quite sickens me. Even at some of the functions I attend for my job there are a lot of big-time "Christian celebrities" around, but for the most part, I just say hi or try to steer clear altogether if I can get away with it. That being said, it was still a real thrill for me to get this close to the band I've been following since I was a teenager when I heard Under A Blood Red Sky for the first time. That experience and this band have quite literally changed my life. Were it not for U2, and more specifically, Bono, I wouldn't be as socially aware as I am, I wouldn't have the same worldview I do, and I wouldn't be the same Christian I am today.
Even I think that sounds pretty heavy, and almost fanatical as I write it, but in a very real sense, these guys have been my mentors as I've tried to make my way through the last 20 years. We all have those we lean on and learn from over the course of time - some are close friends, some are older folks who have gone before us, and some are even favorite authors or leaders who have challenged us or made us look at the world from a new perspective. I have those kind of mentors too, but I learned a long time ago that U2 is more than simply four guys who make great music. They are four men on a spiritual journey that has lead us into some dark places where we might not choose to go on our own; but it has also led us into the light to see the hand of God in the world around us.
As T-Bone Burnett said, "If Jesus is the light of the world there are two kinds of songs you can write. You can write songs about the light, or you can write songs about what you can see from the light." U2's music has opened my eyes to what can be seen by the light and in so doing, has drawn me closer to the light of the world.
Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
Grace, it's the name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world...
(Grace, from All That You Can't Leave Behind)
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I met up with my buddy Bill in Mississauga and we headed down to the ACC a couple of hours before they opened the doors at 6:30. We had general admission floor tickets and we didn't want to be stuck at the back of the arena so we made sure we were in line in decent time. I would estimate there were 300 or so people ahead of us.
As we filed through security, I could see that they were scanning everyone’s tickets to see if they were one of the chosen few to make it inside the ellipse (see photo above). I hadn’t really given this much thought ahead of time. I mean, what are the chances of having a winning ticket out of the 18,000 or so tickets that were sold for the show? My buddy went through – not a winner – then they scanned my ticket and lo and behold, A WINNER! To make a long story short, the two of us were allowed to enter the “inner circle” and ended up about 6 feet from the stage! It was as if I was seeing them 25 years ago in a little club somewhere.
Now, if you don’t know me, you may think, “big deal, so you made it to the stage.” But for those who do, you will know that I am somewhat of a U2 fanatic. My over-the-top fandom has cooled a bit now that I’m older and apparently more mature, but after 4 previous concerts in big stadiums, only sort of seeing the band on the stage, this was like a dream come true. And a dream it was, for even now I can scarcely recall the details. It only seems half real.
I could give you particulars about the concert itself – the set list, the commentary, the surprise guests – but you can find that elsewhere on-line. I’d prefer just to give you my personal take on the night. The dedication of Miracle Drug to the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (who saved my life when I was born) brought a tear to my eye. One was turned into a prayer and I found myself praying as well (“do you hear me knockin’ Lord…?”), Yahweh & 40 to end the night...it felt like we had just done church and to a certain extent, maybe we did.
My U2 concert history…
March 28, 1985 – Maple Leaf Gardens
October 3, 1987 – Exhibition Stadium
September 6, 1992 – Exhibition Stadium
October 26, 1997 – Skydome
September 17, 2005 – Air Canada Centre
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Thursday, September 01, 2005
While most of the world considers the United States to be the big bad bully on the block, the last surviving superpower who tries to shape the world into its mould, I believe that we are beginning to see the early stages of the fall of America. I have thought this since the late 90's but since 9/11 it seems to me that the timeline just continues to accelerate.
My reasons for this theory? Several. When you consider the great empires and civilizations throughout human history (particularly the Roman Empire of 31 BC – 476 AD), there are several trends that surface that are very similar to where the U.S. stands today. In no particular order:
1) A heavy reliance on non-renewable natural resources that makes them dependant on foreign producers to keep their economy rolling. Just imagine how quickly the U.S. economy would grind to a halt if OPEC decided to turn off the tap.
2) An isolationist foreign policy that essentially thumbs its nose at the concerns of the rest of the world. Can you say Kyoto, Salt II, and softwood lumber?
3) A military stretched to the breaking point deployed on too many fronts. As of January 2005 there are 250,000 American troops in 130 different countries, including, of course, Iraq and Afghanistan.
4) Consumption, consumption, consumption – it’s all about what we want now. Screw the future. I actually heard a report the other day that the #1 complaint against U.S. grocery store chains is not enough selection. Sick.
5) Rapid moral and ethical decay from within. Witness as just one example the unleashing of evil in the aftermath of Katrina. Or consider the obsession with celebrity culture that fills the airwaves with mindless gossip and endless chatter about Brad Pitt's marriage or Jessica Simpson's butt. It’s all rot.
6) A multi-trillion dollar national debt that grows on a daily basis.
7) A leadership that is more concerned about international affairs than the status of its own citizens. War on terror? How about a war on poverty.
8) Christians who have confused loyalty to Christ with loyalty to a flag.
9) Natural disasters that the country is unprepared for and unable to deal with. An entire city is gone people!
While I point all of these things out, I do not write this with joy or any sense of superiority. We Canadians are so eager to see the big southern bully knocked down a notch or two; but think about how your career will change when you no longer have our largest trading partner right next door. Think too about your sense of security when we no longer have the U.S. to rely on for our national defence. As well, though the scales may be tipping, I still believe the U.S. is a greater force for good than evil in the world.
Frankly, I give America another 25-40 years before it is no longer capable of wielding any kind of major political influence in the world. Both literally and metaphorically, the levee has broken and the flood waters are rising.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Led Zeppelin's lyrics from '71 are almost prophetic...
If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break,
If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break,
When the levee breaks I’ll have no place to stay.
Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan,
Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan,
Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home,
Oh, well, oh, well, oh, well.
Don’t it make you feel bad
When you’re tryin’ to find your way home,
You don’t know which way to go?
If you’re goin’ down south
They got no work to do,
If you don’t know about Chicago.
Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good,
Now, cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.
All last night sat on the levee and moaned,
All last night sat on the levee and moaned,
Thinkin’ ’bout me baby and my happy home.
Going, go’n’ to chicago,
Go’n’ to chicago,
Sorry but I can’t take you.
Going down...going down now...going down...
Thursday, August 25, 2005
Okay, so maybe I'm not the best person to do a review of a John MacArthur book. I find him to be close-minded, divisive, hurtful, legalistic, and at times dangerous, so you might say I'm a little biased. Also, I have a good friend who walked away from the church as an adult because her dad continually espoused MacArthur's teachings to her and drove her away - she never thought she could be "a good enough Christian." That being said, the topics in his latest book, Fool's Gold, intrigued me just enough to take it for a quick read to find out what he has to say about some of the various topics in Christendom - particularly in Christian publishing - my profession.
In this book, MacArthur edits and contributes a series of essays on topics ranging from books to music to politics. Some of the more intriguing chapters:
A Sense of Purpose: Evaluating the Claims of The Purpose Driven Life
Roaming Wild: Investigating the Message of Wild at Heart
When the Truth Becomes a Tabloid: A Closer Look at the Revolve New Testament
Solid Rock? What the Bible says about Contemporary Worship Music
Just As I Am: A Closer Look at Invitations and Alter Calls
Let Your Light So Shine: Examining the American-Christian Approach to Politics
Choking on Choices: Combating Consumerism with a Biblical Mind-set
I find it difficult to review this title because he comes down so hard on what I believe are some quality books (see my post about Rick Warren from August 7) but he also has some good things to say about consumerism and Christian political involvement. Perhaps the best comment I can make comes courtesy of a co-worker; MacArthur has some good things to say but it is the spirit in which he says them that is the problem. It seems to me he is all too willing to take shots at other Christians, pointing out their faults and weaknesses, but rarely extends grace to those who might have a different take on something than he does. It is sadly ironic that MacArthur's ministry is called Grace to You when he seems so unwilling to extend grace to anyone.
There are a lot of problems with contemporary, North-American Christianity that need to be addressed, but let's do it in a spirit of healing, not divisiveness. While this book is worth a quick read, please don't do it until you have read the books MacArthur is critiquing so you can arrive at your own conclusions. YY
Sunday, August 14, 2005
I read Enjoying God by S.J. Hill yesterday and after a bit of a slow start, I ended up enjoying the book. Pursuing intimacy with God rather than learning more about God is where I'm at right now in my spiritual journey. Yes, I know God is holy and I know He is loving but have I experienced this firsthand in an intimate relationship with the Father? This was my motivation for picking up this book. Enjoying God is a good first introduction to this topic, sort of an A.W. Tozer-light or a John Piper-light. S.J. Hill comes from the same perspective but with much more of a cursory overview. Chapter seven, Persevering In Our Quest for Intimacy, is perhaps the most interesting chapter in that Hill gives some practical suggestions for pursuing an intimate relationship. He gives some good advice in answering his own question, "How do you practice the presence of God when you first get up in the morning feeling like a zombie? How do you go from school, a busy work environment, the mall, or the gym to waiting on God?" If you are just encountering a desire for a more intimate relationship with God in your own life, than I would recommend this book as a good place to get your feet wet before moving on to some of the heavyweights. YYY
Sunday, August 07, 2005
Rick Warren and the Purpose that Drives Him is a short book by Richard Abanes, a former staff member at Saddleback Church so this is perhaps a less than totally objective look at Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Life (PDL), but it does provide a very concise reponse to Warren's many critics. Perhaps what makes this book worth the price of admission is the interview with Rick Warren - an exclusive interview you won't find anywhere else. It's great to hear some of Warren's stories about the early days of Saddleback and his desire to reach the people of Orange County when he really didn't have a clue how to do it!
I was totally unaware of all of the people who have taken shots at Warren since PDL was published, and I'm certain nobody would be taking shots if it hadn't become the best selling non-fiction book of all time! Most of Warren's critics (John McArthur included) strike me as folks who would find everyone in error except for themselves. Is PDL a perfect work of doctrinal precision? Of course not, but how many books are? Besides, Warren is not targeting Biblical scholars, but ordinary folks who need to know that God loves them. I'm so &$#*@ sick of Christians taking pot shots at each other, especially at a guy who is just trying to share the Good News the best way he knows how and is obviously having a huge impact in the world. Am I doctinally perfect? Are you? In Phillipians it says to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" so unless your name is Jesus, just shut up.
A decent, quick read. YYY
Thursday, July 21, 2005
If you are looking for a concise, quick read on the concept of prayer, Prayer: The Cry For The Kingdom is your book. This repackage of a Stanley Grenz book from the late 80's is a great introduction for a new believer but is also an excellent reminder to the rest of us of what prayer actually is and is not. As the DJ's used to say in the 50's - this is "all killer, no filler." In other words, there is no unnecessary content here to pad the size of the book. Grenz says in 124 pages what others have taken 300+ pages to say.
Grenz' basic thesis is that prayer is more than simply "talking to God" as we so often hear these days. In prayer we "beseech the God of the future with the request that the marks of God's rule (forgiveness, sustenance, deliverance, and the Sprit's fullness) break into our present situation, which is filled with want, need, and insufficiency." He adds, "To pray is to say to God, 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.'" Prayer is not about our wants; it is about the in-breaking of God’s kingdom here and now, not as some sort of ethereal future concept. Again quoting Grenz, “in every circumstance our primary goal as we pray should be to discern what it would mean for the kingdom to break into the present.”
Some of the chapter titles (i.e.: How Petitionary Prayer Works, How To Pray According to God’s Will) might make this seem like just another “prayer for dummies” kind of book, but don’t be fooled. This is a thoughtful look at prayer by an intellectual theologian with a pastor’s heart. Highly recommended! YYYY
NOTE: Stanley Grenz died unexpectedly on March 12th this year. See Brian McLaren's blog for an excellent tribute.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
This was my last day on the show floor and it is good to be done. There is a lot of pressure to be "on" at all times, whether you are in a meeting, eating lunch, or going out for an evening stroll. From the time you leave your room in the morning until you get back at night it is "showtime." I get a real buzz from being "on" but at the end of the day it does take a lot out of you. That being said, there is also a touch of sadness when you leave because there is a certain energy at an event like this with so many publishers, authors, musicians, and new products in one place.
Tonight I'll take in a bit of downtown Denver then Tim and I are off to Colorado Springs in the morning for a day of vacation before heading home on Friday.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Living Epistles was especially good because the 'God Keep Our Land' shirt we developed almost doubled our sales in one month! If you click on this link to go to the 100 Huntley Street video archives then click on the link for July 1st, you can find the video where Ann Mainse showed the shirt on air (around the 20 minute mark.)
One note for all of you future travelers to Denver...if you're looking for a Starbucks in the downtown core, they all close up at 7:00 so you can forget about a nice relaxing evening latte! Am I bitter? Nah...well...maybe...
Monday, July 11, 2005
One of the fun parts of the convention is meeting some of the authors and artists who are doing book or CD signings. There's not a lot of time for us to do this because we have a fairly heavy schedule of meetings but there's usually one or two opportunities during the day. Of course, being a distributor, and a professional, you're not expected to get too excited over these events but it's hard not to when there are such huge lineups and flashbulbs going off everywhere. Here you see Rebecca St. James having her photo taken with a young fan (my camera doesn't take indoor shots very well so you'll have to excuse the blurriness.) I also said hi to R.C. Sproul today whose book The Holiness of God was one of those seminal, life-changing books for me. R.C. is definitely in my pantheon of great authors.
I had a chance to chat with Ron & Ann Mainse from 100 Huntley Street this afternoon and I'm pleased to say that they are really nice folks. They're down here looking to make connections with authors and publishers that would make good guests on the program and we are only too happy to help them out in that mission!
The show officially opened today with much fanfare and a ribbon cutting ceremony. It's hard to describe how large the show floor is and it's even more difficult to get a photo that illustrates the size so I've taken a couple of booth shots (my suppliers of course!) to give you an idea of the scale. Not every booth is as big as this, but most of the major publishers have a significant presence. Here you can see the Crossway booth.
Sunday, July 10, 2005
It hit 94 degrees here today but as they say, it's a dry heat so it doesn't seem to melt you like it would in southern Ontario as long as you drink lots of water. My first time in Colorado I ignored the advice of my friend Don over at Alive Communications and hardly drank any water for the first two days I was here. By the morning of day three I had a wicked headache, my lips were cracked, and I had lost most of my voice.
I just got in from a worship concert with Newsong, Tim Hughes, and Kathy Troccoli. I must be getting old because the main attraction for me wasn't the music but the speaker for the night, Rob Bell whom most people know from the Nooma series of videos. He's also the pastor at Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Bell spoke about the importance of moving from a destination mindset, where either you are in or out of the Kingdom to a "clicks" mindset where everyone is on a journey of faith that can be measured in little clicks along the way to God. Some people make the leap to faith very quickly, for others it take years, and still others will never come to embrace Jesus personally. As believers our role isn't to have all the answers but to simply help others make it to the next "click" on the journey and to keep moving along in that journey ourselves.
We met up with Lori Wick, Michelle McKinney Hammond, Elizabeth & Jim George, Siri Mitchell, and Lysa TerKeurst. All of these folks are really nice without the "author attitude" that you sometimes run into at these events. Lysa's story about adopting two orphans from Liberia was really touching. If you ever have a chance to see her on TV or in person I suggest you do it. Hopefully we'll see more of her in Canada soon!
Saturday, July 09, 2005
The winners list:
General: Bad Ground by W. Dale Cramer (Bethany House)
Historical: King's Ransom by Jan Beazely & Thom Lemmons (Waterbrook Press)
Romance: Secrets by Kristen Heitzman (Bethany House)
Suspense/Mystery: Tiger In The Shadows by Debbie Wilson (Kregal)
Visionary: The Shadow Within by Karen Hancock (Bethany House)
First Novel: The Mending String by Cliff Coon (Moody Publishers)
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Number of Books I Own:
This is a tricky one. Because I'm in the book distribution business, I have books floating around my office and around home constantly. I've also got books packed away in boxes because I don't have enough shelf space right now to get them all out. A quick count of what is actually on the shelves or piled somewhere around the house comes to 514.
Last Book I Bought:
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. Next to Doug Coupland, Hornby is my favorite fiction author and I can't wait to get into this book but I will wait for my week of vacation before starting because I can't deal with a lack of sleep right now!
Last Book I Read:
A bit of a tie here because I tend to be reading more than one book at a time. I finished both of these on the Canada Day long-weekend: Prayer: A Cry for the Kingdom by Stanley Grenz and Terry by the aforementioned Douglas Coupland.
Prayer is just a small book but is a good summary of the concept of prayer from an intellectual point of view. This isn't an emotional call to pray more frequently, rather, it considers what it means for the Kingdom of God to break into the present and the ramifications of that as we bring our petitions to God.
Terry is part memoir, part photo essay about the life of Terry Fox and what exactly it is he accomplished on a personal and a public level with his Marathon of Hope in 1980. Coupland emphasizes how drastically an ordinary person's life can change in an instant and he asks the question "what if?" What if Terry had never lost his leg? What if he had never decided to run from coast to coast? How would his life have been different and how would our lives have been different? Reading about Terry's accomplishments and the inspiration he has been to so many people will leave you with a tear in your eye and a lump in your throat.
Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me: This is really tough. There are so many, old and new, but here are some recent reads...
A New Kind of Christian - Brian McLaren
The Table of Inwardness - Calvin Miller
Mudhouse Sabbath - Lauren Winner
Intimate Moments With The Savior - Ken Gire
The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis
Five Books I'm Currently Reading: I'm adding this category because yes, I do have five books on the go right now!
A History of Britain - Simon Schama
Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places - Eugene Peterson
The New Testament - The Message
The Pursuit of God - A.W. Tozer
The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell
I don't personally know anyone with a blog other than James so I guess if you're reading this just leave a comment about some of your favorites. Thanks!
Thursday, June 16, 2005
The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large-fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long in took to catch them. The Mexican replied, only a little while. The American then asked why he didn't stay out longer and catch more fish. The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. So the American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life."
The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, but a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small village and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles and eventually to New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise."
The Mexican fisherman asked, "But, how long will all of this take?" To which the American replied, "Fifteen to twenty years."
"But what then?" the fisherman asked.
The American laughed and said, "That's the best part! When the time is right, you would announce and IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions!"
"Millions...then what?" was the reply.
The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos."
Hmmm...seems to me the fisherman in this story is the one with the right priorities. Maybe I need to take up fishing...
Monday, May 23, 2005
Well, it took longer than a human birth, but we finally took the plunge on Saturday and got ourselves a new little friend and we're already in love with her (click on any of the pictures below to get an expanded view.) May I present...Havana!
She's a Havanese which is a Cuban breed related to the Bichon-Friese family. She'll grow to about 9 pounds which is perfect for us. We didn't get Havana from this breeder but they do have a good website if you want to learn about the Havanese.
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
In a nutshell, Left Behind says Biblical prophesy from the book of Revelation is all yet to come – the rapture, the antichrist, the great tribulation, and finally the return of Jesus. Modified pretarism (or partial pretarism) would say that most of the apocalyptic events of Revelation have already taken place at the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD by Nero (which is what The Last Disciple series is all about) but we still have the second-coming of Jesus to look forward to. I won’t get into the historicity of each of these views here because this is supposed to be a book review, not an eschatology class.
Theology aside, The Last Disciple is a good read and even if you could care less about the dispensationalism vs. pretarism controversy, I think you’ll find this is an exciting page turner. Check out the Last Disciple website for more details. YYYY
Sunday, April 17, 2005
I’ve copied the info below from Calvin DeWitt from one of many websites on Christian environmentalism. Go check it out!
The Seven Degradations of the Earth
Calvin DeWitt, in his book The Environment and the Christian, lists seven degradations of the earth.
First, land is being converted from wilderness to agricultural use and from agricultural use to urban areas at an ever-increasing rate. Some of these lands cannot be reclaimed at all, at least not in the near future.
Second, as many as three species a day become extinct. Once a species has disappeared, it is gone. Neither the species nor the role it occupied in the ecosystem can be retrieved.
Third, land continues to be degraded by the use of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Just because DDT is no longer used does not mean that potentially harmful chemicals are not being used in its place.
Fourth, the treatment of hazardous chemicals and wastes continues as an unsolved problem. Hazardous chemicals seep into water sources from previously buried dumping grounds.
Fifth, pollution is rapidly becoming a global problem. Human garbage turns up on the shores of uninhabited South Pacific islands, far from the shipping lanes, and DDT has been found in Antarctic penguins.
Sixth, our atmosphere appears to be changing. Is it warming due to the increase of gases like carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels? Is the ozone layer shrinking due to the use of chemicals contained in refrigerators, air conditioners, spray cans, and fire extinguishers? Though these questions cannot be answered easily, they must be asked.
Seventh, we are losing the experiences of cultures that have lived in harmony with the creation for hundreds or even thousands years. Cultures such as the Mennonites and Amish, as well as those of the rain forests, are crowded out by the expansion of civilization.
Never before have human beings wielded so much power over God's creation. Do we know what we are doing?
Friday, March 25, 2005
Thursday, March 24, 2005
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Back in January I said I was going to write about a few topics, one of which was my struggle with evangelicalism. What does it mean to be an evangelical and am I still one? Aside from all of the coverage in the media in the wake of George W’s re-election, it was a personal incident that first raised the question. Let me ‘splain…
My wife was on reception at our church when she received a call inquiring if our church was evangelical. She assumed the answer would be yes, but went to check with one of the pastoral staff just to make sure. It turns out that no; the Mennonite Brethren Church does not consider itself evangelical because it grew out of the Anabaptist tradition. Even though all of our core beliefs and practices are the same as any evangelical tradition, I suddenly found myself NOT attending an evangelical church. On one hand, I thought about all of the people who would be concerned about my eternal salvation. On the other hand I thought, “Hmm…cool.”
Since that time I’ve done a lot of thinking and even some praying over what it means to be an evangelical and does it even matter, especially when that term has been hijacked by right-wing power brokers in the U.S. and misused by uninformed media types in Canada. In addition to my own thinking, I’ve been reading a lot about postmodernism and what the postmodern church will look like (notice my two latest books read on the sidebar) which has influenced my thinking too. We’ve had some great discussions at work as well about postmodernism and the “emerging church” that is such a hot topic in some circles. My conclusions, of which there are many, can be summarized in a few points:
1) Terms like Evangelical, Baptist, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Catholic, Missionary, Free Methodist, Mennonite Brethren, etc. that we use as identifiers to segregate ourselves from mainstream society and from other believers are becoming less and less relevant as we head into the postmodern era. As Christians, we spent a good portion of the last 100 years removing ourselves from the populace around us. We’ve been so successful that we are now on the same level as sideshow freaks or ancient pottery in a museum. The Christian subculture we’ve created may be safe but it sure doesn’t help us accomplish our mission of being the hands and feet of Christ in the world.
2) We have been so concerned with having correct doctrine, theology, and practices that we have forgotten the importance of being in right relationship with God, with friends and neighbours, and with the world at large. In the words of Paul the apostle, “I count myself the chief of sinners” in this area. I know that I’ve hurt people and made some harsh comments because I put correct doctrine ahead of loving relationship. Jesus built loving relationships with everyone, regardless of their worldview, with one exception…the Pharisees…the religious leaders who were more concerned with proper practice than with the heart.
3) There is much to be learned from other Christian traditions outside of conventional evangelicalism about worship. As we begin to identify ourselves simply as believers rather by our denominational distinctives I believe we will enter more fully into a true spirit of worship as the united body of Christ. Worship is more than intellectual ascent; it involves the whole person – all five senses, the intellect, the emotions. What can we learn from the more liturgical traditions about the quiet reverence of God? How can the spiritual disciplines of the early church fathers impact my walk with God today? Do icons, candles, and Taize services have a role to play in postmodern worship? I believe they do, right alongside some of the evangelical traditions that we hold so dear.
I recognize that in some respects these points are sweeping generalizations, but this is a new journey for me; somewhat of a personal reformation that I am still working through and expect to do so for a very long time. This is a lifelong journey that will not end on this side of heaven’s door and I have much to learn.
There is so much more I could write but I think I should stop for now. Please leave me comments as I’d welcome dialogue with anyone who is on the same journey.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Friday, February 25, 2005
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Speaking of comments...great news! You no longer need a Blogger account to leave a comment on one of my posts so comment away my friends!
1) What does it mean to be an evangelical and am I still one? Do I want to be?
2) It looks like a puppy is going to be in our near future if we can just make some decisions.
3) The pure joy of listening to your favourite music.
4) Some stuff I've learned.
Yikes! Now that I've told you I'm going to write about this stuff, I better do it. So watch for more consistent updates coming again soon. And check out the new look to my lists for what I'm reading, watching, and listening to.