Friday, November 17, 2006

Review: Ships of Mercy

Ships of Mercy by Don Stephens is a difficult book to review in that, while this isn't exactly the most literary effort I've read, the stories that are conveyed about the amazing work of Mercy Ships will stir your heart and bring tears to your eyes.

Don Stephens is the founder of Mercy Ships International who passionately followed up on an idea he had at the age of 19 while on a missions trip to the Caribbean. After weathering a hurricane that hit the Bahamas, Stephens heard one local survivor ask, "Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a ship with doctors and nurses that could come in after such a disaster?" That is how the kernel of a dream was planted.

I've only recently come to hear of Mercy Ships but I have come to respect this organization as much as any other out there. The concept of a ship full of people, from line cooks right up to some of the world's top surgeons, volunteering their time to help those who have no access to proper medical care is astounding. In 2004 Mercy Ships celebrated their 25th year serving the world's poor from their floating hospitals that travel the globe. They have performed more than two million services with a value of over $250 million while not asking for a penny in return from those they have helped.

This book provides the reader with the history of Mercy Ships from the man who has been there right from the beginning. It was Don Stephens' dream to share the love of Christ in a practical way and Mercy Ships remains true to its original mission to this day. Check out their website for more information and for some remarkable photos of people who have regained their lives and their dignity after Mercy Ships came to town. You can also check out the blog of photographer Scott Harrison who is volunteering on board the Mercy Ship Anastasis as well as some of his photographs that have traveling the U.S. as part of the Mercy exhibition. A warning though...some of these images are very disturbing.

Pick up this book if you have an interest in aid & justice issues, an interest in medicine, or just a good read about the power of following your dreams. 5/5

Also posted to

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Review: Squat

I used to read a ton of fiction when I was younger, but I've found lately that not a lot of fiction really grabs my interest unless it has a really unique story line or is written from an interesting, almost quirky perspective. I picked up Squat for that very reason...A story written from the perspective of a group of homeless friends that takes place over a 24-hour period.

All I can say is WOW, am I ever glad I picked this up! Yes it's unique. Yes it's quirky. But more than that, it will give you an entirely new perspective of life on the streets that will make you look differently at the next person you meet on the sidewalk begging for your loose change.

Author Taylor Field works with the homeless at Graffiti Community Ministries in New York City and has previously published a non-fiction book called Mercy Streets that won Outreach magazine's best outreach resource of 2003 award in the Biography category. This guy knows what he is talking about and he knows his subject matter personally. Field's intimate knowledge of street life helps us see life from a street person's perspective. It takes us through a day in the life...To walk in their shoes, and to understand that, while it is not a choice that has been made willingly, those on the street have emotions, friendships, and concerns just like the rest of us. I highly recommend this book! 5/5

Check out the Squat website for a podcast, chapter samples, and author information.

Also posted to

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sea Monkeys

I was cleaning out some old files the other day when I came across this collection of old church bulletins that two of my very funny friends decided to "enhance" during a church service one day. I can still recall desperately trying to stifle my laughter as these were passed back and forth. We all would have been in our late teens or early twenties when these were circulated, but our subversive sense of humour was evident even back then. You may not find them all that funny, but I laughed out loud when I found them. Here's most of the series for your viewing pleasure...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Book Review: Beyond Cheap Grace

This collected series of lectures originally presented at Fuller Theological Seminary in 2004 provides, as the sub-title suggests, a call to radical discipleship by way of incarnational ministry amongst the poor and marginalized. While not a difficult book by any means, the arguments that author Eldin Villafane puts forth may be a bit overwhelming if you are exploring concepts of justice for the first time. If, on the other hand, this is an area you have been exploring for some time, Beyond Cheap Grace offers some truly "get all fired up" quotes that will have you running for the nearest homeless shelter or getting on the next flight to Africa. From the first lecture: "The need of the hour is not for a soft, fragile, or fastidious Christianity, but for a rigorous, vigorous, concrete, and incarnational Christianity - a muscular Christianity, if you please - one that has the marks of the cross in its hands!"

Of particular interest is the lecture on the prophet Amos who put forth a call for justice to both Israel and the surrounding nations in the Old Testament. Amos 5:24 says, "Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream." While I sometimes worry that Christians are becoming so involved in justice issues that we are forgetting personal holiness, Villafane states, "There is a seamless relationship between ethical behavior and true worship, between justice and piety." Amos seems to be making this same connection. The call of God is not simply to live a holy life but to do a holy life. This is a great little volume to get us moving in that direction.

Also posted to

Monday, August 07, 2006

Book Review: The Passionate Visionary

Responding to what is rightly recognized as a dearth of writing on the leadership style of Paul the apostle, authors Richard S. Ascough and Charles A. Cotton (both from Queens University in Kingston, ON) have crafted a brief, but effective overview of his founding and leadership of the early Church. The Passionate Visionary is one part leadership theory, one part exegesis of Pauline theology which makes for an unusual combination, but for the most part, the authors pull it off.

While there are no earth shattering new leadership theories presented here, it does synthesize a number of the latest thoughts from leading experts in the field and then extracts similarities from the life of Paul. In some instances I had a hard time accepting the parallel between a modern concept and an ancient practice, yet there is still a lot of meat to chew on here for anyone in a leadership role, be it in the workplace or in the church. A worthwhile read at a reasonable price.

Also posted to

Thursday, July 27, 2006

War, What Is It Good For...

...Absolutely nothin'.

Read this article posted to Christianity Today by Riad Kassis, the executive director of the Johann Ludwig Schneller School in West Bekaa, Lebanon. It will break you heart.

How should I respond to my seven-year-old daughter when she is terrified by the news and images of destruction in my country? The bombing of bridges we recently traveled upon, the demolition of our only airport, where my daughter was happily running around just a few weeks ago. What should I say to her when a house was destroyed and 11 people in it killed in one air strike? What should I say to her when a two-year-old child was literally cut in half in a vicious air strike?

I was overwhelmingly silent! But I had to say something to my anxious daughter. I told her not to worry much, that the attacks will only last for a matter of days. As I talked to her, I was thinking of the upcoming meeting of U.N. Security Council. I was so optimistic that the council would put an end to this unequal and disproportionate conflict. I thought of the great nations that are members of the council, with their rich cultural heritages of human achievement and concern for humanity.

So I was completely shocked, greatly saddened, and disappointed when the Council took no stand! Not even a symbolic resolution to condemn the killing of innocents in Lebanon was contemplated. We were told that the council needed days to think the matter over! I wonder what kind of thinking is required when a power station is destroyed, when a civilian car is bombed on its way to a safe place, and when terrified infants and children cry all night as they listen to the bombing of the neighborhood. I wonder whether these members have experienced conflict in tragedies in the Balkans, Sudan, Rwanda, and elsewhere.

I am not much interested in politics, but I am perplexed by the silence of the human conscience. Yet I still hope that the human conscience will be awakened someday. I am encouraged by the ability of the worldwide Christian church to speak about peace and to run seminars on conflict resolution, but disappointed with its ineffectiveness to work for a real and just peace, particularly in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, I am encouraged to know that many Christian sisters and brothers are concerned for our situation in Lebanon. They are praying and encouraging us, in spite of their helplessness to influence their governments.

We live in West Bekaa, Lebanon, and for the last 16 years we have been involved in peace and tolerance education as we work with hundreds of students and families who belong to various religious backgrounds. Now we experience again the meaning of hatred and war. As I write these words, I hear Israeli jet fighters bombing a nearby bridge and several roads, killing several civilians who happened to be nearby. We are nearly isolated, as roads to other cities and towns are destroyed. Our fear is that in just a few days, food, fuel, medicines, and other needed items will become scarce as the situation worsens and the sea, land, and air blockade continues.

What should I say to my daughter? "My daughter let us keep praying not just for peace, but for the awakening of the human conscience." Would you please join me in such a prayer?

Television images of the war don't tell the real story of what is happening to innocent civilians as the bombs rain down on them. When you see the video game-like images on TV tonight, think of the non-participants who are suffering the consequences of being caught in the middle of this conflict and say a prayer for them.

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy...In fact, violence merely increases hate...returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." - Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Book Review: The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Let me throw a few stats at you...

The percentage of born-again Christians who have experienced divorce is the same as non-Christians. 90% of divorced born-again folk divorced after they accepted Christ.

In a 2002 study, it was discovered that only 6% of born-again adults tithe.

26% of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong. 13% say it is okay for married persons to have sex with someone other than one's spouse.

17% of evangelicals would object to having black neighbours move in next door.

Only 9% of born-again adults and 2% of born-again teenagers have a biblical worldview.

These situations and more are addressed in Ronald Sider's book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience. Why is it that we see so little life change amongst those who consider themselves "born-again" Christians? For me, growing up, being "separate from the world" meant don't smoke, don't chew, don't go with girls that do. And while I believed (and still believe) that most of our evangelical rules have very little to do with authentic Biblical faith, the issues above represent blatant disobedience to scriptural directives.

Have we really embraced what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace? Sider believes we have done exactly that, and have turned salvation into a no-lose insurance policy against hell. Just say the sinners prayer and you'll be forgiven forever and there will be no other expectations put on you - we have promoted a "costless faith" as George Barna puts it. In Sider's words, "Salvation becomes, not a life-transforming experience that reorients every corner of life, but a one-way ticket to heaven, and one can live like hell until one gets there."

Sider goes on to consider the concept of the "Kingdom of God" and how Jesus' teaching on the kingdom was far more holistic than our simple get out of hell free card. A concept that Brian McLaren also addresses in The Secret Message of Jesus.

Sider concludes the book by looking at some of the positives that offer a ray of hope for the future. While I appreciate his attempt to end the book on a positive note, I'm afraid the strength of Sider's argument doesn't leave me with a lot of hope for change any time soon.

Also posted to

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Blogging Blues

It's been very spotty for me lately in terms of keeping this site updated, a problem I'll blame on my new Mac. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE my new computer - 5 Stars all the way - but it seems that the Blogger software is unable to properly run on a Mac at this time. So, for now I'll have to post from my work computer. Not a problem, as long as I bring it home at night, which, being a bus rider over the summer is a bit of a drag. I'll do my best though so stay tuned...many updates to come...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A Little Short on Cash?

Well head on down to the United Pentecostal Church in Harvey, IL (just outside of Chicago) and get 25 bucks just for showing up. The church "plans to provide the cash to the first 75 people who visit the church for the first time at each of two services, one at 10 a.m. and another at 1 p.m. The only requirements are that the newcomers be 16 or older and that they stay for the entire 90-minute service," writes the Chicago Tribune. What's next, finders fees for each new convert?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Lottery Tickets and Cadillacs

Sounds like the title of a country song doesn't it? Sad to say, it's not. On the way home from church not too long ago we stopped to pick up a loaf of bread. I waited in the car while Rebecca ran into the bakery. As I was waiting I noticed that the lady in the car next to me had a stack of scratch-and-win lottery tickets that she was working her way through. I looked a little closer and realized that she was wearing a fur coat and the car she was driving a passenger in was a Cadillac STS. I couldn't help but think, here's this woman who would appear to have it all but she still wanted more. The fur coat, Cadillac, and I'm guessing big house in the rich part of town weren't satisfying her soul so she was looking for something else to try to fill the void.

Maybe she wanted more or maybe she was just hoping to win the jackpot to pay for everything. I don't know. But I do know that no matter how big the cash prize, it will never make her happy. Just ask the rich young ruler...

"As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked, "Good Teacher, what should I do t get eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked. "Only God is truly good. But as for your question, you know the commandments: `Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Do not cheat. Honor your father and mother.'"

"Teacher," the man replied, "I've obeyed all these commandments since I was a child."

Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. "You lack only one thing," he told him. "Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this, the man's face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions. (Mark 10:17-22)

I catch myself wanting "more" all the time, although not as often as in the past. The problem is (if I dare quote a U2 song) too much is never enough. It seems to me there is a direct correlation between having/wanting lots of things and the size of the hole inside. How many older folks say, "we didn't have much when I was a kid but we were happy." Sure, it has become a cliche, but it definitely rings true. All of our stuff can never satisfy our longing to love and be loved, to be known by others, and ultimately, to be in relationship with God.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Book Review: The Secret Message of Jesus

When I first read the title of Brian McLaren’s latest book, The Secret Message of Jesus, a small shudder went down my spine. Is it possible that the man who brought us such memorable and challenging books as A Generous Orthodoxy and A New Kind of Christian had sold out to the ‘how-to-lead-a-victorious-Christian-life-if-you-just-follow-these-10-easy-steps” palaver that has proliferated over the last 10 to 15 years in Christian publishing? As I dug into The Secret Message of Jesus I was pleased to find out that all is well in the world of McLaren.

In Matthew 10:7 Jesus says “the kingdom of Heaven is near.” Most of us have grown up with the understanding that near refers to a future time when Jesus returns and the kingdom of God reigns over the earth. McLaren’s supposition however, is that the “secret message” Jesus preached was the kingdom of God here, now, among you. It is not just a future glory to look forward to but is to be lived out by everyone who chooses to enter into it. In McLaren’s words, “the King is in the kingdom, and the kingdom is among us here and now – for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. The King is present in the mess and chaos of everyday life on earth…bringing healing, sight, perception, liberation, wholeness, wholesomeness, movement, health, fullness, nourishment, sanity, and balance. The incursion of the kingdom has begun.”

If this perception rings true, how then does my perspective of the world change if I am seeking the establishment of God’s kingdom on a daily basis? How do I view my neighbours, my co-workers, my friends? How might this change our traditional methods of evangelism? How does my view of the environment change? What about poverty, oppression, and injustice both at home and abroad?

The Secret Message of Jesus offers a unique perspective on what it means to be participants in the kingdom of God and is an excellent launching pad for discussion of these and other issues as we try to reengage the church with the culture at large. In many ways this is a far more personal book as it challenges us not just to change our theology, but to change our world as well.

Also posted to and published in RYUN Magazine (September issue).

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Book Review: The Da Vinci Code and the Secrets of the Temple

There is no shortage of books refuting the erroneous claims about Jesus Christ in The Da Vinci Code. Robin Griffith-Jones offers a literate response that is not only well measured, but he actually seems to have some fun with the topic. Unlike so many of the other “anti-Da Vinci” titles, which primarily take a finger-wagging approach towards Dan Brown and his novel, Griffith-Jones leads us on a quest through historical evidences that is every bit as intriguing as the novel itself.

From what authority does he write? Griffith-Jones is the Master of the Temple Church in London, as referenced in the Da Vinci Code itself. Although he has none of the authority of his predecessors, Griffith-Jones’ position is directly descended from the days of the Knights Templar and he does an excellent job chronicling their rise and their fall in a few brief pages.

In all, Robin Griffith-Jones has provided a reasonable rebuttal that gets to the heart of the flawed message of the Da Vinci Code in only 123 pages. If only Dan Brown had been so succinct.

Also posted to

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A MAC Attack!

It's been a looooong time since my last post and I'm afraid I don't have a very good excuse, well, actually I do...a new MAC! Yes, I finally took the plunge and got my first new computer in eight years; a shiny new 17-inch Intel Duo-Core iMAC . All of the rumours I'd heard about how user-friendly and intuitive Apple computers are proved to be entirely true. It was such an easy set-up I actually wondered what I'd missed! Since I tend to hold off on these kind of purchases until I can do it big, I splurged and picked up a 30-Gig iPod and a laser printer as well. And this week my Harman/Kardon SoundSticks II arrived via a pretty good deal on eBay. So I'm all suited up to rock the house! Aside from transferring files from the old machine and loading software, the last two weeks have been spent slowly uploading all of my favorite CD's to the hard drive and then onto the iPod. Sweet!

I've also discovered the wonderful world of podcasts and have come across a few that I listen to regularly. My two faves so far though are The Meeting House and The Beautiful Game.

Other than the MAC, we've also redone our spare bedroom, spent a weekend in Toronto at Canada Blooms, and finished the curling season with a 6-1 record. Not to boast too much, but we won our last two games by a combined score of 17-3. Woohoo! Although it's nice to have Tuesday nights free, I'm already looking forward to starting up in the fall again.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something and I've got lots of pictures to post as well so stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Microsoft Licence

Tim sent me a fun link at work today. Check out this Microsoft End User agreement. As someone making the move to Mac in the next month or so I find this especially funny!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Bono & The Prayer Breakfast

Bono spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in the U.S. last week. A lot of people are calling it a prophetic speech and his most public declaration of faith yet. Perhaps even more importantly, he continued to challenge the church and the American leadership to keep working hard to bring justice and not just charity to Africa. Go here for the complete transcript of the speech.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Gay Marriage In Canada

What I'm about to say will upset a lot of people. In fact, I hesitate to post anything at all, but frankly, I'm sick of hearing Christians carry on about the gay marriage issue as if it were the only important issue in the election.

Let me state right off the top that I am in favour of the traditional definition of marriage - the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. I believe if homosexuals want to form civil unions, they should be allowed to do so, but do not call it marriage. That being said, we are turning the gay marriage issue into our magnum opus, the defining issue by which we choose to support a candidate. At my parents church, they are even encouraging their congregation to vote for the Conservatives because they are going to change the gay marriage law. Poppycock! I think there are going to be an awful lot of disappointed people when it becomes a backburner issue after the election takes place.

What do we as Christians want to be know for? How much we loath homosexuals or how much we love our enemies and care for the poor and the oppressed? I don't hear many churches up in arms about Canada's shoddy record on foreign aid. Or when was the last time you heard of Christians lobbying their MP to do something about homelessness on our own streets? It seems we choose our issues very carefully, and especially prefer those that don't cause us to question our own motives. I heard theologian Brian McLaren say once that it's time to just shut up and start loving people. I agree.

"You have heard the law that says 'Love your neighbour' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!" - Jesus (Matthew 5:43-44, NLT).

"There is still one thing you lack...Sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." - Jesus (Luke 18:22, NLT)

"Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough." - Jesus (Mark 2:17, NLT)

I'm NOT Gonna' Be In Politics!

I had another call from the CBC tonight that they definitely want me to pose my question in person to Stephen Harper - great news - except for one little problem...the question period is going to be taped mid-morning tomorrow instead of being live tomorrow night. Hello? Some of us have to work during the day! I have two appointments in the morning and a meeting in the afternoon so there's no way I can make it to the taping. Too bad; I was looking forward to asking a very important question to what looks like the next Prime Minister of Canada. Just for the record, here is the final, reworked version of my question:

Mr. Harper,
There has been very little discussion in this campaign about international aid to impoverished countries as well as addressing child poverty and homelessness here in Canada. I have studied the platforms of the three primary parties and it would appear that the NDP are the only party to make a firm commitment to increase foreign aid to 0.7% of GDP by 2015 as outlined in the Millennium Development Goals.

I believe that a country as wealthy as Canada has a responsibility to provide assistance to the poor around the world and here at home. What is the Conservative Party's commitment to the more than 30,000 people worldwide who die of poverty related illnesses every day?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Free At Last, Free At Last

I was reminded this morning by an audio clip on CBC that today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the U.S. If ever there were something worth celebrating, it is the life of Dr. King. Most people know his leagacy so I won't repeat it here. I would just encourage you to follow the links below and be reminded again just what the Kingdom of God is all about.

Build the
I Have A Dream
Letter From A Birmingham Jail
The King Center

"Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm Gonna' Be In Politics!

Well, well, well. It seems that little ol' me might be getting embroiled in this election campaign after all. Generally speaking, I try to keep my politcal views to myself unless I'm talking to someone who thinks the same way I do - too many hard feelings, etc. That being said, I just had a call from the CBC to potentially take part in the live Q&A time with Stephen Harper if it actually happens. As of right now it hasn't been confirmed, nor has a location, but if it's in Toronto there's a good chance I'll be there. WooHoo! Here's the question I submitted:

There has been very little discussion in this campaign about international aid to impoverished countries. Furthermore, there has been no attempt to address child poverty and homelessness here in Canada. In reviewing the websites of the major parties, it would appear that the NDP are the only party to consider either of these issues in their election platform. What commitment are you (Mr.’s Martin/Harper) willing to make toward these issues as well as the Millennium Development Goals?

I'll keep you posted, but if I make it, watch for me early next week asking my question to Mr. Harper live and in-person!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Just Say No...To Books!

I'm not one to make resolutions so this is not a resolution, but it is a commitment to read fewer books this year. I know, I know...I'm in the book business and besides, reading is good for you. Well, that's true as long as you don't get to the point of only reading and never doing. I feel like I've reached a point where I need to step back from reading so many theology/ministry books and actually get myself doing the work of the Kingdom instead of just reading about it. Fiction, biography, history, world issues, or comic books are all okay. Just no more theology/ministry books for a while. I'm off now to read the Canadian Book of Lists!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

All Is Quiet On New Year's Day...

And so it is. After having a couple of friends over for New Year's Eve last night, today has been a very mellow sort of day with leftover Chinese food, winter getaway thoughts, and a visit to Bedside Baptist church (an Andy Stanley video actually!) I took Havana out for a walk this morning and was amazed at the absolute lack of activity. Christmas seemed fairly quiet on our street, but nothing compared to the stillness this morning.

This has been a fairly reflective day as well. We watched a World Vision TV special earlier and I've been reading some of Brian McLaren's next book, The Secret Message of Jesus, that comes out in April. Without divulging too much information, McLaren's premise is that Jesus had a "secret" that we have not really understood for most of the last two millennia, namely, that the Kingdom of God is not a future glory to look forward to, but is here, among us now. In Matthew 10:7 Jesus said “the kingdom of heaven is near” - Jesus ushered in the Kingdom. In McLaren's words, "Instead of being about the kingdom of God coming to earth, the Christian religion has too often become preoccupied with abandoning or escaping the earth and going to heaven."

I’ve read a lot and thought a lot about “the kingdom” lately and wrote this in my journal last night: How then, does my perspective of the world change if I am seeking the establishment of God’s kingdom on a daily basis? How do I view my community, my neighbours, my co-workers, and my friends? How does my view of the environment change? What about poverty and oppression, both at home and around the world…

Looking back at 2005, I know that God challenged me and stretched my faith more than ever before and in ways I would not have expected. I have a greatly expanded view of who my neighbour is and a much deeper vision of what my community and the world could be if the Kingdom of God were allowed to fully establish itself. And contrary to the opinion of many, I am convinced that the Kingdom has nothing to do with political power or influence. It is a kingdom of love, joy, hope, humility, and peace. These are the words of a true revolution!

As I look forward to 2006, I wonder what God has in store; but as I sit here writing this now, I feel very strongly that He will continue to stretch my concept of the Kingdom even further. In many ways, my faith has moved from my head to my heart this year. My prayer is that it would move from my heart to my hands and feet in the year ahead.

Happy New Year to All!