Preparing the way

Last Sunday, I spoke at All Saints’ Anglican Church, Whitby.  The congregation has two different types of service each week, so, glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to preach two different messages (according to the length of time allotted me, and according to the lectionary readings I was assigned).  [I may post mp3s of those messages, so check here to find them.]  I’m not often invited to speak in Anglican congregations, so it was an enriching experience for me to participate in a Eucharistic service that was completely spoken – no music at all – at 8:00 a.m., and to participate in a “choral mattins” service that was almost completely sung at 10:00 a.m.  As a low and free church kind of guy, I find it’s enjoyable to experience a higher liturgy now and again.

What struck me the most about the services, especially the choral mattins service, is how infused they are with Scripture.  There’s not just the four prescribed readings from the lectionary; there are biblical allusions and quotations in many of the sung and said portions of the services.

Of course, it’s possible to infuse any style of worship with Scripture.  Scripture choruses, metrical psalms, etc., all draw us into the Word, often in very subtle but effective ways.  These can prepare the way for the Scripture to fill our hearts with the love and knowledge of God.

I was particularly struck, too, by the reception that I received.  Betty, our Bible Store manager, was with me, and together we were welcomed at All Saints’ as royalty!  Many people came prepared to purchase Bibles, and happily anticipated the preaching of the Scriptures.  It was a really happy experience!

This happened because the Rector, The Rev. Ken Davis, had prepared his people for our visit.  Sunday was the kick-off to several weeks of Bible engagement for the congregation.  Ken’s desire is to get all of his congregants reading the Bible, and preferably studying it in small groups.

As the area Bible Society Guy, how could I argue with that?

Keep up the good work, All Saints’.  God knows the difference you’re making!

Encouragement From The Word

Sharpening Up

            I drove to Peterborough on Thursday, not really encouraged about my work.  There is so much that needs to be done – far more than can be handled by what my budget allows for human resources.  Not really sure what the meeting in Peterborough would hold, I felt a slight, but persistent, sense of despondency.  I arrived at the meeting, alongside several of my fellow District Directors, to hear from the Director of Scripture Resources for the Canadian Bible Society.  Joel talked to us about his hopes, dreams, and plans for the Bible Stores that are operated by each district across the country.


            He told us excitedly about his desire to make sure the stores are supported with excellent Bible and Bible-related products; his plans to offer online services for customers; his hope for new and better things for the stores, which are a visible presence for the Society throughout Canada.  He also gave each of us a “book table in a binder” – a tool that we can take to churches so that congregations can look at products being offered by CBS, right down to the actual print size in Bibles, and place orders.  In this way, people will have easy access to a copy of the Scriptures in a language, and version, they understand.


            This got me, and the other District Directors, excited about what God may do with our retail ministry at CBS.  It’s pretty hard for one store in Toronto to serve a district that runs from Mississauga to Trenton, Owen Sound to Bracebridge to Bancroft.  The “book table in a binder”, and the promise of online access, will open many doors for people to obtain a Bible so that God will speak to them through his Word.


            In Scripture, we read, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27.17, NLT).  I walked into that meeting feeling pretty dull, but walked out of it feeling sharp.  That’s what fellow believers can do for each other.


            It doesn’t have to involve presentations, meetings or retail matters.  It can be simply a warm smile, a firm handshake, a joyful embrace.  It can involve words of encouragement from another.  It’s the genius of community, and why the church was, despite its flaws, one of God’s greatest ideas.  The Lord puts us in community for a reason – to encourage, edify, and sometimes to correct and reprove one another. 


            Each of us, in our walk of faith, needs to be sharp.  Heaven knows, the devil loves it when God’s people are dull.  So I thank God for my friend Joel, who sharpened me up on Thursday.  I thank God for the many followers of Jesus who have sharpened me over the years.  I hope, and pray, that I have been able, now and again, to do the same for others.


            How about you?  Who are you hanging around with that can sharpen you?  And whom are you sharpening in the faith?  God knows the difference each of us can make for one another.


What happens when you slow down

Don’t tell anybody at work, but today was a slower day.  For a variety of very ethical and helpful reasons, I worked from home today.  (Besides, it was Earth Day, and I reduced my emissions by driving less!)

At the end of one appointment, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some fixin’s for supper.  As I pulled up to a really great parking space (without even having prayed about it – imagine that!), I saw a senior gentleman standing outside his car, hood raised, booster cables at the ready.  I parked the van and approached him.

“Do you need a boost, sir, or is someone coming to help you?”

The short answer was that a boost would indeed be helpful to him, so I repositioned the van, and got him and his wife (their car, that is) boosted up and on their way.  My good deed for the day, I thought to myself.

Then, once I was home, van parked, another senior gentleman approached me.  He was delivering a prescription for a local pharmacy, and wondered where a particular street was.  I didn’t know, but volunteered to look on my map to help him.  Two good deeds for my day?  This got me thinking there was something unusual going on.

Here’s the deal:  normally, I’m going at a mile a minute.  I see people in need more than just today, but most of the time, I don’t have time to help them.  I just speed past and focus on the task at hand, for which the clock awaits me like a tireless taskmaster.  Not today.  I worked from home, had things spaced out sufficiently to allow for a more relaxed pace.  And look at the opportunities God placed before me.

Jesus said that if do helpful things for others, it’s like doing them for him.  So I was happy to serve my Lord today in ways unexpected.

So why not slow down yourself?  You might be surprised what happens.

Encouragement From The Word

Sweet Victory

As I write this, the Montreal Canadiens have (finally) won their first-round NHL playoff series against the Boston Bruins. As a life-long fan of the Habs (les Habitants Canadiens, bien sur), this is a sweet victory – yes, only one of several steps toward the Stanley Cup, but a sweet one nonetheless.  It’s left me (and every other Montreal fan) pumped.

But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15.57, NIV).  I wonder why everyone who claims the name “Christian” doesn’t feel pumped every day – at least at some level – by this truth?


Binge Reading

I picked up a book at the Bible Society the other day, and when I paid for it, I remarked to the manager that I am a self-labelled “binge reader”.  That book I bought would be the fifth book I’d have on the go at that point, not counting the Bible.  It might say something about my inability to finish one thing before starting another, though I think that probably applies to my model railroading more than it applies to my reading. 

A goodly part of my vocation involves reading:  Scripture itself, books about the Bible, commentaries, etc., etc.  And, to achieve at least some sort of touch-point with those who hear me, read me or dialogue with me, I try to read as widely as time permits beyond the theological.  That means reading books, yes, but also blogs, newspapers, magazines, and the like (including audio books, which allow me to redeem much of the time I spend on the road).  I’m constantly reading something, even if it’s just a model train magazine. 

Yet there are times when my reading goes ‘over the top’, like these days.  I can’t seem to get enough.  I wish I knew why that is, and I wish these ‘binges’ would last longer.  I never fail to be unspeakably enriched by these times.

It leaves me wondering why some folks, despite their self-admitted literacy, choose not to read much – or choose not to read things that will develop their spiritual lives.  The Christian Booksellers’ Association (now defunct in Canada) has said that some three-quarters of church-going people have no idea that Christian resources, such as those found in Christian bookstores, exist.  Three-quarters! 

To be sure, there is a fair bit in Christian bookstores that could not be labelled as anything more powerful than drivel.  (Opinions, it should be noted, vary as to what constitutes said ‘drivel’.)  But along with the not-so-profound stuff there is much excellent, edifying reading to be found – and with the near-equalizing of the Canadian and American currencies, it can be found at more reasonable prices than in recent memory.

So – do an online search for a Christian retail outlet near you, or check the Christian sections of or, or go to  There’s lots of good stuff to be read out there.

When I finish one of those volumes I’ve got on the go right now, I’ll post a review in my “book reviews” section of 

Now, what page was I on…?

Encouragement From The Word

Where People Are

            When I jumped in and became blogger a few weeks back, a good friend of mine suggested that I also join Facebook.  I resisted, principally because I feared the time it would usurp from both my work and my hobbies.  I’ve heard some horror stories of people who got no work done because of their time spent on Facebook – and some employers who banned their employees from using it at work!  Did I really want to become part of such a network?


            I wasn’t sure.  But a couple of weeks ago, I gave in.  Why?  One simple reason:  to promote my blog!


            That being said, there have been some positive off-shoots from this.  I’ve reconnected with people I haven’t seen in twenty-plus years.  I’ve made some new “friends” (electronically speaking).  I’ve honed my multi-tasking skills.  (Ever tried to watch hockey, write a blog posting, talk to your spouse, and play 3 games of Scrabulous, all at the same time?)


            But the main purpose remains:  I joined Facebook to promote my blog, and thereby to help people think about what it means to have a relationship with God (or to draw them deeper in their walk). 


            I never considered myself a decent candidate for blogging or Facebook, quite frankly, but I jumped in anyway.  Why?  Because that’s where people “are”.


            A congregation I once served was planning to have a “Bring A Friend” Sunday.  When one person in the church family announced to me that she had no friends who didn’t go to church, I suggested to her that she needed some new friends!  Followers of Jesus can’t be isolated.  We must be engaged with the world.  We aren’t to be ‘of’ the world, but we do have to be ‘in’ it.


            I love what the apostle Paul told the Corinthian church when he was both defending himself and telling the church that he had given up his rights as an apostle:  I try to find common ground with everyone so that I might bring them to Christ.  I do all this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9.22b-23, NLT).  When Paul was hanging around with Jews, he acted like a Jew.  When he was hanging around Gentiles, he acted like a Gentile.  He wasn’t being a chameleon in any malevolent sense:  he was just trying to fit in with the culture so that his message – uncompromised – would be heard.


            Being engaged with the world while not compromising our message is one of the great challenges for the Christ-follower of the twenty-first century.  But God, who is full of grace, gives us the ability to do it.  Whether it’s something simple like Facebook, or something more challenging like learning to eat the food of another culture, we can do it.  We have the best reason of all:  to bring people to Christ.

Encouragement From The Word

Why Christian Television should air Jerry Springer

Okay, this should be interesting, you’re thinking. 

Actually, it’s a true story.

I had lunch with my friend David Harrison today. He is the founder of Bus Stop Bible Studies, a ministry dedicated to getting Biblical messages before the transit-riding public.  He was telling me about a conference he attended recently, during which one speaker told the story of having to decide, as the manager of a Christian television station, whether or not to air Jerry Springer.  Why was that an issue?  Apparently, the investors liked Rush Limbaugh, and the station could only buy Rush if they also bought Jerry.  After much prayer and consideration, the manager decided to go ahead.


Because her neighbour at her cottage caught more fish than she did.

Okay, now I’m confused, you think.  Read on.

In the state she lived in, it was “the thing to do” to have a cottage, and all the necessities to go fishing.  So she purchased all that she needed, and went fishing, but never caught anything.  Why? she wondered.  She remarked to herself that her neighbour always had loads of fish.  So she asked him what was the secret to his success.

“To catch the fish, you’ve got to fish in dark waters, and use smelly bait,” he said, matter-of-factly.  And with that, he handed her a mittful of leeches!

As momentarily unpleasant as that probably was, it was just the lesson she needed for her TV station:  if you’re going to reach people, you’ve got to meet them where they are.  So she agreed to run Jerry Springer, late at night, on her Christian station.  She made a deal with the people that ran a local prayer centre to scroll its phone number across the screen during Jerry Springer, so that people needing prayer could call and receive help.

The phone lines were jammed.  The calls were too numerous to take.  All of a sudden, running Jerry Springer on Christian TV was a ministry.  It worked.

David reflected on this with me with these verses:  “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers – Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew – fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen.  Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!’  And they left their nets at once and went with him” (Matthew 5.18-20, NLT).  Where did Jesus go to find his friends, and what was his bait?

Jesus went to where the people were, and he ‘baited’ them with a God-sized vision of the Kingdom.  It was so compelling that they dropped the work they were doing and immediately followed.

All followers of Jesus can learn from this.  If we truly want to be effective in our desire to reach out with the Good News, we need to be where the people are – sometimes in seedy places.  Jesus did this all the time:  he was accused of hanging around with tax collectors and women of ill repute and the like.  Why?  Because sick people are the ones who need a doctor.  Folks who are far from God are the ones who need the Gospel. 

That’s why organizations like Bus Stop Bible Studies exist.  And it’s why organizations like the Canadian Bible Society exist – to assist those who are reaching people with the Word.

If Bibles remain only in churches or people’s homes, how will others hear?  That’s why Christian Television should air Jerry Springer, and why the Bible should be on the buses.

Encouragement From The Word

Needy People

            When I was a youth – from about Grade VIII until my first year of university, I wanted to be a meteorologist.  While God’s call on my life turned out to be somewhat different, I have retained an interest in all things related to the weather.


            Today, where I am, it’s raining. 


            Thanks for that, you’re thinking.  But there’s a point.  Trust me.


            The kind of cold, driving rain we’re experiencing today isn’t really all that pleasant.  In fact, I might call it miserable.


            I don’t really enjoy rain.  It impedes my morning walk.  It leaves me cold and wet.  It soaks my shoes.  But I tolerate, even accept rain, because I know we need it.


            When we talk to God, we generally pray for things that we want.  “Lord, please give me a:

  • cute boyfriend/girlfriend
  • nice car
  • comfortable home
  • etc., etc.”


            As we mature in faith, and begin to find our wills shaped after God’s, our prayers change.  Why is that?  Because we appreciate that God does not always give us what we want, but always gives us what we need.


            Right before he shares the Bible’s most famous dangerous prayer, Jesus enjoins his friends:  When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do.  They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again.   Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matthew 6.7-8, NLT – emphasis mine).


The fact that God knows what we need even before we ask shouldn’t stop us from praying; in fact, it should encourage us all the more in our prayers, knowing that we have a relationship with a God who knows us intimately and recognizes our needs.  Some great theologian (!) once wrote that “April showers bring May flowers”.  We need rain – even rain like we’re getting this morning – to make the trees bud and the grass grow and the flowers blossom.


I don’t have to enjoy the rain.  But the miracle of the changing seasons and the emerging verdancy sends me to my knees in thanksgiving and praise.  May it do the same for you!

Defending the faith

Ontario the Lemming?

While watching the news this evening, I learned that the panel that is discerning “what to do” about the exclusive use of the Lord’s Prayer in the Ontario Legislative Assembly is seeking public input.  Just because I could, I decided to offer my 2.08 cents (including provincial sales tax) on the matter.  Here’s what I wrote:


This appears not to be an issue about pluralism or multiculturalism for the Premier, but a matter (as with so many others) of “Other provinces are…”.  Perhaps you might respectfully ask the Premier, “If other provinces were going to jump off a cliff, would you want Ontario to do likewise?”


The simple reality is that if members knew what they were praying, they might be reluctant to pray it every day.  That being said, it is important that we not water down to the lowest common denominator – that is, nothing – as a replacement for the Lord’s Prayer.  Consult with people from every religious sect for prayers.  Don’t just talk to “Muslims”, talk to Shiite and Sunni Muslims; don’t just talk to “Jews”, talk to Orthodox and Reform Jews; don’t just talk to “Christians”, talk to Mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical Christians, and all other sorts of faith groups.


If you want to be pluralistic, be pluralistic.  But if you want to honour the heritage on which Ontario was built, and respect the faith that forms the foundation for what we deign to call “democracy”, do not neglect the Christian roots of everything that brought Ontario into being – and what continues to make Ontario open to multiculturalism.


Thank you.  And may the God whom I worship – the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ – fill you with wisdom by the power of the Holy Spirit as you consider this important matter.


I don’t like to think of Ontario being governed according to the tradition of lemmings.  My prayer is that the panel considering the matter will do what needs to be done for Ontario’s best interests (not just for the sake of political correctness).  The Lord’s Prayer as depicted in Matthew 6 and Luke 11 is a dangerous prayer, if we take it seriously.  Personally, I’d be delighted if we all took it seriously – Your Humble Scribe included.

If you’d like to have your say, and you are a resident of Ontario, Canada, click on and follow the link labelled “Consultation on Prayer in the Legislative Assembly”.



Language: ever-changing

One of my jobs as a communicator is to, well, communicate. 

Now, there’s a deep statement, you’re thinking.  But it gets better:  read on.

The one constant fact about the English language is that it is always changing.  “Language is always in a state of flux,” I keep saying.  It’s not original to me, but some days I feel like I might own the record for most-frequently-used.

It used to be that language was the purview of etymologists (that’s word freaks, to us lay folk).  And most etymologists, like most other “-ologists”, were academics.  Nowadays, however, language is both no one’s and everyone’s purview.

It’s no one’s purview in the sense that no one has control over the evolution, or erosion, of language.  It’s everyone’s purview in the sense that, thanks to mass-media communications (not least of which is this here Internet thing) everyone contributes toward the addition of terms to the common dictionary, as well as toward the disuse of terms or even the re-definition of words.  (Remember when “gay” strictly meant “happy”?  When “man” meant “humanity”?  Not so today!)

A couple of years ago, I had a protracted online debate with a member of the editorial staff of Our Local Tabloid That Holds The Canadian Tire Flyer.  We were discussing the uses and abuses of the adjective, “The Reverend”.  The newspaper had written quite a favourable column that involved some members of the clergy.  (If I recall, it was about a Habitat for Humanity project in Scarborough.)  I wrote, not for publication in the newspaper, that the editors had chosen to misuse the aforementioned adjective. 

What was interesting about the debate is that the person from the paper conceded that I was correct, but at the same time stated that the paper was not going to change how it used the term.  That, friends, is power over the English language.  Granted, it’s not over some life-changing issue, but that’s just an example from my own experience.

(If you’re curious about the uses and abuses of the adjective, “The Reverend”, comment on this piece and I’ll give you the right – er, my – take on it.)

The Internet gives us all power to change the language.  In fact, the Internet itself is changing the language just by the use of some common terms.  One of the most interesting thinkers in the blogosphere today is a guy named Seth Godin.  In one of his pieces earlier this week, he discusses how the Internet is changing language.  (I might suggest that the term “blogosphere” could soon find its way into the OED.  But I digress.)

You can read Seth’s piece here.  He talks about the phenomenon of Facebook and how it has turned the word “friend” into a verb, e.g., “I’ll friend you on that.”

Words are powerful.  As a communicator, I try to use words in ways that will express what I need to say in relevant and meaningful ways.  Sometimes, that means using English words in ways I haven’t been used to.

That being said, it is unlikely that u wl evr c me rite lk ths.  Frankly, it took me longer to write that than the whole previous paragraph, because it’s not a language – a dialect? – with which I’m conversant.  I guess that’s because I’m not a big text messaging user, where characters count and vowels are often disposable.

When I lead groups in seminars on discovering the Bible, I show them a political cartoon from The Globe and Mail from some years back that depicts a couple of children speaking in terms largely foreign to adults under the caption, “English Language In Flux”.  Most of the participants turn up their noses at this, but when I remind them that their grandchildren probably talk this way, they are reminded of the need for relevant communication.

That’s why there are so many English versions of the Bible, for example.  Because language is ever-changing, and God speaks every language under the sun, versions must continue to be translated and published. 

And we who communicate for a living must, therefore, be culture analysts.  It’s not always easy, but it’s, like, necessary, you know?

Book Reviews

The Inevitable Stress

In my work, I get to talk to a lot of pastors.  I try to encourage them by reminding them, and anybody else who will hear me, that one of the hardest jobs in today’s world is to be the pastor of the local church.  I know this, because I’ve been one.  One of the inevitabilities of being pastor of the local church is stress, usually in copious quantities.

Tony Pappas wrote a little book back in 1995 that I wish I had read back in 1995.  It’s entitled Pastoral Stress:  Sources of Tension, Resources For Transformation (Alban Institute).  In just over 140 pages, he writes helpfully and with personal anecdote about how to recognize and deal with stress in ministry, and where much of that stress comes from, in terms of family systems.  The role of the pastor in the system or systems that make up the church can be major stressors. 

Stress can be a gift if we recognize it for what it is and seek God in the midst of it.  Anxiety, on the other hand, is purely optional.  Anxiety is often our natural response to stress, yet God invites us to look beyond the immediate moment to the bigger picture of what his Body in that particular place is, and can be.

It would take too long to delineate the examples and the sources that Pappas offers in his book.  Suffice it to say that, had I read this book back when it was published, I might not have made some of the mistakes I’ve made.  (Alternatively, I might have made them with at least a greater sense of conviction!) 

Much of the book may make more sense to American readers, since he writes from within that culture and context, but Canadian pastors and church leaders will strongly identify with much of what is in this book.

Toward the end, Pappas points out that the culture around the church is changing, and the church (and its culture[s]) have a responsibility before God to grapple with that.  When this book was published, some of those cultural shifts which we consider normative today were just poking above the surface of the landscape (to mix my metaphors).  This is one of the greatest challenges that faces the church of Jesus Christ today, and while Pappas did not deal with it at length, his work gives the reader several tools for discernment.

I recommend this book.

Encouragement From The Word

Sleeping through

I awoke this morning at approximately 0815.  When I staggered out to the living room, my wife asked me if I had heard all the sirens.

“What sirens?” I asked, knowing nothing of which she spoke.

“The sirens out on the 401,” she said, matter-of-factly.  “I heard them when I woke up at twenty to seven.”

Now, my wife is a light sleeper.  “How light?” you ask?  Most mornings, she hears her clock radio go click before the alarm comes on, and shuts it off, rising.  Not me.  Not only did I miss those sirens, only a few hundred metres from my ear, I have been known to miss – back in my undergraduate, pre-CPAP days – university dorm fire alarms.

I’m fairly sure I’d hear the smoke detector go off, but sirens on the 401?  Not today.

It got me thinking:  What kinds of things do we sleep through?  The parable of the ten bridesmaids in Matthew 25.1-13 is a good reminder.  What are our priorities?  What matters to us?

Was I going to be able to do anything about those sirens on the 401?  Nope.  Could I do anything if my smoke detector went off?  You bet.  There’s the difference.

When it comes to waiting for the Bridegroom to reappear, there is something we can do:  “So you, too, must keep watch!  For you do not know the day or hour of my return” (Matthew 25.13, NLT).



Last-Chance Buffoonery

Can somebody tell me why carefully-choreographed dancing, otherwise known as fighting in hockey, is permitted?

I was watching the final regular-season game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens this evening.  I was enjoying it, because the Habs were outskating, outshooting, and outscoring the Leafs.  But the “cheap shots” and fights in the last few minutes of the game ruined it for me.  If these guys can’t manage their anger on the ice (if indeed it’s about anger as opposed to grandstanding for viewers), what’s to say they won’t haul off and slug someone walking down the street who happens to look askance at them, accidentally?

Okay, I know this is rambling, and not even especially spiritual or edifying.  I just want to know what, other than ratings from half-brained people, is the reason behind such last-chance buffoonery on the part of these guys.  There was nothing significant to be accomplished by it.

Am I wrong?  Battle back!

Encouragement From The Word

A Random Act of Kindness, or…?

            A good friend and I were talking yesterday, and she told me about a video clip that a church in Los Angeles had made for its Easter worship gatherings.  I looked at it this morning, and was absolutely struck by it.  Before you read any further, click here to watch it on YouTube.


            I suppose there are several ways one could interpret the video, and not having been at the services where it was used, I’m not sure exactly what that congregation’s leaders intended.  But here’s one thing I get from it:  Jesus didn’t pay the price of his life for perfect people.

             Do you see what I mean?  The man who gave the girl his money took the flowers that had been knocked onto the road and run over by a car.  He didn’t want the perfect ones; he wanted the damaged ones.  He knew that by paying for the damaged ones, their value would be greater in the seller’s eyes.  If we were “good people”, Jesus gave up his life for no purpose (unless you believe those who say he died as a political revolutionary – NOT!).  The Bible is pretty clear, really:  God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5.8, NLT).             I suppose one could view the video and see a “random act of kindness” or a “senseless act of beauty” – which it definitely was.  But I choose to see more.  As the apostle John wrote, “This is how God showed his love among us:  He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4.9-10, NIV).             Who of us has not felt like our very own soul has been run over by a car – perhaps several times?!  Jesus wants to redeem it anyway.  In fact, Jesus has redeemed it already.  Perhaps on days like today – it’s raining where I am – we need a reminder of God’s greater purpose for us.  On days when we feel irredeemable, it’s good to know that we have been redeemed.  Even on days when we feel like everything we are and have has come from the sweat of our own brow, it’s important to remember that we have been redeemed.               In response, God calls us to live out our redemption – to bring colour and life – to a world longing for something more.

Encouragement From The Word

Blowin’ in the wind

The wind storm experienced in Toronto on Tuesday vividly illustrated the importance of having a solid foundation.  Late in the afternoon, around the time of the rush hour, a light standard tumbled from the McCowan Road bridge onto Highway 401.  When city workers came to inspect the damage, they discovered that not only had one fallen, but others were quite loose on their moorings, mostly due to corrosion.

When street lights are properly anchored, even the strongest winds can be withstood.  But, thanks mostly to the liberal use of road salt on Toronto streets, the foundations of these poles have been compromised.  Thankfully, there was only one destroyed, and no one injured as a result.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus about discovering our spiritual gifts and developing into mature believers:  “Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4.14, NLT).  It’s so easy for us to be blowin’ in the wind.  But God’s will for us is that we stand firm in even the stiffest of breezes. 

As I observe society today, I see varying degrees of spiritual maturity.  I must admit, though, that I often see demonstrated an alarming lack of spiritual maturity among church-going people.  The reason for this, I believe, is an ignorance of the Scriptures.  If we read the Bible, we can learn God’s will; indeed, there is no other way to learn God’s will than to read the Bible.  That’s why it is of vital importance for church leaders to teach the Scriptures.  When the pulpit ignores the Word, so does the church.  And when the church ignores the Word, its foundations are compromised – whether it chooses to acknowledge this or not.

It might not be trendy to take the Scripture seriously.  It certainly isn’t politically correct to do so.  But if people who claim to follow Jesus don’t take it seriously – from Genesis to Revelation – we’ll find the church blowin’ in the wind – and I don’t mean the wind of the Spirit.

Jesus said, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock” (Matthew 7.24-25, NLT).

 How’s your faith in the midst of the storm?  You know what to do.

Defending the faith


“Christophobia” might be seen as a new word.  As a word freak, I knew what it meant, but I’m not sure I’d ever read it in a sentence – until today.


You can read at length about Christophobia here, and in just about every national newspaper you can find from time to time.  The concept behind the word is simple:  some people are irrationally afraid of Jesus.  


That doesn’t make any sense, does it?  Why would anyone be afraid of the One who came to save us from our sins?  Yet there are people who show their irrational fear of Jesus in the form of persecution of believers, all over the world.


It is said that the twentieth century was the century of the Christian martyr.  More people died because of their devotion to Jesus in the twentieth century than in any previous era.  But it’s not politically correct to say so.  In fact, it’s not politically correct to say much about Jesus, unless you’re bashing him or his followers.  And yet, here in Canada particularly, we say that we are a multicultural, pluralist society.  But that seems to come with an ‘ABC’ caveat:  we are multicultural and pluralistic, and we welcome any but Christian.


Our politicians seem to forget that many of Canada’s immigrants are followers of Christ.  Some others, in my personal experience, come to Canada to explore the claims of Christ.  Yet our leaders are afraid to express Christian values for fear of jamming them down someone’s throat.  Last time I checked, there was a difference between ‘expressing’ and ‘jamming down the throat’.


It is a sad state of affairs when Canada, whose roots are more decidedly Christian than even our neighbours to the south, turns its back on its foundational principles in favour of something more politically correct.  The truly sad thing is that we have the “right” to turn our backs on our foundational principles because those foundational principles are, in fact, biblically based.  We owe the vast majority of our positive social movements – health care, voting rights, etc. – to the type of democracy envisioned for people in Scripture.


How do we stamp out Christophobia?  God’s Word has something to say about that:  perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4.18, NIV).  The opposite of fear is love, just as the opposite of hate is love.  If followers of Jesus want to stamp out Christophobia, we need to demonstrate to the world that God is love through our own acts of love.  When people see something different in you that they want to have, they’ll stop throwing stones at you and start asking you faith questions.