Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Want to see where I live?

I live in an amazingly beautiful little town. I just came across some photos of it online. Interested is seeing what I see everyday? Check out some pictures from beautiful Hope, BC, Canada here.

Or get a bird's eye view of Hope from here.

Thanks to my new friend Stefan Viveen for leading me to these photo sites...

Monday, November 21, 2005

Ready to be challenged...

Desert Pastor at Paradoxology pours some of the cold water of reality to wake us from a sound spiritual sleep. Here's an excerpt...
"And yet, despite the fact that horrendous acts of violence are being committed against Christians in many places around the world, the topic is scarcely ever found upon the lips of North American believers."
Take the time to visit this post and follow some of the links. It'll wake you up a bit.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I wouldn't have it any other way.

I think I may have blogged about this before, but it's something that I keep coming back to. It bothers me when people have a neat and tidy faith. When they have an answer for everything. I'm just not sure that's what we are supposed to have. That's why these words from Richard Hall struck home with me. And they've stayed around...

Mark D Roberts considers the book of Job:

"Yet Job is also one of the messiest of all the books of the Bible. It doesn’t lay out a systematic theology of suffering. Rather, it tells a story, the main part of which is a complicated dialogue. There are no easy answers here, and the conclusion of the book comes as quite a surprise. Even after you’ve finished Job, you might not be sure what to make of it."

These words struck a chord with me. I preached tonight at a harvest festival service where the gospel reading was Mark 4: 1-9, the parable of the sower. It’s such a familiar story, I was anxious to find a new angle on it. Not easy, since the gospels record that Jesus gave the explanation, leaving little for the preacher to do!

I found myself asking why it was that Jesus used parables. Mark records Jesus saying that he taught this way that ‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding’, which is counter-intuitive to say the least. Teaching in order to be deliberately obscure is not teaching! The most common assumption I’ve encountered is that Jesus told simple stories to engage with simple folk, using idioms that they’d understand. But apparently the disciples did not understand. We’ve become so familiar with the parables of Jesus, so used to what we think they mean, that we perhaps find their puzzlement difficult to understand.

Stories, by their very nature, are open-ended. They may have a meaning, but the meaning you take is not always the meaning that’s intended. It’s easy to be suspicious of this. Most of the time we’d rather have clear, consistent and (preferably) concise instructions. Stories offer ambiguity, and that can be hard to deal with. Textbooks for preachers often say something like: “Remember that a parable is not an allegory. It is a story with one clear simple message; the preacher’s task is to offer that message.” But the more I think about that sentiment, the more sure I am that it is rubbish: no story, however simple, has only one clear and unambiguous message.

That’s the point of parables, I reckon.

The truth about God cannot be packaged, systematized and presently neatly and tidily. How could it possibly be? The truth about any of us cannot be told that way, and if it is true of Mr Dai Jones of Swansea, it is all the more surely true of God. No, the truth about God (to borrow a phrase from my friend Kim) must be crept up on, circled around. Parables do not attempt to ‘explain’, but rather offer a truth which must be met and lived with, chewed over and digested. (Horrid mix of metaphors there!) The depth of God’s truth can never be fully plumbed. That’s why Jesus taught in parables.

And that’s why God’s revelation is a man, not a text.

God is bigger than me, He's more than I can grasp. And I'm glad that He is, actually. If I could understand Him completely I don't think that I'd need Him. It's pretty clear to me that understanding the world is beyond me. If He's going to make sense of it (transform it, renew it) then He's going to have to be a bit smarter (more complex, more aware, more powerful) than I am. So it doesn't bother me that much that I don't have all the answers. If anything, it's a relief. Kind of like when I was in grade 3 and the star High School football player defended me from the bully on the bus. I didn't stress over the fact that the football star was stronger than me - and it didn't even occur to me to wonder why he was protecting me. I was just glad that he was.

So here's to a big God. Even when I don't understand all that He does. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Open your eyes...

“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes:
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
-- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The "Kingdom"...

One of the driving metaphors for my life in past few years has been what Jesus called the "Kingdom of God". It has captivated my imagination for several reasons. First, Jesus spent an incredible amount of time talking about it. In fact, when he talks about the "gospel" or the "good news" it's almost always tied to this idea of the Kingdom. Second, it gives me a picture of what it means to be a believer. When you enter into a new kingdom you usually get there by surrender. And your presence implies that you have adopted the authority of this new kingdom as your authority. Finally, it helps me understand what the church is here for. The Kingdom takes root in my own heart and as it begins to shape my life then it begins to spread to others. Tim Challies recently interviewed Derek Webb and they talked a bit about these ideas. Webb says,
"That's really what Jesus' kingdom coming means: 'the being made right of all things.' The way we proclaim that kingdom is by putting our hands to that. So you see someone who is hungry and you proclaim to them a kingdom where there will be no hunger by putting food in their mouth. If someone is ill or sick you proclaim to them the kingdom where there will be no sickness by caring for them or giving them lifesaving drugs. I think that is probably what St. Francis might have meant when he said to 'proclaim the gospel at all times and if necessary use words.' That is his famous quote. I really think that is exactly what he could have meant. We go into culture and proclaim the coming of Jesus' kingdom where all things will be made right by putting our hands to 'the being made right of all things' and of course there is the literal proclamation of his showing up on the scene that we also need to tell people." (Read the whole interview here.)

That's profound. It adds a depth to the meaning of Jesus' command of "Go and make disciples." We proclaim the "kingdom" through what we say - "Jesus died to offer you forgiveness and a way to a relationship with God." We also proclaim it thorough how we live - "This is what it looks like when you surrender to the leadership of Jesus..." This gives fresh meaning to some of the things that Jesus said...
"The time has come, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Lk. 6:20)
"Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.'" (Lk. 10:9)
Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." (Lk. 17:20-21)

Paul points us that way as well...
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power." (I Cor. 4:20)

I hope the idea of the Kingdom captivates you. It's God at work...and who wouldn't want to be a part of that?

Friday, November 11, 2005

When words are many...

Pat Robertson is at it again. It is a scary thing to presume that you speak for God. Details here. My sister-in-law posts her thoughts here.

"When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." (Proverbs 19:10)

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." (James 1:19-20)


Scot McKinght of Jesus Creed writes a great post of what it means to be "righteous"
"An alarming statement by Jesus: "Unless your righteousness/justice greatly surpasses the righteousness/justice of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will never ever enter into the Kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:20). Does Jesus really think his followers are to be "better" than the Scribes and Pharisees?"

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The best 9 minutes of your day...

You need to take the time to watch this. It'll take you 8 minutes and 32 seconds. But if you don't have time...then you need to ask yourself why you can't spend eight and a half minutes thinking about something really important.

Lying to Americans...

I finally have it. Proof that Canadians are really mean and very tricky. Of course, it's also proof that Americans are very gullible.

Check out the video here.

Hat tip to Jordon for the link.