Friday, October 29, 2010


Eveyone has a spiritual thirst. We may try to ignore the thirst but deep down inside we know we are thirsty. We thirst for something more. Chris Rice captures the concept of spiritual thirst in his song Thirsty.
I’m so thirsty, I can feel it
Burning through the furthest corners of my soul
Deep desire, can’t describe this
Nameless urge that drives me somewhere
Though I don’t know where to go

Seems I’ve heard about a River from someone who’s been
And they tell me once you reach it, oh, you’ll never thirst again
So I have to find the River, somehow my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

Other waters I’ve been drinkin’
But they always leave me empty like before
Satisfaction, all I’m askin’
Could I really feel this thirsty if there weren’t something more?

And I’ve heard about a River from someone who’s been
And they tell me once you reach it, oh, you’ll never thirst again
So I have to find the River, somehow my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

I’m on the shore now of the wildest River
And I kneel and beg for mercy from the sky
But no one answers, I’ve gotta take my chances
‘Cause something deep inside me’s cryin’
"This is why you are alive!"

So I plunge into the River with all that I am
Praying this will be the River where I’ll never thirst again
I’m abandoned to the River
And now my life depends on the River
Holy River, I’m so thirsty

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Search Me

Even as I speak of others who tickle itching ears I am aware of the subtleties of the devil. How might I fall into the mistake of saying the things that people around me want to hear rather than the life giving words of Jesus?
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life. Psalm 139:23, 24 (New Living Translation)
Investigate my life, O God,
find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
get a clear picture of what I'm about;
See for yourself whether I've done anything wrong—
then guide me on the road to eternal life. Psalm 139:23, 24
(The Message)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

No One Believes In Me Anymore

No One Believes In Me Anymore (Satan's Boast)(Keith and Melody Green)

Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As time keeps slipping away
I can imitate the brightest light
And make your night look just like day
I put some truth in every lie
To tickle itching ears
You know I'm drawing people just like flies
'Cause they like what they hear

I'm gaining power by the hour
they're falling by the score
You know, it's getting very simple now
Since no one believes in me anymore

Oh, heaven's just a state of mind
My books read on your shelf
And have you heard that God is dead
I made that one up myself
They dabble in magic spells
They get their fortunes read
You know they heard the truth
But turned away and they followed me instead

I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
You know, no one's watching for my tricks
Since no one believes in me anymore

Everyone likes a winner
With my help, you're guaranteed to win
And hey man, you ain't no sinner
No, you've got the truth within
And as your life slips by
You believe the lie that you did it on your own
But don't worry
I'll be there to help you share our dark eternal home

Oh, my job keeps getting easier
As day slips into day
The magazines, the newspapers
Print every word I say
This world is just my spinning top
It's all like child's-play
You know, I dream that it will never stop
But I know it's not that way

Still my work goes on and on
Always stronger than before
I'm gonna make it dark before the dawn
Since no one believes in me anymore
Well now I used to have to sneak around
But now they just open their doors
You know, no one's watching for my tricks
Since no one believes in me anymore

Well I'm gaining power by the hour
They're falling by the score
You know, it's getting very easy now
Since no one believes in me anymore
No one believes in me anymore
No one believes in me anymore

Yesterday's blog about "Itching Ears" brought to mind the words of this song. The first verse talks about itching ears and being drawn to what we like to hear. Written about 34 years ago, it still has relevance today. You can listen to the song here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Itching Ears

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
2 Timothy 4:3 (New Living Translation).
I have had a week where I have experienced itching ears and teachers who say what itching ears want to hear. The teachers come in all sorts of clothing. Approaching one end of the continuum are movie-makers who fashion feel-good spiritual stories that give us the kind of comfort we want to hear while assuring us that we don't need to change anything about our lives. And towards the other end are preachers who use poor exegetical techniques to wrestle passages of the Bible out of their historical context and teach a message that attracts people to their church.

2 Timothy 4 goes on to say that people will reject the truth and chase after myths; and there are a lot of myths that people are willing to chase. As for me, I need to recommit myself to proclaim the truth. I must be prepared, whether the time is favourable or not to patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage people with good teaching and not be afraid of suffering for the Lord.
"But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." 2 Timothy 4:5 (NLT)

Monday, October 25, 2010


The latest film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood is a mystifying film called "Hereafter." The script was written by Peter Morgan who may be appealing to a cultural sense of curiosity about life after death. The story suggests that there are certain attributes present in all near death experiences: a bright light, calm serenity, lack of a sense of time or motion, and weightlessness. In the movie, persons already in the "hereafter" sometimes communicate with those left behind through a psychic played by Matt Damon. These messages consistently express remorse, forgiveness, and the sense that everything is "alright now" in the hereafter. We are led to believe that there is a world-wide conspiracy aimed at keeping the details of the hereafter from discussion in mainstream books and other media. Religious explanations of the hereafter are belittled and those espousing Christian, Sikh, and Muslim faith are made to look ridiculous.

We are reminded at several turns that one never knows when death might arrive. We find ourselves wondering when the next tragedy might occur for someone in the movie and just when we think everyone is safe more deaths occur. The thing that drives the main characters of the movie is their desire for an explanation of the hereafter. The viewer is readily drawn into the pathos of the lives of those who search for explanation and redemption. Yet, no real answers are ever given. We are simply led to believe that there is a hereafter out there somewhere and perhaps it is good for everyone.

This movie will generate discussion of what is beyond death. It suggests that there is something more than the "light bulb on/light bulb off" approach to life that is espoused by many in Canada. Yet, it provides little real meat for the discussion and will leave many movie-goers with an unsatisfied hunger for more. Perhaps that is the value of a film such as this.

“Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.”
William James (American Philosopher and Psychologist, leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism, 1842-1910)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Faith Enough

My musical friend Mike Charko reminded me of the amazing words of this song by "Jars of Clay."
"Faith Enough" by Jars of Clay
The ice is thin enough for walkin'
The rope is worn enough to climb
My throat is dry enough for talkin'
The world is crumblin' but I know why
The world is crumblin' but I know why

The storm is wild enough for sailing
The bridge is weak enough to cross
This body frail enough for fighting
I'm home enough to know I'm lost
Home enough to know I'm lost

It's just enough to be strong
In the broken places, in the broken places
It's just enough to be strong
Should the world rely on faith tonight

The land unfit enough for planting
Barren enough to conceive
Poor enough to gain the treasure
Enough a cynic to believe
Enough a cynic to believe

Confused enough to know direction
The sun eclipsed enough to shine
Be still enough to finally tremble
And see enough to know I'm blind
And see enough to know I'm blind

It's just enough to be strong
In the broken places, in the broken places
It's just enough to be strong
Should the world rely on faith tonight

Should the world rely on faith tonight
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
This is a remarkable song that describes this tenuous life between hope and fear, power and weakness, strength and brokenness. I'm home enough to know I am lost. I'm enough a cynic to believe. Should the world rely on faith tonight?

Listen to the song here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bodily Resurrection

Romans 8:11 (NIV)
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
I don't often write about theological concepts for I am not an academic theologian and cannot make definitive statements. Today I want to introduce a concept and encourage the reader to investigate further. I have been reading about what theologians say about resurrection. There is a myth that has been widely circulated that says that as followers of Jesus we do not need to concern ourselves with our bodies or any of the things of this world for one day Jesus will return, yank us out of these evil and broken bodies on this evil and polluted planet and take us far away from it all.

But what if there is continuity between what we have done in this world and the world to come?# Romans 8:11 makes it clear that it is our mortal bodies which will be given life just as Jesus' mortal body was raised from the dead. Likewise, 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 says that some of what we build in this life will survive beyond the "Day of the Resurrection" and some will not.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV)
By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.
Some time ago I had a dream in which I could see beyond the exterior of people.* In this dream I could see people walking about in a church building and I could see an inner core of their being. The inner core was made of gold. Some had a very slender rod of gold at their centre. Others had a thicker rod. These rods represented the work that each individual had done to build upon the foundation of Jesus. Some had done more and some had done less. The golden rod in each person was capable of going through fire and surviving. This helped me to understand how it might be that as we live out our lives here on earth there are things that contribute to who we are as beings before God and there are things that do not contribute. A friend of mine speaks of kindnesses shown to other human beings versus watching four hours of sit-coms on television. It seems to both of us that one of these would contribute to what will survive a fire while one would not.

These are difficult concepts which require more thought. For the reader who would like to investigate these things further I recommend the book Surprised by Hope.#

#NT Wright expands upon this theme in his theological writings. See Wright, N.T. (2008). Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

*I do not claim that a dream such as this has any truth value but simply represents how my mind is trying to process a difficult concept. I explain the dream here in the hope that it may also help others to wrestle with these concepts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

God Never Changes

Let nothing disturb you.
Let nothing alarm you.
Everything passes;
God does not change.
All things are
Accomplished with patience.
He who has God
Is lacking in nothing.
God is enough.
St. Teresa of Avila (Spanish Nun, Mystic and Writer, 1515-1582)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hunger and Thirst

Matthew 5:6 Matthew 5:6 (New International Version)
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
I have given this passage much thought and meditated upon it many times and still have not plumbed the depths of it. The usual way we hear the passage is that it is saying to us that we should deeply desire to be righteous people. We hear it saying that we will be blessed if we long to be righteous. This sends us down an internal pathway of, “How can I do a better job of cleaning up my life and removing the sin from the crevasses of my soul?” We focus on spiritual disciplines and try to be more righteous in Bible reading, prayer, fasting, meditation, etc. This is all good and is perhaps one message we are to receive from Matthew 5:6. It is not the whole message nor is it the main message of Matthew 5:6.

The major message of this passage is that we are to hunger and thirst (long for, seek as though our lives depended upon it) for righteousness/shalom/justice in the world. Righteousness (dikaiosuna) has the sense of whatever conforms to the revealed will of God and things that are “just, equitable, and fair.”* Thus, when we see things that are not righteous in the world, when we see things that are not just, equitable, and fair, our hearts should long to see justice. When we see aboriginal women standing on the corner offering themselves for prostitution in the downtown eastside (DTES) of Vancouver our hearts should say this is not right, this is not just, this is not fair, this is not equitable, this is not shalom, this does not conform to the revealed will of God. Such things should make us long for righteousness in this situation. We should hunger and thirst that this thing should be made right. It should move us to action. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled/satisfied/saturated.” We cannot rest until we have filled our hunger and thirst for righteousness.

This morning, I was reading an article by Meera Bai and John Stackhouse called "Why I Help Addicts Shoot Up." I have never been a supporter of InSite (the Vancouver safe injection site) and I still am not sure I can support it despite the reduction in harm it may accomplish. But when I read the article it made me hunger and thirst for righteousness in the drug culture of the DTES. Reading this article one can readily see that this is not right, this is not just, this is not shalom. Even InSite does not seem right, just, or equitable even though much grace, love, and care is being extended. The answer lies in hungering and thirsting for righteousness. We need to hunger and thirst for things that will stop the cycle. The authors say
Having witnessed three generations of the same family shoot up in the same room, I have come to understand that injection drug use is far from being the result of one bad decision. It is the outcome of a complex of systemic, familial and individual influences that must not be oversimplified to "It's their fault. They should just quit and get a job." I am still shocked by the stories of abuse that I hear at InSite.
This is not right. My heart hungers and thirsts for righteousness that will prevent the abuse that will prevent the need to dull the pain of the abuse. I hunger and thirst for other solutions to the pain. I hunger and thirst for something other than InSite. I hunger and thirst for the Kingdom of God.

*Take a look at the word meaning in W.E. Vine’s, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words or Harold K. Moulton’s, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised.