Thursday, October 10, 2019

BioLogos




For many years I have been a proponent of the BioLogos organization. They do a remarkable job of theological and scientific education. I encourage readers to take a tour of their site and read some of the many articles available. BioLogos represents an Evolutionary Creationism perspective on the origins of life. Here, in their own words is an explanation of what that means.

At BioLogos, we present the Evolutionary Creationism (EC) viewpoint on origins. Like all Christians, we fully affirm that God is the creator of all life—including human beings in his image. We fully affirm that the Bible is the inspired and authoritative word of God. We also accept the science of evolution as the best description for how God brought about the diversity of life on earth.

But while we accept the scientific evidence for evolution, BioLogos emphatically rejects Evolutionism, the atheistic worldview that so often accompanies the acceptance of biological evolution in public discussion. Evolutionism is a kind of scientism, which holds that all of reality can in principle be explained by science. In contrast, BioLogos believes that science is limited to explaining the natural world, and that supernatural events like miracles are part of reality too.

BioLogos offers an explanation of our universe that does justice to a theological understanding of a creator God, while also giving credence to the science of our day that explains much of how our world works. I know that this is a difficult area for many Christians to grasp and BioLogos has done an excellent job of walking people through the many arguments. I encourage my readers to spend time on their website and consider a viewpoint that may not be one that you hold today. There are many opinions among Christians about the nature of the origins of our universe. Let us not be afraid to consider each other’s perspective on these issues.

Beyond the BioLogos website, I would also recommend the following books:

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Uhtred, Son of Uhtred



Occasionally on this blog, I review television programs of note. When I do this, I am not endorsing the show in particular but rather speaking of a positive message within the show. One such show that I cannot endorse for all viewers is the BBC/Netflix series, The Last Kingdom (2015-2020). The show is a “blade-slinger” story set in the England of the late 800s CE and is about the conflict between the Saxon land holders and the invading Danes, Vikings, and Northmen (Norsemen) from Denmark and other points north. Uhtred is the hero (or perhaps anti-hero) of the story. He is a Saxon by birth who is born heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Bebbanburg at a time when Alfred the Great is seeking to draw together all of the Kingdoms of England under one king. Uhtred is kidnapped by the Danes and adopted into the family of Ragnar Ragnarson. Thus, Uhtred is known both as Uhtred of Bebbanburg, Uhtred Ragnarson, and simply Uhtred, Son of Uhtred and he grows to become the greatest warrior of England and supports King Alfred time and time again. But Alfred cannot quite accept that Uhtred will not accept his God and so he does not fully trust him and sometimes wishes him banished or even dead. Time and again Uhtred saves Alfred’s England, only to be mistrusted by Alfred. Season 3, Episode 10 offers brilliant dialogue emphasising darkness and light, good and evil, and the struggle of the two within the various people groups.

As King Alfred dies, Father Beocca, one of Uhtred’s most constant friends says,

“All that Alfred stood for is crumbling.
You, Uhtred, cannot be dragged into the shadows.
You must become the light….”

But as Uhtred is on trial in the open court of the palace, the following dialogue unfolds,

Beocca: Do you object to the people bearing witness to justice, Lord Aethelwold?
Aethelwold: I do not.
Lady Aelswith: Uhtred, the king swore that you were to die. Why the change in his heart?
Uhtred: Because he believed that I deserved his forgiveness.
Aelswith: Is that a boast?
Uhtred: Look to his chronicle. I am on every page.
Aelswith: That is a lie. You are not named, even once!
Uhtred: But I am there. Unwritten, Lady, but I am there! The warriors of Wessex know it. The Danes know it. And it is what the king has told me himself.
Aelswith: I have heard enough.
Uhtred: I am with him from the Somerset Marshes to Ethandun and all of the battles that have followed. We were bonded, him and I. He was the man that I could never be, nor did I wish to be. He was a man that I loved and despised but it was never less than an honor to serve him. He was my king. And he did not wish to go to his God without granting me what I have earned many times over! My freedom….

At this point, Edward, the heir to the throne of England is brought into the conversation. It is his first test as king apparent.

Uhtred: Perhaps your father chose not to announce my freedom for this very reason so that the people could witness their new king, Edward, dispensing justice. Fairly, I hope.
Beocca: Will you accept the decision of Edward Rex? I will. I give you my word….

Edward: A heathen would not be trusted completely until he had embraced Alfred's god as his own. And yet it was a heathen he did trust most. It was the word of Uhtred that he respected most. Uhtred of Bebbanburg, I find the letter written by my father to be true. Alfred's pardon does stand. You are a free man, able to choose your own path.
Beocca: May I ask, Lord Uhtred, may I ask? Now that you are a free man once more, where will your path lead? I would like to know….
Uhtred: One day, Father, I hope that my path will eventually lead north to Bebbanburg, but now, I believe I am needed here….

Then as the followers of Edward prepare for another battle with the Danes of the North,

Uhtred: All of you, hear me. Yes, it is likely that the Danes will have greater numbers, but this is a battle that we can win. Though it will take all of us, every man and every sword, and we will fight with all the guile and wit that Alfred has instilled.
Edward: God is with us.

Then, to the soldiers prepared to march into battle:

Uhtred: A letter has been sent. It speaks out to every man in the kingdom, demanding that he answers the call and joins us on the road to battle. It says that this will be a battle that will be spoken of for lifetimes to come. It is a battle that no man can ignore, no man can stand by and watch. Every man must find a weapon and every man must fight! Wessex will always be the light. And no matter how heavy our swords become, we must fight. Fight! Fight and keep on fighting until the victory is ours! We march!

The episode closes with Uhtred giving a monologue:

It will be written in the Saxon chronicle that Edward did gain a great victory over the Danes, ensuring he would become King of Wessex. But other battles lie ahead, both with the Danes and within Wessex itself. A king must decide who he can trust and who he must discard. He must understand the minds of both his enemies and his friends. He must recognize that the truth of a man lies not in the land of his birth, but in his heart. A king must be a king on his own terms. He cannot be his father. He can only be himself. The chronicle will grow. Pages will be added. But Uhtred of Bebbanburg will not be mentioned. Although I, too, was victorious. My name is Uhtred, son of Uhtred. My name is Uhtred Ragnarson. Destiny is all.[1]

Uhtred is a marvelous character created by Bernard Cornwell and adapted for this television series. He is constantly torn between being Saxon and Dane. He is honourable, honest, and loyal to any vow he swears. He is not Christian, despite being baptised twice over, yet he is more honourable and shows more Christian character than most of the Christian men of England. Many of the “good Christian” men of the kingdom are horribly broken, sinful, filled with hatred, and murderous. Uhtred, on the other hand, leads well, serves well, takes life only as necessary, and is the most valuable right-hand man to both King Alfred and King Edward. He sacrifices land, wives, children, family relationships, and wealth to justly carry out the will of Alfred. At the end of the day, all of England believes Uhtred will be eternally punished in hell because of his rejection of the Christian religion, yet he is one of the truest men of his time. His fictional life, as portrayed in this series, causes one to ask questions about what it means to be honourable, just, moral, and a person of true character. May men like him call us to our best humanity and highest calling by God.



Friday, October 4, 2019

Can't Erase It



Jars of Clay, the band from Greenville, Illinois, has a song entitled “Can’t Erase It” on the If I Left the Zoo album. The lyrics are written below. It is a song that captures the angst of trying to be one thing when we know we should be something else. Read the lyrics, listen to the song, and read some thoughts about the song below.

Can’t Erase It

Follow the crowd and love everybody now
'Cause love is the best thing for you now
But you changed your mind you let everybody down
But down is the best place for you
It's easier that way you know it's

So wrong can't embrace it
wish sometimes for any other you
But you can't erase it and you won't escape it

Don't waste your time
Your words only confine you
To all of the things you've buried now
Don't ask them why
Their wisdom will leave you blind

But blind is the best thing for you
It's easier I know, you know it's

So wrong, can't embrace it
Wish sometimes for any other you
But you can't erase it, and you won't escape it

How long will you face it
Till the weight comes crashing down on you
'Cause you can't erase it, and you won't escape it

Songwriters: Charlie Lowell / Dan Haseltine / Matt Odmark / Stephen Daniel Mason
Can't Erase It lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, Capitol Christian Music Group

Dan Haseltine, in an interview once said that this song is "About fighting our deepest desire to be who we are not." Why do we have such a strong desire to be something we are not? Because we want to fit in with the majority and just like when we were in high school, we have this strong desire to fit in with the cool kids.

There are many things that can get in the way of being who God has made us to be. The majority culture says, “You don’t need God, just 'follow the crowd and love everybody.'” We hear this very regularly on our various media sources and we begin to believe that this is the way to live. But it is easy to change our mind and not really want to “love everybody.” It is truly hard to simply boost ourselves up to a level where we can love everybody. Bitterness and anger are the result. On our own we cannot love everybody.

If we follow the crowd, we are not being who we truly are. We are conforming to the image of what the crowd thinks we should be. If we follow the crowd, we will do things that we know are “so wrong” and we just won’t be able to embrace that they are right. We can’t erase the things we’ve done. We can’t escape the weight of going against God and against who he has made us to be. But there is one who can “erase it.” God says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). Furthermore, “… his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:11, 12). Jesus’ death on the cross was the ultimate way for him to remove the weight of sin and erase our wrong doings: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

If we bury the wrongs, ignore the wrongs, or embrace the wrongs, the weight will crush us. Instead we must acknowledge and confess and receive release from the weight.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Horse and His Boy


In 2010 a band known as A Horse and His Boy released an EP entitled Trilogy. From that recording is a haunting song called “Kramer’s Wall.” Jackson Harper (formerly Seth Harper) calls himself a “scrappy Narnian” and thus identifies himself with a genre of literature and music that sees light and darkness, and right and wrong in a world of chaos and apathy. His images are highly influenced by C.S. Lewis’ writings and particularly the book that bears almost the same name as the band. He is a talented singer-songwriter from whom I hope we hear much more. I offer you the lyrics from “Kramer’s Wall” followed by my impressions from the song.

Kramer’s Wall
In the land of apathy
There’s a pretty girl who waits for me
I was standing there when she looked down
From Kramer’s Wall at the edge of town

I stayed ‘til all the rest were gone
And my pretty girl she stood alone
She wouldn’t leave, I asked her why
This my friends, was her reply

She said, shadows fly away from me
They cannot face the light you see
But if they come I’ll fight them all
So, I’m standing here on Kramer’s Wall 

What injustice had decreed
This lonely life she had to lead
I pitied her but didn’t stay
And the road I followed passed away

From that day on I had no rest
And my heart kept burning in my chest
I couldn’t stand my fatal choice
For every night I heard her voice

She said, if you are who I hope you are
You can never run too far
I will never let you fall
I’m watching you from Kramer’s Wall

I realized I would rather be
In chains with her than alone and free
She had shown the kind of love
The greatest ones had been made of

Her haunting words inside my head
Revived the heart I thought was dead
So, I took the higher call
And stood with her on Kramer’s Wall

I said, everything may come undone
The sky may fall and bring the sun
You and I are standing tall
Here on top of Kramer’s Wall

Nothing breaks a lover’s soul
Nothing makes the young grow old
Except the time that kills us all
But there is no time on Kramer’s Wall

I will never let you fall
I will stand with you on Kramer’s Wall

Music and lyrics by Seth Harper
Produced by Andrew Osenga
All rights reserved

At first glance/listen, it sounds like a simple “boy meets girl, boy ignores girl, boy can’t get girl out of his mind, boy goes back to girl, and boy pledges his love to the girl for life.” Simple enough, right? But, at second glance, there is more to this song. The girl is the real hero of the song and she is resolute in her stance against darkness. We get the impression that all of Hell could come against this woman and she would stand upon a crumbling wall until the last vestige of light was extinguished! Yet the darkness would never overcome, and the light would never be extinguished because of this valiant woman. 

The man in this song cannot escape the beauty and justice of this woman and the more he tries to walk his own path, the more she haunts and burns his heart. While others around them are lost in apathy, indecision, immorality, injustice, and indifference, the woman stands alone and draws others into her pursuit of justice and light. The man is drawn in and stands with her and then sees her for her beauty and grace. He pledges his love and the two of them now stand resolute against the apathy of the land. The two stand timelessly like Greek gods in perfect union and perfect defence, there on top of Kramer’s Wall.



Friday, August 23, 2019

The Church Planting Journey


Around 1995, a few pastors, and leaders (including myself) in my city began to meet to discuss church planting. The discussion starter was the resource kit known as The Church Planters’ Toolkit (1991) written by Robert E. Logan. We would read (and at least on one occasion watch a video) and discuss the principles within this remarkable tool. We applied these strategies and principles as we became a Church Planting Management Team and Church Planting Catalyzers. Later I spent time on the national board of Church Planting Canada with Murray Moerman and other national leaders and saw the same principles and strategies employed and encoded in the training manuals we used for planters and catalyzers. I came to realize why people were beginning to call Dr. Bob Logan the father of modern church planting.

In 2003, I left a job as a Lab Scientist to plant a network of house-churches in Calgary where I personally put into practise the strategies and principles to which I had been calling others. Planting two churches in two cities in Western Canada gave me a whole new appreciation of the complexities of planting and the need for a good coach. I took coach training from Dr. Logan and hired him as my personal coach.

Now 25 years after my introduction to Robert E. Logan and his church planting principles, I have just read The Church Planting Journey[1] which Bob says is a translation of the earlier work for a contemporary audience working in a contemporary context. I am happy to say that this pioneer still has much to add to the church planting conversation. His insights from forty years of being a practitioner, planter, teacher, professor, and learner are here in this new work. One of many examples is what Dr. Logan has to say about assessing the original vision in terms of the fit with the planter and alignment with the mission. This section will be a great help to many who wrestle with the tension of adapting as they proceed. The end of each chapter offers a place for the reader to contextualize their own vision, cultural context, and prayer life which I pray planters and catalyzers will patiently use. This book is once again set to reignite the church planting conversation and I congratulate my friend in having the foresight to see the need. May Jesus Christ richly bless the reading of this book.



[1] The Church Planting Journey, Dr. Robert E. Logan, 2019, Logan Leadership; https://amzn.to/2ZnQIRc

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Desire


Terminology is important. It can unify us around an idea or it can be divisive. Listing a few words may help to explain what I mean: evangelicalborn-againProtestantbelieverChristianreligious…. Each of these words has been used to describe a particular group of people and draw a boundary around them to minimize confusion with people who do not fit the category. Each term can also be controversial and, depending upon the context and the emphasis upon specific traits of a group, can lead to division and the consequent desire to distance oneself from the category.

So it is that I find myself wondering how best to describe the process whereby myself and others have come under the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ. (Even as I write those words, I recognize the impact and controversy of such words as influencegospelJesus, and Christ – but I trust the reader will understand what I mean.) Do I say that I am a Christian, a born-again Christian, a follower of Jesus, a believer, a Spirit-filled person? What terminology will best describe those like me? Of course, there is no definitive answer to this question because as soon as we come up with a term that seems to fit, we have already limited how the term might be used and to whom it will apply. Thus, some terms will work for a while before needing to be cast off and begin the process again. The term “born-again Christian” illustrates this well. At a certain time in history, one could call oneself a “born-again Christian” and everyone knew what it meant. It meant an emphasis on the change that occurs when one chooses to believe the message of Jesus and follow him as Lord in a public statement of faith, baptism, and a changed life that is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The term soon was overused by those who fit the category and by those who hijacked the term seeking to gain the approval of those who valued the term. So, those words have fallen out of use to a large extent.

No term will ever fit the description we need it to fulfill for all time, but there are some descriptions that will serve us well for a while (even if it might be for a short while). I recently read a blog by a friend who had an interesting way of describing his encounter with God and the subsequent change of perspective that occurred. He spoke of the day he “declared a desire to know God.”[1]It struck me that this is a helpful way to consider this journey in which we find ourselves. Too many of the ways we describe the Christian walk are about a final destination and a final form of being. A “desire to know God” speaks of a continual process while “declaring a desire” speaks of a definitive date when someone announces their determination. It has both that sense of once for all and a never-ending pursuit. Oh sure, it is not quite as handy and succinct as saying “the day I became a Christian.” But what it lacks in brevity it makes up for in specificity, clarity, and accuracy. 

After all, this life of faith is never complete this side of our death and resurrection into the final Kingdom of God. We are ever on the journey, ever desiring, and ever longing for more knowledge of God. Looking back to the day that I “declared a desire to know God” about 44 years ago, reminds me of how much more I know about God and how much more curiosity I still have about this Lord I desire to know and serve better. So, for now, I endorse the virtue of “declaring a desire to know God” and seek to press on with the journey with whatever terminology seems most helpful for today, tomorrow, and the tomorrows after that. May God richly bless you in your journey of faith and your knowledge of God.


[1]The full context of the remark can be found at the following link: https://stepbystepjourney.com/?p=5044, where Richard Dahlstrom says, “But on that day, I drive up and stand in the very spot where I declared a desire to know God 39 years earlier, and I’ll marvel at God’s relentless pursuit of me, God’s abundance poured out, and I’ll offer tears of gratitude.  “Look what God has done” I’ll say, as once again, the scent of hope fills me.” (I encourage my readers to read the entire blog which has many more insights to offer.) Richard Dahlstrom Step by Step Journey, “Longing for the Scent of Hope,” August 10, 2019.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Something Rather Than Nothing



Perhaps one of the biggest philosophical questions ever asked is “Why is there something rather than nothing?” When we look at the earth, the moon, the stars, our galaxy, the universe, gravity, light, and energy, we are struck with the immensity and complexity of this place in which we find ourselves. It is natural to ask questions about this universe and to ask how it is that this place actually functions and stays in motion. Science has done a good job of exploring and explaining much about our world. But we might also ask how it is that the universe exists at all. Philosophers have worked on a satisfying answer to this question for decades and still the question persists. We know that Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz spent much time thinking about this question and had what I would still consider the most satisfying answer to the question.

Leibniz who lived from 1646–1716 was one of the great thinkers and philosophers of his time but for many years was sadly overlooked. He was a contemporary of Isaac Newton and both of them discovered calculus independently of each other. Many of the notations and symbols used by Leibniz as he developed calculus are still used today. He was an inventor of mechanical calculators, refined the binary number system which is used in computers, and was a philosopher who specialized in rationalism and logic. He was devoted to his work yet known for his imagination, friendship, and good manners. I will save his answer to the big question until the end of this article but let us first look at a few of the other answers people have come up with.

Lawrence Krauss, a current author and physicist posits that gravity and the quantum vacuum worked together to generate the initial particles which resulted in a universe. He believes that it was inevitable that the universe would arise given gravity and the quantum vacuum. Stephen Hawking suggested a very similar argument in his 2010 book, The Grand Design. Although this answer may seem logical and satisfying to these two physicists, at a philosophical level, we would then want to ask, “Why must we assume gravity or a quantum vacuum or particles?” Why is there anything at all? Ultimately, this kind of answer remains highly unsatisfying to many.

Others answer Leibniz's question by saying that the universe has always existed. This was a common assumption until the early 20th Century when Alexander Friedmann and Georges Lemaitre noted that the universe was expanding and Lemaitre suggested that the expansion could be traced back to a “single primeval atom” or “cosmic egg.” This was the beginning of the concept of The Big Bang. Lemaitre, a faith-filled Catholic priest, was very much involved in convincing Albert Einstein and others that the universe had a beginning. Of course, the Big Bang model has gone on to be the prevailing model of the community of physicists seeking to describe our known universe. It elegantly describes the beginning of all things including matter, time, gravity, and the universal constants that have been detected.

Still others would suggest that our universe is a mystery and its origins are lost to us. In other words: we simply do not know why there is something rather than nothing. Bertrand Russel famously took this stance in a 1948 radio debate with Frederick Copleston. Such an answer has the effect of sounding clever and somehow satisfying but most would find that the satisfaction quickly fades. Some will be satisfied with answering a big question with a big shrug of the shoulders; most of us will not.

Leibniz also found such non-answers unsatisfying and searched his whole life for a better answer. He toyed with Russell’s response and worked to make more sense of it. In the end he found that such an answer would not satisfy his own intellect. He eventually came to an answer that was substantial and pleasing but was one that would ultimately contribute to his falling out of favour in the philosophical and scientific communities. His answer was one that took courage to voice. It was an answer that was both elegant and simple as science demanded, yet one which resulted in a major paradigm shift which many other thinkers are unwilling to make. His answer shifts one’s entire thinking process and causes one to consider the entirety of life. Leibniz’s simple answer to the question of why there is something rather than nothing was, “God wanted there to be a universe.” It is a simple answer yet results in a lifetime of introspection and development, for if there is a great creator God behind the beginning of the universe, we will want to know more about God and how he communicates with his world. We will spend the rest of our lives seeking to know him.

References and Further Reading:

Hawking, Stephen, and Leonard Mlodinow. 2010. The Grand Design. Bantam Books.
Look, Brandon C. 2017. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2017/entries/leibniz/.
Strickland, Lloyd. 2019. Answering the biggest question of all: why is there something rather than nothing? 08 08. https://theconversation.com/answering-the-biggest-question-of-all-why-is-there-something-rather-than-nothing-65865.
Wikipedia. 2019. "Copleston-Russell Debate." Wikipedia. 08 11. Accessed 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copleston%E2%80%93Russell_debate.
—. 2019. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. 08 08. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gottfried_Wilhelm_Leibniz.
—. 2019. Lawrence M. Krauss. 08 08. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_M._Krauss.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Apollo11


If you are an Apollo 11 nerd like me, you will want to check out a new website created by Ben Feist, a Canadian “software developer and spaceflight data visualization researcher working with NASA.”[1] The site called, “The First Landing on the Moon, Apollo 11, Real-Time Mission Experience,” is a treasure chest of audio clips, photos, and live data of the Apollo 11 Mission. This was the mission which resulted in the successful moon landing and return to earth of Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Michael Collins flew the command module in orbit around the moon while other two men made the historic landing, set up experiments on the moon, and brought back rock samples.

By now, most of us will have seen a reminder of the July 20, 1969 landing in some form of media, and CBC has done a great job of retelling the story on their news site. If you want to go deeper and relive the excitement, anxiety, mystery, and joy of humanity doing so much with so little and making it possible for two men to leave footprints on the moon, spend some time on Ben Feist's remarkable website. Only the biggest Apollo geeks (I may be in that category) will enjoy hearing the exact pitch, trim, and roll of the linked Command Module (CM) and Lunar Module (LM) as they came out of radio silence on the far side of the moon, but others will appreciate the radio signals between the astronauts and Ground Control in Houston as they established a secure voice link by switching from one antenna to another. The care and detail of each team is evident as everyone works to get everything just right for the separation of CM and LM and the eventual landing of the LM.

There are also humorous moments in which the NASA crew on the ground joke with each other and challenge each other to rise to the immense discipline and hard work required to make everything function just right. The attention of thousands of people made it possible to do what three men accomplished in orbit around and on the surface of the moon. One of the most striking elements of the audio tapes is the calmness with which every command is given and received. At one point, we hear Houston say that they want to make a correction to data they had previously given. “We made an error on those coordinates. We'd like you to load for latitude in a NOUN 89 plus 01 243, longitude over 2 plus 11 844, altitude minus 001 46 as shown in the Flight Plan. Over.” Collins replies in a calm voice “Okay, Thank-you.” There are many more examples of real-time problem solving that occurred at every stage of the process. One gets the impression that the entire operation was highly disciplined and polished to perfection.

There are amazing full-colour and black-and-white photos associated with the audio transcripts that allow one to have a sense of what the astronauts were seeing as they worked on the details of the landing. There is video of the Houston Control Room where we can see Flight Director Gene Kranz smoking a cigar as he awaits the undocking of CM and LM. The actual landing is shown in detail and we see Armstrong testing his ability to step onto the surface and making sure he can still get back onto the LM steps before he makes his momentous official first words from the surface.

As I write these words, I have the Mission Control audio running in the background. It is almost like experiencing the landing first-hand fifty years ago today. Thank you, Ben Feist, for once again inspiring my imagination. Thank you, NASA for inspiring all of humanity with this remarkable feat of engineering on July 20, 1969.



[1]BenFeist.com blog site, 2019-07-20

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Legacy of George MacDonald

 
Our Lead Pastor Steve McMillan quoted George MacDonald this past Sunday. This reminded me of a few other MacDonald quotes. If we look past the male oriented language of the day, there are some good insights here.

"To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved."
— George MacDonald, Author of The Princess and the Goblin.


“Ere long, I learned that it was not myself, but only my shadow, that I had lost. I learned that it is better, a thousand-fold, for a proud man to fall and be humbled, than to hold up his head in his pride and fancied innocence. I learned that he that will be a hero, will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work, is sure of his manhood.”
― George MacDonald in Phantastes.


“Foolish is the man, and there are many such men, who would rid himself or his fellows of discomfort by setting the world right, by waging war on the evils around him, while he neglects that integral part of the world where lies his business, his first business, namely, his own character and conduct.”
- George MacDonald in The Hope of the Gospel.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Writing as Education

 
“I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do---the actual act of writing---turns out to be the best part. It's like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” 
― Anne Lamott

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

That Sunday Evening


That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20:19-22 (New Living Translation)

John’s Gospel tells us how it was the evening of resurrection day. Some of the women had told the other disciples a wild story that Jesus had come back to life. These followers of Jesus, in a locked room, were trying to believe the story but they just couldn’t shake the fear. What if the Jewish leaders started rounding up those who had followed Jesus? What if they put each of them on trial like they did Jesus? Jesus was crucified. They saw him dead, not mostly dead, really dead. What would the soldiers and religious leaders do to them? They made sure the door was closed and bolted from the inside and prayed like crazy. This atmosphere would have created a strong desire to pray.

Suddenly, Jesus stood right there with them. John knew right away it was Jesus, but how did Jesus get into the room? You know that startled feeling you get when you don’t hear someone coming and suddenly they are there? I think that is how John felt. “Oh I didn’t hear you come in. Wait, how did you get in here? I thought we had the door locked. Who let Jesus in?”

I can just see Jesus smiling and saying, “Peace, man.” Okay, or maybe more like, “Peace be with you.” The Old Testament version of this greeting is “Shalom to you” and it was an everyday greeting, but here Jesus has loaded this word with theological significance.

The Hebrew word, shalom, refers most commonly to a person being uninjured and safe, whole and sound. In the New Testament, shalom is revealed as the reconciliation of all things to God through the work of Christ … Shalom experienced is multidimensional, complete well-being – physical, psychological, social, and spiritual; it flows from all of one’s relationships being put right – with God, with(in) oneself, and with others.”[1] 

Jesus indeed brings Shalom to his followers. He reconciles all things to God. He is reconciling his followers to God and he wants his followers to be at peace. He shows them his hands and his side, to display to them that his wounds and his great love for them have reconciled them to God. The same is true for us. We have been reconciled to God by the wounds, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

This is the context of shalom within which Jesus says his next words. “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Jesus has done the work of reconciliation on the cross and brought us peace. Now we get to join him and his father in the work of reconciliation. We have peace and now we get to offer this peace to others. For you see, we do have something to offer to this world. We can offer them the unconditional love of Jesus who reconciles the world by his submission to the cross. And let me assure you, this world is looking for unconditional love. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn will give you “likes” and even “loves” if you give the world the right things. But Jesus gives us real love, unconditional love.

Not only does Jesus invite us into reconciliation with God and invite us to join him in his Father’s work, but he gives us the power to do so. John tells us that Jesus’ next words were, “Receive the Holy Spirit” and then he breathes on them. Practically speaking, this empowerment by the Holy Spirit means that they – and we - don’t need to be scared of passing on the faith to others. We have the same power in us which raised up Jesus Christ from the dead.

Certainly, the world needs more unconditional love. We all want more unconditional love. Our friends want to hear more about unconditional love. They no longer know that there is such a thing as unconditional love. They have become so used to Facebook "likes" and "loves" and think these are the major kinds of love that are in the world. We can show them what Jesus has done for them, mostly with our lives, and also with our words. The unconditional love of Jesus that we have experienced and the faith we embody will be passed on to others as we simply allow ourselves to be authentic. If we will be ourselves and be authentic and vulnerable with others, the Holy Spirit will work in the lives of others as they see faith lived out in us.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Modern Technology and the Human Future



I recently finished reading Craig Gay’s book, Modern Technology and the Human Future and found it to be a very balanced approach to many of the questions we find ourselves asking about the good and bad of contemporary technology. We all know how valuable our hand-held devices can be and Gay speaks highly of the gains in productivity and efficiencies afforded by such devices before citing some telling statistics. “‘On average,’ one recent study found, ‘people in the United States across all age groups check their phones 46 times per day’, roughly once every fifteen minutes. For people between the ages of eighteen to twenty four, that number goes up to seventy four times per day, or once every twelve minutes.”[1] Many might say that we are enslaved to our phones, but if that word seems a little harsh, let’s just say we are obsessed with our phones. What are we checking for on our phones? Well it could be all kinds of good information in the virtual libraries of information available to us. We could be exploring art galleries in distant cities, getting the latest facts on nutritional information, or following NASA’s ever curious explorations of the galaxy. More likely than not, we are checking our social media accounts to see how many people have liked our recent post or seeing what posts others have made that we can like, hate, find funny, or thumb-up.

Gay is not a technophobe or luddite, his confessions in the chapter entitled “A Personal Conclusion” make this clear, but what he is saying is that we must consider every advancement in light of the good it will do and what we will give away as we embrace the technology. He points out that one of humans’ early advances was going from an oral culture to a written culture and to a culture of the printing press. Socrates expressed concerns that increasing literacy rates would have a debilitating impact on memory.[2] Of course he was right! Oral societies must commit all important information to memory, but as soon as one adapts to a written culture, much can be stored in lists, recipes, personal journals, and text-books. However, without literacy, one could well argue that we would never have the kind of understanding of who we are and what we can do.

Gay does lament that contemporary technology tends towards seeing all of nature as a machine.[3] Photosynthesis in the hands of a scientist can become nothing more than physics and chemistry. Similarly, the human body and mind can also be viewed as a complex machine that could, given enough time, be converted into a mechanical device to house our consciousness. He also calls us back to remembering who we are. “The church has long recognized that if the eternal Word of God ‘became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” as the apostle John declares (Jn 1:14), this confers staggering value upon ordinary fleshly existence.”[4] “While the Christian church always stands in need of remembering its theology, the need today is particularly acute, given how rapidly automatic machine technology is trending away from ordinary embodied human life.”[5]

In this book, Gay calls us to “repent of our hubris” and recognize that the “principle precept of Christian discipleship is that we are not our own” and that our “task, therefore, is primarily one of stewardship.”[6] He speaks of a proper place for technology where it “starts great conversation” and an improper place when it “prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.”[7] Proper uses of technology will lead to greater harmony of people, animals, plants, and rocks rather than dis-harmonies. Gay calls us back to our theology of being, incarnation, and eucharistic embodiment and prompts us that the eucharist or communion meal is to be a place where we reorient ourselves around what is important: God and his people embodied in flesh.

There is much more that could be said, but I leave it to the reader to take the time to purchase and read this book for yourself. It is readily available wherever books are sold.

Works Cited

Gay, C. M. (2018). Modern Technology and the Human Future: A Christian Appraisal. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.




[1] 2015 data; (Gay, 2018, pp. 31, 32)
[2] (Gay, 2018, p. 25)
[3] (Gay, 2018, p. 101)
[4] (Gay, 2018, p. 133)
[5] (Gay, 2018, p. 165)
[6] (Gay, 2018, p. 169)
[7] (Gay, 2018, p. 177)

Stark Raven Mad

 
In other blog posts, I have told of the intelligence of ravens, crows, and other corvids. These birds have been shown to use tools, create tools, and communicate danger to others in their area. Recently, another study has shown greater detail on the communication abilities of these remarkable birds. The study shows that when one raven dislikes its food choices, this mood toward food can be passed along to others such that they have a negative expectation of their food choices as well, even before the naive ravens had any idea of what might be in a food box. Thus, the “glass half-empty” attitude was communicated and transferred to other ravens who had not yet had a reason to be pessimistic. The “how” of this empathy transference is unclear but it is likely the same mechanism used to warn fellow crows about dangerous individuals on a university campus. More studies are needed to bring light to the amazing social communication of these birds. Watch this blog and Science News for more developments.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Great Beyond Trailer


The Great Beyond is a novel with spiritual insights. It is the story of Ray, a man who has done much wandering and is now on the greatest journey of his life. Through out the story, Ray must make choices that impact his future and his ultimate happiness. The book trailer is available here and the summary appears below.

Ray did not expect his life to take the turns it did. He had always been a simple man who enjoyed modest pleasures and a few travel experiences. In fact, he thought he might have travelled more. But life just sort of happened and he never got around to the things he wanted to see. Now, on the biggest journey of his life, going places he could only imagine in his dreams, he is not sure he wants to be on this path. He is not sure how he got on this path or where it will take him next. Perhaps the biggest question is, "Who is in control?"
The Great Beyond is available at Amazon.ca: https://amzn.to/2VbVu6c; Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2DnEVtY; and Indigo: https://bit.ly/2UOieK3



Thursday, March 28, 2019

Miracle Girl



In my family, I have developed a tradition. With the arrival of each grandchild, I write a song. Whitney arrived nearly five months ago in November. So, I am a little behind on getting her song written. Her parents, Lauren and Dean, have been very patient. So, I give you "Miracle Girl."


Miracle Girl

A miracle even before she was born
Coming into their life, it soon was clear
She would be one who would change their world
Always keep growing, and lead us from here

Miracle Girl making a believer of me
Every time I greet you, new miracles I see
Telling the world that you believe
Miracles will happen when God is near

Light in her eyes, as this little one grew
Her face had a charm that welcomed you
More than the trait of eyes of blue
You knew that this was a Godly hue

Miracle Girl making a believer of me
Every time I greet you, new miracles I see
Telling the world that you believe
Miracles will happen when He is near

Her life won’t be easy, time takes a toll
There will be moments, of scoffs from the crowd
The Spirit inside gives her strength to stay whole
Determined to keep living her faith out loud

Hey, Miracle Girl, you’re a wonder to see
And you are bringing miracles to be
Follow her, and you will soon believe
Supernatural things are easy to see

As the years wear on and life takes its course
Her face will always stay tuned to the light
She’ll take each moment for better, for worse
Leading many to change wrongs to right

Miracle Girl making a believer of me
Every time I meet you, new miracles I see
Telling the world that you believe
Miracles always happen when He is near