Friday, December 31, 2010

The Light Yoke

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Matthew 11:28-30 (New International Version)

In an article entitled The Light Yoke, Jedd Medefind speaks of how easy it is for us to exchange the light burden offered by Jesus for the heavy burdens of this world. While the article is brilliant and I encourage you to read it in its entirety one part spoke particularly clearly to me.
For me, the yoke of choice has always centred on the desire to be respected. Although perhaps a perfectly fine objective in its proper place, wanting to be admired can so quickly grow into a weight that bites down into my shoulders. It can turn a moment of appropriate celebration into puffed-up pride, or a small setback into insecurity. It can remake God-honouring work into a self-centred and onerous burden.*
I have always said that I would rather be "famous" than "rich" and so I can relate just a little too well to Mr. Medefind's yoke of choice. The article refers to other burdens of choice to which readers will relate. Perhaps today is a day for each of us to again lay down the yoke of this world and put on the yoke of Jesus.

*Medefind, Jedd. "The Light Yoke." Comment: Equipping and Connecting the Next Generation of Christian Leaders, 12 31, 2010.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Showing Up

I have always appreciated Woody Allen's humour and movies. I probably disagree with him on just about everything. Yet, Allen is very good at communicating great philosophical ideas in his movies. I recall trying to get my head around Existentialism in college and finding that Woody Allen could explain it perfectly with Stardust Memories. Many of his other movies seem odd on the surface but are actually well-written explanations of how people view our world. Woody Allen once said,
Eighty percent of success is showing up.*
This is one area in which I agree with Woody Allen. There is a lot to be said for showing up. There is a lot to be said for going to work each day and doing what is expected of me; getting out of bed and going for a run when I would rather pull the covers over my head; taking the time to "show up" with God; spending time in spiritual disciplines. Certainly, in the world of blogging, success is showing up and blogging. As we start the new year, I am well aware that there are many things over which I will have little or no control. One thing I can do is show up.

*Woody Allen, US movie actor, comedian, & director (1935 - ). As quoted in "The Quotations Page."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


A fun video for the season. Click on the title to watch it on YouTube.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010



I wonder if this Christmas they'll begin to
understand / The Jesus that they celebrate
is much more than a man / 'Cause the way
the world is I don't see How people can
deny / The only way to save us was for
Jesus Christ to die

And I know that if Saint Nicholas was here
he would agree / The Jesus gave the
greatest gift of all to you and me / They led
Him to the slaughter on a hill called
Calvary / And mankind was forgiven when
they nailed Him to the tree

But most of all the children they're the
ones I hope will learn / The Jesus is our
Saviour and He's going to return / And
Christmas isn't just a day / And all days
aren't the same / Perhaps they'll think
about the word and see it spells His name

And I know that if Saint Nicholas was here
he would agree / The Jesus gave the
greatest gift of all to you and me / They led
Him to the slaughter on a hill called
Calvary / And mankind was forgiven
Mankind was forgiven We were all
forgiven when they nailed Him to the tree

So Merry Christmas Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas

I wonder if this Christmas they'll begin to

*Randy Stonehill © 1976 KING OF HEARTS PUBLISHING

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Puppet Strings

I can't keep from mourning for this topsy-
turvy world / With all its strife and pain /
Mourning for the lost and the desperate
children / Who can't remember their

And I can feel it in my soul / Now the end
is getting near / I can hear the devil
laughing / And its ringing in my ears

Long ago He chose us to inherit all His
kingdom / And we were blessed with light
/ But wandering away we disobeyed Him
in the garden / And stumbled into night

And I can feel it in my soul / Now the end
is getting near / I can hear the angels
weeping / And it's ringing in my ears

We are all like foolish puppets who
desiring to be kings / Now lie pitifully
crippled after cutting our own strings

But God said I'll forgive you I will face you
Man to man / And win your love again /
Oh how could there be possibly a greater
gift of love / Than dying for a friend

And I can feel it in my soul / Now the end
is getting near / I can hear the devil
laughing / And it's ringing in my ears

We are all like foolish puppets who
desiring to be kings / Now lie pitifully
crippled after cutting our own strings

Cutting our own strings / Cutting our own
strings / Cutting our own strings*
Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:
“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of his servant David,
just as he promised
through his holy prophets long ago.
Now we will be saved from our enemies
and from all who hate us.
He has been merciful to our ancestors
by remembering his sacred covenant—
the covenant he swore with an oath
to our ancestor Abraham.
We have been rescued from our enemies
so we can serve God without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
for as long as we live.

And you, my little son,
will be called the prophet of the Most High,
because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation
through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of peace.” - Luke 1:67-79 (New Living Translation)

*Randy Stonehill © 1976 KING OF HEARTS PUBLISHING

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Role Models

Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 (New International Version)
One of my favourite parts of the Bible has always been 1 Timothy chapter four. When I was a young man I incorporated verse twelve into a valedictory speech and challenged my class-mates to be role models for others despite their youth. At this point in life I am no longer considered young but I have the same desire to see people who will model a life that is an example for others. More than ever our world needs people, young and old, who will be good role models in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in integrity.
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don't let anyone put you down because you're young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. 1 Timothy 4:11-14 (The Message)

Monday, December 20, 2010


A friend and regular blogger (4 Minute Writer) directed me to a blog which asked some questions about why humans exist. She knew this would catch my attention.
Nrhatch wrote: "On an individual basis, I have no problem seeing the meaning for life since I agree with the Dalai Lama: We are here to be happy and to make others happy. But having something to do WHILE we are here is NOT the same thing as having a REASON for being here in the first place. It’s that larger question, the “why?” of it all ~ the raison d’etre for mankind ~ that eludes me." - Spirit Lights the Way, December 19, 2010

It seems to me we need to think through the distinction between "the meaning of life" and "the why of life." Is there really any distinction at all? If I find myself at a triathlon, I know the meaning of a triathlon is an event in which people swim, cycle, and run for fun, fitness, and competition. Why I am at the triathlon? I am at the triathlon to swim, cycle, and run for fun, fitness, and competition. There may be other reasons for being at a triathlon. One might be a spectator, a volunteer, an organizer, or a merchant promoting their product. As we add in these other possible "whys," we also add to the "meanings." A triathlon is indeed an event in which people spectate, volunteer, organize, and promote. These are part of the why and the meaning.

Now, let us go back to the question of the existence of humans. If the meaning of life is "to be happy and to make others happy" (a premise with which I disagree but about which I will not argue for the moment), then could it be that the reason why humans exist is "to be happy and to make others happy?" The problem does not lie in the distinction between "meaning" and "why." The problem lies with needing a place to which to ascribe the "meaning" and the "why." We can ascribe the meaning to the universe as Nrhatch has done by saying that "Maybe the Universe wanted an audience to applaud its creation?" (note the capital U and the question mark in the original text). But this is problematic. With a triathlon, we can trace the meaning and the why back to an event organizer or the person or persons who chose to have a triathlon. By establishing the triathlon they gave it meanings and whys. A triathlon cannot give itself meanings or whys just as a universe cannot give itself meanings and whys.

We may not know all of the meanings and whys of our existence. There will always be mystery with regard to the existence of humans and indeed the existence of the universe. For this I am thankful. I like some mystery in my life. For me, the bigger question is, "To what or Who will I ascribe this mystery, these meanings and these whys?" (note the capital W and the question mark in the text).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peace on Earth, Goodwill . . .

I decided to meditate upon peace today. It seemed like an appropriate focus as we approach Christmas. When the angels announced the birth of Jesus they proclaimed, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” - Luke 2:14 (NLT). I wondered what peace looks like in this world about two thousand years later. I thought about several things Jesus said about peace. He said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." - John 14:27 (NIV). He also said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33 (NIV).

These statements were spoken before His death and resurrection. Then I remembered these words spoken at one of His appearances to the disciples after His triumphant resurrection.
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"
After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."
- John 20:19-21 (NIV).
I have learned that it is important to watch for "book-end statements." Places where Jesus says something, something happens, and then He says it again. The statements bookend the events and are important teachings connected to the events. Here these teachings about peace bookend Jesus' arrest, unjust trial, flogging, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus lived through these horrific events with peace. Now He offers peace to His followers and all followers who come after these. In John chapter 20 these words of peace bookend something else as well. Jesus shows the disciples the scars He has received in carrying out the will of His Father, God. Then, He calls His disciples, and all disciples who will follow after Him, to a mission. "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you."

From this we can learn the way to peace! In this world we will have trouble. Storms may rage around us. But the way to peace is doing the will of the Father. As we are sent into this world, to do the things that Jesus was sent to do, we will have peace. How can we not have peace? If we are doing what God wants us to do, then all hell may oppose us but we will be at peace.

This Christmas, I pray that you will find peace as you do the will of Him who has sent you into this world. As Jesus was sent so we are sent to do the will of the Father. This is true peace.

Monday, December 13, 2010


In an article in The Globe and Mail, Michael Valpy and Joe Friesen propose that it is largely the religious traditions of immigrants that are keeping our places of worship from closing. They point to the increasing secularization of native-born Canadians and contrast this with the steady faith of new immigrants to Canada.
In 1985, only 12 per cent of those born in Canada said they had no religious affiliation, compared with 21 per cent of immigrants who arrived in the previous 20 years. The 2009 data show "no religious affiliation" among the Canadian born jumped to 28 per cent, while the rate among recent immigrants held steady at 19 per cent.*

The article also quotes sociologist David Seljak of St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, Ontario as saying that
What attracts native-born Canadians to church these days is the availability of parking, quality of preaching and children's programs, in that order.*
Yes, that is what he said, parking, preaching, and programs. Sounds a bit shallow doesn't it? I would wish that sociologists would look at Canadians and see that they are looking for churches that care for the poor, churches that break the chains of those caught in the oppression of the sex-trade, churches that care for the immigrant, churches that care for the environment, and churches that create a community of faith that rights the wrongs of prejudice. Perhaps those of us who have been born in Canada have taken this life for granted. We have never learned what it means to be poor or to be an immigrant or to be oppressed. But God calls both recent immigrants and Canadian-born persons to care for the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (New International Version)
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

*Valpy, Michael, and Joe Friesen. "A Twist of Faith." The Globe and Mail, December 11, 2010: A12, A13.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Feelings are, with a few exceptions, good servants. But they are disastrous masters.*
It is easy to be controlled by our feelings. We get up in the morning, look in the mirror to ensure that our face is still in the right place and then we check our feelings. We might also look out the window and see what the weather is like before determining how we feel. For many of us, this mood check becomes a guiding factor for the rest of the day. People ask us, "How are you?" We answer with some variant of the feelings we detected while staring at our face in the bathroom mirror. But allowing ourselves to be mastered by our feelings is unhealthy and unnecessary.

Dallas Willard notes that
Addiction is a feeling phenomenon. The addict is one who, in one way or another, has given in to feeling of one kind or another and has placed it in the position of ultimate value in his or her life.#
By contrast, the person who happily lets God be God does have a place to stand in dealing with feelings - even in extreme cases such as despair over loved ones or excruciating pain or voluptuous pleasure. They have the resources to do what they don't want to do and to not do what they want. They know and deeply accept the fact that their feelings, of whatever kind, do not have to be fulfilled. They spend little time grieving over non-fulfillment. And with respect to feelings that are inherently injurious and wrong, their strategy is not one of resisting them in the moment of choice but of living in such a way that they do not have such feelings at all, or at least do not have them in a degree that makes it hard to decide against them when appropriate.^
We dare not deny our feelings and we dare not be ruled by them. If we identify the underlying condition that gives rise to the feeling we can assign feelings their appropriate place. Then our actions will be guided by "insight, understanding, and conviction of truth" rather than the feelings of the moment. For further understanding of these principles I highly recommend Renovation of the Heart.

*Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002, p. 122.
#Willard, 2002, p. 125.
^Willard, 2002, p. 119.