Monday, June 30, 2008

"More than 400 churches closed in downtown Toronto in the last half of the 20th century"

Salvation Army major Geoff Ryan wrote a great article recently for the Toronto Star about the problem of churches fleeing the inner-city: | News | Exodus II a test for churches
More than 400 churches closed in downtown Toronto in the last half of the 20th century, Ryan said, resulting in a shift in identity for organized religion toward the source of its only growth: the suburban middle class...Organized religion also began to believe that caring for the poor was the government's job, and not a personal responsibility. "The church has largely abrogated its leadership role as a voice for the voiceless," he said.

The Salvation Army, he said, maintains a shelter downtown and continues to both feed and house the poor. But this work is widely regarded as a charitable service for others and remains largely disconnected from the daily lives of church members, Ryan said.

The challenge of the coming years, he said, will be to be the voice of the poor as the middle class moves back downtown.

Lego Bible update

In this update: God raises up Solomon's enemies

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Video of the week - Matt is dancing again!

Some of you may remember the outrageously popular video titled Where the Hell is Matt? Well Matt has just produced another video of him dancing around the world! Check it out:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vision program kicks off at Thorncliffe school

Cool program kicked off this week at Thorncliffe Park Public School:
Rehana Zahid heard about the pilot project through her son’s school. “They sent us a note about whether we’d like to have Ahsan’s eyes checked, and to have new prescription glasses provided if he needed them,” she said. “We of course agreed.” Rehana’s family migrated from Sialkot in Pakistan some four years ago. She holds a Master’s degree while her husband is a computer sciences professional. Since they moved here their story has followed something of a classical Canadian copybook style: she doesn’t have a job, while her husband drives a cab. “We have a young family,” explains Rehana, a tad defensively.

But in what represents a departure from the norm and may well hold out promise for several sectors— our coming generation, newcomers with foreign medical training, as well as Ontario’s, and Canada’s, beleaguered health care services— the project has employed international medical graduates to check the vision and hearing of elementary schoolchildren deemed most at risk. Significantly, the three-year project with a funding in place for close to half a million dollars has the potential to directly help around 25,000 children, estimates Susan Wakutz of the Toronto District School Board. And, while it currently focuses on seven inner city pockets of Toronto, the initiative could well be rolled out across the GTA, officials say.

The officials add that thousands of inner city students will be able to see the blackboards and hear their teachers more clearly, thanks to the new hearing and vision screening program which was kicked off last week at Thorncliffe Park Elementary School.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Only the Injil v4 - Temple Tantrum!!

Recently I became a 30-something, which at first glance was quite depressing. There has been, however, one sweet consolation - I am now in my 'Jesus years'. These years in Jesus' life (between 30 and 33) were powerful, dynamic, miraculous and ultimately led to the greatest grass-roots revolution in human history.

Realizing this, I picked up my Reese Chronological Bible and each day, for the next 3 years, I will seek to read about exactly what Jesus was doing at my age!


This edition of 'Only the Injil' focuses on Jesus throwing a 'tantrum' in the temple at Jerusalem. Last time we focused on how he built momentum for his movement. This time we want to look a bit at the what he does when he's got the audience.

> Jesus @ 31 years & 2-4 months old - The stage is set as Jesus approaches Jerusalem. Everyone will be there. Everyone will remember him. This is his chance to make his first impression - what will he say? Will he make a loud speech about God's love, announcing to everyone that salvation is here! Or maybe everyone would simply recognize him from John's baptism so he won't even have to say a word, just let his lifestyle speak for him. What is the first major thing Jesus wants to personally communicate to the masses?

I wonder what you or I would say if we had that kind of chance. A captive religious audience. Pilgrims gathered from all over the country with their hearts set on worship. This must be the holiest time of the year, the very heart of the jewish religious experience. Surely Jesus will use this opportunity to preach a 'sermon on the mount' type message. Something memorable. Love your neighbour stuff? An exposition on worship? A parable maybe? Something that would glorify God?

What Jesus does as he enters Jerusalem is so important I'm going to go on a bit about it. I might even have to make 2 posts. In the past few months of his life Jesus has gone from a little village carpenter to provincial phenom after being baptised by John. Now he will go from being whispered about to being fully revealed country-wide as his revolution begins! What we see next is the true heart of Jesus. Mark my words. This is the heart of Jesus revealed. John 2:14 states that "he found those that sold". He found them. I think Jesus was on a bit of a witch-hunt here. But not for the money changers. They were just bait. A decoy. Jesus shows us what his revolution is going to be all about. I think he went to Jerusalem (since he knew everything) with the specific intent to cause a commotion and make a point. And it was not so much about the guys selling in the temple. And I think he did it with a purpose.

Too often we think of this story and give Jesus a mulligan. Oops, he got mad, must have been a divine mistake. Or "hey, it's Jesus he's allowed to get upset" not understanding the true intention of Jesus' heart. Yes he was ticked that people had turned the temple into a farmers market but that is not the point of this whole exercise. Think about it. He could have showed up any Tuesday there was worship and overthrown a few tables making a smaller scene. But I believe Jesus wanted to make a big scene. I believe he wanted to make the biggest scene possible. I believe he wanted to make a big statement about who he is and what he was all about and he's using the money changers simply as bait to pick a fight with the people he really wants to overturn. Overthrowing tables was simply a way to get everyone's attention and say to everyone what was on his heart.

As Jesus begins his temple tantrum the religious elites take the bait. I think this was his plan. I think he turned over the tables just to get their attention and get a reaction which he could respond to. Their reaction is (John 2:18):“What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miracle to prove it?" Translation: "Who the hell do you think you are screwing up our religious ceremony!?" Have you ever had this experience? Have you ever got a bit agitated when some bumbling outsider made a mess of your carefully organized religious ceremony/worship service/conference. The immediate response is usually "get lost, can't you see there's something important going on here". Jesus has made a mess of their biggest religious feast of the year! This is the holiest moment in their religious calendar! You can imagine the scene. Shattered tables, coins and livestock cover the ground. This is not appropriate! They are not happy about it! What will Jesus say to them as they ask for an answer? Pilgrims from all over the country are listening. Why did he do this?

Jesus takes the opportunity to lay down his manifesto for all to hear - "Destroy the temple" are the first words out of Jesus mouth (John 2:19) . Destroy the temple!!! Did he just say destroy the temple?? What a horrible blasphemous statement to God's chosen people, on the holiest day of their year! "Destroy the temple? It took us 46 years to build this temple! This temple is a pinnacle of all our religious efforts and pride. We love this temple. We would never destroy it. Instead we are going to destroy you for speaking against our holy religious symbol. We love our religion. We love our temple. Who do you think you are!

"My job description" Jesus is saying "is to destroy your religion so you can really know God." Destroy it. I'll rebuild it once it's gone, but it has to be gone. The things you love. The things you cherish the most. Lay down your temple and take up your cross. What does that mean for me and you? What do we need to destroy so we can hear God clearer? What do we need to dismantle so Jesus can 'rebuild' true faith inside us? Jesus says that his job is to destroy religious ceremonies/festivals/worship/temples in order for us to have nothing so he can rebuild us.

If this is difficult to accept think about it - this is what got him killed in the end. This very statement that he would destroy the temple. If he was just upset at selling in the temple the story would have ended there, all the jews would cheer because he had cleared away the riff raff and then Jesus would be made King of israel. But that is not his point at all! The money changers are secondary to the primary message of destroying religion.

I would suggest that the reason Jesus spends so much time with sinners & tax collectors is not becuase he felt sorry for them. It is because he knew that they understand God better than the holiest religious person. Are you with me here? The worst sinners have no religious baggage, no 'temple' that needs destroying. They can see clearer than the most righteous person who is blinded by his religious views. Jesus knew that the sinners & tax collectors hear God without filters. And so, before he embarked on a life of helping the poor, the needy, the prostitutes, he had to bust some serious religious chops!

I think what Jesus wanted to personally communicate to the masses in Jerusalem was that religion is blinding you - turn back to God. That is his message for you as well. Your religious meetings, bible studies, conferences etc etc have become a stumbling block to really hearing and understanding the message which he delivers next in the synagogue (Isaiah 61:1-3).

If you are a Christian think about that in your church life. Your years of church are actually keeping you from God. Your patterns of worship are actually keeping you from truly worshiping. Jesus is telling you to clean the money changers out of your life. Do a religious detox. Destroy and He will rebuild in three days. It took the jews 46 years to encase their religious traditions. Jesus says destroy it and very quickly, only 3 days, He will rebuild. What an amazing promise. Rebuild your religious thought patterns. Rebuild your habits. Rebuild your views.

If you are not a Christian, you have the greatest opportunity to experience God without religion! The revolution of Jesus would welcome you to it's protest against organized religion and full persuit of God! The Salvaiton Army is a good example of this. A few nutbars named William & Cahterine Booth built a revolution with teenagers, outcasts, rejects and peverts that truly demonstrated the heart of God. They were the 'hand to man' helping the poorest of the poor.

A few other interesting points:

1. This message is very attractive to people looking for a way out of religion and back to God
a) John 3 - Nicodemus approaches Jesus just after this
a) John 4: 45 - The Galileans believed because of this.

Obviously I haven't even scratched the surface with this topic. Obviously there will be alot of confusion. Feel free to leave comments and i will try to explain more of what I mean. This is just the first part of Jesus' manifesto. This one was in the temple. The next one is in the synagogue. Same result both times - religious people completely furious! Jesus & sinners - 2, Religious People - 0. Who's side are you on?

Up next - Temple Tantrum 2

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The sayings of Sylas v16 - Ontario Place love

The other night Sylas and I were snuggling in bed when he turned over, looked at me and said:

Sylas: Dad, I love you from China to Ontario place!

Monday, June 16, 2008

"My time in Myanmar"

Saw this on a friend's blog: My time in Myanmar
One exciting moment took place when a church leader called my hotel late at night and asked to meet me on urgent business. He arrived to take me away in his car (which was unexpected), under cover of dark, to an unknown area of the city, where a Bible school (the term is over), was "hiding" a whole village. Mostly Christian, these families had fled the flood plain with their pastor, and sought refuge in Yangon. The seminary had taken in in 480 people, including many orphans and widows, and was feeding and clothing them. They were hidden, because the Burmese can't relocate in their own country without permission, and all the cyclone victims would have been put into a camp or sent home. I could take no pictures or names there. The church leaders informed me this was happening all over the city, leading to another logistics problem: How do you aid victims that don't exist?
Click here for the full report

Friday, June 13, 2008

Shirley and Marcy

Today is Friday the 13th so I wanted to post this story my dad sent me to bless you with good luck for the whole day!
A mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn't want his mother to walk with him.

She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence but yet know that he was safe. So she had an idea of how to handle it.

She asked a neighbor if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he probably wouldn't notice her. She said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed.

The next school day, the neighbor and her little girl set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor girl he knew. She did this for the whole week.

As the two walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy's little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally she said to Timmy, 'Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week? Do you know her?'

Timmy nonchalantly replied, 'Yeah, I know who she is.'

The little girl said, 'Well, who is she?'

'That's just Shirley Goodnest,' Timmy replied, 'and her daughter Marcy.'

'Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us? '

'Well,' Timmy explained, 'every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, 'cuz she worries about me so much. And in the Psalm, it says, 'Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life', so I guess I'll just have to get used to it!'

May Shirley Goodnest and Marcy be with you today and always!!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday's hot topics - How to be like the New Testament/Early church

On the discussion forum - here, Rey has some interesting observations about how to become like the 'New Testament/early church'
How did the early church look like?

First, change locale: get into a house or meet at a river or maybe in the back of the local synagogue until you get kicked out and then go back inot a house or meet at a river.

Second, throw away your Bibles: if you're gentile try to get your hand on a copier to duplicate the Greek version of the Jewish Bible but if you can't afford that buy a scroll at a time and spend your time reading it slowly to memorize it so you can keep the scroll at home/church. With your New Testament rip out all the letters and save maybe one that is nearby your locality. That one, rip out a couple of chapters unless you want to be one of the lucky ones. Definitely rip out 2nd Peter and the Book of Hebrews. If you want to go later down into the 2nd Century then I'll allow you to add maybe the Gospel of Barnabas, the Gospel of Hebrews and you decide if you want 2 Peter, James, Revelation or Hebrews.

Third: elevate Oral tradition
too and memorize the gospel in a catchy rhyme.

Christ died
For our sins
According to Scripture
He was buried
And He was raised on the third day
According to Scripture

Fourth: Get together with all our doctrinal disagreements, get together. Charismatics and Cessationists in the same room, Dispensationalists and Amillenialists, Calvinsts and (gasp!) Arminians, Dogs and Cats--total anarchy (man I love Ghostbusters).

Fifth: do a whole bunch of stuff that none of us have recorded
Post your thoughts in the comments below, or the discussion forum - here, about what you think of Rey's technique for getting back to New Testament Christianity

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Parenting 101 v17 - The end of the road

When I am confronted with a difficult parenting situation, I'll put the issue out there to plumb the depths of the vast parenting knowledge of my beloved readers....Here is our seventeenth edition of Parenting 101.

The other day we were driving in the car when Sylas asked a skill testing question:

Sylas: Dad?
Dad: Yes Sylas
Sylas: Where does the road end?

Can anyone think of a good answer?