Monday, October 23, 2006

Theology 101

Well, I have been thinking a lot about how and why God created us. I spoke about it on Sunday but didn't really explain myself very well. So I've been writing some stuff down and then it winds up here. (This almost feels like a journal.) It's a bit long but read it if you want. These are certainly not original ideas. I know some of them come from hearing Landa Cope and Rikk Watts recently, but how much and from where exactly, I can't really remember.

Theology 101
We have in the Old Testament revelation from God about ... His nature (who He is), man’s nature (who we are), how He wants us to live as a community (the nation Israel) and where we came from (creation). In the New Testament we have the revelation of Jesus Christ (the Word and I Am), salvation (our new nature), how to live individually (personal holiness) and the future (Revelation and the new heaven and earth).

Key principles from Genesis
1. God is
2. God created the material world by His Word
3. Man is made in God’s image
4. Sin is a reality (everything is fallen)

Values arising from those principles
1. Life is sacred (we are His image bearers)
2. The material world is good (He made it as our dwelling place - our holy of holies so to speak)
3. Words have value (because God created by speaking)
4. Anything that moves us away from God destroys us (idolatry is destructive)
5. Everything is redeemable (God is making all things new)

Each of these points can be elaborated on and I may actually do so sometime over the next while. But just to set up where I'm going with this I put down the following points.

The Purpose
We want to see Jesus lifted high. We want to see God’s Kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We want to see our communities transformed. We want to see our nations be righteous, pass righteous laws and act with justice, compassion and righteousness.

The Problem
We see people get saved but they still act like the devil – or at least still acting like the culture we live in. The Church still acts like the world and still has the attitudes and characteristics of the world. That is mostly because we allow our media to disciple us. We have adopted the prevalent values of the culture instead of the counter-cultural values of the Kingdom. Although we preach salvation, we often still act selfishly, we still consume our resources on ourselves, our divorce rate is still as high as the world’s and we still live with bitterness and unforgiveness resulting in church fights and church splits. Brothers (and sisters) this ought not to be.

The Result
The world see the church with all its mistakes and problems and think they know what Jesus (and Christianity) is all about. They have not been taught about the transforming power of the Gospel throughout history. They have actually been misled because Christianity is being blamed for all the problems of the world (wars, environmental crisis, racism, hatred, intolerance, etc.). So the Church is being judged as irrelevant before it even has a chance to speak. Some people are even saying, “Christianity has had its chance but has failed. It is time to reject it and try something else.”

Our Response
The Church has become intimidated into silence and ineffectiveness by the strong media bias and the culture of humanism and political correctness. However we cannot simply respond to the immorality around us and to the accusations against us by merely getting politicians saved, by passing Christian laws or by saying “the Bible says it’s wrong.” We must be discipling individuals and discipling nations. We must be speaking truth in ways that communicate to our culture. We do that by understanding and communicating principles like the ones mentioned above. We also do that by living according to what the Spirit of God says, by the power of the Spirit and by being Jesus’ hands extended.

For example, we cannot simply say “sex before marriage is wrong.” We need to be showing that it is wrong because of how God set up the world. How would we do that? Explain that life is sacred. That means that we want to protect and sustain life. The sexual revolution has caused millions of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, rape, incest, sexually transmitted diseases (AIDS), divorce, single parents and the death or marginalization of millions of children. A recent study reported in the National Post reveals that children raised without fathers creates a remarkably higher percentage of sociopathic children than families with a father present. If we continue on this path we reveal that we do not honour life or consider it sacred. However, merely by keeping the seventh commandment (do not commit adultery) all those problems would be eliminated.

To be continued (in some shape or form).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Some other thoughts on the emerging church

I was at my denominational (PAOC) conference yesterday and the agenda was our Bible college (Masters). A number of Bible colleges and seminaries have been going through hard times (including ours) and sometimes it's difficult to know why. Jim Richards discussed some challenges and opportunities facing post-secondary religious training schools and that helped. But I think the problem is not so much with the college but with our model of church. The college is training pastors for roles in churches that no longer exist. Let me explain.

I honestly feel that the day of the traditionally trained pastor is over. The role of the pastor of a local church is changing because ... the local church is changing. I don't think the traditional model of church (that was adopted going back to the Reformation - and maybe even back to Constantine) is sustainable.

What I mean by "traditional" is church as church building with 100-400 people with paid pastoral staff running programs to try and attract people to their building three or four times a week. In this system the majority of the church's resources go into sustaining itself (building and staff and sometimes overseas missions). Very little is left over for outreach, community development and blessing the neighbourhood. Because of the high cost of buildings and land and staff and insurance this model is no longer working in urban areas and will become increasingly difficult to sustain in suburbia. (That is not to say that all churches are dead or ineffective. Some places are very successful at making this system work and are reaching out to their neighbourhoods and having an impact on their community. But this is becoming the exception rather than the norm.)

However, how do we actually advance the Kingdom of God in very untraditional and sometimes hostile environments? For example the city of Toronto is building 30,000 housing units (population 100,000 plus?) south of Queen Street in the east end. There is no land for traditional church buildings. How do we make church happen in that area? Training future leaders to think about reaching this community is what the Bible Colleges need to be focusing on.

What would be needed to reach a community like this? I'm thinking some very non-traditional Kingdom roles. We need to affirm that people are sensing a call of God (a vocation, an anointing) when they decide to work in business and government. There needs to be full-time ministers who work as city planners and social scientists and real estate developers and lawyers and people who sit on the Ontario Municipal Board hearing requests to ammend the zoning by-laws and the Official Plans. Is there a course in any Bible college that equips people to do this? This is the emerging church.

How about people who are called to move into a high rise apartment building to start apartment churches and who minister by hosting parties, and by sitting on condo boards, and by praying up and down hallways, by helping people move in or out, and by creating an overall atmosphere of health and safety? Are we training people to do that? This is also the emerging church.

Fundamentally we need to be training all Christians that there really is no biblical distinction between clergy and laity, that the church is not a building or a place or a time or an organization. The day of the full-time pastor may soon pass. The emerging church is people bearing the image of God, who listen to and worship Him and whose fundamental identity and purpose is to be people who live out and advance the Kingdom of God. They will be led by people who have a gift of and anointing for leadership not just a Bible college degree.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Emerging Church Dream

I found a neat post on someone's blog (I Wonder as I Wander - neat title) about this dream she had about the emerging church. Check it out here.

More About Seeds

As I was reading over the last post, I realized that the coffee shop/bookstore idea is really only one in a long series of manifestation of the emerging church. While that statement is painfully obvious, I want to try and put my spin on it. As I study the history of Christianity (which I am doing) I realize that there have been so many valid and vital expressions of the church through the ages. Even though there are periods of lethargy and dryness, as well as periods of Church history we wish we could erase, there always seems to be a renewing influence that causes us to see ourselves and God in a whole new light.

As a Pentecostal, sometimes I think our movement thinks it discovered something in 1906 that had been lost since the book of Acts. However, in my readings so far, almost every recorded saint and significant Christian movement since the book of Acts displays some evidence of the miraculous and even the spectacular (including visions, prophecies, healings, changed lives of course, and yes, even tongues). In my seminary class we began to quote Solomon - there really is nothing new under the sun.

My point is that God has placed inside of us a deep hunger for Himself. We want a real encounter with the living God. Without that encounter with God religion is overbearing and literally deadly (do I need to mention the crusades or the inquisition?). But where the living God shows up anything is possible. There is currently such a significant groundswell of people dissatisfied with a religion that doesn't lead to encounters with the living God. We recognize that we were made for something other than going to church. We were made to fulfill a high calling, a grand purpose following a Mighty Leader (who is good and just) and to do it in partnership with people we love who spur us on to greatness.

The emerging church, these new expressions of church, are just the first inklings of what it is God wants to do. There is a renewal movement coming that we can't see yet. It will incorporate the true and the real of past tradition - but in bits and pieces. For someone to boldly proclaim he/she knows what it will look like is folly. We actually only have a collection of seeds in hand - that need to be planted and watered to see what kind of harvest God causes to come up. Interesting that the seed needs to die before the new plant can start to grow. What are you planting?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Freeway

I went to see Pernell Goodyear at the Freeway Coffee House today with a couple of friends to see how a place like the freeway is doing stuff. The freeway is a coffe shop that has a vision for living in the community as salt and light. They have events for neighbourhood people and a church that meets there on Sunday evenings. For years my friends have had a vision for church in Toronto that is done seven days a week and were wondering if it could be incorporated with a business model. For many months now we have been wondering and dreaming together about operating a bookstore or a coffee house in a storefront on Queen Street so that Christians can be connecting with the community incarnationally on a daily basis.

As we talked with Pernell we realized our journeys had been very similar - Pernell had just lived out his dream by taking more risks and stepping out in faith. On the way home we were very excited but also realized a venture like this requires a great deal of commitment - it will cost us our lives.

This is certainly not the end of the story. I will keep you posted. Thanks for the time Pernell!!!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


For those of us without Jewish roots we may be more familiar with the term Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths) than the term Succot. Being in a Jewish neighbourhood, we can see a few Succahs (booths) from our deck and today we were invited to share a meal and say a blessing in a neighbour's Succah. It was a great time of connecting with our neighbours (many of them were there) and to talk about the celebration from a Jewish and Christian perspective. Check out some of the pictures! It was a beautiful day. The Succah is required to be partially open to the elements and to be observant you should spend as much time in it as possible - even sleeping there if weather permits. If you want some more information on Succot and Jewish customs and holidays in general check out Judaism 101.

A Word About Prophecy

I enjoy reading prophetic words. Some of them sound like motherhood and apple pie - almost like good old common sense - sometimes even cliches. Other times they are deeply challenging and cause me to think of how I'm living my life and in what ways I need to change. Some really pump me up and get me going.

The New Testament understanding of prophecy is described in I Corinthians 14:3. "But everyone who prophesies speaks to [people] for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort." Or as the Message describes it: "so that [you] can grow and be strong and experience his presence."

So a "word" like the last post is given for our edification - to strengthen us, or encourage us or to bring us comfort as opposed to being predictive or directive. The predictive or "foretelling" type of prophecy is more typical of the Old Testament and is usually restricted to the realm of those who would be gifted and recognized as prophets.

This prophecy by Chuck Pierce challenges me to take more risks and to trust God at a deeper level. It challenges me to lift my eyes to see things beyond my own "barnyard" and to get involved in things that are actually beyond my comfort zone. I should not be intimidated by challenges that are bigger than I'm used to (the giants) but to walk confidently in the knowledge that God is with me.

Sowing seed has also been a significant metaphor for me. Seeds speak of past fruitfulness, the results of the last season's harvest and hard labour. It speaks of tradition and the past. You can either eat seeds or plant them. Eating them gives temporary satisfaction but planting them is an investment in the future. It requires sacrificing what you have in hand for a future return. It truly is a sacrifice because the planted seed dies as it begins to grow into something else.

Seeds also speak of patience. There are many days that pass before any difference is seen - before any sign of growth is noticed. You cannot go digging up seeds to see if they have germinated. The conditions must also be right - enough water, nutrients and warmth.

Seeds are ideas, thoughts and concepts described with words and then planted by communicating them. If God has given you an idea begin to think and talk it through and plant it by taking action on the idea. That is what this word is challenging us to do - take the success of the past and begin to apply it in new ways.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Word of Exhortation

I wanted to post an encouraging and challenging "prophetic word" given by Chuck Pierce and make a few comments in the next post.

In a recent worship service at Glory of Zion, Brian Kooiman, my assistant, gave a tongues message, and I began to interpret the word of the Lord: "I would say you've been swimming in a thimble, and I have an ocean for you to jump in! You've been asking Me for more, but you're not speaking to what needs to be untied for your future. Speak to your colt! When I needed a colt, I said, 'Tell them that I have need of it!'

Speak to what needs to be untied for your life. I will cause your hands to receive what you need. Swim on out; come on out into the place that is over your head. Do not try to swim in a thimble when the ocean is waiting. The pool for you has enlarged. I will give you lessons on how to swim in the new place I have for you."

Linda Heidler continued the interpretation: "This is a day of enlargement! You may have seen the giants in the land. But until the giants are confronted, you cannot possess what I have promised. This is a day for you to stir your faith! Listen carefully, because I have a strategy to overthrow the giants that you've seen. I know where they are hiding! I know where they are entrenched! I know their taunts against you!

I know the "NOW" plan that I've had since before the foundation of the world for this time and season, to overthrow the giants that have a hold of your inheritance! The key is for you to listen and obey. I am not expecting your strength to overcome! Listen and obey! Listen and obey and I will give you the strategy to overthrow those things that are blocking your path, so that you possess your full inheritance that I've promised you."

Keith Pierce then continued: "Take your seed and plant it this day. In the planting of the seed, I will reposition you underneath the pouring out of My treasury. Today is the day of the exchanging of the mantle. Today is the day of the releasing of the funds for the next shift that you are to make! Sow your seed and see the presence of God released! Sow your seed and see the presence of God brought forth. Sow your seed and see yourself established! Sow your seed! Call your seed into fruition! This is a time to bless your seed!

Remove your old garment! Turn loose of it and come into the movement of what I AM saying this day! Sow your seed! For the lie of the enemy is trying to rob from you what I AM releasing in the earth this hour! Your knees have been shaky, and you've not known how to stand. And even in the stance you've taken, you've shaken. But now I'm beginning to speak to you in a new way with a new sound. I'm blowing a new breath of anointing upon you. I'm extending to you My future plan of victory. Put on your victory garment, and walk in My identity for a moment! Sense My joy for a moment, so that you might follow Me into the completion of My purposes for you life."

Chuck D. Pierce
Glory of Zion International Ministries

Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm going to Guelph tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. This is our first holiday together as a family since my mother died and will be difficult to be there without having my mother prepare many of the special dishes. But a family potluck will have to do. The picture is of both my sisters - the one on the left, Dorothea, flew in from Halifax for the funeral and of course for Thanksgiving dinner!

For all my American friends out there who think it is a bit unusual for Thanksgiving to be celebrated in October so far from Christmas, just remember the holiday was first celebrated in Canada. Check out the following (found on the Christian Direction website).

The first and original Thanksgiving comes from Canada. The history of Thanksgiving in Canada goes back to an English explorer, Martin Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Orient. He did not succeed but he did establish a settlement in Northern America. In the year 1578, he held a formal ceremony, in what is now called Newfoundland, to give thanks for surviving the long journey. This is considered the first Canadian Thanksgiving. Other settlers arrived and continued these ceremonies. He was later knighted and had an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean in northern Canada named after him - Frobisher Bay. In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October. Unlike the American tradition of remembering Pilgrims and settling in the New World, Canadians give thanks for a successful harvest.

The first Thanksgiving Day in Canada after Confederation was observed on April 5, 1872 to celebrate the recovery of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) from a serious illness. Before then, thanksgiving days were observed beginning in 1799 but did not occur every year. Starting in 1879 Thanksgiving Day was observed every year but the date was proclaimed annually and changed year to year. The theme of the Thanksgiving holiday also changed year to year to reflect an important event to be thankful for. In the early years it was for an abundant harvest and occasionally for a special anniversary. After the First World War it was for Armistice Day and more recently and including today it has been a day of general thanksgiving.

What has come down in American tradition as the "First Thanksgiving" was actually a harvest festival. In the spring of 1621, the colonists planted their first crops in Patuxet’s abandoned fields. While they had limited success with wheat and barley, their corn crop proved very successful, thanks to Squanto [Tisquantum] who taught them how to plant corn in hills, using fish as a fertilizer. In October of 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated their first harvest with feasting and games, as was the custom in England, as well as prayer. The celebration served to boost the morale of the 50 remaining colonists and also to impress their allies.

The Pilgrims would not have called the event of 1621 a "Thanksgiving." The Separatist Puritans recognized three kinds of holidays as sanctioned by the Bible : the Sabbath, days of thanksgiving, and fast days. Unlike the Sabbath, days of thanksgiving and fast days were not part of the established calendar. They were proclaimed by the governor only in response to a specific situation. A religious day of fasting could be invoked by a drought or war. A religious day of thanksgiving could be called to celebrate a particularly good harvest or providential rainfall.

After the American Revolution the first American national Thanksgiving Day, proclaimed by George Washington, was Nov. 26, 1789 - a one time event. Abraham Lincoln, urged by Sarah J. Hale, revived the custom in 1863, appointing as the date the last Thursday of November. At that time, Thanksgiving was not yet part of the national calendar. The governor of each state would determine when (or if) a Thanksgiving would be held. Thanksgiving did not become an annual national holiday until President Abraham Lincoln's 1863 proclamation. In 1939, 1940, and 1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. When a contradiction arose between Roosevelt’s proclamation and some of those of state governors, Congress passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

The use of the turkey for Thanksgiving relates back to Lincoln's nationalization of the holiday in 1863 and not back to the Pilgrim celebration. Since a turkey could feed more than a chicken, those were sent to the troops instead as a more cost effective feast. The meat at the table would more likely have been duck or deer. Source: Mourt's Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth (London, 1622), in a letter written by Edward Winslow: "Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruits of our labors . . . many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain [Myles Standish] and others."

Just thought you might be interested.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Key Indicators

I received a couple of emails yesterday that were actually related. As we pray for our cities to see transformation we neecd to have some way of measuring change. Glen Smith of Christian Direction put together a number of indicators of positive movement in a city. Here they are listed below.

12 Key Indicators of a Transformed City
GLEN SMITH – Christian Direction - Montreal
Canadian City Impact Consultation
Ottawa – November 21-23, 2005
1. Increasing number of churches actively involved in spiritual transformation.
2. Concrete acts of reconciliation and justice for the welfare of the city.
3. Leaders leading a demonstration of the Gospel in all aspects of the city.
4. Equity in all aspects of the city.
5. Children and youth welfare and wellness.
6. Decline in Suicides.
7. Marriage & Family health
8. Most vulnerable reconnecting through multiple opportunities.
9. Decline in violence.
10. Decline in sexual abuse against women and children.
11. Artistic expression and Heritage valued
12. Environmental improvement.

The second email was about an organization in Toronto that measures the vital signs of a city. It's called The Toronto Community Foundation and they do exhaustive studies on key indicators of health in a city.

Someone once said to me that for which you are searching is already seeking you out. Well that certainly came to pass yesterday!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dreams and Visions

Do you ever dream? Ever had a vision? In Acts chapter 2 Peter stands up explaining the events that were happening in Jerusalem by quoting from the prophet Joel:

17" 'In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams."

I'm not sure if I'm considered an old man or a young one. Maybe that's why there are times when I dream and other times I feel like a visionary. I also take dreams and visions with a grain of salt. Sometimes they inspire and sometimes they just confuse but most of the time they are interesting fodder for discussion.

All this to say this morning I attended a prayer meeting for pastors in North Toronto. During our worship I glimpsed a scene from before the throne room where we were worshipping God in the presence of angels and of the heavenly host. I seem to have this "vision" often as I worship God. This Isaiah 6 type experience where the angels cry holy and everyone bows down to worship. I'm not always sure if I am thinking it up in my mind or if it is coming from God - but it does help me to focus on the greatness of God and it reminds me that there is non-stop worship before the throne of God 24 hours a day (if there is time in heaven).

As I had this vision, I noticed something different this time though. I felt (sensed) that the angels were being "briefed" as if for a battle and that they were drawing strength from the throne for the battle that was ahead. It was as if as they (and we) were ministering to the Lord that the Lord was ministering back to the angels and to us in an even more powerful way. The sense I got was that there was preparation going on in heaven for a significant event or battle that would be coming in the near future.

The significance for me is that God is calling me to be ready. Part of being ready is being in a place to hear His voice and committing myself to "minister to the Lord" through worship and praise. As I do that He will minister to me, building me up and making me ready for whatever is to come.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Sunday's Word

It's Yom Kippur tonight - Kol Nidre. The most holy night in the Jewish calendar. I was out for a walk tonight and saw many of my Jewish neighbours walking back from synagogue and had a few conversations. Appropriate that we had communion this morning at church. Most Jews - event the most secular - will fast from a half hour before sundown tonight until a half hour after sunset tomorrow. This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment of G-d against you, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.

Yom Kippur atones only for sins between man and G-d, not for sins against another person. To atone for sins against another person, you must first seek reconciliation with that person, righting the wrongs you committed against them if possible. That must all be done before Yom Kippur.

In light of Yom Kippur, I spoke today at church that I have a sense that God is doing some transitioning - some shifting. I am led to feel that for a number of reasons: the significant number of deaths happening around me, the many transitions happening in the lives of the people of Hills (a marriage, kids going to university, workplace issues, a wedding cancellation). There are some significant transitions happening in other churches in Thornhill - pastoral changes, internal difficulties. And yet there are some good things too: lives being changed, people discovering God, spiritual maturity, even some church growth.

However, every time there is positive movement there is resistance - human and spiritual resistance. I listed five ways to respond to this resistance.
1. Hear from God - we need to make a concerted effort to spend time reading Scripture and listening to God
2. We need personal holiness - a commitment to live right all the time - not just live in with what we can get away with. That means quickly dealing with the things in our lives that we have done wrong by confessing them as sin (agreeing with God that it's wrong and not trying to justify it), repenting (turning away from it), and making restitution if we have to. This needs to be done daily - not just once a year (no offense to my Jewish friends).
3. Unity - unity of prayer, lack of strife and unforgiveness among us. Jeshua said that where two or three are gather together He is there in the midst of them.
4. We need to pray - with all kinds of prayer, on all occasions, with all fervency.
5. Action. We need to act out what we believe. We need to live holy, love our neighbours, share our lives and our faith, do good deeds, bless the people around us, and take advantage of the opportunities that God gives us in the divine appointments He creates.

That was my challenge. We are gathered as this little group in this specific place for such a time as this - and we need to be making a difference.

Some More Funeral Thoughts

Today is Sunday again. I had a chance to thank the congregation for their notes, emails, phone calls and the flowers. I hadn't realized how special it feels to be remembered during a difficult time - to know others are standing with you. It was the same on Wednesday during the "viewing" (what a horrible expression! I began to refer to it as visitation.) It was so nice to see people - neighbours, relatives, friends of the family - some of whom I hadn't seen in 40 years! One diminutive woman came up to me and gave me a big hug - and then she introduced herself as the daughter of a neighbour two doors down from my parents house (they have lived in the same house for almost 50 years). We laughed when I recognized who she was. I said to her, "The llast time I saw you, you were taller than me!" It was true!

Note to self: Make every effort to quickly connect with those who have lost a loved to pass on condolences.