Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Life Passages

I guess when you hit 50 you start having less to say. I posted a week and a half ago and then had a busy weekend. We attended a friend's son's Bar Mitzvah - both the synagogue portion and the party the next evening. Everything was top notch. Adam, the Bar Mitzvah boy did great in his reading, the food was fabulous, the party was great and our hosts are such great people.

I actually think that the rite of passage concept (like a bar Mitzvah) is actually a great concept for youth and helpful for their transition into adulthood. However in our culture ... it may be more helpful to be doing it a few years later than the entrance into teenager-hood. Those early adolescent years are tough. They still seem like children in so many ways. In some places they do a sweet 16 party for girls. That seems to me to be a better age to do a coming of age event.

I think we should do a big party for every significant transition. We already do birthdays. Weddings, graduations and retirement is all celebrated in some way. How about a moving away from home party when your adult children finally move out on their own? Well maybe it becomes one long party for the empty nesters. Or how about a "turning middle aged" party? Or maybe a mid-life crisis party? When exactly does that happen? How about a "halfway through raising your kids" party? This way you know how long you still have to go.

All in all I think life should have more parties. Jesus believed in parties. I think being with Jesus would actually have been lots of fun - challenging to the core, but fun. Raising dead people, calming storms, healing lepers, confronting the religious establishment, feeding 5000 people, lots of road trips. There was always a crowd and lots of opportunity to celebrate life and life passages.

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Busy Week

Well, I turned 50 this week. I saw it coming for a long time but when it actually hit I was a bit surprised by how old it sounds. I don't feel any different. I was at a retreat on my birthday with a group of about 50 other leaders from the GTA and somehow they found out it was my 50th (my wife has a guilty look on her face). When one of them wished me a happy birthday he said "I thought you were younger than me - but you're actually a few years older!" Maybe it was intended as a compliment but I suddenly felt older.

My Dad also celebrated his 54th wedding anniversary this week - the first one with out my mother who passed away in September. I ached for him and felt the loss more greatly myself. Today is my mother's birthday as well - another tough day. I usually bought her a dozen yellow carnations on her birthday. Life goes on but it's not always simple or easy.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Canadian Military Man

This email has been making the rounds and helps us picture who's actually doing the fighting.

Rembrance Day – The Canadian Military “Man”
The average age of the Canadian military man is 19 years.
He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy.
Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to ... die for his country.
He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.
He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.
He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and to a 155mm howizzitor.
He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.
He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.
He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.
He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.
He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.
He is self-sufficient.
He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other.
He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.
He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.
He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his ownhurts.
If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food.
He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.
He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.
He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.
He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all.
He has seen more suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime.
He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.
He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.
He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking.
In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.
Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.
Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the Canadian Fighting Man that has kept this country free for 140 years.
He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.
And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.

Remembrance Day

I spoke briefly at a Remembrance Day service at our local hospital's (York Central) long term care facility. The stuff I used is in no way original (I included the author of the main part of it)) but I thought you might like to see it as a Remembrance Day reflection. The next post will be another thing I used as an illustration during the talk. For those of us over 40 thinking that the soldiers in most wars are young kids really, it makes me very thankful for the exuberance of youth and sad to know how many lost sons and brothers and husbands fighting for our freedoms. I's a bit long but worth the read.

Veterans Day Reflection 
[most of it by Donald Sensing]

On November 11, 1918, the guns stopped firing along the western front in France ... World War I, the bloodiest war in history to that date, was thus ended by an agreement between the allies and Germany to cease fire. The allied powers soon memorialized the day the guns stopped. In America, November 11 was called Armistice Day. In 1954, President Eisenhower proclaimed the day would be called Veterans Day, intended to honor living veterans of military service. 

In Canada, November 11 was (and still is) called Remembrance Day. Here and in other nations November 11 serves the same purposes, honoring both living veterans and those who died in service to their country. I preserve the distinction of the observances. Veterans Day honors living veterans, Memorial Day honors those who died in service. But we must not leave in limbo those who survived their service and died later, so we should remember them also. 

Today is the 88th anniversary of the end of World War One, and we have just finished remembering the fith-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. War came then to us in the first time in over a century. Some commentators have said that because of that fact, perhaps we need to reconsider what the definition of veteran is.

Peggy Noonan, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, wrote:
On Friday, Sept. 14, I went with friends down to the staging area on the West Side Highway where all the trucks filled with guys coming off a 12-hour shift at ground zero would pass by. They were tough, rough men, the grunts of the city – construction workers and electrical workers and cops and emergency medical workers and firemen.

I joined a group that was just standing there as the truck convoys went by. And all we did was cheer. We all wanted to do some kind of volunteer work but there was nothing left to do, so we stood and cheered those who were doing. The trucks would go by and we’d cheer and wave and shout “God bless you!” and “We love you!” We waved flags and signs, clapped and threw kisses, and we meant it: We loved these men. And as the workers would go by – they would wave to us from their trucks and buses, and smile and nod – I realized that a lot of them were men who hadn’t been applauded since the day they danced to their song with their bride at their wedding.

And suddenly I looked around me at all of us who were cheering. And saw who we were. Investment bankers! Orthodontists! Magazine editors! In my group, a lawyer, a columnist and a writer. We had been the kings and queens of the city, respected professionals in a city that respects its professional class.

And this night we were nobody. We were so useless, all we could do was applaud the somebodies, the workers who, unlike us, had not been applauded much in their lives. And now they were saving our city.

I turned to my friend and said, “I have seen the grunts of New York become kings and queens of the City.” I was so moved and, oddly I guess, grateful. Because they’d always been the people who ran the place, who kept it going, they’d just never been given their due. But now – “And the last shall be first” – we were making up for it.

Science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote the best definition of veterans that I have ever read. He said that there is only one distinction between veterans and non-veterans. It isn’t intelligence or education or class. It is only the fact that veterans are those who have put their own mortal bodies between their loved ones’ homes and the war’s desolation. Veterans are those who love others enough to risk laying down their lives for them, especially people they do not even know. That’s all patriotism is, really: the willingness to risk yourself on behalf of people you do not actually know.

So the firemen and police and rescue workers of New York and Arlington, Va., are veterans of a new kind for a new kind of war.

This shared risk is crucial glue. There are no jobs in the service that are absolutely safe. Most living veterans as traditionally defined saw their service during wartime, but relatively few veterans were in actual danger during their service. More than five thousand sailors crew an aircraft carrier yet only a few dozen fliers from it face danger over enemy skies. Yet there is always the potential of dangerous service for all, even in peacetime.

In William Shakespeare’s play, Henry V, King Henry is informed of the great strength of an enemy army on the field, and the comparatively few numbers of Henry’s army. Henry is advised by Westmoreland that some of his men have deserted and others want to. Henry replies that anyone who “has no stomach” for the fight may depart with pay and a safe-conduct pass. “We would not die in that man’s company That fears his fellowship to die with us,” Henry says. Then Henry’s lines are some of the most stirring in all of the Immortal Bard’s plays:

This day is called the feast of Crispian:
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, . . .
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars.
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispin’s day.’
Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day: then shall our names ...
Be in their flowing cups freshly remembered.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he e’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhood cheap whilst any speak
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Let us remain united now, because we are now really all in this together, somehow. Perhaps it is the sense that we are living in shared danger, however remote the risk may actually be to most North Americans. And there are police and firefighters who were in New York and Northern Virginia who shall stand on tip-toe when Sept. 11 is named. They shall remember what feats they did that day. And the police and firemen who shed their blood together that day are brothers henceforth.

And so will the troops who toppled Saddam’s regime, and destroyed the Taliban rule and freed Afghanistan. So will those Canadians fighting in Afghanistan – even amidst the confusion and debate and wrangling back home about whether or not they should be there. They are there. They are dying so we don’t have to.

I received an email this week honouring Canadian troops in Afghanistan [see next post].

On this day I wish only to say to other veterans, part of my band of brothers and sisters, Thank you for our freedom. God keep you and be with you, “From this day to the ending of the world.”

Pool Mom

I just read this from the Purpose Driven Life Daily Devotional and thought it was great. Kind of captures the heartbeat of Hills. If you want to see more from their archives of devotionals check it out here.

Pool mom
by John Fischer

I met a man once who served on the missions committee at his church. He told me how he was most proud of a certain former member of the committee – a woman who had put a promising career aside when ... she and her husband decided to adopt three children from Lithuania. Figuring that these children who had grown up at great risk would demand her full-time attention, she committed herself to that very thing. She did enjoy volunteering at the church, however, and ended up serving on the missions committee and teaching Sunday school.

Then suddenly, as abruptly as she had begun serving her church, she informed my friend that she was resigning from the missions committee and giving up her Sunday school class as well. He asked her what was wrong, and she said that everything was fine – God had just spoken to her, and she was going to follow his lead.

“I spent most of the summer being a ‘pool mom,’” she told him, “taking my kids to the pool four to five days a week. I became friendly with several other pool moms, and we all had a lot of time to talk together. As August was winding down and the pool was about to close, one of them said to me, ‘It has been a real pleasure getting to know you this summer. The rest of us have been friends all our lives. We went to the same schools, the same summer camps, and the same temple. We were at each other’s bat-mitzvahs, and we attended each other’s weddings, but we’ve never gotten to know anybody like you. Maybe we could keep in touch.’

“So what could be a clearer direction from God than that?” She concluded. “I’ve decided to spend the next year completely focused on being a friend to this group of young Jewish ladies. I am going to practice friendship first and let evangelism take its natural course. And I don’t want to be distracted by the demands of church activities. If I don’t give them up, I’ll have a very hard time fitting my friends into my schedule. This next year is for them! After that, who knows?”

Think of that: She got off the missions committee to perform a mission – a mission of being a friend. Not that we should disband worship committees or that it will always take our full-time attention to be a friend, but this woman’s priorities are something we all need to pay attention to. Being a friend is a mission in and of itself, and connecting to those around us who are outside the church is more important than being on a host of committees.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I've been continuing that email conversation.

Every day is a gift. Every sunrise, every breath, every salvation, every healing. There is a strength and beauty to that approach and we need to walk in humility to accept God's purpose and plan for us. John Piper says: We are creatures, and our Creator is not bound or obligated to give us anything - not life or health or anything. He gives, he takes and he does us no injustice (Job 1:21).

But if we live like that without anything more, then we become ... fatalistic: "Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be." (Are you old enough to remember that song?) Then everything is up to fate. God will do whatever He pleases and we just have to accept it. Kill all desire. Accept the world as it is. Don't open yourself up to caring for anything or you will be disappointed. The promises of God will only be fulfilled in heaven. For now just hang in there knowing at least there is a God and He will do what is right in the end. But what abut the "journey of desire?"

The missing ingredient in this is relationship - we have a heavenly Father. As with any friend or a parent with a child there is a give and take. As a parent I want to meet the needs of my children. I don't want to see them sick or hurt or taken advantage of. I want to make them promises and keep them! If I promise to go to my daughter's basketball game and don't show up she is going to know that something is wrong. "Daddy wouldn't have promised and then not come." Now I may not promise to be at all her games but because she talked to me that morning she will KNOW whether or not I will be there.

I also recognize how I respond to my children if there is attitude from them. If they ask with selfishness or act in pride or are just plain rude with me I respond differently. Sometimes I don't say anything at all. Kirstyn will yell a question at me from the top of the stairs and I won't even acknowledge that I heard her. They need to correct their attitude before I will address their need or their question. Sometimes they get frustrated and say "Forget it! I'll do it myself!"

That's how we ask God for things sometimes. I want an answer from Him NOW! I'm not always where I'm supposed to be so that when I ask him for something he will often respond by pointing out something else that he wants me to deal with first. So I need to respond to that other thing first. Then I have to go back to my original request. Sometimes I'm not willing to change my attitude and I ask with wrong motives. Sometimes I just want to do it my own way. However prayer is give and take - a back and forth. Growing in that relationship is what Christianity is really all about.

We can sometimes act like the prophets of Baal yelling louder because WE DON'T KNOW if God heard or not. We try to work up a spiritual fervor because we are not sure that God is listening. We try to come up with exactly the right formula, the right prayer, quote the right scripture, work up the same feelings, have the same tone of voice. That is the same as casting a spell - it's witchcraft. Say these words in this order and add this special spice, turn around three times and jump in the air and say hallelujah. Poof! You have your answer. Works like a charm!

God will not be controlled. We can't control Him and we can't control the world. It is fallen and broken and people get sick and die and babies are born with deformities. That's what the world is like. But God wants us to respond to Him in all that. He wants us to ask Him what to do and how to do it. He will respond differently every time. It is hard work to ask him and hear him every time. That is where the resistance from the devil comes into play as well. He tries to distance us from the personal immediate presence of God. But He wants us to ask.

That's why knowing how to hear from God is so important. This whole life is about learning how to relate to our Creator. He wants us to become more like him and we will find ourselves in situation after situation that will cause us to seek his face for answers. If we don't seek him out, we can passively accept the world the way it is. We will still have salvation. We will still have life everlasting. God will still love us. But I don't think we will become what we were really meant to be or do all that he was really calling us to do or see all our dreams come to pass.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Who Are We?

I had this theological email conversation that I thought might be interesting.

Someone asked me ...
I'm quoting from this book I'm reading. Is it truth?

"One of the reasons we are not as Christ-centred and cross saturated as we should be is that we have not realized that everything- everything good, and everything bad that God turns for the good of his redeemed children- was purchased by the death of Christ for us. We simply take life and breath and health and friends and everything for granted. WE think it is ours by right. But the fact is ... that it is not ours by right. We are doubly undeserving of it.

1. We are CREATURES, and our Creator is not bound or obligated to give us anything - not life or health or anything. He gives, he takes and he does us no injustice (Job 1:21)
2. And besides being ceatures with no claim on our Creator, we are SINNERS. We have fallen short of his glory (Romans 3:23). We have ignored him and disobeyed him and failed to love him and trust him. The wrath of his justice is kindled against us. All we deserve from him is judgement (Romans 3:19). Therefore every breath we take, and every time our heart beats, everyday that the sun rises, every moment we see with our eyes or hear with our ears or speak with our mouths or walk with our legs, is, for now, a free and undeserved gift to sinners who deserve only judgement."

My Response ...

It is the one side of truth.

We are sinners. Sinners "deserve" judgement and aside from the grace and mercy of God every human being is destined for destruction. Although born in a sinful condition no one has lived up to even the promises they made to themselves let alone the standard of holiness imposed by God's Law. Because He is all powerful, He doesn't need us or anything else. He is not required to do anything for us nor are we able to demand anything from Him. However, if we stop here the sense is that we are God's throwaway old toys. It gives the impression that we have no value because we are sinful, that we are just replaceable, interchangeable, mass-produced, defective parts that God may or may not be willing to repair.

However there is another side to that truth.

It is that we are created in His image and have a value that is beyond knowing or describing. He took the initiative to make us knowing we would fall and sin. He placed us in this world so that we should find the joy of finding Him and His purposes for us. He is the one who made our emotions and crafted our desires and placed in us a hunger for the eternal. He was the one who initiated our ultimate redemption. He paid the ultimate price in sending His Son to die for us. He created the world to be the dwelling place of man and created man to be the dwelling place of God. So He has committed Himself to us, to our eternal well-being and to our development as His children and His army and His bride. So, no, He is not required to give us anything or to do anything for us BUT He has committed Himself to our welfare, to the development of our character and growth for His ultimate purpose. And so He has given us great and precious promises (to which He has bound Himself to keep) for us to walk in. Most of all He has given us Himself, as Saviour, as Father as the one who desires our best and knows our beginning and our end.

If we only look at the first side we are only sinners saved by grace and unable to lift our heads. If we look only at the second side we become proud and boastful, taking advantage of grace and exalting ourselves beyond measure. But if we hold both in tension (which we need to do with every single truth from God) we come closer to understanding the reality of who He is and who we are.

What do you think?

Spending Time

I've been feeling a bit distracted and unfocused lately and wondering about my priorities. As I think about distracting and contrasting priorities, let me list a few. (The list has actually gotten much longer than I thought possible!)

My family is always a significant investment of time. My daughter Kirstyn is ... playing basketball, is on her worship team at school and in choir. That has meant numerous pick-ups at around 5:00pm at her school in Woodbridge - this week it could be every evening. Then I try to be at her basketball games - which sometimes involves driving her to games - which requires me to be at her school by 2:30 and not get home till 6:00pm - and she has an occasional tournament (which involves a Friday evening and Saturday). Kirstyn also has a number of projects that require driving her around or proof-reading. And then because she attends a commuter school, if she wants to visit a friend it usually requires a half hour drive each way. Although it takes a fair chunk of time I like that she still talks to me about what’s going on in her life, about school, about herself and about boys.

Jared is now in university but he still likes to have long conversations with me – usually about philosophy, or religion or politics or girls. He always likes to talk about stuff he's learning, especially if I can help him understand it (actually he especially likes it when I can't keep up with him). Unfortunately for him most of the technical stuff he's learning is way beyond what I remember of university science or calculus. And he needs a ride to the bus every day - and sometimes all the way to school. Of course I want to spend some time with Brigitte and there are other extended family events.

As for my "calling" there is usually something to do related to church - mostly around administration (budgets and reports) and of course preparing for Sundays. I like to be reading stuff to try to capture what God is wanting to say. Praying and reading and listening and studying is the type of stuff that expands to fill the time available - I feel I could always do more.

Of course I'm also studying and reading and writing for my Doctor of Ministry courses - which kind of fits in when I get motivated or inspired. Some of it overlaps with sermon preparation. I'm supposed to be doing an average of ten hours a week on this.

I'm involved with a bunch of city-wide prayer initiatives. There was a leaders prayer summit in November - for which I was responsible for leading worship and doing some of the organizing. Wednesdays once a month is a meeting of the MissionGTA leadership team, which is going through a major refocusing and restructuring time. Every other Thursday morning is a PrayGTA meeting (the prayer arm of MissionGTA) which organizes prayer assemblies for different events in the city (Toronto city hall prayer meeting and on November 12th, a Sunday evening prayer assembly focused on praying for the persecuted church around the world). We occasionally arrange meetings with national leaders who consult with us about how to develop city reaching teams. I am now also heading up the strategic prayer team in this group (PrayGTA) and although I haven't really been able to get up to speed, I'm responsible to strategize effective prayer for the city and help coordinate intercessors and prayer teams. In terms of prayer and thought energy, this takes a lot of my focus.

On a related note, I really think that for the church to advance in Canada, God will require cooperation and unity in the church - not just lone rangers doing whatever they want and not caring for the city as a whole. I think the scheme of the enemy has been to try and divide and conquer - although the enemy will not eternally conquer, the division between the different streams of the church has made us much less effective than we could be. This will also be the focus of my DMin studies as well - so there is some overlap.

I am also involved in a bi-weekly pastors prayer meeting (at which I lead worship). This group sponsors three healing rooms (Thornhill Vineyard, Lifesprings Fellowship which meets at Willowdale Pentecostal Church and Castlefield Community Church near Yonge and Eglington) and I sit on the Healing Rooms Advisory Committee (which meets infrequently - 6-8 times a year). This pastors group also hosts a monthly 24-hour prayer meeting at various churches in North Toronto. (I'm also on the leadership committee for that and usually lead worship for a two-hour slot during the 24 hours). The Thornhill Ministerial (a group of eight churches in Thornhill) meets once a month and there are some responsibilities associated with that (not too many fortunately.) However, I'm supposed to be on the Out of the Cold committee which helps plan and run the Thornhill program that runs once a week for two months during the winter.

I'm on the chaplaincy staff (volunteer) at York Central Hospital which involves being on call (with a beeper) one week out of six or so. I also sit on the Chaplaincy Advisory Committee which advocates for chaplaincy services in the hospital (that meets four or five times a year). I also need to be involved in some of the events the chaplaincy department conducts like memorial services and various dinners. I'm also the chaplaincy rep for the Organ Donor Committee but I've only been to one meeting so far.

There is a group of people in the Beaches area of Toronto that are trying to start up an outreach through a coffee shop business on Queen Street. It's based on a model in Hamilton called the Freeway. The result should be a community centre style ministry that may develop a worshipping community that develops out of the outreach component. Right now it's only in the formation stages but it involves a lot of thinking and visioning and writing down proposals and dream statements. The team is fairly motivated but I'm providing a bit of leadership and co-ordination. I've been meeting with them once a week for the past month.

All this stuff doesn't include meeting people in my neighbourhood (which I try to do every day - although it's tougher to do that in the colder weather) to say nothing of special neighbourhood events like Bar Mitzvahs or sitting shiva with someone. I also mentor a number of guys (not really part of our congregation) and I also want to make sure I have time for meetings with men in the congregation, and with my friend at the gym. There are the occasional conferences or special meetings including my involvement in my denomination - which can be as much as a couple of meetings a month. There are also the funerals and weddings that come up from time to time which usually include at least one extra meeting (for funerals) and at least four meetings for premarital counselling (for weddings). I want to be in the gym at least four times a week and I can't miss basketball on Tuesday evenings with my Jewish buddies. Then there are the times where I just want to reconnect with someone and stay in the loop with friends.

Wow! I hadn't realized the amount of stuff that is part of my life! No wonder I feel unfocused sometimes. It's not only that there is a lot of stuff, it's also that there are so many different groups of people and different organizations. What's your life like?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Selling the "House of God"

I've been at a number of "think-tank" meetings where we have discussed the future of church, or mission or denomination or ________ (fill in the blank). At at least three of these meetings I have suggested that we sell ... all the real estate and give the money to missions or to the poor or at least create an endowment fund to pay for inner city street outreach workers.

I came across an interesting appendix in a book ("The Way Church Ought to Be" by Robert Lund) that expands on this idea. He quotes from Christian Smith ("Going to the Root") who estimates that the value of real estate (as of 1991) owned by churches in the US is over 230 billion dollars. We could probably double that figure for 2006 dollars (which if sold today would provide enough money to give every American citizen $200,000.00!). In addition to the actual value of the buildings and land is the money spent on utilities and maintenance to say nothing of the billions spent on debt maintenance. So if we took that money (say 500-600 billion dollars) and invest it at a modest rate, it would provide 30 to 50 BILLION DOLLARS per year EVERY year.

That amount would be enough to provide a full time job to one million people at a very decent wage
It could probably eliminate world food shortages within a couple of years.
Christian Smith suggests about 40 projects that could be funded with the money including relieving homelessness, theological training for 3rd world church leaders, funding orphanages, establishing Christian based environmental lobby to positively affect legislation, child support funding for pregnant teens, etc.

We need to remember that this does not include the ongoing tithes and offerings which would suddenly be freed up to provide ongoing support for inovative community development programs, outreach, and missions.

Well, I can dream can't I?