Friday, 8 June 2018

This Was Me

In the CJSR Radio Studio at the University of Alberta. Guest spot on award nominated show Comic Jenius with Lars Callioux and Norm Shaw.

Our Hearts Are Restlless...

"You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You." - St Augustine

Two high-profile suicides this week - Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Although I cannot pretend to know what was going on in either of these lives or minds, I can express a few thoughts.

Is suicide becoming more widespread or is it just being more widely reported? I don't know, but I was considering the word, "meaningless," which may certainly describe the feeling of a suicide towards their continued existence.

The word appears over thirty times in the book of Ecclesiastes.  I have had discussions about this book, arguing that although I believe the Bible is indeed the inerrant word of God, the thoughts expressed in Ecclesiastes are not so much truth or truisms given by God, but a true account of the depressed ramblings of a dejected old man (Solomon) who in his old age has wandered from the ways of God and is finding that everything he thought might bring him meaning, pleasure and fulfilment has proven to be, indeed, meaningless.

It is widely held that suicide is a mental health issue. I won't argue that, but why does it seem so much more widespread than in the past.  I believe it is because we are becoming increasingly a society where the self is the centre of all things. People in this age are more self centered, inward focused, egocentric. We have eliminated God without considering the consequences. Our focus is inward rather than upward, and I'm afraid that when we search inward, and only inward, for meaning, all we sometimes may see is an empty black hole.

Hence, the St Augustine quote, above. If we are trying to build our lives on the foundation of, 'self,' we are on shaky footings indeed.

Food for thought.

Take Care

Friday, 16 February 2018

It's Not Just Guns

A few thoughts following the latest school shooting in Florida.

The, “self esteem generation” has the lowest self esteem of all. That is because they were raised with unreasonably high expectations. They were told they could achieve anything they wanted to, but were rewarded for just the opposite: even losers got “participation trophies.” This did two things: it devalued real accomplishment, and it gave kids the idea that they didn’t have to work hard to be rewarded. It also, I suspect, actually diminished, in a sense, true self-esteem, as those who received these participation trophies would come to realize that they did not, in fact, really earn or deserve one. Young people who were told they were, “special” found out that in the real world they were not. As Simon Sinek says (post below), it wasn’t necessarily their fault. It was their parents’ generation who raised them this way and ingrained these attitudes into them.

So take these disillusioned young people and put them in front of a computer, where their community is social media, where they and others can express their rage and frustration with impunity and without consequence, except receiving similar rage from others also online. Let that rage fester and increase, with no immediate outlet or restraining mechanism, such as face to face communication or community social restraint, and in certain cases it builds until it explodes.

Guns have been around for hundreds of years, but this spike in mass shootings, for the most part, has occurred, as I see it, with the advent and rise of social media use in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Anyway, those are some of my thoughts. I’m not sure I can explain it any better than that, but that is the connection I see.

Take Care

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Millenials Etc.

Results of the, "self-esteem generation?" Increased suicides, deaths from drug overdoses and depression among the young. Lowest actual self-esteem of any previous generation. We owe young people better, but we still don't learn. Just in the last couple of days I've seen stories on schools that don't allow girls to say, "No" to a boy who asks them to dance, and schools considering banning students from having, "best friends" all in the name of inclusiveness and self esteem.

Watch this entire video. Simon Sinek is captivating, and touches on another of my pet peeves - kids with smart phones. Not only, as Simon says, are they addicting, there are so many dangers hiding on the internet, from predators in chat rooms to addicting internet porn.

Someone else on Facebook posted that one day in the future we'll look back and see allowing kids to have smartphones in the same light as we now look back and shake our heads at when we didn't buckle them up with seatbelts in the car.

Take Care

Tuesday, 13 February 2018
As usual, I enjoy Mark's perspective. I remember the Rwandan genocide, but only vaguely, but for some reason the impotent UN policy of no armed intervention was considered the right way to do things, and multitudes died. I remember more clearly the troubles suffered by General Dallaire in its aftermath and his return to Canada.

I'm also thinking of President Donald Trump's (probably ill-advised) reference to sh*thole countries and the sh*tstorm it has raised. Emotions and partisanship aside, there are, like it or not, such countries. It has nothing to do with racism, as is the accusation of many. It's just a statement, however insensitive, of reality. There really are such countries. If you don't believe it, pick one of these countries and ask yourself if you would emigrate with your family there. There's a reason why emigration/migration seems to in one direction only; that is from so-called third world countries to the so-called first world.

Interesting how the present becomes history - how we may look back, in years to come, on policies of today and say, "What were they thinking?" Every generation thinks they are right, and better than the previous, but chronological progression is not necessarily true progress.

Our present will indeed one day be a future generation's history. Whatever our culture today, and its ultimate destiny, it will one day be words on a page, studied in whatever at that time serves as schools.

Just sayin'.

Take Care

Monday, 23 October 2017

Surprised? Maybe Not.

I was involved recently in a discussion with several younger leaders in a Christian ministry. The question was raised, "Should people in common-law relationships be allowed to sleep together at a retreat where both Christians and non-Christians are gathered as part of a process exploring the Christian faith.

I was rather taken aback at the response on the part of some: "It's part of today's culture; it's the way things are today, so we should allow it." To be fair, these people might have sincere motives for this thought - not wanting to turn anyone away from their investigation of Christianity, or not wanting to be considered puritanical, but I think there needs to be more to the conversation than pure, instant compromise.

I tried to say that at least there should be a conversation. Of course it's not an easy question to answer, and we Christians are not here to judge those outside the church, but I still think it's a more nuanced issue than merely deserves a flat out unconsidered answer.

I indicated that my response would be to at least have a conversation with such a couple to gauge what they might think of the following line of thought:
You probably know what the traditional Christian position is on sex outside of marriage. I'm not here to judge your arrangement, but I think there are things that need to be considered. There are guests among us who are searching to see if Christianity is true. I think they may be looking to see if we who are Christians are sincere in our own faith. So, bottom line is that they may, I repeat, "MAY," see us as hypocritical if we allow unmarried couples to room together. I repeat, I'm not here to judge your living arrangement. We're more than halfway through our course and I haven't yet, have I?
There is a passage of Scripture that I think, in a way, addresses this issue. It is Romans chapter 14. Granted, this chapter is speaking to those within the church, but I think there is a place for us to be considerate of other people's consciences. So I'm just afraid your rooming together might cause some other guests to, what we call, stumble. I'm not talking about those who are already Christians. I can handle them, but I'm thinking of those who may be seeking and who may be put off by seeing what they might see as hypocrisy among us. 
So I'm wondering if you would mind, just for this weekend, having separate rooms - men with men, women with women?
That might be how my conversation might have gone. I have no idea how it would turn out, but I think it deserved a conversation. I'd be interested in any thoughts.

Take Care

Sunday, 22 October 2017

What's Wrong?

This is a picture of a presentation slide. The points are taken  from a book called, "Disappearing Church" by Mark Sayers. I recommend the book. I believe it paints an accurate picture of the changes in Western society that are ultimately leading to what I call, "The end of the empire;" the decline and eventual, inevitable, fall of our Western culture.

Now, that may seem alarmist, but the pattern of history is that every empire that has ever existed has fallen, every civilization that has once flourished has ended, and we would be naive to think that at some point, ours won't as well. Our torch will inevitably be passed on to the next world power. I don't know when or how quickly, but I have stated before I think it will be China, who will not only only take the place of the West in power, but also in faith - namely the Christian faith.

 Because the picture is probably difficult to read, here are the points into which Sayers writes our current culture seems to have bought:

  1. The highest good is individual freedom, happiness, self-definition and self-expression.
  2. Traditions, religions, received wisdom, regulations and social ties that restrict individual freedom, happiness, self-definition and self expression must be reshaped, deconstructed or destroyed.
  3. The world will inevitably improve as the scope of individual freedom grows.
  4. The primary social ethic is tolerance of everyone's self-defined quest for individual freedom and self-expression. Any deviation from this ethic of tolerance is dangerous and must not be tolerated. Therefore social justice is less about economic or class inequality and more about issues of equality relating to individual identity, self express(ion) and personal autonomy.
  5. Humans are inherently good.
  6. Large scale structures and institutions are rejected and personal authenticity is lauded.
  7. Forms of external authority are rejected and personal authenticity is lauded.
The only point I might clarify a bit is the last part of point 4. I would say current social justice causes do indeed include economic and class inequality, but only certain accepted classes: First Nations, for example (and I would not dispute the rightness of that), and sexual minorities, but certainly not the consciences of Christian bakers, for instance.

I think the most perceptive phrase here is in the middle of that same point 4 - "Any deviation from this ethic of tolerance is dangerous and must not be tolerated." Those who subscribe to this new, "ethic" don't even seem to see the inherent hypocrisy involved in it.

I leave it with you for your consideration.

Take Care

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Billy Graham Evangelism Congress

No Sooner did I return from my Calgary junket (Sunday afternoon) than Eva and I started a three-day Evangelism Congress beginning Sunday evening at the Fantasyland Hotel at West Edmonton Mall. One of the featured speakers noted the irony of hosting an event aimed at bringing a Christian revival to our nation in a facility named, "Fantasyland." We who were there, and who have on our hearts the evangelization of our nation, would not consider our aims any kind of fantasy.

The event was completely inspiring, with speakers such as Mark HughesDanielle StricklandCharles Price and Edmonton's own Bob Jones, Senior Pastor at North Pointe Church. The worship band was also from North Pointe and the quality and duration of music was just about exactly perfect. I say duration because I find a 15 to 20 minute worship set to be just about right.

I met many people there who I have previously met in my travels around the province, some of whom recognized me before I recognized them. I also met many people who I hadn't met yet, but whose churches have run Alpha throughout Alberta. I have found that in any such large church gathering, a surprising number of the people I meet, or someone they know, came to faith through Alpha.

I was pleasantly amazed at how much the Billy Graham organization seemed to like Alpha. There were quite a few recommendations of Alpha as an evangelizing tool, even though Alpha wasn't officially involved in the congress. I was so pleased to see in what high regard Alpha is held both by the organization and many of the individual speakers there. Alpha works so well because  it takes into account the very fear and reluctance to evangelize that many of us seem to have. All one has to do is invite someone to, "dinner and a movie," so to speak, to learn a bit about the basics of the Christian faith and discuss some of life's big questions in a relaxed, open and non-threatening environment.

My greatest takeaway from the Congress: "Culture trumps everything." A church may say it wants to evangelize; may say it wants to reach the lost for Christ, wants to grow, but so often the true culture belies their words. They will not make visitors feel truly welcome and comfortable when they come through their doors. They will not honestly examine every aspect of their Sunday morning and ask, "If this were my first time here, would I want to come back?" They will say things like, "I don't really want to get bigger than we are right now. I like my church just the way it is." Mark Hughes put it this way; "Every church, regardless of size, should be growing in numbers."

And of course, we all know the last six words of a dying church; "We've always done it this way!"

Take Care