Monday, January 30, 2006

Thanks to McDLT

I have been duly informed that indeed, the Elvis Impersonators are alive and well, and, perhaps, in a pulpit near you.

Check this out.

Bad Karaoke?

Several months ago I was attendig an anniversary party for one fo the families in my congregation. There was karaoke there.

I don't like Karaoke. For me, it is right up there with bad lounge singers, and cheap E;vis impersonators.

You can imagine then how aback I was taken when O was challenged thusly: "Our worship services are karaoke, you know!"

I had to think about that one. I had to admit that yes we sing along to words on a screen while the music plays. No bouncing ball or anything, but that doesn't seem relevant. The only significant differences are that the music is played live, we are not on stage, and we all sing the song together.

Still, it is basically karaoke.

Is that bad thing? Well, assuming the proper heart and focus for worship is present, no, I don't think so. After all, our "karaoke" is no different from when congregational singing along to music played on organs while reading from hymnals. The instruments have changed, the way we broadcast the words has changed, but that's all.

Sure, we once had choirs; now we have worship bands. Again, assuming the heart is there, the function the two serve in a service is identical.

So , keeping in mind that the heart of worship must always be at the heart of worship, says I: Bring on the Karaoke!

Just don't brign in the Elvis impersonators.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Strange Days Indeed

Sometimes God puts poeple in your path that cause you to suddenly question what you think you know.

This weekend I encountered two such people.

One was a memebr of the church who stated that having me in their class as a student would be intimidating. I thought that an odd reaction, since I acknowledge this person to be a far better teacher than I.

Juxtapose this with bumping into a pastor friend at a gas station. I had actually driven by his church a couple of weeks ago. At the time I noted that his name as not on the sign outside the building. I didn't think that was (pardont he pun) a good sign. But tonight I met him and inquired as to his activities. He has left the ministry more or less; he is part time only to help pay for his teacher's college courses.

This blew me away; I have long regarded him as an excellent pastor. He possesses a wonderful heart and tremendous patience. But, he says, he got tired of being the bad guy. His family wanted him "back."

If he could not make it in ministry over the ong haul, I have to wonder what I think I am doing. Add to that some other things going on, and, well, like I said, God sometimes makes you question what you think you know. Sometimes it is to re-affirm that you indeed know what you think you know. Other times it is disconfirm your opinion.

Time, and prayer, will tell.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Life After Politics

Means Sports.

In the news... Rob Babcock gets fired as GM of the Toronto Raptors. That's a bit of a surprise to me. There really isn't anything that a new GM can do to impact things mid-season, so the timing is a bit odd. Personally I think Babcock has improved a lot over the last year, and should have been allowed to finish his contract, or at least get to this point next year. I suspect Richard Peddie is trying to save his own job on this one. After all, neither team at MLSE is doing particularly well right now.

About that other team at MLSE... stuck firmly in the doldrums, the Leafs have only one thing going for them; all the teams they are competing with are in abot the same boat.

Ottawa got a shutout against the Habs... can you believe Hasek only had to face 12 shots? His comment about how shutouts like that shouldn't count is funny. There were two things I particulalrly enjoyed seeing. One was former Senator Radek Bonk getting plastered with an open ice check. He is a seriosuly big guy, Bok is, and he was constantly criticised for not using his body while in Ottawa. Glad to see him see what a check is up close and personal.

The other thing I enjoyed seeing was Sheldon Souray getting turned inside out by, of all people, Zdeno Chara with a nice dangle, who then scoring on an even nicer shot. Big Z is not knon for his stick handling, and you could see where Souray was completely unprepared for the move.

Now for the question that I have spent all of 15 minutes pondering: What is the toughest division in the NHL?

The award goes to the Northwest, where the last place Wild have a .540 winning percentage. Honourable mention goes to the Pacific, with the Northeast picking up third.

The weakest division is easliy the Central, where the third place Balckhawks have a .400 winning percentage. Makes me wonder if the Predators and Red Wings really are as good as their records would suggest.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Odds And Ends

First, a note about the "new look." I have been feeling for the last couple of weeks that the previous design was, well busy, and hard to read. I wanted to find something that was cleaner. I haven't found anything that really rocks me yet, at least anything that works with Blogger. I intend to keep looking, but in the meantime this will do.

Second, a note about the Biblical. I have noticed that there seems to be a kind of growing restlessness with the Bible. It doesn't seem to be exciting or sexy enough. Thomas Nelson has come up with Bible-zines to try and make it more appealing. Many interpreters are coming up with ways to "go beyond" the text, be it with a "trajectory hermeneutic", a "redemptive-movement hermeneutic" or a penchant to want to interpret clear passages with unclear ones.

I must be getting old. I used to think innovation was cool. I still do actually. But I guess I have lost the "anything goes" mentality. I used to sort of ask the rhetorical question "what harm can it do to try it?" Now I know some of the possible answers to that question. As a result I am a more cautious, and more insistent on being discerning and thoughtful before embracing something new.
For example, the MB Conference leadership has apparently embraced uncritically the Redemptive movement hermeneutic. I see no sign that any thought has been given to possible consequences. The thing is, it is not the consequences you intend so much as the ones you don't that cause the problems. Failure to try to predict consequences is a failure of leadership and vision.

I think this development goes hand in hand with my view of the Creeds of Christendom. We can discuss things, but it isn't like those things are up for grabs; we are not going to re-invent the wheel. So we can discuss Christology, and some of the things surrounding the Hypostatic Union, and such, but Chalcedonian Christology itself is not in question. Its a belief that we are to hold, not because its in a Creed, but because the Creed accurately portrays the Bible's teaching.

Anyway, I have lot more typing to do today. Better get to it before I get finger cramps.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

About "The Homosexual Question"

Note: For those who are wondering what inspires this post, go here.

I have to admit that I have not had much experience with homosexuality as it pertains to pastoral ministry. I have met many homosexual people, counted some as friends. At one point, I was preparing to debate publicly the issue of whether homosexuality is consistent with Christian orthodoxy. I have even done some counseling of believers who have homosexual relatives. That however is but a small fraction of my experience.

The article I read recently (linked above) does not ask the bare question of whether homsoexuality is biblical or not however. It goes into the somewhat murkier waters of how we go about communicating our belief.

We can be honest here: answering a question posed in classroom ought to be answered in a manner different from that which would be used if that same question were posed in, say, a therapy session. The answer should be the same, ultimately. However the two settings are sufficiently distinct to justify different approaches to responding. A classroom setting is strictly informational. However a therapy session is not just looking for information; there is also an element of meaning and significance that is tied into things.

To bring in the current case, in a classroom I would clearly answer that homosexuality is incompatible with biblical Christianity, and I would give my biblical grounds for saying so. I would expect that some questions would arise, but they would deal with the validity of my conclusions and the accuracy of my facts.

In a pastoral visit though, it would be different. I would want to know why they are asking questions about the topic, just as the article's author does. My desire would simply be to discern the question behind the question. That "question behind the question" is really the one that needs to be addressed immediately.

I have made the mistake of not asking about the question behind the question. I was asked once a question about euthanasia. I described what it is, in strictly academic terms. What I did not realize was that the person asking was considering a situation with her father. She was a nurse, and I was addressing the issue as one professional to another; it did not occur to me that there would be any other concerns. The result was that I was labeled as being uncaring, and a relationship was lost.

Now I ask for the question behind the question. I do not assume that people are just looking for information. Most often they are not. Most often I find they are looking to find out if they can trust you. If they can, then they will let you speak to them on the level of dispensing information. At the beginning though there is a need to establish a relationship. Asking about that question behind the question is crucial in establishing that relationship.

Still, we need not abandon or soft peddle our convictions. I have found it effective to simply point out that I do have my convictions, but that for the time being it would be better served to get to know one another. People listen better in the context of a relationship. Once people know our heart we are in a position to give them a piece of our mind.

The Morning After

I suppose the title of this post is a bit misleading; after all, its also the title of a movie about a post nuclear holocaust world. That description hardly fits the situation today.

As we all know by now, the Conservatives won a minority government, a small one. This is probably, from both a Canadian and Conservative standpoint, the best possible outcome. The reasons are several:

1) Canadians get to punish the Liberals without decimating them. This means that the Liberals will have time to renew their party while eliminating the situation that has plagued Canada the last decade: no effective opposition. The Liberals are very experienced and will be able to hold the Conservatives in check.

2) The Conservatives will not be tempted to govern like they have a majority. We will not have a repeat of the incident with Joe Clark. This means that Conservatives will be forced to govern relatively moderately, from the political center. That will go a long way to easing the fears of those who fear the "conservative social agenda." That should also make it easier for the Conservatives to get re-elected, and with a majority, in a couple of years.

3) With the announced departure of Paul Martin, the Conservatives have an excellent chance of making Parliament work. With no Prime-Minister-in-waiting, there will be not so much concern about the government being toppled.

On a local level, former Liberal MP and cabinet minister was defeated again, and by a larger margin, I believe, than last time. Bob Speller was not able to live down his party. Bob ran a solid campaign (even if I do think the "Bring Back Bob" slogan was campy and amateurish), and worked hard. Bob should not see this as a personal rejection.

That said, Diane Finley will likely give this riding a prominent voice in Cabinet. One of the relatively few women in the caucus, and from Ontario to boot (her husband being on Stephen Harper's personal staff won't hurt) pretty well guarantees that. She is very capable, and will serve the riding well.

On a final note, the departure of Paul Martin Jr., while not surprising, is still worthy of some pathos. His entire political life was geared towards being what his father was not: Prime Minister of Canada. Once he achieved his goal, he found himself, and was found by Canadians, to be lacking. That is going to weigh heavily on his mind for a long time. He is not solely responsible for the outcome of the election, but he made errors, serious ones. In the long run history will judge him to be perhaps Canada's best Finance Minister. That won't be what he wants; it isn't what he wanted. He will have to settle for that though. Most people would say it is enough.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Bit of Bonhoeffer

Who Am I?

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

Like a squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

Freely and friendly and clearly,

As though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

Equally, smilingly, proudly,

Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

Struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

Tossing in expectation of great events,

Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person today and tomorrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Scary things happen

I enjoy a good conversation. That's a polite saying I talk a lot. I suppose that, statistically speaking, it was inevitable that something I say should make an impact. I guess I just thought that the infinite number of monkeys the U.S. Government has secreted away, typing on an infinite number of keyboards in Area 51 would produce the next great American Novel first.

That's just the first scary thing to happen this weekend.

The second scary thing was the Ottawa Senators blowing out the Toronto Maple Leafs 7-0. That's three consecutive landslide victories. Why is that scary? Well, partly because it makes me wonder when the bubble is going to burst, and how. Mostly though it scares me because it seems even less probable than my words making an impact. I mean, that's some very improbable things happening in relatively close temporal proximity.

The point? The election is tomorrow. Pray hard.

Friday, January 20, 2006

If only the RCC had been this humble

prior to the encounter with Luther at the Diet of Worms. The Body of Christ, I think, would be the beter for it.

Catholic Online

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Let It Not Be Forgotten

I am a hockey fan. Almost a fanatic.

It was suggested recently that Bryan McCabe of the Toronto Maple Leafs should have been named to the Canadian Men's Olympic squad over Wade Redden of the Ottawa Senators.

Now, I am a Senators fan. But I am not being a homer when I say that there is no way McCabe should be considered over Redden.

Those who make the suggestion point to McCabe's offensive production. Here it is:
42 GP, 15 Goals, 34 Assists for 49 points (1.17 ppg). Over those games he is a +5 with an average time on ice of 28:11 with 7:30 of that being on the power play.

Now Wade Redden's stats:

34 GP, 7 Goals, 28 assists for 35 points ( 1.03 ppg). Over those games he is a +26 with an average time on ice of 24:25 with 5:50 of that being on hte power play.

Nowif you ask me, the diffference in terms of offense is negligible. Redden's ppg is very close, and that is with about 3:40 minutes less ice time generally and 1:40 less power play time per game specifically.

But the real kicker is the plus/minus. Redden ranks 2nd in that stat among defensemen. 3rd in the entire NHL. McCabe ranks 41stamong defensemen., about 100th in the NHL.

IMO, that means that by having Redden over McCabe you lose nothing if you need a defenseman to make some offense in a game where you're behind, and you gain a lot if you are protecting a lead.

Now if you were to ask me about having McCabe over say Rob Blake, then I would say yes to McCabe.

So for you Leaf fans, let me spell out what I just said directly: I think McCabe should be among the top 6 defensmen for the Olympic squad. Just not over Redden.

The Problem With Exceptions

You have to respect the enterprising, even entrepreneurial spirit of some in the church these days. They are bastions of innovation, sources of inspiration, and typically covered in perspiration. They have a clearly missionary mindset, and are willing to do what it takes to fulfill the mission and purpose of the local church.

unfortunately they don't like rules. Oh, now of course they won;t say that, but really their love for rules runs dry almost as soon as the rules start to "cramp their style". That's when you get talk of the need to deal with exceptions and make allowances for unique circumstances.

Well, you know what? I am totally up for that discussion. I am totally game for thinking in terms of "normalizing" instead of "normative." I just wish that people would play fair when they play that game.

When you talk about making things normal instead of normative, you are dealing with the nuance that distinguishes a prescriptive rule from a descriptive precedent. Again, I will say I am fine with this. It takes longer, and it deals more in the gray areas, but we are under grace, not law, and that's fine. But some folks just don't play fair.

That's twice I've said that. I had better explain. When I say that some don't play fair, I mean they use the fact that things are not really rules to not follow the descriptions of what is normal, and they do it without decent justification. Saying that you don't have to do something because it is only a normal process doesn't mean you are not accountable; you still have to explain why you don't want to go through the normal process. You can't just ignore the normal process and call it an exception after the fact. There has t be accountability there.

I don't know that everyone gets that.

I know that they don't get it for all the right reasons. It is the very things that make them so good at being innovators in the church.

What's funny is that I tend to think of myself as something of an innovator. I guess I have found my limit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

An Argument For Cessationism

Inasmuch as we do not want to derive our theology from experience, we need to ask what direct evidence there is from Scripture to support our beliefs. With this in mind we now turn to one of the main passages which is purported to support the Cessationist position.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Co. 13:8-13 HCSB)
This is one of the most important passages in the discussion regarding cessationism since it addresses a time when gifts will "come to an end," or "cease". No one, to my knowledge, denies that there will come a time when the gifts are to cease operating within the believing community. The real question is just when this is supposed to happen, according to Scripture.

This passage tells us that the gifts of tongues (languages), prophecy, and knowledge will cease when the perfect comes. It is important to note that it is only these three which are mentioned. One of the criticisms of the cessationist position is that it is inconsistent; it allows that a gift of administration or teaching might still be operative, but not tongues or prophecy. In the above passage we see a warrant for this position; if the time of the perfect's arrival is already come, then, according to this passage, we should expect that those gifts specifically mentioned should have indeed ceased. Church history then would seem to support that conclusion. However using church history in that fashion is arguably logically fallacious, using post hoc reasoning.

Crucial at this point is the identification of "the perfect." If we are to say that certain Gifts of the Spirit have ceased, then we must be able to determine what the perfect is that has supplanted them. To attempt to argue that the gifts have ceased without such an identification is to beg the question. To the best of my knowledge the only identification that is put forward is that "the perfect" refers to the canon of Scripture.

Let me clear here: by "the canon of Scripture" I am not referring to the list of books that we recognize today, but rather the books themselves. Canonicity is a function of inspiration; only those writings God inspired can be called canonical. This means the extent of the canon is determined by the number of writings that God inspired. The moment the last document was completed, the canon was closed; it remained only for the Body of Christ to recognize the Voice of God in them.

This is all well and good. The problem is that there is nothing in the context of 1Co. 13 that leads one to expect or suspect that a canon, open or closed is in view. More common is the idea that "the perfect" is the completed Kingdom of God, or even Christ Himself. In either case, it is not possible to say that it has come already, relative to the present day. The conclusion that we are forced to then is that Scripture does not teach, in this passage at least, that we should expect any Gifts of the Spirit to have already ceased.

Some might want to argue that this conclusion should mean that we be able to see the Gifts at work, all of them, uniformly throughout history. But this denies a basic teaching of the New Testament about the Gifts, namely that they are given according to the sovereign will of God the Holy Spirit (1 Co. 12:11). To say that the Gifts have not ceased does not obligate God to provide them in a particular way.

At least, we ought not think in such a way; we want to avoid presumption either way.

Monday, January 16, 2006

More On Cessationism

One of the criticisms that is leveled against those who insist that the more conspicuous are or at least can be operative today is that they allow themselves, at least on that topic, to be normed more by experience than by Scripture. That is, they think that their experience tells them what is right and wrong instead of Scripture.

It works this way:

People who have had a positive charismatic experience are likely to read the Bible in such a way that validates their experience.

Really it is an accusation of bias, nothing more. The argument really ought to be dismissed, if for no other reason than it can be turned against those who oppose the charismata as well. Cessationists can be accused of letting their experience of no charismata in their life or tradition or a negative experience, determine what they think the Bible says.

But the simple accusation of bias is a poor and lazy argument. Poor because, as noted, it cuts both ways, and lazy since it tends to distract from a more pertinent question: What does the Bible say?

It is a question that needs to be addressed in a way different from what is typically the case on the subject of charismatic gifts. Usually you see to sides lobbing proof texts at one another, without any serious dialogue or interaction. Sometimes things get a bit better; there is the lobbing of competing interpretations of larger texts. Still though interaction with those interpretations, is rare.

That's a shame, because it means that the two sides have already lost sight of something vital: Charismatics and non-charismatics, while maintaining different positions, have he same priorities. Both want to glorify God. Both want to be obedient disciples of Christ Jesus. Both want to be submissive to God's Word.

The fact is that this ought to be an intramural debate. But both sides build such high walls around their positions that it has become in many quarters an inter-mural debate. Both sides need to step back from their positions and reach out to one another on the basis of shared priorities, then move forward.

Practically speaking, moving forward will mean be willing to give in a little. Not compromise truth, but to give where appropriate, such as admitting that difficult or unclear passages are just that, or admitting that an interpretation is not so clearly or directly derived from the text of Scripture as we might like.

That takes humility, and a willingness to see that truth is better served by seeing the best in those with whom we disagree. Too often both of these are lacking.

Next time I'll take a look at a couple of passages which are at the heart of the debate.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

One more thing

I don't believe that "cessationism or non-cessationism (continuationism)?" is the right question. It is a question of authority--biblical authority, not just do certain gifts exist or don't exist today.

This is exactly right. It is also exactly right to say that, as long as charismatics maintain the willingness to allow all things that claim to be manifestations of the Holy Spirit to be scrutinxed bythe Word of God, then they are maintaining a properly biblical approach to authority.

A Note On Cessationism.

Definitions are important when you get into some discussions. Ok, all discussions, but some more than others.

The reason I note this now is because of a blog called Pyromaniac . In a post labeled "You're probably a cessationist, too" the author essentially concludes that even a charismatic is a cessationist under the right conditions. The relevant paragraph states

Again, consider the implications of that claim: Deere and Grudem have, in effect, conceded the entire cessationist argument. They have admitted that they are themselves cessationists of sorts. They believe that the true apostolic gifts and miracles have ceased, and they are admitting that what they are claiming today is not the same as the charismata described in the New Testament.
Now this seems entirely reasonable until you go back tot eh beginning of the topic and see what the author's operative definition of a cessationist is:

If you believe any of the miraculous spiritual gifts were operative in the apostolic era only, and that some or all of those gifts gradually ceased before the end of the first century, you are a cessationist.
The problem is that this is not a true definition. Cessationism isn't merely the descriptive position that the author takes, but also a theological/exegetical position that states that in fact there can be no gifts operative outside the apostolic era.

This foundational flaw leads to a series of comments about how charismatics are in fact cessationists to some degree, all based on the descriptive definition. Of course the descriptive is the very thing that many cessationists decry in charismatics: an argument from experience.

I find this to be an equivocation on the author's part, possibly to make whatever position he takes later (there are more installments planned I think), possibly out of honest oversight.

At any rate it is an error that wants correcting. Consider it done.

Just when I thought it was getting dull around here

I tend to ignore local politicians, except inasmuch as they might be able to impact broader policy. That would be why I like to have candidates who are good cabinet material.

But I already talked about that, and some folks thought I was being negative.


Let's just stick to some facts then. Here are a couple that I found very interesting.

Bob Speller, local Liberal candidate is very proud of his links to agriculture in this riding. Rightly so. Agriculture is very important around here, particularly tobacco.

However that doesn't seem to be enough to win the election. According to this site Bob will likely lose by an even bigger margin than last time.

Maybe that's why Bob is doing so much to convince people that not only is Bob a great guy for agriculture locally, he is a potent force nationally. He features quotes that say as much on his website.

The problem is that some of the quotes are bogus. Not that they are fabricated, but that they are planted. As Greg Weston of the Ottawa Sun reports:
The endorsement, first published in Speller's local newspaper and since featured prominently on his official website, begins: "As Western Canadian farmers ... who have endless respect for Bob Speller and the job he did as our agriculture minister during difficult times, we are writing to the residents of Haldimand-Norfolk (riding) in support of Bob."

Turns out, the three "farmers" who signed the endorsement happen to be a Manitoba Liberal candidate, campaign manager and riding vice-president.

I find this sort of thing hilarious. How are we to take endorsements seriously when they are clearly manufactured for partisan purposes?

I am sure this sort of thing won't help Bob.

Which is too bad, because he is a really nice guy. On the plus side, as long as the NDP and Christian Heritage Party are around, he is one nice guy who won't finish last.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Less than two weeks to go

Praise God!

I am something of a politicval junkie, and I know something of how the system works, both theoretically (politial science in university) and practically (some political organising back in the early 90s). Even I however can say "enough."

And I am getting very near to that.

Why? I believe we have hit the wall in terms of getting anything productive done in this campaign.

The Liberals have given their entire platform already. No one cares though. There is too much focus being given to scandals, accusations of Chretien/Martin faction infighting, and over the top negative ads. From the LIberals' perspective it might be best to stop while they are only stabbing themselves in the back and shooting themselves in the foot (nevermind sticking that foot in thier mouth). You might not think it could get worse for them. You might think thigns can improve. I don't know; Murphy's Law seems to be throwing the book at the Liberals big time.

The NDP may or may not have given their whole platform. No one seems to care except insofar as they might be an alterntive for people who don't want to vote Liberal but can't hold their nose tightly enough to vote Conservative.

I don't bother with the Bloc or the Green.

The Conservatives haven't given their whole platform yet. I don't think it matters. They got the sexiest ones out already, like money for child care, cash for commuters, and a reduction in the GST. They have also already exceeded expectations in Quebec. Frankly it may not be possible for them to do better. Better to quit while you're ahead.

So let's vote already!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

He Loves You, He Loves you Not

Dear Charter of Rights and Freedoms,

I just wanted to write to encourage you in these difficult days. I understand that you are feeling hurt and confused. Used, even. You are not sure how your main defender (P.M. the PM) really feels.

Let's try to lay aside feelings for a moment. I am sure that if we take a step back and look at your defender's actions then you'll beable to see how he has been very consistent and constant in his love and concern for you.

Several months ago he was talking about how important you are to protecting religious freedom rights. That has to make you feel good. And when recently he spoke with such passion about he was going to stand by you and defend you... that had to fill your mind's eye with visions of a White Knight on his charger.

And look what he said next. He loves you so much that he is going to defend and protect you by changing you. He is going to feature you on Extreme Makeover: Constitution Edition. Nothing says love like "you gotta change".

Um, not really eh? Well maybe we shold think about it this way: Paul wants to make you better by removing the power of politicians to overrule the Supreme Court. Ok, so it would only apply to federal politicians. Ok, so it really sounds like jhe's trying to defend the Supreme Court more than you. Ok, so it looks like he is just trying to use you to attract the attention of other women.

Um, actually it does look like he is using you, abusing you and confusing you...

Maybe we should look at somethign else.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Pair of Post-Mortems

Post Mortem #1: The New Approach

Well, my best guess at the moment was that the new approach worked well. Time was prety well perfect. Response was very positive. I had more fun as well. I found that I was more focussed.

The reasons as near as I can tell have to do with different purposes. Typically when I write a sermon I am looking for memorable lines and what not. When doing a lesson I am less concerned with being memorable as being clear and focussed. Approaching the sermon more like a lesson may have resulted in something that was clearer and, oddly, more memorable.

Post Mortem #2: The Debate

Paul Martin either hit an in the park home run last night or he hit into a fielder's choice.

I say an in the park home run because if Martin's ploy to start a constitutional debate (which he obviosuly thinks he can win) does work, then it will take some time to cash in the runs, and it will be dramatic to watch.

Frankly I don't think Martin can get around the bases.

Two reasons. First, Harper responded in a way that was reasonable. He spoke of the need to embrace dialogue and strike a balance between our institutions, rather than taking the bait and responding to a specific case. The other opposition parties helped Harper by essentially agreeing with him. Harper can hardly be painted as a radical to be feared for his stance on minority rights on account fo his response to Martin's proposal when that response is echoed by Jack Layton and the NDP.

The second reason is that Martin has a bit of a credibility problem that he is opening himself to on the question. Consider that Harper has said explicitly that he would not use the notwithstanding clause on the issue of same sex marriage. Then consider that Martin himself said he would invoke the notwithstanding clause to protect clergy from being forced to perform same sex marriages. Certainly Martin might wish to argue that his suggestion on that score was as much in defense of minorty rights as the one he made last night. Yet we should ask Martin: If the notwithstanding clause is a valuable tool in prtoecting minority rights (as he must certainly believe) then why get rid of it?

Perhaps most telling is that post debate analysis seems more focussed on what Martin's proposal says about him and his campaign than what it says about Harper and the Conservatives.

On the whole, Harper needed only to continue to be reasonable, not scary, and calm. That he did, and probably went a way in solidifying his newly-acquired support. For his part, Martin di not accomplish what he needed to really. There is hope for Martin, but that's all, and it isn't immediately apparant that it is all that much.

Jack Layton? Well he is in a tough spot. If he demonises the Conservatives too much, he ends up losing votes to the Liberals. In reality he has to pick his poison. He may not want a Conservative government, but to avoid it he will have to do things that will hurt his own party's electoral prospects. If he wants electoral success for himself and his party, he will likely have to accpet that he will end up helping the Conservatives in that regard as well.

Friday, January 06, 2006

With Friends Like These

Pat Robertson is an embarrassment.

Robertson has taken upon himself the responsibility to point the finger directly at God for what has occurred recently to Ariel Sharon. It seems that Robertson is a prophet from God who knows that God does not want any peace that involves giving up land.

Now, if I decide its worthwhile, I may go into some of the theological reasons why Robertson is to Christianity what "Klinger" is to the U.S. Army. For now though its enough to say that the man does more harm to the cause of God and of peace than good.

For information go here.
I am trying something different for Sunday's message.

I am a guy that likes to experiment. I don't mind trying things. I trust my congregation to be understanding if it doesn't work, and I trust them to lovingly tell me when it doesn't and why it doesn't.

So what am I doing differently?

Well actually just my approach to the preparation. The reason is that it seems to make a difference in my delivery. When I am teaching a lesson, I am (so I am told) animated and excited. When I am preaching I am relatively monotone.

I actually do more preparation for a bible study than for a mesage, because I can get into more depth with a study. I also pay less attention to catchy phrases and alliterative lists when I prepare for a study.

I gues I just "get into " a study more than a sermon.

So we'll try approaching the sermon more like a lesson and see if it impacts the delivery at all.