Sunday, 29 January 2012

Church Notes

I left my Sunday School class mostly to my helper today. It's a workbook Sunday and she takes those; I only do the beginning and ending of the class. While she had them come up with answers and made sure they were written down properly, I set up an email address for the church library. The library is in the classroom, so I could still pay some attention to what was going on.

The purpose for the email address: too many people are neglecting to return their books. I'm not talking a week or two past the due date, either; we have people with items due in October. It's getting frustrating and it leaves me wondering what people are thinking. Do they think it doesn't matter since it's the church? They may change their minds when they get an email telling them that we plan to start charging late fees. I received official permission last week, so maybe we won't have anymore items out for months on end.

Back to my class...they're still wonderful and funny. I told them at the beginning of class that they are all terrible, terrible children because most of them didn't know their memory verse and none of them had done the take-home page. They know that I love them, though.

The workbooks have a page of review questions and then a page with an activity of sorts. Sometimes the activity is stupid and we skip it, but not today. They were supposed to make a word search with words relating to our lesson. Four times I told them to make sure the word fit before writing it in and still there were cries of annoyance when the word didn't fit. I had to convince one child that he could not put three letters in the same box so the word would fit!

In church my small elf managed to write down some things that the pastor said (with a lot of prompting at first). The she drew a picture about the sermon, and then she did a crossword puzzle I had made for her about places in the life of Jesus (taken from the map in the back of my Bible). By then the sermon was almost over so I wouldn't give her back her notebook (I had been cleaning up already) and told her to listen for a few minutes. At the end she told me that it had been sooooooo least 5 minutes! Poor baby. One day I'm not going to keep her entertained and busy for the first 40 minutes and see how she likes that!

And, a hymn for this week:

Friday, 27 January 2012

Friends for Dinner

Tonight I had friends over for dinner. We had blueberry pancakes, sausages, and carrot and celery sticks. These friends have small children: a 2-year old daughter and a 3-month old son. The daughter called the celery "broccoli" since that's the vegetable word she knows best. She also decided that I was Daddy and her daddy was Miss Dorothy. She's a sweetie and a lot of fun.

We continued a discussion from Bible study the night before: can a Christian be a government assassin? My friend had thought about it and he said that it would be a unique witnessing opportunity: you're about to die; let me tell you about Christ. I'm not so sure; what if you were a sniper and didn't talk with your marks before you shot them? We figured that it wouldn't be a job that a Christian should enjoy. We started talking about being a spy, but then there's a lot of deceit involved...we're not sure. Also, he thinks that there will likely be annoying people in heaven but they won't annoy us there. Then we were distracted by the small daughter who was happy to have an extra playmate.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

One of Those Days

Today someone told me that I did a bad job because his child's marks didn't improve as much as his sister's had when she was in the same program. There were things I should have done better at the start and the lack of communication with the parents was my fault. Despite what the dad thinks, though, the child's marks are not my fault: I cannot do his school work for him and I cannot force him to apply skills. Still, he spent half an hour telling me how disappointed he was and leaving me feeling like quitting because I was so lousy at my job.

Today someone else was angry at me because I wouldn't honor a coupon she didn't give me when she was supposed to. At the end of the conversation she used a particular insult that I haven't heard since high school and, while I was stunned that she had actually used it, followed it up with another, more common (but still inappropriate to use in mixed company) word. I said something like, "Well, this is done," and hung up on her. It was not a good experience (although the upset was offset by the shock and the thought, "Did she really just say that? Are we back in junior high?").

And my boss was upset (although mostly not with me) about the first incident (he talks really fast when he's upset and doesn't wait for me to finish a sentence and his voice gets higher) and that's never fun. And then I spoke with my sort-of boss who stays calm, asks questions to get clarification, and couches his reprimand for anything that is my fault in general terms so that it is easier to take (e.g., "We need to make sure that we..." instead of "you should have..."), but it's still not fun to know that he's incredibly busy and I just made him busier fixing something that I maybe could have handled better at the start.

But.... I think I was more upset with myself than my bosses were.
Besides, at the end of the conversation with my sort-of boss, when we had started talking about other clients and their issues, he said something about managing expectations, and I sighed and said, "Yeah, I know; I already had that lecture once today" (although not really; my boss had just alluded to it and told me to remember it). My sort-of boss assured me that he had forgotten about the context of the beginning of the conversation when he said that and finished with, "That's done," and he meant it: no matter how much I mess up, when it's done, it's done, and no one will mention it again or ever use it against me. That is one of the best things about my bosses and it's why I never hesitate to tell them when there's a problem.

Plus...last night another parent was in. His daughter had just finished her first 80 hours and they had not indicated that they were going to purchase more (although they had willingly come in to talk when I emailed them). He told me that not only was his wife going to bring in a cheque for the next 80 hours later this week, but when the child was caught up in this area, they wanted to start her in another subject as well.

And...tomorrow will be a good day, and so will Friday. Tomorrow is Bible study day, which means supper with friends and getting to be part of the family and being with the kids and then, of course, Bible study. Thursdays are my happy days. Then Friday is a day off and other friends are coming for supper with their small children (their daughter is 2 and their son is just a baby) so that will also be fun.

So, it's been a day, but one bad day in the week is not too bad really.

Monday, 23 January 2012

True Christianity

I regularly pray for my Sunday School and Junior Church students and my junior/senior high girls (and the boys) (and that covers most of the kids in church) is that they will know what it really means to be a Christian. I have known too many people who think that it is enough to have prayed a prayer once upon a time without any actual change, without anything that resembles repentance. They go through life fully convinced that they are Christians while living lives that completely ignore what Christ taught, that are totally self-focused, that are no different from the rest of the world. So I pray, and we talk a lot about what repentance is and what being a Christian really is, and then I pray more. At the very least, it will not be my fault if they go through life thinking that a vague belief and a few words are enough to make a person a Christian.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know that I don't live up to Christ's perfect standard by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm talking about overall lifestyle that ignores Christ and often a willing pattern of sin. I also know that you don't have to agree with everything I say to be a Christian; the issue here is an unwillingness to listen to or consider what the Bible says.)

Today I was reading The World-Tilting Gospel (you should all read it) and Dan Phillips expressed exactly my concern and the reason for my frequent prayers:

"It is a mistake to parcel off this or that proposition and make it the Gospel. I squirm when I hear people say, "Believe that Jesus died for you, and you will be saved." I am afraid that someone will think, "Ah, so, if I just believe that one thing, I'm 'in'!" Then that same person will feel free to disbelieve Jesus when He talks about sexuality, about the OT, or about a host of other things -- because, after all, he believed that one think he had to believe, so he's saved.
The Gospel does call us to hear and understand truth. It does call us to accept certain propositions as true. But it also calls us to believe in Christ, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ -- all of Him; and, believing, to rest on Him wholly." (167, emphasis his).

See: this is what I pray about: that they will not just go through life thinking that "Jesus died for my sins" or any other part of the truth is enough. It needs to be all of Christ, and He needs to be Lord of every part of our lives.

Okay, one more quotation from The World-Tilting Gospel, about what repentance is:

"The issue is whether your whole way of thinking pivots, from a world in which you and your wants, needs, biases, and desires are paramount ("lord") to you, to a totally different world in which Jesus is Lord, and you are His slave and student." (159).

Just saying the words, even in prayer, is not enough. Going to church regularly is not enough. There must be true repentance and true change.

(A side note about The World-Tilting Gospel: I'm only on page 175 and I've wanted to quote large portions of the book from the start, but I'm resisting. In about 130 more pages, I'll write you a proper review, but don't wait: go read the book.)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Church Notes

Today my Sunday School class learned that truth cannot be determined by a vote; the majority can be wrong. To prove that I brought in a jar of liquid and they voted on what they thought it was. The majority guessed Kool-Aid; the truth is that it was apple juice with a little food coloring. I told them that there are people who think that if "most scholars" believe something about God it must be right; in fact, there is a group who votes on which parts of the Gospels are true, which are mostly true, and which are not true. My class was shocked to hear that, and agreed that it was a bad way to determine truth, especially since the Bible is God's Word and is all true.

Later we were talking about God and evil, and I asked them to prove that God isn't evil, even though He is in control of evil and uses evil for good. They talked vaguely about it being "somewhere in the Bible" but I told them that isn't good enough; they need to know what the Bible really says. None of them had an answer. I said, "So as far as any of you know or can prove, God might very well be evil then?" One young man looked very, very concerned and I finally had to reassure him that I did not believe that God is evil and that the Bible was clear on this; I just wanted them to think. Finally we determined that God is love, and if He is characterized by love, he cannot also be evil (He is love in every part of Him, so there is no place for evil).

Today's sermon was about Philippians 1:6, which left my small elf perplexed about what to draw (she usually illustrates the sermon). I showed her in the notes that the pastor was talking about joyful Christians so she drew a row of very happy Christians with their arms raised high. They had very long arms and very long bodies and very short legs!

A hymn for you, one that we sang this morning (although not exactly like this):

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bits and Pieces

One of my teachers got engaged this week. It was an arranged marriage of sorts; some of her family knew some of his family; the families got together to make sure all the parents approved; they spoke some over a few weeks; then he came to officially propose. It wasn't arranged in that either of them was forced into it, but it was more arranged than many marriages. My teacher is happy with it that way; he's a nice guy (and very good looking) and they have enough in common. Now she's planning a trip to Pakistan to get her wedding outfit.

I've been re-reading the Little House books. I'm up to On the Banks of Plum Creek. It was time for Pa to make his trip to town, and they're close enough that it's only a day trip. This meant that Ma could go to (in her best dress that she wore to the sugaring-off dance in the Big Woods). Carrie was too young to stay home without Ma so she went too (in a new pink dress and bonnet, looking like a little rose) but Mary and Laura were old enough to stay home all day. After all, Mary was going on 9 and Laura was going on 8, and there were no wolves or Indians in Minnesota.

From the best I can figure on the map, when the Ingalls travelled west from the Big Woods in Wisconsin, they went west and south to end up in Kansas. Then when they left there, they went north and east (although not much east) because they settled in Minnesota, which borders Wisconsin. Later they went further west, to the Dakota territories, which border Minnesota. When I was younger, I thought they went way out west, like at least as far as Alberta (which, in the states, would be around Montana). When I was older I realized that they didn't make it any further than Manitoba. I had no idea how slow it was to travel by covered wagon.

Speaking of covered wagons....on one of the math cards at work, one of the fraction questions was about a wagon train getting 7/8 of a mile in a day. From the best we can figure, by the time they reached Oregon, they would all be dead.

That was about as bad as the word problems one of my students was writing. You have 10 kittens, and together they weigh 20 grams. How much does one kitten weigh? She was surprised when I showed her just how little 2 grams is; we're not sure where those kittens came from. On the other hand, she also wrote a problem about Skittles that weighed 100 grams each (or thereabouts). Yes: in her world, Skittles can crush kittens!

The church library will have a budget this year, although a very, very small budget. Still, we should be able to purchase a couple new books. It looks like we're going to be counting on donations, sales, used bookstores, and damaged books. That last category is my favourite. One of the guys at my church runs a Christian bookstore, and whenever he gets a damaged book in a shipment it's written off and can't be sold, so he brings them all to me! Usually the damage is something small, and sometimes we have to look for it; the books are still good.

And that's a wee bit of what's going on in my mind lately!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Our Influence

I've been thinking, lately, about how much we influence the world around us. I've always thought that I have a small sphere of influence: a handful of blog readers, a Sunday School class, and the rest of the kids at church who come to play. It isn't much, but I'm pretty happy with it. Still. sometimes I'd like to go out and change the world!

Then one of the men at the church said something that got me thinking. He's one of the elders as well as the father of one of my Sunday School boys. He was telling me that his son sometimes comes out with deep stuff that he's learned from me, and that really, I'm influencing future generations. We were interrupted then, so the conversation ended on that note.

So now I'm thinking: in teaching my kids, I'm giving them the knowledge of God that they are going to pass down to their children. By having the girls over for sleepovers and the boys over to watch movies and play with Lego, I'm modeling hospitality for them, showing them a way of living that they might remember when they are adults. And they're watching me, talking with me, listening to me. (Side note: I know their parents, their other teachers, their friends, their pastors, etc. are all also part of this, and I'm not trying to take away from their influence; in fact, this would apply to them as well.)

It makes me feel my responsibility so much more. I'm not only teaching this generation, I'm setting things up for the next ones as well.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Martin Luther

Today I taught my Sunday School class about Martin Luther. I started by discussing the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King, Jr.: that they are two different people who lived over 400 years apart. After that brief lesson, I told my class that they are now smarter (on this topic) than most people who confuse the two (usually because they've never heard about Martin Luther).

We then went through Luther's life. They were confused about the Papal Bull (thinking it was a paper bull at first...which is almost accurate, given that it was a letter) and cheered when Luther and his friends burned it. They were disappointed that the Diet of Worms was a meeting at a place, not a punishment meal. The whole time they were waiting for him to be burned at the stake; there was some hope when he was kidnapped on the way home from Worms, but that turned out to be friends. In the end....he died at home in his bed. It was a disappointment for some of my class, but rather nice for Luther!

Now, for comparison purposes: Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms from two different Luther movies. It's interesting, how differently they portrayed him.

Friday, 13 January 2012

A History Lesson

Once upon a time the Americans tried to take over Canada. They failed miserably. If you ask any American, however, they will either claim that they won or ask what on earth you're talking about.

Fact: the only American I ever spoke with about it claimed an American victory because it was about the issue of impressment of American sailors of British birth by the British, a practice that ended as a result of the war.

Further fact: The impressment issue was not even mentioned in the treaty that ended the war because the issue was already moot; after Napoleon was defeated the British didn't need sailors and quit taking Americans of British birth (they also quit searching American ships for British deserters even though even the Americans had conceded that point).

Final fact: The Americans wanted to take all of Canada. The British/Canadians defended their border. In the end, the treaty returned any claimed territory and the Americans did not get a bit of the Canadas.

Therefore: we won.

And here, to explain it fully, the Arrogant Worms!

Disclaimer: I do not advocate burning down the White House. Ever. By anyone. Unless the Americans attack us again.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Secret Believers

Here it is: the first book review of 2012. I just finished Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen.

Secret Believers
is essentially biography; it tells about several believers in a predominantly Muslim country who are believers, some from Christian families but primarily Muslim converts. The people are not given their real names and are generally (but not always) composites of different people; this way, the reader gets a clear picture of what is happening without putting the lives of the believers at risk. For this reason, the country is also never named.

Most of the book is a story about what happens to these believers: how they come to know Christ and how that changes their lives. It shows the persecution they face from family, their community, and often the governing officials. While never graphic, the violence against believers is described as some of the men are arrested and beaten, threats are made against the churches and pastors, and violence against believers and their businesses become more frequent.

The second part of the book talks about how to respond, both for those living under persecution and those of us in the free world. The authors encourage love for Muslims, leading to prayer for them and their leaders, and to forgiveness for the atrocities done. We need to be willing to pray for both the persecuted Christians and the Muslims. It is Christ and Christ alone who can change people's lives.

I enjoyed reading Secret Believers; it was interesting and well-written, and it made me think a lot. We have it very easy here in Canada, and I think we forget how bad things are for many believers in the world. We need to remember because "when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it" (1 Corinthians 12:26; you should really read the whole chapter). We are all part of one body.

One of the believers in the book asked that we in the west pray "that [they] remain strong and not fall back...[and] for the second generation of Christians. [Their] children are really suffering" (249). Another asks, "Please pray with us. Many times I've told the church outside 'Don't pray for us. Pray with us.' Can you see the difference? If you pray for me, you will pray for my safety and my prosperity. No, just pray with me for the Muslims to know Christ" (251, emphasis in the original).

And so I challenge you: will you join with me in praying with the persecuted church? And in praying for the salvation of the Muslims?

For more information, check out There you can read about specific believers and countries.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Ecuador Martyrs

Sunday was the 56th anniversary of the martyrdom of the missionaries in Ecuador: Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, and Rodger Youderian. If you head over to you'll find some links that tell the story.

It has me thinking: granted, they didn't know they would die, but even then they were giving up a comfortable life, familiarity, convenience...the American dream... to bring God's word to people who would otherwise have no way to know Him. And after their deaths, Jim's wife and small daughter and Nate's sister headed into the jungle to live with and minister to the people who had killed the men.

The video at the bottom also talks about Eric Liddel. Eric was an Olympic athlete who went to China as a missionary. Despite the dangers, he stayed and eventually died there.

It just leaves me thinking.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Getting Along

"Why can't we all just get along?" This is the rallying cry of those who dislike division and want everyone to be happy and affirmed and tolerant -- it's all about being tolerant.

Well, we can all get along. At work we have 2 Muslims, 2 Christians, and 2 Hindus (although one of them says he's an atheist now) and we all get along just fine. I disagree with friends about whether it's okay to use pictures of Jesus when teaching Sunday School and if women should wear head coverings at church, and we all get along just fine.

"Getting along" does not require total agreement on every point. It is completely possible to disagree with someone and still be friends. It is possible to debate issues and to hold differing beliefs without animosity.

"Being tolerant" does not require total agreement on every point. It means that we disagree but we don't hate each other. It means that I think you're wrong and you think I'm wrong but we're still friends and neighbours and co-workers.

We cannot say that completely contradictory beliefs are both right. A thing cannot both be and not be simultaneously.

Saying that I have to affirm everyone's belief as equally valid is nonsense and very intolerant besides; after all, my beliefs include the belief that non-Christians are wrong. So, if you want to be tolerant and get along...affirm that.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

On Reviewing Books

I like books. I like reading books and I like talking about books. This year I plan to do more book reviews and recommendations. As such, I've been thinking about what sort of books I want to write about here.

I read blogs that review books and blogs whose authors write books (and some blogs that have nothing to do with books, but they're irrelevant here). Of late, there's been a lot of talk about a new book written by a celebrity pastor. From what I've read (and I've skipped most of it) it's not a book we need to be reading. In fact, at least some of the bloggers seem to be writing to warn against the book.

Now, I understand that. There are books written that will be embraced by many, many people that are at best fluff and at worst really, really bad theology. I understand wanting to warn people, and if you say "don't read this book" you need to say why.

But....a lot of time and attention and publicity have been given to this book. At the same time, these bloggers are ignoring books that should be read. Perhaps it's because they don't have time for every book out there; perhaps it's that they don't feel the need to warn people about certain books. I don't know.

Here's what I do know: I don't want to spend my time on books that no one should read. Instead, I've decided that books I review here will be books that are worth the time it takes to read them, books that will help people (or entertain people; I don't read only nonfiction). I don't want to give publicity to books that should be ignored, and I do want to promote books that should be read.

In the event that I do talk about the other sort of book, it will be for a very good reason and I will have discussed it with some people I trust first.

And on that note...go read a book!