• April 4, 2014

    A Walk Through La Limonada

    The Nicaraguan Cohort of Missioners has been working together through the book Geography of Grace. A central point of the book is that the grace of God pools up—is most evident—in the lowest, most needy places. Today we and the Cohort visited one of those places. La Limonada is a barrio, some would say slum, in Guatemala City. At the outskirts of La Limonada we were met by...

  • April 3, 2014

    Postcards from Haiti (iii)

    The image I won't soon forget from Haiti's National Museum is a elaborately rigged ball and chain from the nation's horrific dark ages, the days of slavery, an immense, jerry-rigged iron contraption some human being created for another human being to wear, hard as that is to believe.  It's a frame of iron you had to step into to get over your shoulders, a piece of atrocity so unthinkable that even imagining it hung on the shoulders of a human being is nearly impossible. The museum guide wouldn't let me snap a picture.

  • April 3, 2014

    Timing is Everything (A Reflection on Mark 13)

    What are we to do with all of the confusion about timing in Mark 13? For one, Jesus is talking about events in the lifetime of his contemporaries: the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. But, then he talks about times leading up to that event, times that when you read their description, are clearly being lived today as well. Jesus speaks of the world’s birth pains, earth-shattering power shifts that have already begun but are not yet complete. So keep watch, Jesus warns, because the timing isn’t quite right for the full end of these events; there’s more...

  • April 2, 2014

    Bayanihan Abounds!

    We came to the Philippines to spend four months with World Renew’s Haiyan disaster response team. We see devastation. We see pain and trauma. We also see amazing resiliency. We see immense gratitude. We see people working very hard. We see “bayanihan.” Bayanihan (buy-uh-nee-hun) is a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve a particular objective. Neighbours helping neighbours. It is a way of life...

  • April 2, 2014

    Perspectives Reformees Graduation 2014

    It is always a blessing to witness the completion of a course of training, whether it be from a three-year-long formal institution or an informal course of study. On 29 March, Zach participated in the graduation of 37 students from the Perspectives Reformees of Haiti (PRIHA) Bible Correspondence Course. PRIHA is a ministry of Sous Espwa (the collaboration of CRCNA agencies in Haiti) and is a partnership between Christian Reformed World Missions and Back to God Ministries International...

  • April 1, 2014

    Ti Gar and Gospel Audacity

    No, the first part of the title of this blog is not a double typographical mistake for “tiger” that mysteriously snuck past the otherwise watchful eyes of the grammar police.  Rather, as Greek-literate students of the New Testament know, it is the Apostle Paul’s first-century equivalent of today’s “Whatever” response found in Philippians 1:18:  Paul had observed (vss. 15-16) that “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will (and love).” And even though the former were not sincere but filled with “selfish ambition,” seeking to “stir up trouble for him” (vs.

  • April 1, 2014

    Gearing Up to Discover What's Been Happening with Amaranth in East Africa

    I’m looking forward to an opportunity in April to evaluate the long-term impacts of World Renew’s promotional work on grain amaranth. Starting in 1998, but especially in the years 2006 and 2007, we made a special effort to teach farmers and mothers how to grow and how to prepare grain amaranth for eating. This effort in 2006 & 2007 was made possible by special funding from the Canadian Food Grains Bank...

  • April 1, 2014

    Abusing the Scandal of Grace

    For years I’ve heard the saying “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Makes sense, right? But lately I’ve been hearing something else–”Love the sinner, hate your own sin.” In other words, don’t try tell someone about the speck of sawdust in their eye until you remove the plank in your own (Matthew 7:3-5). Makes sense. The problem is, is that this is then used as an excuse to allow people to stay where they are at. Don’t judge others. You don’t know what they’re going through. How dare you tell someone else that the way they are living their life is wrong when you’re messed up yourself...

  • March 31, 2014

    "When Helping Hurts" Teaching in Amuria

    The training was not without a few challenges. My manual needs major editing. I had tried to use simple English when I wrote it, but now I see that I didn't do near enough simplifying. And I'm not sure how much was lost in translation during my lecturing, though I have to give a hearty thanks to my pastor friends who labored so long with me in translating.

  • March 31, 2014

    Science and Faith: Is Evolution vs. Creation a Big Deal?

    Is the evolution vs. creation debate a significant issue among grad students? Yes. No. By the time someone has arrived in graduate school he/she has generally come to a conclusion regarding what to believe about evolution. Those studying biology at that level usually decide that evolution is the way God formed the world into being. Whatever struggle they might have had on the issue of creation or evolution has generally been resolved. Thus, no, it is not really an issue...

  • March 31, 2014

    Postcards from Haiti

    Honestly, it can't be worth much, and this is no sales job. It's not a wreck, and on a little car like the Tracker a few bumps and scratches seem par for the course. In Haiti there are thousands just exactly like it. Geo Trackers are everywhere; and, like almost everything else in Port au Prince, they're in various shapes of disrepair. Thousands of Trackers.  I'm serious. A Tracker is not the vehicle of choice because it can't hold two dozen people like the vans and pick-ups their owners have rigged with stadium seating, but no matter. Trackers are all over...

  • March 28, 2014

    "Set My People Free"

    Scrolling through my pictures of the last two and a half years, I saved some of my best shots in a special file and brought the whole lot to my Team Leader - Dave Commire. (Thanks Dave - so very much!!)  I also sent a touching song, sung by Dara Maclean (I listen to her awesome music almost every day)... and a day later... here is my life, summed up in photos. I am so excited to share this video with YOU...

  • March 27, 2014

    New Agers Highjacked Meditation and I Am Mad

    The practice of meditation has been hijacked by New Agers and I am mad. Not really that mad; but made enough to write a post about it. Meditation is a Bible word and I will not stand around as New Agers steal it from us (cue: angry mob, shouts, picket signs, screams, crying, and people wearing "I heart meditation" T-shirts for affect). Not to mention, New Age(rs) (and other religions) are using meditation in their religious practice...

  • March 27, 2014

    Balance in an Un-Balanced World

    Last week, my friends and I had a spirited discussion over email about investing, and the merits of different IRAs, mutual funds, index funds, etc. Over the last year, as we’ve been adjusting to life after seminary, we’ve been talking about this. And talking about what it means to be disciples of Jesus, while also caring for ourselves, and our present (and hopefully future) children. Jesus says that we have been “called out of the world (John 15:19),” and that we belong to Him first and foremost.

  • March 25, 2014

    The Subtly of Sloth

    Lord’s Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism tells us that we belong body and soul in life an in death to Jesus Christ. He has paid for our sins, he sets us free, he watches over us. The first answer concludes; “Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” This is a great faith statement and a very practical way to open a lengthy catechism. It is a reminder that as Christians we can’t just say; “I’m saved! I belong! Praise the Lord!” then sit back and assume God is done with us...

  • March 25, 2014

    Village Savings and Loans Associations

    This week, I had the opportunity to go with Geofrey, one of KIDO's field staff, when he did a training in a village (Olusai) about VSLAs (Village Savings and Loans Associations). He got the participants involved and was very enthusiastic in his teaching. There are thirteen farmer groups in this village and seven of them already have been trained in VSLA and have savings boxes. In the training, the groups who have already started saving were asked to teach the principles to the others. They also shared the ways that they have benefited through the savings groups...

  • March 25, 2014

    The End or the Beginning?

    I’ve heard for years (or at least since the early ’90′s) that the world is presently going to H-E-double hockey sticks in a hand basket. The world is a mess and it’s just getting worse. I remember hearing a youth camp back in like ’94 or ’95 that the US culture is just like that of the Roman Empire back during Jesus’ day. They were saying that the world was so corrupt and going south that it was going to be vicious on Christians. It’s been 20 or so years since I heard that. Not much has changed.

  • March 25, 2014

    The Wardrobe of Easter: White-Hot with Purpose

    St. Paul calls followers of Jesus Christ who have been resurrected with him to live far better. They must be well-ordered in their priorities and white-hot in their motivation. Jesus Christ must be pre-eminent. Paul in Colossians commands: “Whatever you do, whether in word or in deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He repeats his summons six verses later: “Whatever you do, do it with all your heart, as serving the Lord….It is the Lord Christ whom you are serving.” (Colossians 3.23)...

  • March 24, 2014

    Against All Hope

    A week ago this morning we learned about the death of a young man. He was 22 years old, a loyal friend, too young to die. Standing in front of the casket on Monday evening, my faith faltered. I wondered to myself whether everything I profess is true. After all, how incredible is it too believe not only that Justin still lives, but that this lifeless body will one day rise as well? But it must have seemed equally crazy to Abraham and Sarah that they...

  • March 24, 2014

    The Beauty of the (Reformed) Worship Service

    I was raised in a contemporary evangelical church. It was a wonderful church. I’m thankful for my evangelical heritage. But as a young adult, I met a young lady, who belonged to a Christian Reformed Church. This was my first exposure to the CRC. At first, I wondered about the more “fixed” liturgy. I grew up in a “free church” tradition that was a bit more informal. But it didn’t take me long to really appreciate...

  • March 24, 2014

    How Fast Are You Going?

    Over 150 miles per hour—that’s how fast I’m going through the Japanese countryside. Through my rain-spattered window, I see soggy rice fields. I see 2-story houses and brown buildings. I see bridges spanning rivers, roads going everywhere, and power lines blanketing the skyline. Then I look for them, but I don’t see them. I know they are there—those Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples... 

  • March 24, 2014

    This is My Father's World

    “This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres..." I love this song. I think it’s a beautiful summary of Reformed doctrine and worldview. But more importantly, I think it’s a beautiful summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Part of the theology I appreciate in this song is how wonderfully it articulates the doctrine of General Revelation...

  • March 20, 2014

    The Contrasts of Haiti

    Anyone who has visited Haiti knows that it is a land of contrasts: Wealth and poverty, fertile land and desert, celebration and sadness. Perhaps no time during the year is this more apparent than the Mardi Gras season (leading up to Ash Wednesday and Lent). This is the season of Carnival, a four-to-six-week-long time of riotous drinking, rowdy parades and partying. Young men cover their bodies with black residue from rum distillation and march...

  • March 20, 2014

    Be Strong, Be Courageous, and Work

    For a variety of reasons things look and are different in the church landscape now, and we get discouraged by this. In the book of Haggai God’s people find themselves staring at a similar landscape. They once knew a glorious temple, but now it wasn’t much more than ruins. This was discouraging, and when they thought about the task of rebuilding it coupled with the fear that maybe another power would come in and destroy it again, well, it was easier to just not work at all. God knows we are prone to this thinking.

  • March 18, 2014

    Is Happiness Dull?

    This past Sunday in the “Bookends” back page column of the New York Times Book Review, writers Leslie Jamison and Adam Kirsch pondered some of the ins and outs of why it is so notoriously difficult to write about happiness. The upshot of their reflections is that writing about happy people or happy marriages or happy anything is tough because, to put it bluntly, the happy person is not as interesting as the unhappy one. According to an old writing bromide, it’s not a story until something goes wrong.

  • March 18, 2014

    Why Does God Allow Pain?

    It’s a difficult question that’s been asked for millennia and, of course, no one has ever really come up with a rationally satisfying answer (which may be the whole point). But after this weekend I feel as though I’m closer to understanding than I’ve ever been. And what got me there? God’s word through nature – through the idea of a trophic cascade as it was presented in a little video on the impact of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone...

  • March 18, 2014

    Village Visit #2 - Milmil

    The groups that we visited were ones who had benefited from receiving goats, groundnuts (peanuts), and cassava cuttings for planting. I especially liked hearing from people in the groups who were the secondary recipients of goats. One woman had received a goat and passed on the first female kid to another woman who was there to tell us about it. They also told stories of how they were able to sell the groundnuts and cassava that they harvested to buy goats, then sold the kids from those goats to buy cows.

  • March 18, 2014

    My Calvinism

    Given the rise of emergent Calvinism the word has become (again) a hot potato. I'm not a Calvin scholar so for a more academic treatment I'll defer to a real Calvin scholar like Richard Muller who asked the question "Was Calvin a Calvinist?" Calvinism in online, social media debates often gets reduced to "predestination" (usually erroneously confused with determinism“) and TULIP as a reduced version of the Canons of Dordt. Calvinism as I know it was filtered down to me through the persons and institutions of the Christian Reformed Church...

  • March 17, 2014

    Living Deep - Spiritual Maturity Takes Effort

    2 Peter 1:1-11 is like a coach’s pep talk to spiritual maturing people. It begins by reminding us that fundamentally, and HUGELY important, our life and death as followers of Jesus, and the yes/no of if we are in/out of God’s family doesn’t hinge on how we do at this project of maturing. All of that is sheer grace, a holy gift to us from our Father in Heaven...

  • March 14, 2014

    God Even Saves Pastors

    God’s grace is powerful. It’s big enough to save drunks, murderers, users, abusers, and persecutors. But that’s not all; He doesn’t stop there. He even saves those who grew up in the church and never slept around, never got in a fight, never smoked a joint. Can you imagine that? His grace is so big that He even saves me... 

  • March 14, 2014

    Revenge of the Sith and Faith Formation

    My son is slowly developing cognitively. He is developing in his faith as well. Two years ago I introduced him and my daughter to Star Wars. I started with A New Hope, like I should. I was hesitant to show them The Empire Strikes Back, but I knew that they would eventually see Return of the Jedi (Episode VI). When I showed Episodes I and II they enjoyed them. They even enjoy Cartoon Network's The Clone Wars (My daughter loves Asohka). But I don’t want them to watch Revenge of the Sith...

  • March 13, 2014

    Top 5: Music

    Over the last three weeks I have been teaching a class on Christians and Culture at Church. We have had some great conversations about how Christians should be engaged in culture and how various forms of culture influence us in positive and negative ways. During our conversation about music, Movies, and TV I asked everyone to give their favorites and why they liked them...

  • March 13, 2014

    Envying Amadeus

    One of my favorite teachers from my Calvin College days, Rebecca Konyndyk De Young wrote a wonderful book on the seven deadly sins. In it, she references what has now become a lost gem from the 1980s, the film Amadeus.  It is one of the best movie illustrations covering the vice of envy.  The drama of this story is fueled by this underlying dynamic of envy...

  • March 12, 2014

    Is Church Membership Like Marriage?

    It seems to me that adherence to a confession or membership in a confessional denomination is a bit like marriage or, at least, like the decision to get married. Great disappointment lies in wait for the bride or groom who thinks that he or she is getting married in order to avoid arguments and conflicts. Who thinks they have thoroughly vetted their future spouse such that now they are thoroughly agreed on...

  • March 12, 2014

    The First Village Visit of 2014

    To begin our work here in Uganda, we are going to have a bit of immersion the lives of people in villages where KIDO has projects going on. Since Anthony will be interacting with pastors from these communities and I will be working directly with the farmers, it seemed to be a good idea for us to spend some time living with them. This past Friday through Sunday we stayed...

  • March 12, 2014

    Lenten Season Reflections - "Remembering Names"

    Even though I didn’t grow up practicing a Lenten journey, the older I get, the easier it is to enter into that journey of following Jesus to the cross. Part of my Lenten journey today is to remember. I remember an Easter Sunday when I was almost a teenager and what I felt after that service can only be described as “clean.” I understood with a clarity and depth as never before that Jesus died for my sins and He was with me...

  • March 11, 2014

    Here They Come!

    Pew released, just last week, a significant composite portrait of the generation journalists have come to dub "the millenials," those kids born after 1980, the kids who are natives with technology, who, like my grandkids, like to ride in our Tracker because cranking up the windows up is so very cool--they've never done such a thing before. This is our first researched look at "the Millennial Generation," and the findings are astounding...

  • March 11, 2014

    Communion of Dust

    We sing and meditate on dust and ashes, especially on Psalm 103. We are fragile and weak, reminds the Psalm, fading and dying like flowers. Yet the Lord has compassion on us: praise! He remembers that we are dust. Our worship pastor has wisely thought to weave Matt. 11 into the songs and liturgical words, so our meditations on mortality and sin genrly settle into Jesus’ invitation to come and rest. We are dust, but it’s all right...

  • March 11, 2014

    Forty Lentings for the Season of the Cross

    I just learned a new word that a few friends have freshly minted: lenting. It’s the verbal form of Lent, meaning “giving something up for Lent.” As in, “I’d love to hang out with you at the pub but I’m lenting alcohol.” Giving something up for Lent (what my friends call “lenting”) is a common practice in this season of the cross. It’s not done to earn spiritual brownie points with God but instead is a concrete, embodied way of walking with Jesus in his Passion... 

  • March 11, 2014

    The Other Miracle of the Transfiguration

    If there’s one disadvantage to knowing Bible stories, it’s that they don’t always surprise us anymore. Take the story of Jesus’ transfiguration for example. This is the incredible, mountaintop experience that confirms for the disciples Jesus’ authority and glory. That Jesus’ clothes become dazzling white and that Moses and Elijah show up to spend time with the Lord is all pretty amazing and must have boosted the disciples’ faith as well as encouraged Jesus... 

  • March 10, 2014

    In Light of a Shooting

    Last night, just before 11pm, a shooting occurred at York University where two women were injured. According to the news, police did not suspect the women to be targets. They were probably bystanders. I was walking past that food court merely two hours before the shooting happened, on my way to my car, going home after another Theology over Pizza event. As far as I could tell, everything was normal. But, clearly, it was not normal two hours later...

  • March 10, 2014

    God’s Ever-Searching Heart in Josefina Napravilova

    Reading the obituary of Josefina Napravilova in the Globe and Mail today, I couldn’t help but see and experience God’s relentless, ever-searching heart for the lost. Through Napravilova’s image-bearing passion to bring post-war Czech children home, I felt God’s passion to bring all of us home. The obituary evoked worship! “A tireless 31-year-old Josefina Napravilova set out to find Czechoslovak children who had been scattered by the Nazis, and take them home. Following tenuous leads and vague hunches, she hitched rides across the countryside, often in the back of military trucks.

  • March 10, 2014

    Hope for the Abuser

    The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings about Hope. And I strive to present the Hope of Christ to the prisoner. God's Spirit moves me to inspire the incarcerated ones with Hope. It's a fact that there is Hope for men in prison. This Hope applies even for men locked up on account of domestic abuse. One of the men in my prison congregation is locked up due to a domestic abuse assault - his 3rd such offense...

  • March 6, 2014

    Dancing with the Navajo

    There they were, the shivering and barefooted pastors of the Global Discipleship Network, dancing around the living room of the retreat center we were meeting at on the Navajo Reservation. They had come for a time of retreat, training and fellowship. They arrived into Albuquerque from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Orlando, FL, the Dominican Republic, and the state of Indiana and then drove with me for nearly 3 hours to the high desert of the beautiful Southwest. It was December and our land was sleeping, in the midst of its second winter storm...

  • March 6, 2014

    Weariness

    Lately, I have found myself weary. It’s not that I am tired, although I am. I feel weary – that internal heaviness that weighs one down like trying to walk with 50 pound weights strapped to both feet. I think most people feel weary at some point or other but I do wonder if those who serve the church in one way or another are prone to a particular sort of weariness. For me, at least, that weariness is a combination of feeling like I just can’t do one more thing and guilt for not wanting to do whatever that one more thing is...

  • March 6, 2014

    The Law of Unintended Consequences

    In politics, the law of unintended consequences always wins. What does this mean? As a group of people, we seek to solve one problem, and we cause at least two more.  We think we can easily solve these two problems, but now we have four new ones.  Before long, we make an unintended problem that is bigger than any issue we tried to solve! Why does this happen? We live...

  • March 6, 2014

    Making No Promises

    Today the season of Lent begins! 40 days of reflection, confession, preparation for the celebration of life and resurrection on Easter morning. I find myself eager for Lent this year (perhaps because it is so late?) as a -- quite literal -- break in ordinary time. An opportunity to re-calibrate through new disciplines. Speaking of which, I'm making no promises BUT I'd like to blog a bit more. Thankfully, our Lenten series on The Heidelberg Catechism is plenty of fodder for reflection...

  • March 4, 2014

    The Voices of God in Palmyra

    To Ralph Waldo, the Bible was not closed. That persistent belief stands at the heart of his transcendentalism--that Jesus Christ was no more the one-and-only savior than was Davy Crockett. What Jesus did was demonstrate how each of us can be divine. God told him so--Emerson, that is. I'm not sure what he may have told Davy Crockett...

  • March 4, 2014

    "Lord, I Believe! Help My Unbelief!"

    More than once in the Gospel of Mark we have encountered a story about faith and doubt. Faith brings people to Jesus for healing, unbelief and doubt hinders others from embracing him. In Mark 9.14-29, we get the two extremes in one person— a fact that makes it even more relatable. Back when Jesus healed the bleeding woman and brought the young girl back to life, I shared how I was convicted by the faith of those who went to Jesus in hope.

  • March 4, 2014

    How Are We Talking?

    Something I have struggled with especially in the last little while is how am I representing Christ to someone? I’m talking about every single person I come across. I don’t care if I know them, if they go to church, if I work with them or if they’re someone just off the street that I’m making casual conversation with. Is what I’m saying edifying to them? Is it building them up? When our conversation is over and they’re thinking about it does it leave them thinking good, positive thoughts or does it leave them with a negative feeling?...

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