Friday, March 30, 2007

who do you say that i am?

that's the question that Jesus asked peter, one of his key followers and closest friends — and it is a question that people in every generation have wrestled with ever since. here's a sampling of some of their answers:
  • mahatma gandhi: [Jesus was] a man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. it was a perfect act.
  • mikhail gorbachev: Jesus was the first socialist, the first to seek a better life for mankind.
  • h.g. wells: i am an historian; i am not a believer. but i must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.
  • napoleon said: alexander, caesar, charlemagne and myself have founded empires, but upon what did those creations of our genius depend? upon force. Jesus Christ alone established His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him. i think i understand something of human nature, and i tell you, those were men and i am a man; Jesus Christ is more than a man. i have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me… but to do this it was necessary that i should be visibly present, with the electric influence of my looks, of my words, of my voice. when i saw men and spoke to them, i lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. Christ alone has succeeded in raising the mind of men toward the Unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. across a chasm of 1,800 years Jesus Christ makes a demand which is, beyond all others, difficult to satisfy. He asks for the human heart. He will have it entirely for and to Himself. He demands it unconditionally, and forthwith His demand is granted. wonderful! in defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, is annexed to the empire of Christ. all who simply believe in Him experience that remarkable, supernatural love towards Him. this phenomenon is unaccountable: it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time cannot exhaust its strength, nor put a limit to its reign. this it is which strikes me most. i have often thought of it. this it is which proves to me quite convincingly the divinity of Jesus Christ.
i find the range of responses interesting. in particular, i'll admit to being surprised by the eloquence and depth of napoleon. one wonders how their lives answered this question, as opposed to their opinions. but it's intriguing to me that all of these people (and many, many more) spent time reflecting on the life of a man who never wrote a book, never held political office, never went to university, never even traveled more than 200 miles from where he was born. as a well-traveled saying notes, he had no credentials but himself… why do so many feel the compulsion to contemplate his life?

in the end, Jesus' formulation of the question makes it clear that the issue at hand is not other peoples' opinions. Jesus wants to know: who do you say he is?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

emerging leaders: reflections

about two years ago, inter-varsity invited me to participate in a leadership development program they dubbed emerging leaders. they assembled a group of thirty staff from across the country, representing every major area of inter-varsity's ministry here in canada — camping, iscf (high school), vcf (university undergraduates), gsfm (graduate students and faculty), and ism (international students) — in the hope of growing a sense of partnership across the ministries and identifying and training future directors and senior leadership.

we went through four modules, over a period of eighteen months:
  • spiritual direction, emphasizing the priority of a vital, growing relationship with Jesus
  • vision and leadership, with an in-depth study of nehemiah
  • lifelong leadership development, a seminary course that helps a leader to see the seeds of destiny in his past, and to anticipate what might be coming next
  • working in teams, highlighting the inevitability and value of conflict and the importance of visionary team leadership.
all of the sessions were valuable, and a couple came at just the right time. i learned quite a lot, both about leadership and myself. in particular, i was reminded in the first module that there really isn't any point in any of this — no matter how gifted i am, no matter how hard i work — if i don't nurture a vibrant, growing relationship with Jesus. as i reflected on my life in the third unit, i realized something significant about the way that God has been working in the last dozen years or so — preparing me in a season of 'hiddenness' — and could sense His calling me to come forth into a position of more leadership responsibility. what that will mean is still being determined, but i'd appreciate your prayers for wisdom and discernment about the future.

during the final session (this past week), i found myself profoundly grateful to be a part of an organization that treats people well — as valuable resources to be developed and stewarded, rather than used up.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

why can't we all just get along?

one of the more difficult aspects of our life in montreal has been that many people here seem to think, talk, and act differently about race than what we're used to. given the ethnic mix of our family, ethnic relations and racism are always relevant topics, as discussed in a previous post. it remains an on-going issue for the girls in a number of the settings in which they find themselves, and it always seems to be in the news — to wit:
some quebecers claim that immigrants and other minorities cry racism even when it's not the case; they're probably right, at least some of the time. but one has to wonder, with all of this smoke, if there isn't a fire somewhere…

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

just my type?

last month, m and i participated in a church planter assessment — a powerful experience, in more ways than one. it's amazing how much the assessors were able to infer about us from a relatively short time together (less than 4 full days).

of course, they had a lot of information at their disposal: observing us in a variety of structured group activities, asking questions in a series of short interviews, hearing us talk both about the bible and our calling. one of the more entertaining tools was personality testing, and we were subjected to plenty of it. m was typed an enfp on the myers-briggs and a high i/s on the disc, and i was an entp and a high i/d. free versions of two of the tests are available online; if you're into this kind of thing, try them out (and share your results with us!):
what does it all mean? check your results (or ours) here: mbti (look for the table on the right, marked "the sixteen types" and click on the appropriate link) and disc.

there are many ways to misuse such tests — notably, avoiding responsibility by hiding behind a temperament description (e.g. "i shouldn't have to make those phone calls because in introverted," or conversely, "i can't be alone and quiet before God because i'm an extrovert"). but i've found them helpful in a couple of ways. first, they can be a helpful starting place in sorting out what kind of person i am and how i work; who knows — some of the seeds of my calling might be found there! but they are also a good reminder that every person is different, and the people in my class, at work, or on my team are probably seeing and experiencing life differently than i am. remembering that can make it easier to bear with the differences and love people in the midst of them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

wind chill

it's currently -24C outside, with a wind chill equivalent of -39C. that makes this the coldest march 6 ever in montreal. there's nothing like making history — though i'm not all that inclined to go outside (i'll have to anyway).

believe it or not, the forecast for saturday is for +12C. i don't know if it'll actually get that warm, but it looks like we're in for some nasty potholes this spring…

Sunday, March 04, 2007

travelog: italy

here is part of the e-mail i got from b, chronicling her trip:

on wednesday (feb 28), we arrived in milan and then drove for 2 hours to verona. we ate at our first auto grill (roadside restaurants that serve pasta and sandwiches and souvenirs). we arrived at our hotel in venice that evening and played spoons all night. it was lots of fun!

on thursday (mar 1), we went to venice, the 2nd most expensive city in the world. we rode on a gondola for 45 minutes, which was pretty cool. then, we played soccer in the piazza di san marco, near the basilica di san marco. i had delicious hot chocolate near the cafe where part of indiana jones and the last crusade was filmed. the weather was great! we visited a lace making school and a glass blowing place because venice is well known for its glass and lace products.

on friday (mar 2), we went to florence, which is known for leather and gold. prices are better here than in venice. i like eating paninis, which are really common here. i had some italian tarts, which are kind of addicting... we played soccer for 2 hours in the park next to the hotel. i scored 2 goals…. and i saw the david (michelangelo) today at lacademia and other things by michelangelo, rembrandt, and leonardo da vinci at luffizzi, the 2nd biggest art museum in the world (the louvre is the biggest). i climbed up the 460 plus steps of the duomo and saw the santa croce, where machiavelli, galileo, and michelangelo are buried. i also saw the david (copy) by donatello in the piazza di la signioria. we played soccer in that piazza, too, and the police got mad... so we stopped.

tomorrow, we will go to assisi and rome. we will stay in rome for 3 days and then come back home. over all, i am having an amazing time here!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

all alone

i thought about entitling this post alone 'again, naturally' but i didn't think too many people would get the pop culture reference (quick, check google…) and besides, that's a bit dark. and i could have gone with home alone, which is at least accurate. but all alone has been the plaintive cry of our children for some time, whenever they end up having to do something alone — ride home on the bus, have an evening 'in' when everyone else is out running around, etc. — when they didn't expect to.

but this time, i'm the one who's all alone. b is on the trip of her young lifetime, traveling with through italy; hopefully, we'll have some good photos from that one. i just got an e-mail, and it sounds like she's really having a great time. m and n are out in southern california, trying to find warm weather and the beach. meanwhile, i'm in montreal wading through snow that's knee deep (there's another pop culture reference) and trying to figure out how i'm going to get my car out from under that huge pile of white stuff. i could've posted some incredible photos, but both digital cameras in our family are out traveling. you may cue the violins now.

seriously, i'm enjoying some quiet time around the house, getting things back in order and praying a lot. and that's good for my soul. my neck hurts like crazy right now, and i'm not sure why; my ability to turn my head is severely limited. maybe i ought to pray more about that…

Thursday, March 01, 2007

the tomb of Jesus?

if you've been following the news at all, you have probably heard the story about the supposed discovery of the tomb of Jesus. it's been made into a movie by james cameron of titanic and true lies fame, and ironically, those two movie titles may do a better job of describing this project than its actual title (the lost tomb of Jesus). if it were true, it'd be an archaeological finding of, well, titanic proportions. biblical christianity rests firmly on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus; if that's not true, christianity is something very different than what it claims to be. but given the flimsy evidence and sloppy reasoning for the amazing claims cameron is making, i don't christians are the ones to be pitied in this case.

cameron's case has been savaged, both by scholars (also here) and in the media (and here). professor amos kloner, former jerusalem district archaeologist of the israel antiquities authority and the first archaeologist to examine the tomb back in 1980 recently concluded,
"the new evidence is not serious, and i do not accept that it is connected to the family of Jesus... they just want to get money for it."
during this time of the year (the lenten season, during which christians look forward to the celebration of Jesus' resurrection), 'revelations' that challenge the orthodox view of Jesus have become common; anthony sacramone even catalogued them in a recent article in first things, including the shocking revelation that Jesus was a space alien whose tomb is really in japan.

if it sounds like i'm having a bit of fun, i'll cop to that. but this is serious business. i heard a religion professor from one of the local universities on the radio recently, trying to explain away the tomb finding by saying that resurrection doesn't have to mean that Jesus actually, physically rose from the dead. if that were true, it would give christianity a certain invulnerability, as no one could ever find an evidential way to challenge it. but in 1 corinthians 15:1-19, the apostle paul makes it clear that the literal resurrection of Jesus is crucial to our faith and our future. his argument: if Jesus has not been raised, then our faith is in vain; we are still in our sins, and we are not headed for resurrection ourselves. we ought to be pitied. but paul's conclusion is that Jesus was in fact raised from the dead and is living today. that's a really amazing claim, certainly bigger than james cameron's. i've bet my life on it. what do you think?

for those interested in a brief, accessible look at academically viable evidence for Jesus' having risen from the dead, take a look at this.