Monday, December 31, 2007

Thank God he's not like paper towel

One thing I've noticed about paper towel: when people think it's going to run out soon, they start using less and less. I know I do. I fear that, horror of horrors, one more push on that towel dispenser lever and I might be faced with a moral obligation to refill it.

I'm thankful, as I look back at 2007, that my Lord Jesus Christ is not like a roll of paper towel which one day, inevitably, will run out. I'm afraid that's what some people's religion amounts to. They know it will only take them so far and that's it. If they're going to get some more, they'll have to put some more in. Religion can run out, but not a relationship with Christ. He is the fountain of living water (eternal life) and the hiding place of all God's wisdom and knowledge (see John 4.14 and Colossians 2.3). As Paul wrote to the Christians in Colosse,
In (Christ) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority (Colossians 2.9-10, ESV).

Thus I am convinced, that no matter how Christ-dependant I become in 2007, and no matter how many problems and difficulties I have to load him with, he will not run out. Nor will he run away. For the One who never lies gave this as his promise:
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Teach us to pray

I confess upfront to being a weak and fledgling pathetic excuse of a man of prayer. Which is why I'm going to link to some articles to the latest issue of the 9Marks eJournal.

I can't think of one assembly that I've visited that couldn't use some major help with corporate prayer. I know the one I'm part of could. For those who would like to do something about it, take some time to read some of the following articles, bearing in mind that there are some bones to be spat out and not swallowed. They're easy to find, though, so I won't bother to point them out.

The Lord in his grace is slowly burdening me about my weakness in prayer, both private and public. Thankfully he can do more than just reveal weakness. He can also point us towards progress in prayer. And where does such progress begin? With a prayer: "Lord, teach us to pray."

A Biblical Theology of Corporate Prayer by James M. Hamilton Jr. and Jonathan Leeman

Recommendations For Improving Public Prayer by Terry L. Johnson and J. Ligon Duncan III

Thirty Two Principles for Public Prayer by J. Ligon Duncan III (following Samuel Miller)

See the whole issue.

Mechanics of men?

Just read the October edition of Uplook. The focus of this edition was on revival; thus nothing seemed out of place with the little blurb tucked away at the bottom of page 28 on the CrossCanada Cruisers.

Here's the blurb:

Cross Canada Cruisers is slowly turning the corner, if you’ll forgive the pun. Three or four young men have expressed an interest in joining forces with others to spread the good news across the land. A few cars have been provided (a 1952 Lincoln Capri, a 1955 Buick Riviera Super, and a 1956 Mercury Monclair). We are trusting the Lord to provide more committed men and vehicles as needed. We are grateful that brother Glen Hayes(Winnipeg) has offered to paint a parable picture with classic cars to illustrate the gospel. The first year’s training will begin after Easter, 2008, Lord willing. The intro mechanical training, car detailing and evangelism orientation will run from Mar 26 through May 4. The road trip is set to begin May 13 and will continue (with breaks) until the end of October. Those interested in more information, or those who would like an application, please contact: Grant Canfield (PE): gandscanfieldatpei.sympatico.ca

The November/December issue has an update on the whole thing on page 17:

CROSS CANADA CRUISERS: Now is the time
Thanks to you who are praying for the new gospel venture to begin, Lord willing, in Canada shortly after Easter of 2008. A group of evangelists from across the nation are eager to begin!We have been able to acquire four cars so far and a few young men have sent in their applications. Others have inquired, but we are praying for enough men for two teams (one travelling west from the Atlantic, one travelling east from the Pacific). The Lord is greatly blessing the Good News on the Move teams in the U.S. and we long to see the same encouragement spreading across Canada. Interested? Contact Grant Canfield at
gandscanfield@pei.sympatico.ca


Is there someone who reads this blog and is looking for a way to not waste his life? To further pique your interest, read some of the reports from the Good News On the Move (GNOM) team (based in the U.S.). And introduce yourself (and pray for) this brave young band of men that makes up GNOM III.

If you haven't yet caught the vision for this project, please read pages 28-30 of the August/September issue. Spread the word about this opportunity to spread the Word. Support it with prayer. Follow the updates. Let's catch the vision. Canada needs revival. And so do I.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Amazing Grace, the movie

Last night Helen and I finally got to watch Amazing Grace, the recently produced movie on William Wilberforce's tireless efforts to stop the African slave trade. There are precious few movies I'd recommend someone spending five minutes on, never mind two hours, but this one is worth it. For parents gauging this movie for younger kids, Focus on the Family may be able to help you out.

For those wanting to go farther with Wilberforce, start with this biographical sermon on him. Piper also has a book devoted to him, and of course there are plenty of good biographies. I plan to read at least one of them.

Leepike Ridge

A few months ago I treated myself to a read of Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson. I don't often read fiction, but not because I don't enjoy it. N.D. Wilson just so happens to be the son of Doug Wilson, and yes, he has inherited his father's gift for writing in weird and wonderful ways. It took no more than the first sentence in the book to hook me:

In the history of the world there have been lots of onces and lots of times, and every time has had a once upon it.

The book strikes some strong Christian themes and closes with a surprising twist, a twist strange enough to echo the greatest narrative twist of all—the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you've got some 12 year olds—or even 62 year olds—in your house in need of a good book to jump into, consider buying them Leepike Ridge. And if they find it really good consider getting Wilson's latest book, 100 Cupboards, and donating a copy of both to your local library.

Note: in addition to the Amazon reviews, read the review by the author's father, and by some guy at Christianity Today.

More on William MacDonald

A graveside service is being held today. Please go here to read recent updates and to find links to sign and view brother Bill's guestbook.

For anyone who is familiar with this man of God's writings, the simplicity of the funeral arrangements will come as no surprise.

Update: See this interesting and respectful news article.
HT: Nigel Barnham.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Home for Christmas

William MacDonald has entered the presence of Christ his Saviour.

Speaking of income tax deductions...

...we are, as many of you know, expecting our first one (baby) in June. I know of at least one person who caught on to the stork comment posted while we were in Ukraine that foreshadowed this news. Well, here are the pictures.




Being open to critique

An important book for us dispensationalists to read.

A child was born

Join us in welcoming niece # 2 into the world. Isn't she a sweetheart?

Whatever you do, don't call her birth a miracle. C.S. Lewis wouldn't like that very much.














Thinking ahead

First item on my wish list for Christmas 2008.

Also, tensions typically arise this time of year amongst some Christians on whether Christmas should be celebrated or not. Whatever your take is on the matter, Alan Knox has something for you to read.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Day

A lot of the bloggers I read are in the States, and so these days I'm reading lots about Thanksgiving Day. Is Thanksgiving Day an apologetic for God? Doug Wilson thinks so in a post I really enjoyed.

Well, I just sent a link of Mr. Wilson's post to a sister in our assembly because she had shared a warm anecdote with me of a touching interchange that took place during our last prayer meeting--when every one's eyes were supposed to be shut. I closed the email saying "I smell a blog post coming." Then, moments after sending it, my wife came in and placed a juicy cluster of grapes, wrapped in a napkin, on my desk. "A gift for you," she said. My heart overflowed with gratitude to God for those grapes. And then I read the word written on the napkin: "Thanks".

"You ask me how I know He lives." He lives because of grapes.

[Note from the picture the thing my wife is thankful for: that she could find room on my desk to place some grapes!]

Monday, November 5, 2007

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November

We just had a blast. Literally.

Being married to a Brit makes you do crazy things like having bonfires on November the 5th. But in England that's just what you do on Bonfire Night, a.k.a. Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes was involved with the famous Gunpowder Plot on this very night back in 1605. Every year the Brits commemorate the fizzling out of this attempted treason against King James 1.

So we decided to have some folks over with British connexions (is that how they spell it in Britain?) for the Canadian (read "colder") version of it. Helen's family came with a big box of fireworks and sparklers, and everyone brought food, lawn chairs, and lots of warm clothing. Helen made some delicious toffee apples, sausage rolls, and baked potatoes with sausages embedded in them.

While sitting around the fire with family, both natural and spiritual, I couldn't help but reflect on what joy it was to be alive in God's family, and to know Him from whom all blessings flow. I didn't deserve one ounce of the fun we had tonight. It was yet another blessing purchased dearly by One who hung for my treason long ago.


Top: Mom with a sparkler. Bottom: Toffee apples. The tray has pictures of Devon area on it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Clock and the Couple

That couple in the last picture of my last post could use a little of this from Doug Wilson. Here's my favourite part:
So the issue is not whether the husband offers what he has, or whether the wife offers what she has. The issue is when, the issue is timing. Remember, the only difference between salad and garbage is timing.

I hope that couple reads the whole thing.

Settling In Again

Helen and I are slowly settling back in at home. We're both surprised at how long it's taking us to get over our jet lag. Our first night back we woke up at 2:00 AM; second night was better...4:00 AM; last night was 5:00 AM.

I've been asked to do a report to our local church tomorrow evening on our trip. Helen worked hard this afternoon putting a PowerPoint presentation together of pictures.

We had the privilege of having a missionary couple in our home Monday night. Bruce and Marilyn Poidevin were here to give a report on their flight service ministry in Zambia. Their visit fell on our KFC night so Bruce first spoke to the kids and then gave the report afterwards.

There are still several posts and lots of pictures to put on the blog regarding our trip. We hope to get going on them later this week. In the meantime here's a picture of a Ukrainian couple in traditional dress.













Then tragedy struck.



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Back in Town

After a long day of flying, we're home! My family was there to greet us at the airport and to drive us back to our house. We've had a good sleep and are now excited about seeing our assembly again this morning.

My parents are having us over for supper tonight, and Helen's mom and sister will be there too. We'll miss dad who is out in the east coast right now having kids meetings.

Can't wait!

[Correction: Dad is doing everything but kids meetings out east!]

Friday, October 19, 2007

From Vienna With Love

We left a rainy Ukraine and are now in Austria for the night. We don´t actually have anything to say. We just wanted to be able to say that we have blogged in Vienna. Helen is laughing at me as she watches me struggle with this German keyboard.

We parted ways with the gang this afternoon. Ruslan did a good job getting us to the airport on time despite locked up traffic.

Please pray for Malcolm as he stays on for one more week. He has a lot to accomplish before he goes. Helen and I have really enjoyed working with him. Please pray as well that Helen and I will get a good night's sleep as Helen has a heavy cold.

Auf wiedersen!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ukraine 15 – Our Last Night in Ukraine

We’re getting ready for our last night in Ukraine. We had to say goodbye to Yaraslav and Halia this morning, and tomorrow we will have to do the same with Flo, Helen, Ruslan, Malcolm, Marcus and Rachel.

Vadym took us to Lviv today, and then we parted ways with him as well. We depended on Vadym for almost everything, and he never let us down. God bless you and your young family, dear brother.

Tonight we had the special privilege of meeting Misha, a godly man who, if the Lord enables, will be able to study and teach the Word of God fulltime in this needy country. Feeding the physically hungry is important; how much more so the feeding of the spiritually malnourished.

So we leave for Vienna tomorrow at 4:15 PM. We overnight there, and then we fly to Toronto, and then on to Winnipeg, where we land, DV, at 7:35 PM. It will be so good to see our family at the airport again!

We fly in your prayers.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ukraine 14 – Day 19 (October 17)

On our last leg
Tomorrow is our last day in Ivano Frankivsk. We go back to Lviv tomorrow afternoon. Friday is our last day in Ukraine as we fly out in the afternoon to Vienna. It’s hard to believe that our three weeks here are almost over. Ukraine was a culture shock coming from Canada. Canada will be a culture shock coming from Ukraine.

Update on things mentioned before
A couple of great things have happened that we want to share with you. Both of them have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Lord and with his people. First, a Christian kindly gave money so that Flo could give the rest of the kids in the orphanage in Loparton jackets. The second thing involves the orphanage in Yassapowich. The three windows have been purchased and installed, and a large amount of money has been given to put in proper toilets and washing facilities. Lord willing, this work should be done in the near future. The Lord is good!

Short update on today
This morning we had a delicious breakfast at Yaraslav’s and Halia’s. If you can call it breakfast. We were served chicken breasts and potatoes, among other things. Apparently Yaraslav had had a lot of chest pains going home after the meeting last night. He was just praying that he would make it through the hour-long bus ride home. Thankfully he did. Yaraslav needs our prayers.

I won’t mention all the details of the day, but we did go back to the orphanage in Yuremcha (close to the Carpathian mountains) to deliver some stationary as we had promised. While we were in the area we stopped to admire a beautiful waterfall and to purchase some gifts for family and friends back home.

We were also able to buy a fridge for Luba, and we visited a woman who faithfully comes to the meetings named Marica (yes, there are two Marica’s). She is clinically blind and has to look after her young son, who is an invalid, and her 13 year-old daughter, who also has health problems.

As I type this Helen is packing our suitcase for the umpteenth time this trip! She will not be able to fit everything into it. There are friendships, memories, and experiences that will have to stay behind. There are also some juicy secrets about Malcolm, but don’t worry, we’ll find a way to bring these home somehow! As the saying goes, what happens in Ukraine does not stay in Ukraine!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ukraine 13 – Day 18 (October 16)

We’re zonked! The Lord gave us a heavy itinerary today, but we did confess to having an easy day yesterday! There are three big things to report about today:

Visit to the Grammar School

This place was a big surprise for me. It was a beautiful school, unlike anything we had seen before in Ukraine. Only the brightest students get to come here; the school has a little over 400 enrolled. They all wear uniforms, which looked very sharp. The assistant director was an efficient fellow who looked after us for the three hours we were there. He organized six classroom visits for us.

The first class we visited shocked me. The kids were older than I was expecting, and they were very sharp. I was glad Malcolm spoke the first two times! Thankfully the Lord quickly gave me some different messages than the rope trick, which I didn’t feel comfortable using today, for whatever reason. One message involved Pangaea, and the other involved Henry Ford’s automobiles (an illustration I stole from Gooding and Lennox). There was no long-windedness on our part, as we were only given ten minutes in some of the classes, so the good news was given in compact form.

We had a nice lunch with the assistant-director, and then we had the treat of watching one of the beginner dance classes perform. After our classroom visits were finished we were shown some footage of the senior classes performing. Absolutely amazing. They would love to come to Canada to perform in the schools.

Potential Facility for the Christians

We also visited a potential facility for the Christians to use as headquarters. The building is in the core area, and the room we’re interested in would be big enough for storing the distribution supplies and for having regular meetings. Tomorrow we will find out what the rental charge will be, which will determine everything. Please pray regarding this.

Meeting with the Christians

We had a really nice meeting with the Christians at 5:00. There were around 20 out and the little room in the bank was filled up comfortably. I spoke first from Philippians 2 on the prerequisites for a group of Christians working together to spread the gospel (everyone putting the gospel first, and everyone putting each other first), and the Malcolm followed nicely with a message on Friendship. He then shared with the Christians our desire: that they all work together with Yaraslav and Halia in the distribution work. Everyone seemed very excited. We hope and pray that the excitement will be under girded by God-given desire.

Helen and I had to say some difficult goodbyes today. Luba, Maria, Lesia, Natalia, Tanya, Marica, and others, we will never forget you, and we will miss you dearly. Helen took down some email addresses / mailing addresses from the young sisters. It brought joy to my heart watching them group around Helen. I would be lost out here without my wife, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge it.

Then we took Natalia and Tanya home, following close behind a delivery van that was bringing them a new washer machine. We (the group) had used funds from the Christians back home to purchase it. They were overwhelmed. We stayed for tea and had a nice visit with the whole family, who were all at home. They are such a nice family.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ukraine 12 – Days 15-17 (October 13 to 15)

We had a good weekend. Here are some details:

Saturday

We enjoyed a scrumptious breakfast at Yaraslav’s and Halia’s, although it is not every day we have potatoes, liver and onions, and ham sandwiches in the morning! We had a long chat about their work for the Lord. They are a special couple, and I plan to devote a whole post to them when we get back to Canada. Basically we were trying to brainstorm ways to free them up so that they can spend more time on what their passion is: gossiping the gospel and loving the long-forgotten.

Then we met some of the sisters at the market and bought them all boots for the winter. Little Maria and Wasyl also received new footwear, which they were proud of. In the previous post I said we would be buying 30 pairs. I lied. The 20 pairs of shoes for the kids in the halfway house are being purchased this week instead.

Then Vadym and his wife, Sveta, had us over for lunch. It was obvious that she had gone to piles of work. After this we went back stuffed to Flo’s apartment in L’Viv. It was a treat to see Flo again, and to meet Marcus and Rachel Deloughery who are here from Canada until December. On the way I listened to a sermon by John Piper called “Don’t Waste Your Life”. It was a powerful message that brought a renewed passion to my life for the Lord Jesus to be my chief Joy.

Sunday

It was also a treat to take the Lord’s Supper for the first time since coming to Ukraine. We left at 7:30 AM from Lviv to meet with the assembly in Lutsk for 10:00. It took some faith to participate in prayer in the meeting; you just close your eyes, stand up, start praying and hope that Sergei will soon follow with the interpretation. Sergei is a gifted young man who understands 15 languages. He also has brain cancer, which, thankfully, is now in remission. Please pray for him. Malcolm spoke afterwards, and Sergei did a fantastic job of translating. He not only translated the words into Ukrainian, but also the tone, gestures, and effect. I believe that Bible translators should try to do something of the same.

The Christians have purchased a facility for their headquarters. Lord willing, when it’s all finished it will have a meeting room, dining area, library, storage room for distribution material storage, and living quarters. I look up to Christians with no end of vision.

We then traveled back to Lviv and had a meeting there. Marcus graciously let me hog most of the time seeing as it was my last chance to speak in Lviv.

Monday

We spent the morning at Flo’s. Malcolm kept us entertained while we waited for Vadym to come from Ivano. A couple of times we were doubled over in laughter. One has to laugh to survive in this land. Helen (the other Helen) joined us for lunch. We have enjoyed our fellowship with the other Christian workers every single time we’ve been together.

After lunch Vadym drove us back to Ivano, where we will stay until Thursday, DV. The drive was a long one due to some lengthy construction hold ups.

As you can see, we didn’t accomplish a whole lot today. But time was spent in discussing plans for the upcoming week, and we trust we will be well rested to carry them out in the strength of the Lord.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ukraine 11 – Day 14 (October 12)

If fatigue dictates the length of this post, it will be a short one!

The Next Few Days

Tomorrow we’re going to be buying enough shoes for thirty kids in Ukraine (or one woman in Canada!). Then we’re going back to L’Viv for Saturday night, so that we can be with the assembly in Lutsk Sunday morning. Then back to L’Viv for the Sunday night meeting, and then back here to Ivano on Monday. Please pray for safe travels for us.

Update on Today

We visited four homes and one halfway house today. The first two visits were with people who come faithfully to the meeting. One woman (Anya) had had eye surgery three weeks ago for her cataracts. Another brother had brought funds from Canada for the surgery. After an encouraging conversation with Anya and her daughter (Marica), we prayed with them and left money to pay for her medications.

Our second visit was to Diana’s flat. She’s about 35 and has Hepatitis C. She has one son, and no husband to speak of. Had a real nice visit with her. We were encouraged to see how well worn her New Testament was, and we encouraged her to read a passage to her teenage son each day. Please pray for her health.

Then we visited a halfway house, which is a place where kids with no homes stay temporarily until a more permanent lodging is found for them. Malcolm has purchased shoes for the kids before, and we are going to do the same thing this trip. We will go to the market tomorrow armed with a list of shoe sizes for 21 little pairs of feet! We gave the kids suckers, balloons, and did a rope trick and talk. The staff were pleased to receive pens and Canadian pins.

Next we saw an old woman with poor health. Her young granddaughter looks after her. The woman cried from start to finish. She says that the hospital gave her a wrong treatment that has completely spoiled her health. Apparently she has cancer, but no one has told her this. We wonder if the “wrong treatment” was actually chemotherapy. How sad. Unfortunately, many religious experts do a similar thing: they never tell the ones who trust their “expertise” about the spiritual disease they possess. At least these Ukrainian medical doctors are trying to administer a cure.

Our last visit was a happy one. Natalia is the mother of five but looks as young as her oldest daughter, Tanya (23). She was too shy to tell us about her needs, and she ordered Tanya not to say a word about them! We left some money with her anyway, which she was very humble about. We told her we felt the same way when our Canadian brothers and sisters gave their finances to us so that we could distribute them to her. When we learned that she has to walk in the dark to work, we also gave her one of our Mag flashlights. She was inexpressibly thankful. Tanya is very sweet. They promise to come to our next meeting on Tuesday night.

For supper we got a real treat. We went to a shish kabob restaurant with character. What a delicious way to end the day! We all remembered how fortunate we were to enjoy a nice meal in this world of hungry people. God is good.

Hmm, I guess fatigue didn’t dictate anything!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ukraine 10 – Day 13 (October 11)

We sure had an interesting day today. We got to see the Carpathian Mountains, but more on that later. On the way there, we stopped at an orphanage in Yuremcha. The director came across as unwelcoming at first. Sadly, he has had bad experiences with other groups coming with aid. We trust they were not claiming to be Christian groups, but whoever they were, they must have really made a mess of it to put off an orphanage in Ukraine.

The longer our stay, the warmer the director. One thing he said was quite interesting: the kids expect more than aid groups just coming in, dropping off a bunch of clothes, and clearing out. They want a presentation and some interaction. We gave them both. The Lord helped me to do my rope trick and speak to them, and Malcolm showed them the smallest Bible in the world (ca. 3 cm x 3 cm on one layer of microfiche). The 80 or so kids present listened attentively and the interaction was nice. We would love to visit them again. Just to solidify our relationship, we gave the director an extra special Canada pin for his jacket. He was mighty proud of it!

Then we went up to a massive ski resort in the Carpathians. 50 km of trails and 15 chair lifts. One of the owners of the place happens to be Vadym’s friend, so he gave us a ride up one of the lifts. The scenery was stunning. The resort evidently has aggressive plans. The amount of infrastructure going up is mind-boggling. One project is a five level parkade. Hmm, I wonder if they could use a Project Coordinator up there. Work colleagues: don't tell the boss, but I might just get my resume translated into Ukrainian!

We had our first meeting in Ivano tonight. It was supposed to start at 5:00, but we never got there until 5:30 despite Vadym’s fast driving. It was a good meeting nonetheless and the people were very forgiving. I spoke first, but not without struggles, and then Malcolm gave a nice talk. It’s easy to see that the people love Malcolm from previous years!

Helen says that this post is too short—it’s not even worth people reading it, she says. Actually I made that up. And yes, Helen will be posting again soon, I hope.
That’s all for tonight folks. Time for bed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Ukraine 9 – Day 12 (October 10)

Considering this blog is “mikenhelen”, it is high time according to Mike that I (Helen) post one. So this one is written from my perspective as I recline on the couch feeling stuffed with food—we’re definitely eating well here. Too well!

Most of the day was taken up with visiting families that Halia knows are in need. The first couple we visited was Ivan and Tamara. Tamara is a retired schoolteacher and had quite a personality. She was very animated while talking and it was clear she would have been a very interesting teacher. We certainly enjoyed listening to her. Her husband had a stroke a while back and was not feeling up to visiting. As we entered the living room, we laid our eyes on a meal she had prepared of bread, sausage, cheese, pilmenee (like perogies with meat inside) and cookies. I think we all inwardly groaned as we had just finished breakfast not long before. We took a little so as not to offend but Ukranian hosts do not seem to settle for that. I don’t think they have the phrase “I’m full” in their language! They keep saying, “Eat, Eat”. She told us how she had read through the New Testament a few times and now wants to read the Bible all the way through. If she has questions she asks Yaraslav who is a good resource for her. As we were leaving, Tamara stuffed a number of pears into our bags—just in case we hadn’t eaten enough?!

Next we visited a couple that Malcolm has met several times before. He is a deaf mute and cannot get out of bed without help. His wife is his sole caregiver but in the last six months has developed bad rheumatoid arthritis and struggles to take care of him. She had a look of despair on her face as she described the situation. He has quite the string system in his house; from his bed he can open and shut the door, and when the front door opens, a light goes on so he knows if someone is entering the house. We brought bags of groceries to each of these families.

Our third visit was to another retired schoolteacher who at the age of 82 had boundless energy—much more than I have and she’s approx. 4x my age! I sat right next to her and kept getting my knee slapped or her hands put directly in my face as she told her stories with gusto!

Our last visit was for me the most memorable. We arrived at the house and the door was locked. We learned this is because Natalia is bedridden. We phoned her and she pleaded for us to wait until someone came to unlock the door in 5-10 minutes as she was really looking forward to our visit. She would be about 35 years old and has multiple sclerosis. She stays in the house all day by herself but she has such a sweet spirit and joyful disposition. She really enjoyed seeing Malcolm again as he visits her just about every time he comes. Malcolm explained that he might not see her again as we do not know what a day brings and she got really teary. He took this opportunity to explain the Two Roads chart to her and the man that had unlocked the house. They both listened intently and it seemed from her reaction and radiance that she truly knows which road she is on. The man listened quietly and understood the chart. We hope it will continue to speak to him. We left copies there. They set out a bowl of apples and pears and we took one each. They were so insistent that we eat more and when we were leaving he tipped the whole bowl into my bag. He wasn’t going to take “No” for an answer!!

We also visited the largest orphanage in Ivano with about 120 kids. About 30 kids gathered in the library as Malcolm spoke to them using the world’s smallest Bible and Mike did his rope trick. The behaviour wasn’t great and it got a little chaotic at the end while we tried to give out either picture Bibles and New Testaments—depending on age—as well as texts and suckers. Some of the kids seemed to think we were stupid as they came up saying they didn’t get a sucker while their cheek was bulging with the one they had already started! We got through it though.

Although we are not doing too much physical activity, it seems we have no trouble falling asleep at night. I think part of it is being emotionally drained after being confronted with so many pitiful situations. We are only helping a few and it seems only a drop in the bucket when we consider how many people are living in the same conditions. It became real to me when Tanya, a nurse, told me what she makes in a month. I make more before my first coffee break of the day at work. Many of the breadwinners of the families make about the same with a family to support. There is so much poverty everywhere.

We are now over halfway through our trip and the days are flying by. I’m not sure if you’ll hear from me again before the end of our trip as my laptop privileges may be suspended after Mike sees the length of this post. After just hearing how much I’ve written, he said, “People won’t want to read something that long”. I know otherwise as you’ve reached the end of this epistle. Regardless, I wanted to report on a full and fulfilling day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ukraine 8 – Day 11 (October 9)

Our patient (Malcolm) stayed at home again today, as he had had another rough night. He was certainly much stronger this morning, though, so we expect him to be raring to go tomorrow.

Vadym took Helen and I visiting today. We visited four different homes. That doesn’t sound like much, but quantity is made up for by quality. We sit down in the home and stay as long as they want us to. I really enjoyed being able to listen to people without any thought of the clock. I think they did too.

The first visit was one of the highlights of the trip thus far (for me). We visited a mom (Luba), her 11 year-old daughter (Maria), and her handicapped son (Wasyl). Maria was such a sweet little girl; she captured a piece of our heart immediately. She sang us a song and read a portion out of her Kid’s Bible to us. Her favourite story is the one about Noah’s ark. We told her that Jesus is like the boat, and just like the people had to climb into the boat, so every one of us needs to come inside Jesus to be safe from the storm that is coming for sure. Luba recently became a Christian, and she is passing on her love for Christ to her kids.

We treasured our visit immensely. Vadym had told us the day before how he had managed to get a picture of himself with David and Victoria Beckham. Many people would die to meet those two, but after our visit I couldn’t help thinking that I would rather see Luba, Maria, and Wasyl again than meet the Beckhams or the Pitts any day.

I’ll just mention the last visit of the day. It was with a young father who is now an invalid, and as such will never be able to support his family again. He looked so sick. His wife is the sole breadwinner, but she only brings home $100 CAD a month. That has to cover food, heat, clothes, and family vacations. Of those four things, they’re doing well to get three of them. Guess which one goes out the window. They have so much against them. He faces the daily frustrations of his inadequacies. They are flying on their last engine; if she goes down, they all go down. And even if she never goes down, there’s the constant struggle for him to find a reason to want to stay up. It makes me sick to think of the times I’ve coveted a larger salary. It makes me sick to think of how I’ve coveted other people’s toys. In the West our greatest fear is insignificance; in the rest of the world people are just trying to survive.

You can appreciate how hard we struggled to find something to say to these people. “Chin up, things will get better some day” doesn’t translate very well into Ukrainian. It hardly sounds good in American. I said two things: (1) I don’t know your pain. I haven’t felt it that bad yet. (2) The biblical writers did know about pain, and they taught us to bank our hopes on the future kingdom of Jesus. King Jesus will rule his kingdom perfectly. There will be no Stalins. And he will rule better than even Yushenko. He will rule with perfect justice and righteousness. Like Aragon in Lord of the Rings, he who can slay with the sword like no other will also be uniquely skillful in bringing perfect healing to all of the wounded. It will be a kingdom of peace, justice, glory, and inexpressible joy. And thus the crucial thing for us in this life is to surrender now to the King who will reign victorious in a coming day, and come on to his side before it’s too late. I think David Gooding wrote something like this once: By dying Jesus dealt death itself the death-blow.

We hope the words were helpful. We think they were. We know the groceries and clothes were; the hugs say it all.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Listen to Lennox vs. Dawkins Debate

These days I'm not doing a lot of surfing online, but someone kindly emailed the following to me. I can't check it out myself with this 31k internet connection, but I trust my sources.

You can go listen to the entire unedited debate posted on the Dawkins' website at:http://richarddawkins.net/article,1707,Debate-between-Richard-Dawkins-andJohn-Lennox,Richard-Dawkins-John-Lennox

Letter (for) Malcolm

October 8, 10:00 PM: Malcolm is still under the weather. He has flu-like symptoms which have persisted throughout the day. He also has a sore back, which is not good when one has to lie down all day. Please pray with us for him that he will get better overnight and be stronger in the morning. We're hoping it is just a 24 hour thing.

Ukraine 7 – Days 8-10 (October 6 to 8)

A lot has changed since our last wave of posts. New city, new living quarters, new driver/interpreter, and new challenges.

October 6
Ruslan (previously I’ve been calling him Rooslan, but this is likely a better transliteration) picked up Malcolm and us on the 6th to take us to our new city of operations: Ivano Frankivsk. Along the way, we stopped to take a couple of pictures of a giant stork nest atop an old church, and of two storks standing in a field. Parents, take hope! We also took some pictures of trees with mistletoe formations. If only some of them had been on trees leaning over the highway. But alas, no excuses for kisses with Helen were provided! Oh well, Christmas is coming.

Ruslan dropped us off at our new living quarters. We’re staying in the second floor of a massive house owned by a man named Roman. Roman is a writer, and he has published at least a dozen books. I’d love to give you firmer figures than that, but he no speak English, and we no speak Ukrainian, so communication is difficult. At first I was a little uncomfortable staying in such a gigantic home. I’ve seen so many people living in such poor conditions, why should we westerners come here and live differently? I was beginning to miss Flo’s humble apartment in L’Viv.

After meeting Yaraslav and Halia, however, and getting a better feel for the situation here, I began to feel more at ease. Yaraslav and Halia are a wonderful Christian couple native to Ukraine. They are set apart full time for the Lord’s work. They had us over for supper the last two nights, and already we think the world of them. They live simply and with integrity. Yaraslav is a great sharer of the Message. Unfortunately, though, his health has been poor of late, and we would have been too much of a burden for them had we stayed in their apartment, so it’s better for everyone that we stay at Roman’s. Besides, Roman’s house might be expansive, but his charge is not expensive. Our expenses for the week here will be less than one night in a clean hotel.

We also have a new driver / interpreter. Vadym is his name. He’s a young man with a storied past. He’s very proud of his wife of close to two years, and his daughter of five months. It’s nice to see this young Christian brother forsaking his previous lifestyle and dedicating himself instead to his family. He spent a few years working in England, and Helen claims to have detected a faint British accent. I’ll have to try set him up to say “tomatoes” or “garage” to validate her claim!

October 7
On Sunday we were picked up at 10:30 by Oksana in a taxi. She’s an English teacher who has worked as an interpreter for the group in previous years. She took us down to the park area where we first walked for 3-4 km around a beautiful lake. Then we went into the nearby park. Very impressive brick/cobblestone walk through towering trees. We walked in the direction of the city centre, and by the time we got there, we must have walked another 2 km or so. We then went for lunch at Best Pizza.

Apparently, Oksana has been translating a booklet for a Christian named Louis. I talked to Oksana about the possibility of translating some books into Ukranian. I’d love to be able to pass out thousands of books by David Gooding, John Lennox, and John Piper in the schools and universities. I want to pursue this when I get back to Canada. God only knows what He might do with books of this calibre circulating amongst the upcoming generation in Ukraine.

We didn’t have any meetings on Sunday. The reasons are complicated, and they don’t need to surface here. We are expecting to hold meetings in Yaraslav’s apartment soon, i.e., this week. Helen and I missed joining with the Christians back in Austin as we normally would on a Sunday. There is something joyful about belonging to a community (assembly) of Christians. Who says church is boring? Going to church might be boring, but being a church is altogether different!

October 8
Monday came, but Malcolm didn’t. He had gone through a rough night, and he did not feel well the whole day, so we left him in bed. Please pray that he will recover soon.

We went to a warehouse today with Vadym and purchased supplies for ten families, whom we will visit over the next few days. After checking up on our patient (Malcolm), and dropping off some drugs for him, we had lunch at Yaraslav’s and Halia’s, and then began to visit homes. It was a little daunting for me, at least, to go visiting without Malcolm, but I knew that a greater-than-Malcolm was with us! We visited a mom with six kids. From what we could tell, they all sleep with mom and dad in one room; the other room is the kitchen. They were very grateful for our little help. We shared with them that the reason we had come from Canada to Ukraine was summed up in John 3:16 (which was written on some pens that we gave them):

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes
in him should not perish but have eternal life, (ESV).

With a message like that, could someone please remind me why I’m so hesitant to share it with others?

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ukraine 6: Change of Scenery

Tomorrow will be a change of scenery for us. We leave at 9:00 AM for a city a couple of hours away, Ivano Frankivsk. We plan to be there until the following Saturday. Of course, Flo and Helen (a sister from Ontario) will stay in L'Viv. We'll say more later....pray for us on the roads.

Ukraine 5: Absence of pictures

Blogging on our trip has been an adventure thus far. First obstacle is getting connected online. I won't bother going into the difficulties we've had overcoming this problem. Second obstacle is reading Ukraine. Yes, over my here our web browser displays everything in Ukrainian, so you don't know how many times I've clicked a link hoping it was "New Post" when really it was "Sign Out". And with blazing connections speeds of 31 k, you don't want to make that mistake too often.

Because of this, we haven't even tried to post pictures of the trip yet. So here's our first attempt. If it doesn't work, we'll post a bunch when we get home.

[Update: OK, so that didn't work. We'll try again another time.]

Definition of an Optimist

Hmm, that last post reminded me of one of my favourite jokes (I now risk revealing how corny my sense of humour is):

Question: What is the definition of an optimist?

Answer: An accordionist with a pager.

I heard it from one of the Fairfield boys when he was emceeing at a wedding. He had a corny sense of humour too!

Ukraine 4 – Day 7 (October 5)

Just got back to the apartment from another day out and about, and will soon be hitting the showers before the water goes off at 9:00. Yesterday, Flo and company were busy buying as many winter jackets and boots as $1000 can buy; today we got rid of every one of them at a large orphanage of 120 kids. It was something to see. At first, the process went along smoothly enough. The neediest kids were brought in to a room and, one by one, they were fitted with boots and jackets. This was the calm before the storm, however, because soon, despite the best efforts of the staff and us, the kids were surrounding the supplies Jericho-like—minus the silence—and commotion reigned. We took lots of pictures of the kids who came away victorious. Unfortunately, it was impossible to have jackets for every kid who needed one, and one young boy took this particularly hard, but Flo has vowed to return with a jacket for him.

After the dust settled and the kids dispersed, we had a few minutes to ourselves, and then the administrator brought all the kids back into the auditorium, where we had the opportunity to say a few words to them before they did a performance in honour of Teacher’s Day. I did the rope trick for them I’ve been practicing, which went well, thankfully. Once Malcolm had spoken and sat down, we then got to watch their performance, which was fun. Picture a woman playing an accordion with a pile of kids around her singing their little hearts out.

By the time the program was over we were getting really hungry, so we went to the home of one of the staff for ham, borscht, potatoes, and beef. Then it was back in the van for the two-hour drive back with Rooslan at the wheel. As always, this was an event in itself. I have ridden in vans through Mexico City and El Salvador, but I have never witnessed anything like driving through Ukraine before!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ukraine 3 – Days 4-6 (October 2 to 4)

Background information
We are staying in the apartment of Flo Kancir. Flo is a tremendously dedicated sister. Years ago, she lost her husband, and within two weeks, she heard and accepted for herself the good news about Jesus. She is now committed to spreading the same good news in Ukraine, where she spends six months of every year helping the poor, the sick, and anyone else who is in need. As a result, many have come to know and love the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour.

The apartment is in the city of L’Viv, a large city of ca. 1 million, situated on the western side of Ukraine. The apartment is filled with boxes, which are in turn filled with all kinds of humanitarian aid for others.

Update on the last few days

Meals Out
In the last few days, we have twice had the privilege of going to dinner in Ukrainian homes. What hospitality! The first dinner was October 2 at Flo’s nephew’s house. We were served a six course meal that included (1) bread, ham, cheese, vegetables; (2) soup; (3) cabbage rolls; (4) shish kebabs, potatoes; (5) fruit; (6) and cake. Each course was a meal in itself and we were warned to go easy. I was excited to learn that one of the boys there was learning AutoCAD, and he showed me some of his drawings. I’m still trying to learn that program!
Then on the 3rd we had dinner at Ola’s home. Ola is the mother of our skilled driver Rooslan (I’m sure he will get a post of his own before this trip is over!). Once again, we ate till we dropped, and in a way that would make my Grandpa Knox proud, we sought refuge in reclining on the couch. I had my first bowl of borscht, and am now looking forward to my second. Also tried some sauerkraut. It too was excellent. The language barrier was not able to prevent either meal from being filled with loud conversation and lots of laughing.

These meals are often self-sacrificing as the hosts themselves are struggling to make ends meet. This woman’s pension is 500 hrivnia (approx. $100 CDN) per month and about ½ to 2/3 of it goes toward rent. The rest is to pay for heat, food, clothes and any other needs they may have. In a way we feel bad eating such a lot of food that they have bought and prepared, but they have done so in love, and the thing they want most is for us to enjoy it and their homes.

Visits
Of course, ahem, eating, (cough), only occupies a tiny portion of our time here (sneeze)! I’ll quickly tell you about a couple of visits we’ve made. On the 2nd we visited a family in the small village of Listivchy. The mom left the dad with five children when the youngest child was only three months old (he’s now getting close to five). We brought groceries, toys, clothes, shoes, and Malcolm brought them the good news of Life in Christ, which, like the other gifts, is always free, but, unlike the other gifts, lasts forever.

We visited a family today (4th) consisting of two grandparents, a dad, and one three year-old boy named Dema. This was another case of the mom leaving the dad and child when the boy was very young (six months old). The grandparents were so receptive to us and to the message. Helen and I played with Dema. Over and over we blew up a balloon for him and he’d let it fly out of his fingers.

Great News
Last night we had another meeting in Flo’s apartment. Malcolm gave the main talk, speaking on heaven. I closed by sharing thoughts on the telltale evidence that someone is a student of Jesus: love for others (John 14:22). After most of the group had left, a young woman, Nadia (22 years-old), wanted to talk with Flo. A few minutes later, we were all thrilled to bits upon hearing that she had received Jesus as her Saviour! It was funny to see how surprised she was by our excitement as she received hugs from her new brothers and sisters. It was as if she was saying, “Why would you people from Canada be happy for me?” Kinda because this is the whole point of our coming here!

In other great news, Malcolm finally received all his luggage!

Prayer Requests
- for Nadia, that she will grow in her faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ; that she will share her story with others; that her husband Lupshik (sp?) will also be saved.
- for God to lead us each day. There are a number of things up in the air right now, but we’re hoping to go to Ivano on Sunday or Monday.
- for us, that we will have wisdom in distributing the money and supplies other Christians have entrusted to us.

Ukraine 2: Quick Shout out to friends and family

I may make a distinction between posting on what we’re doing and posting on how we’re doing. This is a quickie on how we’re doing.

We’re catching up on sleep. Last night we did not wake up at 4:30 AM, so I think our body clocks have adjusted to this time zone (which is eight hours ahead). The weather is beautiful here—low 20s (Centigrade), making for comfortable sleeps in the apartment, even though the city hasn’t turned the heat on yet. Running water is only available from 6:00 to 9:00 mornings and evening, but with some minor planning this is no big deal.

The biggest impression Ukraine has made on us so far is how well her people dress. The people here really take pride in their dress and looks. Clothes come first it seems, house and food come second, if that. By their dress, you’d think some of these people lived in beautiful homes. In fact, a couple of times Helen and I have felt under-dressed. Reality is completely otherwise for most of them, however, as they emerge in these clothes from run-down apartment areas that some of us wouldn’t be willing to drive through, never mind live in.

Then there are the really poor people, who cannot hide their poverty in their home or in the market. Such were the doctor and his family. With people like these, one could wear pajamas and not feel under-dressed. One can feel many other things, however. Like re-evaluating all the things I need to buy at home.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ukraine 1: Days 1-3 (September 29 to October 1)


Everyone: breathe easy. Mike and Helen’s voices are finally crackling in the air shortly after re-entry into the blogosphere.

We’ve reached Ukraine, and we’re settling down well here. Our flights out were largely uneventful (which is always a good thing), but long (ca. 27 hour duration, including wait times). Helen managed to catch a couple hours sleep somewhere over the Atlantic, but woke up to the sleep-deprived, bloodshot eyes of her husband.

The only drama we experienced in our travels was almost taking off without Malcolm. We had landed in Vienna (from Toronto) a good three hours before the final leg to L’Viv. Malcolm was to catch the same flight with us, but was coming from London England instead. We waited in the boarding area as long as possible (Brainwave: begin new acronym, ALAP), but still no sight of Malcolm. Reluctantly, we went though the gate, and boarded the bus, which whisked us off to the tarmac. We boarded the plane, where we resumed watching for Malcolm. We were sure all was OK when we saw another bus pull up, but of the handful of people that filed out, no Malcolm. Our hopes were dashed, and we grimaced over the prospect of facing Ukrainian customs on our own. Our prayers were answered, though, when out of nowhere a familiar face appeared in business class. Another bus had apparently come. We were relieved.

Malcolm’s catching the flight meant his luggage missing theirs. He still doesn’t have all his clothes back, but so far, thankfully, our noses know no different!

Won’t go into too much more detail in this post. That night we had a wonderful supper of cabbage rolls, potatoes, and pork, and a long overdue sleep.

Day two was Sunday. We took it easy, but had a meeting in Flo’s apartment at 7:00 PM. I spoke (through a 15-year-old translator) first, telling my testimony, emphasizing that “my story” is more Jesus’ story, because he’s the one who is the hero of it. Malcolm then spoke on 1 Timothy 4:12 on the things that should accompany Christian profession. It was a nice time with the twenty or so present. A young married couple came out. They were our age, and they understood and spoke some English. Always a treat.

Today, day three, was our first real day doing what we’re supposed to be doing out here. We (the group) bought two fridges and gave one to an orphanage and the other to a poor family. Believe it or not, the father (Misha) is a doctor who has traded in the medical practice for woodcarving because the former doesn’t put enough food on the table for his family of six kids and one wife (Tkash). Yes, salary scales are a little different here; he’d likely be better off working in McDonald’s. One of these days, I’ll introduce you to a wonderful young woman here who is a nurse. She puts in 24-hour shifts (no, that’s not a typo) and for her labours takes home $100 CAD a month.

Anyways, back to this family. Very sad story. House is a mess, and all of them are confined to sleeping in its two small rooms. One boy is handicapped (similar to Down’s Syndrome). One young boy (10 – 12 I’m guessing) particularly sticks out. Every time I glanced at him, I caught him watching me with adoring eyes. I just wanted to talk to him and tell him to live his life with Jesus as his hero. He gave me a woodcarving of a rabbit he had done. He’s learning the art from his dad. Misha gave us a beautiful clock he had carved. Later, the boy came out with a leaf plate Misha had carved as well. We are learning that it is hard to out-give the Ukrainians, no matter how little they have.

The orphanage was in Yassapowich (sp?), where we were overcome by the cuteness of the kids, and the sadness of their situation. Couple of times felt some lumps in the throat today; this was one of them. They already had a fridge, but it didn’t work. They didn’t dare throw the thing out, though, because it’s illegal for an orphanage to not have fridge somewhere on its premises. Of course, it doesn’t matter if it works—it just has to be there!

The kids were so cute, a welcome relief from their surroundings and circumstances. They were so excited to see us, and it wasn’t long before we had switched roles; their little fingers shooting pictures with our camera of us hugging their little friends. The workers get little salary; they obviously love the children. This place needs a lot of work. Windows that can’t be cleaned or they’d fall apart, no bathtubs or washing machines, and the toilets leave a lot to be desired. The government provides food, heat, staff salaries (small), and an inconsequential amount for R&M.

In the evening we had a delicious supper of perogies (veronica). It wasn’t hard to be thankful.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Zero More Sleeps!

This post's title refers to the fact that today we leave to Ukraine, but it could also refer to how little sleep we got last night! Hopefully we can catch some Zs on one of the three flights to Ukraine.

Thanks so much to everyone who has wished us well. We'll talk to you soon.

On Our Blog Title

I like Dave Black's comment from September 26:

“Truth without love is legalism; love without truth is libertarianism.” This has been my hope and prayer for me and my students – that we might speak the truth with a tear in our eyes, with a lump in our throat, but without a hole in our heads.


After reading it I thought a word about our blog title is in order. We seek the truth, and when we find it, we discover that it is a truth that loves. There are two traps the religious fall into. One is not liking or pursuing truth. Perhaps one refuses to think through what one believes and challenge it. The other trap, though, is to go crazy about truth and be proud about it. Real Christianity cuts a middle (narrow) path between these two ditches. It loves truth, and it loves to be questioned, researched, probed, debated, pursued. And the truth that it holds to is a truth that loves. It is a truth that moves us to help people, put others first and sacrifice for others in this world of six billion Me-Firsts (me too). I am too much aware of my shortcomings and selfishness in this regard, but incidentally, it is the truth of Jesus that motivates us to Ukraine.

KFC

We had our first KFC (Kids For Christ) of the year this past Monday night. I don't know if the kids had fun, but I sure did! We had a nice group of kids come in for stories, games, singing, treats, and a Bible lesson. I tried to show them how that Jesus is the Master Builder, his handiwork in Joseph's carpenter shop being merely an echo of what he built at the beginning of time, and what he will build in the future (and what he's building right now, John 14:2).

Speaking of building, Helen and I built this castle--if you can call it that--for this year's KFC. As you can see, my Dad's skill in building didn't transfer to me, but the kids loved it. Thanks to everyone who saved milk cartons for "bricks"! Unfortunately, the picture doesn't bring out all three dimensions of this impressive, redefining-Austin's-skyline structure!


We'll be praying for the rest of the KFC team as they look after two sessions while we're gone.

John Lennox vs. Richard Dawkins

Great news! Jabe Nicholson passes this on:

Would you make the upcoming event a matter for serious prayer? On October 3,there will be a debate on the existence of God at the Alys Stephens Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Richard Dawkins, called by the BBC "Darwin's Rottweiler" and author of The New York Times bestseller The God Delusion will face Christian apologist John Lennox. This will also be one of the few debates in which Dawkins has participated. The event is sold out.

The debate will take place as Dr. Lennox releases his new book God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? published by Kregel. "A brilliantly argued reevaluation of the relation of science and religion, casting welcome new light on today's major debates," says author Alister McGrath of Lennox's book. "A must-read for all reflecting on the greatest questions of life." As another reviewer wrote: "Lennox employs impeccable logic, irrefutable documentation, and extraordinary Christian grace as he invites readers to reexamine claims that belief in God is incompatible with modern science."

The God Delusion Debate is sponsored by Fixed Point Foundation, a Christian think tank. Richard Dawkins is a fellow of the Royal Society and Charles Simonyi chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and is an eloquent spokesman for what has been dubbed "the new atheism." John Lennox has doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Wales. He is reader in mathematics in the University of Oxford, and fellow in mathematics and the philosophy of science at Green College.

The debate will also be broadcast via the Moody Broadcasting Network and its affiliates, but is being made available to any stations who are interested in carrying the broadcast. Please pray for a full measure of wisdom, grace and courage for brother Lennox, and that the format will be fair to both participants. Pray that the light of truth will shine into many hearts as a result.


This is sure to be a great debate. Dawkins, well, everybody knows him. Lennox is not so widely known amongst the general public, but mathematicians certainly know about him! He's that kind of genius whose eyes betray his brilliance, but whose graciousness and humility conceal it. John Lennox has teamed up with another hero of mine, David Gooding, to write some excellent apologetic books. It is great to see that serious Christian scholarship has not entirely disappeared from brethren assemblies.

Here's the new book by Lennox, and here's the older one he co-wrote with Gooding.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back Home, Safe and Sound

Helen and I just got back from 4 days spent in Calgary. I was there for an airport conference for work. We had lots of fun and rest—just what we need before another busy stretch. Anyways, that's all for tonight. I hope to post more tomorrow.

Goodnight.

Monday, September 10, 2007

First the UK, now the Ukraine

A year ago tonight, Helen and I were staying with some great friends in London, debating taking the underground the next day on the anniversary of 9/11. [We ended up taking it, and was it ever worth it!] Tonight, like most nights these days, we're getting ready to go to Ukraine!

The Lord gave us the desire to go to Ukraine way back in the early spring. Now we're just 2.5 weeks from the departure gate, and getting more and more excited as we go.

Last night we had Malcolm and Jean Stanley over to discuss our trip. Malcolm has gone several times before so he knows all about it. It's a good thing too, because Helen and I certainly wouldn't know what to expect, and the two of us, along with Malcolm, bring the membership number of this missionary team up to a grand total of three! The highlight of our evening for me was turning to God together in prayer and committing every detail of the journey to Him. Christian fellowship brings so much joy.

Why are we going there? For the glory of God and the joy of people. What will we do there? Visit orphanages, villages, and possibly a jail or two; meet physical needs, speak at schools, and minister to Christians. Speaking of the Christians, don't think that we plan to show them all how it's done. I do hope that by the strength of the Holy Spirit we will be able to help them in some way, but I know I'll learn a lot from them too. Even the apostle Paul felt this way about visiting Christians he hadn't visited before. He writes to the Christians at Rome:
"11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine" (Romans 1:11-12, ESV, my emphasis).

If you have some extra room on your prayer list, mention us to the One who alone can accomplish eternal work through us.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Fly is a Fly is a Fly

All of the evidence points to one conclusion: no matter what we do to a fruit fly embryo, there are only three possible outcomes—a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly, or a dead fruit fly. Not even a horsefly, much less a horse.

Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, p.36.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reverential and Relevant Textual Criticism

Dave Black shows that textual criticism can be relevant to the Christian life, and it can be done reverentially. By the way, my current position on the different text families is similar to his, just not as well-informed. Incidentally, Dave, it was just today that I ordered these two books of yours.

Quick note at the end of a good day. I just got back from campus where I taught on that most “popular” of subjects, New Testament textual criticism. I even showed an ancient papyrus I acquired in Egypt. (Okay, so I bought it there in 1986.) How do you explain the importance of an obscure, pedantic-like subject to 120 young people (and some not-so-young people) that have never studied it and will probably never study it again in their entire lives? I don’t really know. For better or for worse my approach was to take a couple of examples that impact real life – what we believe and how we live. John 3:13 either says that Jesus was claiming to be in heaven while talking to Nicodemus or He wasn’t making that audacious assertion. That’s Christology, and that’s important. Matt. 5:22 either says that Jesus nixed all anger or only ungodly anger. That’s Practical Theology. We even got into the “King James Version Debate,” though I doubt there’s anyone in my classes who would die defending the 1611 edition. One of my most cherished possessions is an autographed book by my former professor and colleague Harry Sturz. It’s called The Byzantine Text Type and New Testament Textual Criticism, and it argues that the Byzantine/Majority text is not that evil, corrupt thing that most modern critical scholars make it out to be. No, I don’t slavish follow the MT (Majority Text), but I still think it has its place in textual criticism. In the end, I gave my opinion: the evidence points to Jesus saying to Nicodemus that He was actually on earth and in heaven at the same time, and that He condemned only unrighteous anger (“if anyone gets angry with his brother without a good reason he’s going to be judged”). I could go on and on. But the text that we teach or preach is important. It’s just that we’re not always sure whether the original text is reflected in the NKJV or the NASB tradition. And that’s why textual criticism is more than ancient history.

Want to Start a Barroom Fight?

In a 1999 article arguing that the rarity of transitional fossils does not count as evidence against Darwinism, Padian and Angielczyk wrote: "Want to start a barroom fight? Ask another patron if he can produce proof of his unbroken patrilineal ancestry for the last four hundred years. Failing your challenge, the legitimacy of his birth is to be brought into question. At this insinuation, tables are overturned, convivial beverages spilled, and bottles fly. Not fair, claims the gentle reader. This goes beyond illogic to impoliteness, because you are not only placing on the other patron an unreasonable burden of proof, you are questioning his integrity if he fails. But isn't that what creationists do when they claim that our picture of evolution in the fossil record must be fraudulent because we have so many gaps between forms?"

Yet Padian and Angielczyk have it exactly backwards.

Imagine this: A Berkeley professor walks into a bar and goes up to a guy who's peacefully sipping a beer. The professor looks down at the guy and declares with an air of authority: "You are the lineal descendant of a worm." The guy stands up, tempted to deck this bozo right then and there, but he's in a good mood and decides to play along. "Look," the guy says, "I've read about this Darwin stuff in the papers, but what makes you think you can tell me who I'm descended from? I don't even know anything about my great-great-grandparents, except that they were Irish. And here you are, claiming to know that one of their ancestors was a worm? Are you just trying to start a fight?"

"Look," says the professor, quoting comedian Lewis Black as his authority, "I'm right, and I don't have to argue this point any more. Fossils. Fossils. FOSSILS! I win."

Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, pp. 23-4

Bedtime Stories

I just started an interesting book entitled The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. As you can tell from the title, this book is a lot of fun. The front cover settles all doubts.
















Because I'm the quiet and sharing type:

According to Gee, we call new fossil discoveries missing links "as if the chain of ancestry and descent were a real object for our contemplation, and not what it really is: a completely human invention created after the fact, shaped to accord with human prejudices." He concluded: "To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story—amusing, perhaps even instructive, but not scientific."
Jonathan Wells, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, pp. 22.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Selections from Robert Chapman

Am I ever glad I checked the Morning Meditations blog today. Steve has recently posted twice on Robert Chapman, collecting some his thoughts on Scripture and on the Church. If you missed it, read my book review of one of the biographies on Chapman.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Anabaptist Essays

Dave Black has written some excellent essays on the Anabaptists. Essay #5 is one of my favourites.

Birth of a Hummingbird

Check it out! Thanks to a friend for passing on this link.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

"God is For Us in Christ Jesus" (Part 2)

"God is for us". This is too dangerous a statement to just throw out there with no nuancing. It could too easily set ourselves over God, as if, by successful campaigning, we have won God over to our side and now He supports our party platform. We know that this is not what the statement means by reading the context. For instance, verse 28 says

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Notice, it's His purpose—God's. God being for us does not mean that He changed. It means that He changed us.

There is one thing God has always been for: Himself, which is to say His glory. There was one thing we were always against: God and His glory (Romans 3:23, 5:6-10). So if we were against God's glory, and God was for His glory, something had to change in order for God to be for us. God cannot be for His glory and at the same time be for those who challenge that glory. So what changed so that God can be for us?

Did God change? Did He become enamoured with our beauty (glory) and switched His support to our glory in place of His inferior glory? Certainly not! God did not take sides with us against Himself. He did not join us in our cause of hating and suppressing Him. God's being for us is not and will never be at the expense of being for Himself. Rather, God is for us by bringing us over to His side. He is for us by saving us for Himself. He is for us insofar as we are for Him. God works everything for good to those who love God (not hate Him). God is "for those who are called according to His purpose" (not our purpose). God did not change whose glory He was for. He changed us!

This is further made clear in verse 29:

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

God is the one who is doing the predestinating. He's calling the shots. We are the ones being conformed, being changed. Thus, when we comfort our souls by saying "God is for us" we do not picture a God who saw our cause and heard our persuasive arguments and was won by our beauty and thus decided to come to our side. Instead, we see God being God unflinchingly and unchangingly as He spreads, supports, and sticks to his glory, carrying out His purposes. We are the ones who changed. We were the ones won by the Other's purposes, glory, and beauty. God has been for his glory longer than anyone can remember, and the only reason a group of sinners can say "God is for us" is because that group is also for His glory. They are conformed to that glory, for they are now conformed to the image of His Son. God has changed us from being rebels against His glory to being partakers of His glory. His glory has become our destiny. "God is for us" is merely shorthand for "God is for those who join Him in His passion for His glory." "God is for us" means that God is for Himself. It means He has changed us to be supporters of the same thing He has been supporting eternally.

In the context of counselling, is it worth taking the pains to nuance this hope-offering phrase, "God is for us", as we have done? Surely the troubled soul could use the self-esteem boost from someone as important as God being "for her." This post is already too long, so I'll give the short answer. In my (little) experience of emotional pain, in the hour of darkest darkness, I don't want to hear anything about myself. And I don't want anything to depend on me. After all, I'm usually the cause of all my own pain. For the troubled Christian soul, the truth that "God is for us" is made sweeter by all this nuancing. If God's being for us means that He was won by our beauty to pursue us, then there's always the nagging question, "What if my attractiveness runs out?" If God's being for us is dependant on His changing us to be for His beauty then God has never changed. And if God has never changed—and yet is still for us—then we can be sure, that God will always be for us. For now, were He to turn against us, He would be turning against Himself.

Brothers and sisters, no matter how ugly we sometimes get, no matter how insignificant, inferior, or insecure we feel, we will always be able to say "God is for us." After all, it is not the beauty of our holiness that this things resting on. It's God's.

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More to follow.

God is For Us in Christ Jesus (Part 1)

The brother who was supposed to speak last Wednesday night couldn't make it, so yours truly attempted to share some thoughts. Now I share them with you:

Romans 8:31
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

[I began by making some comments similar to ones I expressed in my post Teach Us to Teach.]

Allowing, then, that biblical teaching will train us in not only what to believe, but also in how to live it out, I want to share with you how I have recently dealt with stress, distress, and restlessness in my life. My hope is that some will be able to imitate what has worked for me.

The other night, for the second or third night in a row, I was having difficulty getting to sleep due to poor health. For hours, it seemed, my mind was very confused, dark, and distorted. I may have been half-asleep, but if I was it was a kind of sleep more tiring than resting. Finally I recited slowly and meditatively the first 12 verses of Romans 1. I began praying with real deliberation to God, refusing to be distracted. Finally, God gave my mind peace. In the ensuing peaceful moments the words came into my head, "God is for us in Christ Jesus." I thought of how sometimes a Christian goes through such emotional turmoil that she needs to be led step by step. How helpful it would be for some Christians in some trying times of their lives to be told by one who has been there before, "Say these words out loud. Say 'God is for us in Christ Jesus.'"

I might not be there for you the next time your life is upside down, but I want to train you to say something, next time it is, that has helped me. Next time you feel such a heavy burden on your heart that you can hardly bear to face people, say "God is for us in Christ Jesus" and rest your very soul upon it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Baptism in Pine Creek

I forgot to post on this earlier, but August 5th was a special day for us because two young sisters of ours were baptized! The baptism took place in the creek where it crosses Highway 34. Want to know what else made it special? One of the "sisters" was my sister—by birth. And, Paul Thiessen, who normally serves the Lord in Mexico, was with us to give a message on baptism to all of us on either bank.

I definitely think indoor baptistries should be reserved for January!


See You in a Year

Yesterday a shipment came in from the States. Eight new Piper books plus many that I'm passing on to others. The best part of all was that each book cost $5 or less! Needless to say, I'm more and more impressed with the people at Desiring God.

Teach Us to Teach

The interplay between Christians and their emotions, and between Christianity and human psychology, has been floating through my mind constantly for likely a year now. Almost every time I read the Scriptures, or a related article, these matters surface in my thoughts at some point. I suppose this is largely due to the climate of our day. The stuff of psychology is everywhere: school, work, media, even the Christian bookstore. But it's also due to my exposure to several conversations and debates about this interplay.

One of the results of my mind being engaged on these matters is that I have been reevaluating our teaching when the church meets together. The relevance of teaching to this discussion is that, often, those who are getting help from professional counsellors find teaching irrelevant. And those who are all against Christians going "outside" for help hold up teaching as the only thing (almost) that is relevant.

So teaching in the church is something I want to make a New Testament study of in the near future. In the meantime, my hypothesis is that the concept of teaching in the NT is decidedly different from that held by many of us Christians. In my circles at least, teaching is considered to be the impartation of truth (doctrine) that forms up what Christians believe. That's it. Nothing more. Thus we will invite each other to come and hear a gifted teacher speak on some subject like the Church, Spiritual Gifts, or Justification by Faith. I'm starting to wonder if, in addition to this aspect of teaching, the NT further views teaching as including training. Training takes us beyond the question of what we believe to the questions of how we live.

In other words, what I'm suggesting is that the biblical concept of teaching embraces not only belief-modification, but also behaviour-modification. When Matthew tells us in Matthew 7:38 that "the crowds were astonished at his teaching", does he mean to suggest that Jesus' words, "Do not be anxious about your life" (7:25) constitute teaching? I think he does. We wouldn't call it teaching, but the Holy Spirit does. We would call it exhortation, encouragement, or practical ministry. Matthew calls it teaching.

In Luke 11:1 the disciples ask Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." To which Jesus launches into a lengthy sermon on the difference in the Greek words of prayer, intercession, and supplication? No! Jesus, the great Teacher from a place farther away than Ireland, shows them how to pray by praying right in front of them, saying, "When you pray, say..."

None of this is meant to minimize the importance of what we typically call teaching. The impartation of doctrinal information is vital. But so is the impartation of how-to information. Thus a message on how a Christian husband can love his wife as Christ loved the Church belongs just as much under the rubric of teaching as does the sermon on marriage being a picture of Christ and His Church.

Incidentally, the secular world has much less difficulty with this concept of teaching. For instance, a basic Driver's Education course includes classroom instruction on the rules of the road and the functioning of a car, but it also includes instruction in how to drive the thing. This is how you parallel park. This is how you change a tire. In secular teaching, the rubber meets the road. Why should it not in the teaching of the local church?

How does all this apply to professional counselling, psychology, and emotional life? Well, if our teaching was more holistic in this regard, counsellees would likely find it to be much more relevant, and believers in the sufficiency of Scripture might actually see some day-to-day evidence for the Bible's sufficiency.