Dr. Harold McNabb

  • Hi,  I am glad you all came for this Sunday's Kids Camp re-union Sunday. It's a special day too.
    Today is the first day of what we call "Advent". Advent is when we begin the celebrations that lead up to Christmas, and every Sunday, we remember something about Jesus and what it meant for Him to be born into the world.

    A few weeks ago at Thanksgiving, there was a wind storm and  the power went out at my house. The turkey was almost cooked, but not quite. The potatoes and other vegetables were not quite ready either. People were asked to bring the food cooked, but they hadn't been prepared and decided to do the cooking at my house. And the pumpkin pie needed . . .

  • "The Lord of the Redeemed"
    Hosea 11:1-11

    In one of the BC comic strips, there are two ants; a big ant and a little ant.

    Little ant: "Dad, what mysterious force keeps me from being flung off into outer space?"
    Big ant:    "My forgiving nature."1
    We return this morning to the prophet Hosea. God has told Hosea to marry a woman named Gomer who will be unfaithful to him. As the children are born they are named, "The Lord sows", "Not Pitied" and "Not My People". God is telling Hoseas neighbors that they are unfaithful to God and have caused God the pain that they themselves would feel. I wonder if they would ever have considered that God could feel pain at their lack of concern for their Lord.
    Do we?
  • I think I have told you the story of my conversation with my grandmother about her decision to move to Alberta at the turn of the last century to homestead. I say her decision because she was not married to my grandfather when she left home.

    They were both born and raised on Prince Edward Island and met there. She was a girl of nineteen and he a man of thirty. Both were single. He took a liking to her and said he was headed west to pioneer and asked her to join him and be his bride on the frontier. What happened was he went first then she followed by rail, virtually crossing the continent to meet the man she would wed. Theirs was a stormy relationship and one of many hardships and perils. She once had what would be called a near death experience and used to tell us how she saw the gates of heaven. She was a very plain spoken woman and there was . . .
  • Writer and preacher, Stuart Briscoe tells of a time he was in Scotland:

    I was in Edinburgh about a year ago speaking at Charlotte Chapel, and a delightful young lady gave her testimony. She had come back from Kabul, Afghanistan, where she was a missionary nurse. She said how she was really enjoying the work she was doing there, and then she'd met a young man and fallen in love. He'd asked her to marry him, but she had said, "I made a commitment to my church back home to serve on the mission field. If I were to marry you, that might change everything. So before I can give you an answer, I need to talk with the leaders of the church." And so that was why she was home. She'd flown home all the way from Afghanistan to talk to the leaders of the church.

    As I was looking at the congregation, I noticed a fellow sitting in the front row who had the weirdest look on his face. So when she was through and sat down next to me, I said, "Who is that fellow? Do you know him?" She said, "That's the young man." I said, "I thought he was in Kabul." She said, "He was. He heard I was flying back to Scotland to talk to the leaders of the church, so he said he wanted to talk to them as well. So he jumped on the next plane."

    You can always tell lovers: they don't give up. They "come after," as a lover comes after the beloved. And that's the picture that Jesus gives: "If you're going to come after me, it's because you love me because I . . .

  • Luke 3:7-16

    Just after 4:00 am, April 29, 1903, a mountain fell upon an unsuspecting town in the Alberta Rockies.1 The town of Frank Alberta was buried under about 100 million tons of limestone that day. There were a few survivors and around seventy dead. Growing up not far from Frank, I have often driven the highway through the middle of the slide. Decades later in the 1960's it still looked like a moonscape. A piece 2100 feet by 3,000 feet by 500 feet thick had broken off Turtle mountain and tumbled into the valley below. The town was there because Turtle Mountain had rich seams of coal and was being actively mined at the time of the slide. The Blackfeet nation did not like to . . .

  • When I was doing the background reading on 1 Peter, I was reminded of the terrible sufferings which the early church endured.
    The exact dating of Peter's letters is not clear. It could have been during the time of Nero, or a later time. But it is clear that it was during a time of persecution and suffering.

    You remember the Emperor Nero. The legend is he fiddled while Rome burned.
    Rome had large slum areas that Nero wanted to rebuild. The rumors were that Nero had ordered the burning of Rome, but the new Christian sect was a convenient target for Nero who charged they were responsible.

    People misunderstood the Lord's supper and assumed they consumed real flesh and blood and imagined all sorts of debaucheries connected with it. So they were receptive to believe this horrible little group might set their city on fire.
    Christians had legal protection as long as they were assumed to be a Jewish sect, but as the separation with Judaism became clearer, they lost . . .

  • We live with tension in our lives between conflicting beliefs and obligations. Most are resolved easily with common sense.
    The right of free speech does not mean the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre when there is no fire.
    Some can only be resolved by making a conscious choice to ignore competing claims.

    In the second world war, Christians in Holland hid Jews from the Nazis. They chose to disobey one authority and even tell lies about it for what the believed to be the higher authority.

    In Romans, Paul tells us that magistrates are appointed by God for the common good. We understand this generally to be true.
    But there are times when we choose to disobey a law if it is unjust.
    Civil disobedience is a time-honored tactic for advancing a more righteous cause. Sometimes the gesture can be made peacefully with little consequence. But on other occasions, the consequences can be . . .
  • Another of the common jokes of our time begins with a person receiving the news from his doctor that he has only days to live. Here is one version:

    A man went in for his annual checkup and received a phone call from his physician a couple of days later.
    The doctor said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you."
    "What's the news?" the man asked.
    "Well, you have only 48 hours to live."
    "That is bad news!" said the shocked patient.
    "I'm afraid I have even worse news," the doctor continued.
    "What could be worse than what you've already told me?" the patient stammered.
    "I've been trying to call you since yesterday."

    God tells Isaiah, "Cry out!"
    "What shall I cry?" asks Isaiah.
    "All flesh are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field."

    God says to Isaiah, "Go up on a mountain and call out to the people, ?Here is your God, coming with power."
    In the early part of the book, that announcement would have been an announcement to bring terror, but not this time.
    God says, "He comes like a shepherd who gently leads his flock and holds them close to his heart."
    Isaiah forty begins with the words, "Comfort, . . .

  • I did not win the Denomination Derby last year. Oh, I was out there competing. Well, not exactly competing....driving as fast as I could. I had won it the year previous and figured my car was running well and didn't need any messing with. Well that's not exactly the case either. Rob and I did mess with the suspension. "Mess" is the operative word too. Here is a tip...don't mess around with what you really don't understand.

    But that wasn't even the main problem, though doing circles on the backstretch instead of straight ahead doesn't help. What the main problem was I think, is that my fuel line or the fuel filters leading to the fuel injectors got dirty and restricted the fuel flow.  The result was that it would start and run fine at low speeds, so I had no indication there was anything wrong. But on race night, when I mashed the accelerator to the mat the engine revved then almost died as it starved for fuel. It surged then almost died all the way around the track. Every time I tried to pass it would give a moment of acceleration then just quit. It's really hard to race under those conditions. Valerie had a car that ran that way all the time and we finally sold it.

    When you need power to pass, an anemic response just won't do.

  • In the spring of 2003 a young man named Aaron Ralston was hiking alone in the canyons of Utah when an 800 pound boulder shifted and pinned his arm to the canyon wall. He struggled for five days to free his arm, but was unable. He had left no itinerary for anyone to come searching in case he went missing. Knowing this was a life or death decision, he first broke the bones of his forearm then proceeded to amputate his arm below the elbow with a dull pocket knife.1

    When we find ourselves pinned between a rock and a hard place, the choices may not be as dramatic, but sometimes the solution can be life changing. Sometimes the changes can even be liberating.

    Jacob and his family are headed home to Caanan and an encounter with Esau.
    The reason they are headed home is because Jacob's relationship with his father in law, Laban had taken a turn for the worse.
    Through a bit of very curious trickery, Jacob had ended up with the majority of . . .
  • By adulthood most of us have experience with grieving the loss of someone we love.

    David has just learned that his best friend, Jonathan and King Saul, Jonathan's father have been killed in battle.

    What we read is David's response to his grief?his lament.

    There are some very interesting features to his lament.

    The first is that it is totally a masculine response. When he speaks of Jonathan and Saul, he speaks about them by what they do, not their connections with each other or his to them, except at the very end of the lament.

    Both die as soldiers on the battle-field and David's imagery is the imagery of fallen warriors. He even expresses his sorrow picturing their scattered weapons and armor lying unattended . . .
  • melissaOn December 1, 1997, Missy Jenkins was one of seven students gunned down at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky, following a school prayer meeting. A bullet damaged her spinal cord, leaving Missy dependent upon braces and a walker in order to move around.

    At the time of the shooting, Jenkins was 15-years-old and described herself as "without direction." During her convalescence, she not only found the will to stay alive, but the determination to go forward in a positive direction with her life.
    "I realized I did not die that morning. I'm all here. I'm alive," said Missy in a recent interview.

    On December 18, 2004, carried by that resolve, Missy received a bachelor's degree in . . .

  • If anyone had a right to ask, "why me, God?", it was Hagar. Sure she had been a willing participant, but none of this had been her idea, and she really couldn't have refused her mistress Sarah. Now look where it got her! They needed her and she agreed. She let them have her most precious possession, her body. She had given them a son they could not have on their own and was pleased to be able to. For Abraham and Sarah to die with no heir would be tragic.

    It's not as if she had been trying to steal Abraham from Sarah. She had total respect for Abraham and for Sarah for that matter, though she wondered why God had made her mistress barren. Not for her to wonder, though many times she thought, why does Sarah have such a good husband and I have none, but God must have a reason and she accepted her position as Sarah's maid. And it was a good position in the home of a wealthy and kind man. She could do much worse.

    She loaded herself with as much water and food as she could carry for herself and Ishmael and headed out into the wilderness. She was frightened. Who would they meet? They would almost certainly . . .
  • And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
    When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.
    ?Get up,? he said, 'take the child and his mother and escape toEgypt.
    Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.?
     So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left forEgypt,  Matthew  2:12-14

    Just this past week in the news was the report of a man named "Chemical Ali". Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam's cousin, was one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen and got the name from his fondness at using chemical weapons, especially against the Kurds of northern Iraq. During Saddam's time thousands were gassed by this man. He threatened to bury the Kurds by bulldozers loads1
    Saddam himself was totally ruthless and used  assassination and mass murder to keep his iron grip over his country.

  • You are scanning a London newspaper near the turn of the last century looking through the help wantedads. Your eyes fall on an unusual ad. It reads:shackleton crew


    The famous ad placed by Ernest Shackleton got around 5,000 replies. He chose only 27 men for the voyage. The diaries of the men who went to the interview tell of their fear, not of the voyage to the south pole, but that they might not be chosen. One crew member who was turned down made the journey as a stow-away bringing the number to 28.1.
  • A church planter named Len Sullivan writes about one of his experiences in prayer:

    In the mid 1980s, my family moved to northern Saskatchewan to start a church. As a church planter, part of my support was funded by the local mission. Most months were difficult financially.

    One week in April, when the ground is still frozen and snow-covered, we were down to only a few dollars in the bank. Our usual reaction to that need was to look for our own solution. This time, however, in a stroke of faith, I went before God and told him that we needed eggs, bread, and milk. I would wait upon him.

  • At our session this past week I opened the meeting by reading the same passage from Amos that was read for us this morning. At the conclusion of my reading, one of your elders said in humor, "I am really looking forward to when you stop reading Amos at us."

    I am glad that someone was listening and understood the gravity of what Amos is saying. And I don't think it was any picnic for Amos either. He was away from home, away from his livelihood, and preaching an unpopular message to an unfriendly crowd.
    But he said what he needed to say, and it has been preserved for us right down to the twenty first century, and that is an incredible fact on its own.

  • Isaiah 2:1-5
    They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.
    Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
    Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.

    I came across this quote from Time magazine. It's dated 2002 and is entitled "Today is a Great Day to buy a Used AK-47"

    It seems some people in Afghanistan are preparing for peacetime, as weapons are going for bargain prices these days. According to Time magazine, prices on knives, Kalashnikov rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades have dropped 50 percent since December.

  • I enjoy "top ten" lists. Whether its "ten deadliest things that bite" or "ten best places to order chili", I just think they are fun and am a sucker for them. I am sure there have been attempts at "modern inventions" top ten list. What inventions have contributed most to making the modern world possible. Sure, I know we are in a post-modern world, but I don't see anyone scrapping anesthetics or the remote control for the T.V. so lets call it the modern world for today.
  • The dishes, garbage, and dirty laundry would pile up for days when Cat and Harlan Barnard's teenage children refused to do their chores. So the Barnards—of Enterprise, Florida—went on strike, moving out of their house and into a domed tent set up in their front driveway. The parents refused to cook, clean, or drive for their children—Benjamin, 17, and Kit, 12—until they shaped up."We've tried reverse psychology, upside down psychology, spiral psychology, and nothing has motivated them for any length of time," said Cat Barnard, 45, as she sat in a lawn chair at an umbrella-covered table. The strike took Benjamin and Kit by surprise. They came home from school Monday to find their mother outside with handwritten signs that read "Parents on Strike" and "Seeking Cooperation and Respect!"
    Cat Barnard, a stay-at-home mom, and her 56-year-old husband, a government social services worker, decided their children needed to learn about empathy and responsibility. The Barnards slept on air mattresses in the tent and barbecued while their children fended for themselves with frozen TV dinners. The parents only went inside to shower and use the bathroom.

    Passers-by from this bedroom community between Orlando and Daytona Beach shouted out words of encouragement. One woman driving past the Barnards' house rolled down her car window Wednesday and shouted, "Good for you! You should put the kids outside!"
    Cat Barnard said she and her husband would . . .

  • Have you ever been on the Universal Studios tour? If you have, then you have seen the secret of how Cecil B. DeMille parted the Red Sea. Have you ever wondered how God did it?
    These past couple of weeks watching the effects of hurricane Katrina, you get a bit of an idea of what a strong wind can do with a body of water. Did you know that in hurricanes, most of the fatalities are from drowning? I guess the Egyptian army found that out long before there was Doppler radar.

    Up to now, Pharaoh had been in charge.
    Moses had been sent to Pharaoh to persuade him to let the Hebrews go. It was up to Pharaoh to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the idea.
    God told Moses that he would not have to do all the persuading just on his own. God gave him a stick of wood and told him to use that as well.
    Sure, face down Pharaoh with a wooden staff. Oh yes, and he had his brother Aaron too.
    This was Pharaoh's realm as far as the eye could see and well beyond it.
    Pharaoh was the law and . . .
  • The rock group, Pink Floyd, have a song entitled, "Brick in the wall".
    The lyrics are simple. There is only one stanza that repeats itself. It goes like this:

    We don't need no education.
    We don't need no thought control.
    No dark sarcasm in the classroom.
    Teachers, leave those kids alone.
    Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!
    All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
    All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

    There is a famous story about a king visiting the king of Sparta:

    The King of Sparta was hosting a visiting king and boasted about the formidable walls of the city of Sparta. The visiting king looked around and could see no walls. He said to the Spartan king, "where are these walls of which you boast so much?" The Spartan king pointed . . .
  • For those of you I haven't told, my grandson says he saw an angel in our worship one Sunday.
    Micah is almost 3 and his parents have raised him to know that Jesus loves him, and I guess he also knows about angels too. Apparently he does because he told his mom that he saw an angel in our worship.
    Some might say, "how imaginative."
    A more cynical person might say, "clever boy...he knows how to get on his mom's good side." His mom of course is my daughter.
    My response is like the baseball fan after a good call from the home plate umpire..."good eyes there, ump!"
    Except in my case it's "way to go, Micah!  I've always thought as much."
    I do believe that angels worship unseen alongside us.
  • I know that Lent is supposed to be the season of repentance and applying more discipline to our lifestyle, but New Years brings its spate of resolutions. Here are some that a friend of mine in Illinois sent by email:
    ~ Gain weight. At least 30 pounds.
    ~ Watch more TV. I've been missing some good stuff.
    ~ Procrastinate more.... Starting tomorrow.
    ~ Get in a whole NEW rut!
    ~ Buy an ?83 Eldorado and invest in a really loud stereo system. Get the
    windows tinted. Buy some fur for the dash.
    ~ Create more loose ends.
    ~ Focus on the faults of others.
    ~ Whine about your own faults.
    ~ Never make New Year's resolutions again.

    There is something about turning a page on the calendar, or entering a new year that reminds us that time is passing but also reminds us that here is the opportunity for a whole new beginning.
    Those resolutions about diet and getting into shape also have a sense of a newly disciplined lifestyle, which is never a bad idea, but often needs to be connected with some other motivation to make it stick.

    John the Baptist is the poster boy for the self disciplined life-style. In fact . . .
  • The last words we hear Jesus speak from the cross are "It is finished. Into your hands I commit my spirit." And he gave up his spirit and died.
    Jesus had been able to say that the work God had given him to do was finished. And with that he surrenders his spirit into God's hands.

    In the play we presented on Friday, I had Joseph of Aramathea wondering if everything that Jesus had taught and done was really finished. Was it really the end?  When Jesus was going to be arrested, Joseph had voted against it, but was over ruled. He was a follower but all he could do for Jesus was to loan him his own tomb and bury him with dignity. Was doing what was right and believing in God really nothing in the face of determined and powerful forces that were determined to obliterate it. On Friday, when Jesus died, it really seemed as if Judas, the high priests, Pilate and the rest had won. They succeeded in putting Jesus to death.

    And in his own death, Jesus says, " It is finished."
    Was it over?
    In one way it was. Jesus earthly job was complete. His mortal body was dead. Dead and buried.
    In that way, it was over.
    In another way too.
    He gave up the . . .

  • On July 25, 2000, Air France Concorde flight 4590 on July 25, 2000, which crashed on take off in Paris. One hundred passengers, nine crew, and four people on the ground were killed when the Concorde banked, went into a stall, plunged to the ground, and exploded on impact in a fireball.

    The cause of the crash was a 16-inch strip of metal found on the runway that burst the aircraft's tire, and the debris from the blowout ruptured a fuel tank in the aircraft's wing. With the plane on fire the pilot could not halt the take off; he planned to make an emergency landing at Le Bourget airport a minute's flying time away.

    As investigators sought to discover the reason for the accident, they listened to the tapes of the pilot's conversations with the control tower. His last words as he fought to save his stricken craft were, "Too late."1.

    "Our oil is run out", "the door is closed", and "sorry, I don't know you". Words of Jesus in the parable of the wedding attendants. It's too late.

    William Barclay says that a casual visitor to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century would have witnessed the scene which Jesus describes in his parable. A wedding celebration was not a matter of . . .
  • By now if you are connected by email to the internet you will have received at least five Happy New Year greeting cards.
    That's not counting all the personal greetings if you were with other people last night. So can you stand it if you hear once again, Happy New Year! ?

    I hope you have a happy New Year.
    You might think, well if I do, it's about time.
    Which is an interesting phrase. Not the Happy New Year, but the "it's about time".
    I suppose Happy New Year is interesting, too, but it's pretty straight forward.
    The writer of Ecclesiastes had an interesting take on time and the seasons of life. We know it well:

    There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under heaven:

    a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance...

    That is a passage that I find very . . .
  • For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.
    He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit
    1 Peter 3:18

    John Muir, famous explorer and naturalist,  tells an amazing story in his book, Travels in Alaska of the Thlinkit and Sitka tribes, two tribes that readily accepted the preaching of the gospel in Alaska in 1879. He writes:

    The Thlinkit tribes give a hearty welcome to Christian missionaries. In particular they are quick to accept the doctrine of the atonement, because they themselves practice it.... As an example of their own doctrine of atonement they told Mr. Young and me one evening that 20 or 30 years ago there was a bitter war between their own and the Sitka tribe, great fighters, and pretty evenly matched. After fighting all summer, fighting now under cover, now in the open, watching for every chance for a shot, none of the women dared venture to the salmon streams or berry fields to procure their winter stock of food. At this crisis one of the Stickeen chiefs came out of his block-house fort into an open space midway between their fortified camps, and shouted that he wished to speak to the leader of the Sitkas.

    When the Sitka chief appeared, he said: "My people are hungry. They dare not go to the salmon streams or berry fields for winter supplies, and if this war goes on much longer most of my people will die of hunger. We have fought long enough; let us . . .

  • One thing I have learned over the last while from Valerie is to be a better tipper. Not that I was cheap or anything, but I would leave a ten percent tip and figured that was enough. I have seen the light! Now I have learned to leave a decent tip of fifteen percent. It's amazing the difference it makes at a restaurant or cafe you attend regularly. People really like to welcome you and make you comfortable. Who woulda thought it?
    Here is a story of a waitress who gets a tip she will never forget:

    Franchesca Renderos, 22, was working as a waitress on an ordinary Wednesday night in Houston when she was stunned by grace.

    At one of her tables sat Doug Brown, a mortgage broker trying to attract the business of six female real estate agents. When Franchesca came up to the table, Doug asked, "What would be the most special tip you could have? A pair of shoes, a purse?" She responded, "No, I need a car."
  • On Pentecost island in Vanuatu, there used to be a coming of age ritual similar to bungee jumping. In fact this is where bungee jumping originated. The elders built a tower from bamboo poles; and then using vines, they make ropes which they attach to the ankles of the young participant. The young man then makes a head-first leap from the tower and plunges about forty or fifty feet toward the ground. The vines break the fall at the last second and the young fellow is spared becoming an upside down fence post. Or they don't.
    You jump and survive, and you are considered a man.
    I am really glad that we don't do anything more daunting than passing a driver's license test..
    Other cultures have their own process for life's transitions.

    A question I am sometimes asked is, "how did you feel called into ministry?".
    At times I have asked myself the same question, and all I can say is it was a building conviction inside which I acted upon and that in spite of my own questions, has been confirmed strongly enough that I continue.
    Very few receive a dramatic lightning bolt of certainty, though it does happen.

    The gospels tell us of the calling of several of Jesus followers, and for each of them, its a different experience.
    I suppose we remember the calling of James and John best. Jesus sees . . .
  • Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear the fist sermon Jesus preached?
    We heard part of it when Isaiah 61 was read this morning. In Luke's gospel, shortly after His baptism, Jesus goes to the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth, reads from Isaiah 61 and then is seated. Luke says everyone was waiting to see what he might say concerning the text. Their eyes are all fixed on him, waiting. He does not disappoint them and His commentary on it was to say, "This scripture is being fulfill today." He could have added, "before your eyes, even as we speak." Apparently He didn't need to as the people understood the implication and began muttering to themselves to the effect of "who does he think he is?"
    Not only did Jesus? words not go over well, but the congregation tried to throw him off a cliff immediately after the sermon.
    I prefer our custom of having coffee and cake.

    What Jesus is saying is "this is why I have come...to bind the brokenhearted, proclaim freedom and release for those in slavery."
    You would think a message like that would be wildly popular. Who wouldn't want to hear a message of freedom?
    It all depends on which side of the bars you are standing, I suppose.

    Jesus said to a man who was . . .
  • Introducing someone is easy enough if the person is there with you.
    Introducing someone who is not present requires you to describe the person in terms that accurately portray who that person is.

    For example, in a small rural community where populations are stable and folks know each other for generations, you might describe someone who is returning from many years abroad by saying, "She is aunt Grace's youngest daughter." The person might add, "oh yes, that would make her Florence and Stanley Ferguson's granddaughter. I know who she is."
    That is pretty much what Matthew does with Jesus. He brings out the family tree and starts his narrative by locating Jesus in the family tree. He begins with Abraham, through David right through to Jesus. Thus his pedigree and roots are described to people who would know and care.

    John's on the other hand is how a more philosophical and poetically minded person might describe someone. He might say something like, "Ok, imagine all the characteristics of the perfect person and friend and imagine all of that from God totally in one person. That is Jesus"

    Luke the gentile physician who had never met Jesus was in Judea with his friend Paul. He says he took the opportunity of . . .
  • If you don't know by now, Canada is poised to become the North American Saudi Arabia. More specifically, the province of Alberta will take on that role with unimaginable wealth to be generated. We know the reason: a place called the Athabasca tar sands, where the sandy earth is saturated in a heavy bitumen which can be refined into conventional petroleum products. The reserves rival those of the Saudi desert kingdom. Until now, it was a bit of an academic curiosity as the cost of refining was above the price of easily refined Saudi Arabian light sweet crude. Not any more. What is involved in the refining process is subjecting it to high temperatures to separate it from the sand and then using coal and natural gas as feed stocks, putting it through a very complex chemical process. It is transformed from a heavy sticky tar into a whole range of petroleum products. Part of the process is adding extra hydrogen atoms to the molecules to transform its nature.

    That's one kind of transformation.
    The actual nature of the substance is transformed and it is substantially different than when it began.
    We read in Mark 9 of a different kind.
    Jesus takes James, John and Peter to a high hill or mountain, away from the rest of his followers.
    There, something extra ordinary takes place.
  • If you have ever done any navigating by the use of map and compass, you know that magnetic north isn't true north.
    I suppose most of us know that magnetic north is slowly moving.
    I wonder how many know that earth's magnetic poles actually flip every million years or so.
    Apparently we are about due for another flip.
    While the poles are reversing themselves there may be a time when there is more than one north or south pole.
    How is that for confusing!

  • Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

    In Friday's Times Colonistis a picture of Stephen Truscott. He was convicted as a 14 yr old boy of the murder of a girl named Lynn Harper, and sentenced to death. His sentence was commuted just before abolition of capital punishment, and he was paroled after serving about ten years. Since then, his case has become a cause for those seeking to overturn wrongful convictions. Reviews of the trial and the evidence seem to point to a false conviction, but 45 years later, he is still waiting to see if he will finally be exonerated.  Forty five years is a long time to live with the label of murderer if you in fact are innocent.

    But we know that justice in this life is always an approximate thing. We do our best, at least we hope we have done our best, and we believe that's enough. Sometimes its not enough and the innocent suffer.

    And in a nutshell that's what the book of Habakkuk is all about...injustice and where is God when it happens?
  • "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"
    But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
    And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:28-30

    In the sixth month of her cousin Elizabeth's pregnancy, Gabriel, the angel of God comes to Mary.
    Like the shepherds who hear of Jesus birth, she is frightened.
    No doubt.
    Just think about it. Here is a teen age girl like any teen age girl going about her business. She was not a school girl, but would have been helping out with the household chores. Perhaps she was sweeping or doing laundry for her mother.
    Maybe she was alone so the angel could talk with her privately. Perhaps on her way home from some errand, alone in her thoughts when the angel appears to her.
    How would he appear? As an angel in glowing tunic, or like they did with Abraham and Sarah, as ordinary travelers?
    However he appeared, what he said clearly frightened Mary. He says, "Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you."
    So you are a young girl going about your business and . . .
  • Luke 16:1-13

    When I was a boy of about ten, there was a television show I loved to watch. It starred Phil Silvers and was about a lovable rascal called Sgt. Bilko. He was a motor pool sergeant who along with some of his cohorts was always looking for the big score. He lived by his wits, his charm and fast talking to get him out of the trouble he always got himself and his friends into.
    The morality of the 1950's never allowed him to profit from his shenanigans, but you always hoped he might some day.

  • Jeremiah 32:1-15

    June 18, 1940. Winston Churchill stands in the British Parliament to address his country and its government. France had fallen to Hitler and the British expeditionary forces narrowly escaped at Dunkirk. It was the darkest period of World War Two. He gave a famous speech in which he said the Battle of Britain was about to begin and concluded with these words that have gone down in history:

    The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
  • If  anyone hasn't heard of J.K. Rowling or her fictional hero, Harry Potter, welcome back from your coma.

    Harry Potter is a fictional orphaned boy who discovers he has magical powers and is enrolled in a school to learn how to use this power. Suddenly he is plunged into a struggle between good and evil and finds himself at the center of this struggle against the evil and once defeated Lord Voldemort, whose talisman is the serpent.

  • "And There Was No Fire, Lightning or Thunder"
    2Kings 5:1-14

    Saddam Hussein's photo is once again in the news. This time we see pictures of a cleaned up Saddam making his appearance in a court of law. I read that when the pictures of Saddam in court were shown on Iraq T.V., everyone stopped what they were doing and watched in fascination. Oh how the mighty are fallen!

    We love to see oversized egos get their comeuppance, and we love the stories of the humble person who succeeds against all odds.
  • Vaclav Havel, the president of the Czech Republic says:

    "We live in the postmodern world, where everything is possible and almost nothing is certain."

    Havel is not the first to have said it, but what makes his comment interesting is that he is the first non-communist president of what was Czechoslovakia to speak that way. Communist doctrine was built on materialism: what you can see, touch, taste, hear and feel is all there is to reality. Marx built his theory on a radical vision that the material world is all there is and called religion "the opiate of the people." His version of mankind was that we find our meaning and our purpose from the community in which we live, the state to be precise.

    The modern world was built on an assumption not too different in its own way. We inherited the scientific view of reality. That view of reality is similar to Marx in that it too is materialistic. The scientist says that the only version of reality that . . .
  • Luke 15:1-10

    In this week's news a fifteen year old Calgary Alberta girl gave birth in her bedroom while her siblings watched TV. She put the baby in a trash bag at the curb. No one, including her mother had suspected that she was pregnant, and I suppose being immature and fearful she just wanted to dispose of the child. So it, along with the bloody towels, went into a plastic trash bag and set outside for pickup the next day. Fortunately a woman out walking her dog heard the infant's cries from inside the garbage bag and rescued the baby and took it to a neighbour's home to call 911. The mother was also located and taken to hospital and for a brief time, mother and child were reunited. "She grabbed the child's hand and held it, and realized there was a human life there", said Det. Rene Lafreniere.1
  • Is there anyone here today who would say, "I never win anything"? You go to the concert and the door prize is never for you, and the service club raffle always goes to someone else? I have good news for you. You are a winner! Just the fact that you are here is proof. When you were conceived, you know that the chances that egg would be fertilized by that sperm was a millions to one long shot, but here you are! You are one in a million...or more! Feeling better? I hope so.

    Here is another calculation of long odds:

    In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson marvels at what makes up human life:

    No one really knows, but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn't exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids?in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word. [For example, to make collagen,] you need to arrange 1,055 amino acids in precisely the right sequence?.
  • A couple of days ago I arrived at the church in the morning on a beautiful sunny day. Allen Houghton arrived at almost the same time for a meeting we would both attend.
    "Another meeting", I thought to myself.
    As Allen walked across the parking lot, I found my key and was getting ready to unlock the door when I rather impulsively said to him, "Allen, I am having a moral dilemma."  I think that may have caught him somewhat off guard but if it did, he didn't show it.
    "Really", he said in British understatement.
    "Yes", I replied. "It's like this. It's a dilemma between living a life of purpose and meaning on the one hand and pre-occupied self absorbed hedonism on the other. What's your vote?"
    As my key was poised in the lock, I said, "Once we cross the threshold, you know we are committed. If you want to make a break for it, now's the time." I think he smiled wryly, but I may have been mistaken.
  • Journalist David Hajdu recently told a memorable story about Wynton Marsalis, one of the most easily recognizable jazz musicians in our day and one of the premier jazz trumpeters of all time. One night, Marsalis was playing with a small, little-known combo in a New York basement club. A few songs into their set, he walked to the front of the bandstand and began an unaccompanied solo of the 1930s ballad, "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." Hajdu records that the audience became rapt as Marsalis's trumpet virtually wept in despair, almost gasping at times with the pain in the music.

    Stretching the mood taut, Marsalis came to the final phrase, with each note coming slower and slower, with longer and longer pauses between each one: "I'don't'stand?a?ghost?of?a?chance?"

    Then someone's cell phone went off.

  • "Our God is not a distant God"
    Hosea 1:1-11

    canyonIn our recent visit to the Grand Canyon we found various view points with views of the Colorado River nearly a mile below the rim. The river looks like a blue ribbon at the bottom of a multicolored gorge. At various locations you can even see patches of white water on the river. From a mile above, the rapids look like a gentle white frothing on an otherwise placid blue.

  • I wonder if it's safe to leave my house these days. On Canada's west coast we are constantly hearing about the Big One, the cataclysmic earthquake that supposedly is waiting to hurl us all into the sea. The climate is changing and the ozone is disappearing.
  • Fear is a crippling emotion.
    When Hannibal attacked Rome, he brought African elephants to accompany his infantry. He hoped the sight of the monsters would spread fear and panic through the Roman legions as well as being an effective fighting animal. He almost succeeded.

    On September 21, 2005, the landing gear of JetBlue flight 292 malfunctioned during takeoff, resulting in the wheels under the nose becoming jammed to the side. Local media picked up the story, and millions of viewers across the country tuned in to watch the unfolding drama of the crippled aircraft—including the 145 people on the plane!
    Passengers watched a live satellite feed from their seats as the plane circled over southern California, burning off its load of fuel. Actress Taryn Manning, one of the passengers, told the Associated Press: "A lot of the women of course were crying. There was a gentleman across the way who was writing in his journal and crying, and seeing that isn't easy."
    Fortunately, the ensuing emergency landing was a success, and all of the passengers survived. One of them, Alexandra Jacobs, made a fascinating observation: "We couldn't believe the irony that we might be watching our own demise on television. That seemed a little bit post-post-modern."1

    We experience fear in many ways. There is the emotion that comes from . . .

  • Colossians 1:15-20

    Some of  people of Colossae had some beliefs that we would consider pretty strange.
    They seemed to believe that the god who created the material world was an evil god, not the one true god, but something called an emanence. They believed Jesus was an emanence too, and just one of many.

    In a crude way, their belief about getting to heaven was sort of a spiritual version of Mario Brothers video game.
    There were ladders to various levels and along the way you had to avoid or battle emanences who would derail or block your progress. They believe in rank upon rank of angels and spiritual beings.

    The whole thing was so complicated, that it really became a kind of first century version of dungeons and dragons, for the elite.
    It was way too complicated for ordinary folk.

  • Luke 18:1-8

    When I was doing marriage and family counseling I would often have a husband or wife--most often a husband--who would walk in visibly angry at the first visit. I always found that stimulating and a challenge; in fact, I preferred open hostility to indifference. You can usually talk with an angry person if you are willing to listen, provided the person's anger is motivated by a sense of injustice or a fundamental wrong in life. That kind of anger comes out of a passionate belief that life could and should be better than it is. When you are willing to listen to the person's injured hope, you have a starting point.

    The widow in Jesus parable will not give up until she gets justice.

    Jesus says the judge is dishonest and wanted a bribe.
    According to William Barclay, this man had to be a gentile, Roman appointed judge. The jews took their disputes to tribunals, but these judges were notorious for being corrupt.