Category Archives: Personal Reflections

Bible Overview Series: Joel


Joel by Joseph Novak

Through the cracks in our broken hearts the grasshoppers have come swarming in.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)


Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Joel

Locusts. Locusts everywhere.

A devastating swarm had come to Judah, the Southern Kingdom. This was no small infestation; the people had never seen anything like it:

“What the gnawing locust has left, the swarming locust has eaten;
And what the swarming locust has left, the creeping locust has eaten;
And what the creeping locust has left, the stripping locust has eaten.” (Joe 1:4)

The crops were gone. The people were hungry. The cattle were hungry. What was happening—and why?

The day of the Lord was upon them. When God was delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt, He sent a plague of locusts on the Egyptians’ crops. Now, hundreds of years later, He was judging His people with the same kind of plague for straying from Him.

But God also sends His prophet: Joel.

Joel explains to the people what the Lord wants from them: repentance. The Lord would soon have His day, both with Judah and the whole world. Joel’s message has two strong points:

  • God is judging Judah, but He will bless and restore them again when they repent.
  • God will judge all the nations on Judah’s behalf.

God disciplines His people, but He also defends them. Joel says that although Judah is under God’s wrath right now, in the future holds many exciting things for the people of God:

  • The Lord will pour out His Spirit on all mankind.
  • Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered.
  • The Lord will avenge Judah of her enemies.
  • Judah will again become a land of plenty.

Joel’s message is stern for the disobedient, but it also highlights God’s love and desire to be with His people. Rather than let them starve after sending the locusts, God sends Joel to direct their hearts back to Him.

Theme verse of Joel

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil. (Joe 2:12–13)

Joel’s role in the Bible

Joel is the second minor prophet, who ministered to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. We don’t know much about him, and we don’t know much about how his message was received.

We do know that Joel’s prophecy about the day of the Lord has begun to come to pass. In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles and they began speaking in tongues (on the day of Pentecost ). Peter explains that this is what Joel prophesied about in Joel 3:28–32.

However, the promises of Joel’s third chapter are yet to be fulfilled.

Of all the Old Testament books, Joel has the highest concentration of imperative verbs: 1.1% of the Hebrew words are commanding verbs.

Quick outline of Joel


How To Invite Someone To Church

Even as our culture moves a  post-Christian direction, it’s not uncommon for Christmas and Easter church services to be the largest of the year.  These services continue to draw seekers and skeptics who are haunted by the suspicion that modern secularism is not the end-all and be-all; that there must be a deeper reality and truer story that holds the promise to change our lives and world for the better.

That deeper reality and story, of course, is the gospel of Jesus.

However, for many people (myself included), helping people connect to that message is no easy task.  Where do we start?

With Easter Sunday around the corner, may I make a humble suggestion?  Invite them to church this Sunday.

Granted, this idea is neither flashy nor innovative, but this Sunday may be the best and easiest Sunday to invite friends, family, and neighbours to.  Many people are still open to attending a church service, especially around the Christmas and Easter holidays.  And unless your church really pulls an epic Easter fail, the truth and power of Jesus’ resurrection will take centre stage!

Some people hesitate when it comes to inviting their friends to church.  Me too.  I find that questions and doubts can shut  down the invite before it has a chance to even be considered.

  • How will they react to the invitation?  Will they be weirded out? Will it affect our relationship going forward?
  • What will they think of our church?   Will they “get it”?
  • Will the service fall flat?  Will the music and/or message sucks? (and I ask this as the message-giver!)

While well-intended in their sensitivity, these questions often plant doubts that keep us from ever extending an invite.  By focusing on the what if’s, we actually remove faith in God’s leading and power. Instead, we localize our faith and trust in our ability to “deliver the goods.”  Our confidence gets rooted in whether we can extend the perfect invite to the perfect service with the perfect music and perfect message at the perfect church.

I hope the issue with this line of thinking is obvious: there are no perfect any of those things. And that’s OK.  Our imperfect invites, imperfect services, imperfect music, imperfect messages–our imperfect churches–are not an obstacle for God.  The hope we offer people is not our perfection, but Jesus‘!  Not only that, but God delights in using our weakness as a conduit of His power and glory (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:9).

So this year I’m challenging myself (and you!) to invite one friend, family member, or neighbour to church this Sunday.  Your invite will be an act of faith (who knows how they will respond?…), but when it’s done relying on God’s resources and not our own, great things can happen.

How To Invite Your Friend To Church

Ready to take the plunge and invite someone?  Here are a few simple ways to invite them to church:

1. Email or Text.  Today I invited two people to our Sunday service via a short text message:

Hi _________, I’m not sure if you’d be interested, but I wanted to extend an invite to our church’s Easter morning service this Sunday. It starts at 10am at Nelson Covenant Church.  No pressure, just wanted you to know that there was an open invite.  If you have any questions about the service or our church, let me know. 🙂

2. Phone call.  This is more personal than an email or text, but may put people on the spot depending on what they are doing at the time of the call.  You’ll have to judge based on the nature of the relationship.

3. Face-to-Face.  This is the most personal approach, but like a phone call, picking a context that doesn’t feel like you’re cornering someone is probably important.  If an opportunity arises, however, this is ideal.  It allows you to fully express yourself (i.e. tone, body language, etc.) to the person which helps people feel your care and warmth.

You’ve got four days until Easter Sunday.  Take the initiative and invite someone to join you at church this Sunday.  Worst case scenario: they say “no thanks.”  Best case scenario: they say “Yes!”, not just to joining you on Sunday, but ultimately to Jesus and his gospel.


Does God Favor a Gender?

This past Tuesday was International Women’s Day, a day designed to “celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.”

Within evangelical Christianity the role of women within the church, home, and society continues to be a hotly debated issue.  The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood argues for a Complementarian approach to gender roles, while Christians for Biblical Equality argues for an Egalitarian approach.

Within this discussion/debate, I land firmly within the egalitarian camp.  I believe it to be the most biblically coherent and defensible position, and at the end of the day that is my bottom-line.  There are quality arguments that are made from the other side, and while I’ve sought to really understand where complimentarians are coming from–theologically, biblically, philosophically, socially, etc.–I have found the arguments for the complimentarian position to be lacking.

I’ve spent a lot of time digging into this issue, because our theology regarding human image-bearers, both male and female, is extremely important.  Our core convictions in this area have enormous implications for countless dimensions of our lives.  That’s why I believe it is the responsibility of every Christian to thoughtfully and thoroughly engage the Bible and excellent scholarly research on this issue.

I’ve already linked to the two main organizations that represent each position, but here are some extra links that I’ve come across in the last few weeks that I’ve wanted to pass along:


How To Pray For An Hour

“Lord, teach us to pray” Luke 11:1

Last week I spent an hour working my way through Jon Tyson’s  “How To Pray For An Hour” prayer wheel.

Prayer_How to pray for an hour

I do not believe there are short-cuts when it comes to expanding and deeping one’s prayer life.  However, tools like this are really helpful in learning how to pray.  As someone who struggles with prayer, I’ve discovered that I need resources like this to guide me along and keep me focused.

It’s been a long time since I prayed for an hour on my own.  I decided to walk and pray through downtown Nelson, and I was shocked at how quickly the time flew by.  In fact, I ended up expanding several of these sections far beyond 5 minutes, and ended up praying for about 1.5 hours!

Today I didn’t have a one-hour block through which I could move through the entire wheel in one session.  However, I made it my goal to move through the wheel over the course of the day.  Although a different experience, it was just as powerful to pray through this tool as my day unfolded.  I can see both practices becoming part of my weekly ritual.

You may or may not find a tool like this helpful, but one of its strengths is that it forces you into modes of prayer that, depending on your spiritual love language, you may avoid or simply neglect.  Case in point: I can’t remember the last time I prayed for “Holy Alertness.”  And yet as I made my way through the streets of Nelson I was instantly sensitized to how critical a prayer that is for me as both a pastor and Christian.

Honestly, I’m not sure I could pray for an hour without a tool like this to help me.  As I Mind type I’d rather talk about, think about, study, read, or teach on prayer than actually pray.  I’m therefore very thankful for leaders like Jon Tyson who share resources that I can use to practice prayer in an intentional and sustained way.


Preparing for Mid-Winter: “Covenant Principles”

Next week I will be attending the Evangelical Covenant Church’s mid-winter conference in Chicago.  Part of my conference experience includes taking a course in the history of the Covenant church.  Our class has been assigned a number of pre-course readings and we were also required to give a brief presentation on one of the readings.

I’ve chosen to present on the essay “Covenant Principles” by Theodore T. Anderson.  Written as part of a fiftieth anniversary volume entitled Covenant Memories, 1885-1935, the essay explores the principles upon which the entire Covenant movement is founded.  I know the history and foundations of movements tend to be dry reading, but Covenant Principles is anything but.  It’s short, punch, and powerfully prophetic.  You could publish it today and it would serve as a clarion call to Christians young and old to reassess their guiding principles as disciples of Jesus.

Anderson is engaging and his theological vision is rich with insight.  His aim is to succinctly “define the Covenant biblically, theologically, and ecclesiologically.”*

He begins by stating the two truths that must be held in creative tension for all movements to establish themselves, sustain themselves, and bear ongoing fruit for the kingdom of God:

  • “Living movements are not static, but adapt themselves to new conditions.”

  • Convictions are indispensable for the survival and growth of any movement. Without them we are colorless and powerless. They are not like the shell of the turtle, which bars him from contact with others, but rather resemble the bones of the human body, which, though not directly visible, give form and strength to the entire being.”

Anderson then outlines the five Covenant principles which would serve as the bedrock for the (then) future of the Covenant church:

  1. The supremacy of the Bible

“The question constantly raised in pioneer days was, What do the Scriptures say? There may have been a tinge of ridicule in the epithet läsare, or “reader,” sometimes translated “readerists,” but the title was abundantly deserved. To our trailblazers, the Bible was the Supreme Court from which there could be no appeal. It is not by chance that the constitutions of our churches almost invariably begin with a statement that the Bible is recognized as the only adequate standard for faith and conduct, for individual Christians and for groups of believers.”

  1. The necessity of spiritual life

“Spiritual life demands more than intellectual assent to the claims of Christ. An academic orthodoxy unrelated to life is a perilous thing. To know the truth and fail to obey it is fatal both morally and spiritually. It is scarcely accurate, however, to say that it is life and not doctrine that characterizes the believer. The two are not mutually exclusive. Doctrine may exist without spiritual life, but not spiritual life without doctrine. Our faith is not a leap in the dark, but is built on incontrovertible facts. That Christ died is history. That he died for our sins is doctrine.”

“A personal and vital relationship to Christ as the Savior is the clamant need. This means to know and love and trust and obey him. That is the heart of the Christian life. It is a sunny reality that puts a new halo on every activity. The Bible describes it as a new birth, a new creation, a resurrection from the dead. It is a partaking of the divine nature.”

“Believing in a clear line of demarcation between life and death, we also believe in winning men to this life in Christ. Evangelism is our birthright. The very nature of the Christian life demands sharing it with others. The effort we make, in word and deed, to present Christ to other people is a fairly accurate index of how much he means to us. A Christ-centered message alone meets the need of the human heart. Gladstone was right when he stated that the greatest service any human being can render to another is to win him for the Lord. We have lost our vision if that ambition is dimmed.”

  1. Belief in the unity of all true Christians

“A spiritual home for all believers is the ideal of the Christian Church. In the apostolic days, the book of Acts tells us, those were added to the Church who were saved. The Bible does not recognize a divided church. Dissensions and cliques are foreign to its spirit. The letters of Paul abound in references to “all the brethren,” “all the saints.” On the basis of the Scriptures, we believe that the Church should accept all whom Christ has accepted. If we are to be together in heaven, we should be together here.”

“This means admitting into the Church all who are recognized as believers and barring from active church membership all others. Minor differences regarding issues on which true Christians disagree must not divide us. Unity and uniformity are not synonymous. The right of private interpretation is recognized. We know in part and prophesy in part. No claim to omniscience in drawing this line of demarcation is offered. Even the first Christian Church had an Ananias and a Sapphira. We do believe, however, that a spiritual experience is unfailingly manifested in a personal profession of faith and a consistent Christian life. When Christ on a visit to Tyre and Sidon entered into a house, the gospel narrative tells us, he could not be hid. Neither can the believer, who is a partaker of his nature, be concealed. “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

  1. The independence of the local church

“We are congregational in organization. There is no centralized authority exercised over the churches.”

“In all fairness, it must be admitted that the autonomy of the local church entails problems that sometimes become acute. Occasionally there are crises in a church that could be relieved by definite aid from some higher authority. Serious dissensions and injustices could possibly be obviated at times if our organization were not so loose. The tragedy of having churches without pastors and pastors without churches, often resulting in irreparable loss to both, could possibly be avoided. But we believe that the merits of the congregational system outweigh the handicaps. The advantages accruing to a firmer organization can be secured in ways that do not conflict with scriptural precedents. The perils involved in an ecclesiastical bureaucracy are greater than any practical advantages inherent in it.”

  1. The urgency of the missionary task

“Mission Friends, or friends of missions, was the name applied to our fathers from the earliest days, and it was no misnomer. No narrow vision or limited perspective controlled them. They recalled that Christ declared that he was the light, not of Palestine or Sweden or America only, but of the world. That the gospel of the grace of God is a universal message was a reality to them.”

“The missionary enterprise is not optional, to be accepted or rejected at will by the believers. It is a mandate from the Lord. Our own spiritual life demands this expression, as does the hopeless condition of a Christless world. A church without a missionary vision is a dying church. An individual Christian devoid of missionary zeal is living a dwindling spiritual life.”

“He who has forgotten or evaded his God-given obligations to his fellowmen is living on a diminishing spiritual capital. His inner life inevitably becomes stunted and impoverished.”

“Fighting the good fight of faith is not merely defensive, but preeminently offensive. This was the conviction of our fathers. They were neither near-sighted nor far-sighted. They saw the whitening fields both at home and abroad. Alaska, which some denominations term “home missions” because it belongs to the United States, became our first foreign missionary field. China, with its uncounted millions and latent influence in the Far East and the world, soon claimed our hearts. In the midst of our jubilee year, despite financial distress in all our churches, we are advancing into the continent of Africa. By the grace of God and the support of his people, we are advancing and not retrenching.”


*All quotes taken from the essay “Covenant Principles” found in the book Covenant Roots: Sources and Affirmations.



Colossians 1:15–20
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

“[Jesus] is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” 

As a Christian, loving Jesus heart, soul, mind and strength is your highest priority.  In every dimension of your life, he is to have supremacy.  That means he is to be the Lord and Master over your life.  You are not your own, you were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  You now live for Jesus.

This command to give Jesus supreme authority in one’s life sounds incredibly threatening at first.  However, one soon discovers subjugation to Jesus’ kingship is neither confining nor oppressive. Our lives cohere and gain clarity of purpose only when obedience to Jesus’ graceful, loving authority become one’s highest value, desire, and pursuit.

“All things were created by him and for him…and in him all things hold together. ”

When supremacy is given to ourselves and our empires, confinement and oppression inevitably set in, because we are living against the grain of reality as contructed by Jesus himself.  However, when Christ and his kingdom are given supremacy in our lives, we experience a counter-intuitive liberation; a propulsion into a rich and empowered life with God that is experienced as exciting, enlivening, and spacious.


What Makes Community Distinctively “Christian”?

In Mark 3:13–19 we find Jesus bringing his disciples together and appointing 12 to be his apostles.  The text, while seemingly a straightforward list of names, gives many important insights into the nature of Christian community.

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

I know this seems like a list of names and not at all relevant to what we’re talking about, but there’s actually 5 things embedded in this passage that should radically challenge our understanding of Christian community:

1. Christian community is Jesus-centred.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot that is named Christian community isn’t centred on Jesus and his gospel.  Jesus centres the community around himself, so we should be leering of any other expression of community that is grounded in something other than the person and work of Jesus.

If Jesus isn’t the centre of our gatherings, an idol of our own making–even a well intended one–will take his place.  And that move will spell certain doom from the outset.  Bonhoeffer, commenting on the temptation to centre our quest for community on an idealized vision of what could/should be instead of the person of Jesus is dynamite here:

“Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than they love the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial. God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idolized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands set up by their own law, and judge one another and God accordingly. It is not we who build. Christ builds the church. Whoever is mindful to build the church is surely well on the way to destroying it, for he will build a temple to idols without wishing or knowing it.” Life Together

 2. Christian community is based on comraderie, not chemistry.  Jesus gathered together people who had little common affinity.  Scratch that:  Jesus actually gathered people who were natural enemies!  A tax collector and a zealot!? There would have been no love lost between a collaborator with Rome (Matthew) and a zealot (Simon) who is seeking to overthrow Rome and use violent means if necessary!

What is Jesus doing?!  He’s showing us a different expression of community; one that speaks to the heart of God’s intentions for the world and the gospel itself.  Jesus does not expect this group to like each other, but he gathers them together to learn to love–starting with loving those you honest wished weren’t part of the group.

That means we shouldn’t expect Christian community to be founded on chemistry and sympatico.  Sure, we will develop friendships within our churches, small groups, etc., but when Jesus forms communities he does so on the basis of camaraderie.  Camaraderie is a feeling of trust, a bond created by a shared goal or experience.  It runs deepen than chemistry.  It goes beyond a convenient collection of complimentary personality types.   When a group is grounded in comraderie, you don’t have to be best friends with everyone in the group to know you have their support.  Therefore, genuine Christian community doesn’t mean you’re best friends with everyone and the group never expereinces any friction or conflict.  What it does mean is that there is a driving experience (Jesus’ call, salvation, and Lordship) that holds the group together and teaches the group to value and love each other.

3. Christian community is a means, not an end.   Jesus calls many disciples to himself, but he appoints twelve as apostles. Why?  He’s rebooting Israel.  “I’ve called you together…for a (re)newed mission!  You are blessed to be a blessing!” (cf. Genesis 12:1-3).  Christian community is always a means to a greater end (i.e. glorifying God and forwarding his mission). When the experience of community becomes the end we’re chasing, it poisons and rots things from the inside out.

 4. Christian community is a commitment to “one another.”  Christian community isn’t driven by the question, “what’s in it for me?” but “how can I be a blessing to others?”  This means a radical commitment to what much of the later epistles spell out in the “one another’s”:

  • Love one another (John 13:34, 15:12)
  • Outdo one another in showing honor (Romans 12:10)
  • Live in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16)
  • Serve one another (John 13:1-20; Galatians 5:13)
  • Bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2)
  • Forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32)
  • Submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21)
  • Be honest with one another (Colossians 3:9)
  • Encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • Confess to one another (James 5:16)
  • Pray for one another (James 5:16)

On a later occassion Jesus gave his disciples a new command:

John 13:34 “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Christian community comes into being when a critical mass of people in a church/group/fellowship begin asking “how can I creatively love and serve these brothers and sisters?” instead of, “when will this group meet my wants and needs?”

5. Christian Community is consistent.  One characteristic that should define Christian community is that it is consistent.  Jesus called his disciples together into a new way of life where they were committed to doing life together as they learned under him.

Today, my sense is that far too many Christians do not take seriously their communal responsibilities to one another.  The first believers met daily for encouragement, prayer, support, study, etc., and while I acknowledge that model isn’t doable for most of us in our contexts, I don’t think our default position should be, “I’m committed until something better comes along.”  More and more of us are rationalizing going to church every 2nd or 3rd week.  We show up at youth group if/when we want.  We sign up for a small group but attend sporadically.

And after weeks/months/years living inside of this lifestyle of casual commitment, we wonder why our experience of Christian community is so thin–or even non-existent?

I don’t think anyone would ever accuse me of being a legalist, but I think it’s important to recognize that it’s become very easy to place gathering together with other Christians consistently far down the priority ladder.  Which makes sense if church is something you fit into your agenda.  But it doesn’t make sense if through gatherings like Sunday worship, small groups, bible studies, etc., Jesus is seeking to reshape your life around his agenda.


Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus?

One of my least favourite worship songs is Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face,
and the things of earth,
will grow strangely dim,
in the light of his glory and grace.

I understand what the song is trying to communicate: when we turn our eyes upon Jesus, what matters comes into focus, and what doesn’t fades into the background.  This is a popular sentiment found within much of the Christian sub-culture: the things of heaven matter, but the things of earth don’t.

That idea, however, is thoroughly dualistic and needs to be rejected, because it betrays a very fundamental Scriptural emphasis:

Becoming a Christian, and the process of learning what it means to “turn your eyes upon Jesus,” actually intensifies and sharpens our perspective of the things of heaven AND the things of earth. 

Like an Instagram filter, the gospel causes us to see everything differently–especially the “things of earth.”  We see…

Our lives differently,
Our jobs differently,
Our finances differently,
Our suffering differently,
Our relationships differently,
Our bodies differently,
Our responsibilities differently,
Our free time differently.

The beauty within this world becomes more acute.  But so does the world’s brokenness.   We see God breaking into the “now” in ways that we were blind to before, but we see overwhelming evidence of the “not yet”—both perspectives launching us into our mission to drive the gospel deeper into our hearts and scatter it into our neighbourhoods and communities.

When it comes to the things of heaven and the things of earth, Christians do not need to choose.  The answer, in Christ, is “yes!”

May I suggest this alteration?

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face,
and the things of earth,
will grow clearer still,
in the light of his glory and grace.”


Don’t Waste Your Freedom

*The following address was given at the Waterdown Remembrance Day service on November 11th, 2014

This year we all come to Remembrance Day a little more sensitized to the sacrifice that allows us to live the lives we do; lives that more often than not pulse with possibility, hope, and freedom.

Over the last month our nation has come together to honour the lives of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in outpourings of support that have been nothing short of inspiring.The evening Nathan Cirillo’s body was being transported to Hamilton, I jumped in the car and drove to the Fortinos plaza on Main and Dundurn in Hamilton, the intersection immediately after the Main St. East exit the processional route would be taking.

I was not ready for what a saw.

A sea of red and white, lining both sides of the street.  People had begun lining up for hours before, waiting to pay their respects to Cpl. Cirillo.  I pulled into the parking lot, overwhelmed. My eyes flooded with tears.  To see such a display of solidarity in the midst of such grief was stunning.  I felt as if I was standing on holy ground.  I have never been prouder to be a Canadian and never prouder to be a Hamiltonian.

For many of us, it is the images of Nathan Cirillo’s funeral procession through Hamilton that will be the defining ones this Remembrance Day.  While some have called into question the validity of calling Cpl. Cirillo a hero, as Peter Ratcliffe wisely pointed out in a recent opinion piece in the Hamilton Spectator, “the day Cpl. Nathan Cirillo enlisted and offered his service to wear the uniform while defending Canadians is the day he quietly became a hero.”

Because to dawn the soldier’s uniform is to take up a pledge to one’s neighbours, community, and country: that henceforth the man or woman who wears the uniform stands on guard for all of us.  They are willing to pay the ultimate price so that we can live with freedom and possibility in the best country in the world.

That’s my definition of a hero: someone who has deliberately sacrificed self-interest and self-preservation so that others can thrive and find life. That’s why all of the men and women who have served our country—past and present—are heroes worthy of our honor, respect, support, and admiration.

In the same column Peter Ratcliffe asked the question, “What do we owe to a hero and their family?”

While there is no response that can atone for the loss sustained by a soldier’s family or the burdens carried by a soldier returning from war, I’d like to suggest we each resolve to live in light of these soldier’s heroism and live lives focused on making our neighbourhoods, communities, towns, cities, and country—stronger and better.

We live in a culture that encourages self-interest at almost every turn.  The Self has become King.  What I want and what I need is increasingly assumed to be the bottom-line of what we should be striving for.  But I believe to live life out of that posture is to waste the freedom bestowed on us.

The soldiers who have fought, bled, and died to keep our land glorious and free, did not fight, bleed, and die so that you and I could become fixated on petty self-interest.  We honor them when we decide to turn our backs on a self-centred life, roll up our sleeves, and get to work building a Canada that is safer, stronger, more united, more neighbourly, and more compassionate towards one another.

Don’t waste your freedom.  Don’t let their sacrifice be in vain.  A self-centred life doesn’t honour our veterans nor the men and women who continue to put themselves in harm’s way in order to secure our peace and safety.

A Scripture from the New Testament book of Galatians says the following: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge your self-interests; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

Let’s not waste the freedom given to us by living small, self-centred lives.  Instead, let’s honor the heroes who embody true, patriot love by serving one another humbly in love.


One-Minute Review: “Wonder Women” by Kate Harris

I just finished reading Wonder Women: Navigating the Challenges of Motherhood, Career, and Identity by Kate Harris.  Here’s my one-minute review:


“What’s ‘Wonder Women‘ all about?”
Part of the new “Frames” series by Barna Group, Wonder Women looks at the unique challenges that women face in today’s world. It’s an attempt to reconsider how our definitions of vocation, calling, and motherhood need reframed (see what I did there?) if women are going to have a coherent sense of personhood and purpose.  Wonder Women dives into the fray, and over a meager 84 pages attempts to provide women with an alternative vision for how their lives can find a greater alignment to both Christ’s kingdom call and personal sanity!

“Should I read it?”
Yes.  It’s short, so it’s a breeze to get through.  But for all of its brevity, Wonder Women packs a punch.  It’s not exactly a “how-to” book on how to manage it all as a modern mother.  If you read it as such, you’ll be disappointed. Instead Wonder Women seeks to work on a different level.  It’s trying to introduce new ideas to an issue that suffers from a litany of hackneyed “solutions.”  Harris’ reflections on identity and calling, and her distinction between balance and coherence are especially helpful–and not just for women!  While the target audience is women who feeling burdened to “have it all and be it all,” I really enjoyed Wonder Women.  It has given me new insights into the nature of calling and vocation, and has helped me better understand the core tensions that the women in my life face each and every day.