All posts filed under: Teaching

The man who carried Christ’s cross, Simon of Cyrene

It was a good deal, but Simon didn’t know it at the time. He was the man the Romans compelled to carry Christ’s cross, after the guards realized after their beating, Jesus was in no condition to carry His cross to Golgotha. I am sure at the time, Simon was wondering “why me.” Since this was Passover, some doubt that the Romans would conscript a Jew to carry Christ’s cross, and probably identified Simon as a gentile by his dress. And since he was in Jerusalem for the Passover, it suggests he had converted to Judaism. But the good deal was this, Simon would carry Christ’s cross, and in turn Christ would carry the burden of Simon’s sin. Most Bible scholars believe Simon of Cyrene became a believer in Christ, because three of the Gospel writers not only knew his name and where he was from, but other personal details, suggesting they were familiar with him (Matthew 27:32, Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26). Both Mark and Luke knew that he had just arrived into Jerusalem from …

What? Me Rest?

What is the number one thing you would change in your life? Before you read on, take a moment and think what that would be. In counselling, we often set goals and objectives, issues that the clients want to address or need to be examined. At first, these can be rather unclear, and often what the real issues are, end up being a lot different than what the client came in to discuss. I think that is true of most of us. We just are not inward focused. We focus on what we do, not who we are. What we want, not what we need. Even when we focus on what we need, it gets mixed up with what we want. Here is an example. I need a rest. I want to see my friends. I will rest from my work by seeing my friends. While this may be a break from work, it is not a rest. You would only switch from work persona to friend persona. The idea of rest is not of …

How Lonely Are You?

Years ago, when I was younger, I flew on an airplane from Arizona to my home in Canada. I had been to a conference and visited my parents, who were snow birds living in a trailer park. In the airport I met a woman who was also traveling north on the same plane. I like to be friendly, in a small-town way, and we chatted. The conversation continued for a while, and then I realized that she wanted more than friendly conversation with me; she had something like a romantic interest. This made me uncomfortable, and I ended the conversation politely. She seemed disappointed. This is not a story about temptation; I was a bit creeped out. On the positive side, she was good looking, and everything on her looked expensive. Also, she seemed educated and she spoke well. I suspect that she had a husband somewhere, but she never mentioned him. Where I live, rich people often have expensive condos in Arizona, usually near golf courses. I had one feeling as I walked away. …

No Chance

A husband grabs a wall map of the world and tapes it up. He hands his wife a dart and tells her that wherever it lands is where they are going for a two-week vacation. She closes her eyes and throws the dart. I guess they’re spending their vacation behind the fridge! I like that story. It reminds me of what happens when we leave things to chance. As they say in gambling circles, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. The problem with chance is that there is no path to follow. You are like a man tossed into the seed at the mercy of wherever the waves go. It may seem that chance had its way with us when we are born. After all, I had no choice of my gender, color, culture, family, environment, etc. It appears that some people are born into opportunity and others born into trouble. The Queen of England was born into a royal family. Could she have been just as easily been born in an impoverished family …

Who Do We Blame For The Virus?

So, who do we blame for the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus?” The name says it all, unless we change the name. The World Health Organization renamed it “Covid-19” partly to avoid blaming anyone for it. Some writers think we should blame bats because viruses like the Covid-19 are found in bats in China. It’s a bad time to be a bat. Apparently, the outbreak that is damaging the world so severely, started in China, in Hubei Province, in Wuhan city and that probably happened in December 2019, but the first cases of the disease may have occurred as early as November. The Government of China doesn’t like the criticism, and now we have a claim, popular in China, that the U.S. military somehow brought the virus to China. The U.S. does have several BSL4 labs. That’s the highest level of Biohazard Safety Laboratory. But then, the critics on the other side want us to know that China has its main BSL4 lab in the city of Wuhan, very close to ground zero for …

Lack is not the Issue

In these COVID-19 days, images of empty shelves are splashed across all media outlets. Long line-ups of people rushing to the stores to purchase food items and sometimes over-buying non-essentials, resulting in hoarding. While world poverty has been reduced significantly in the new millennium, there is still over a billion people world-wide who live in extreme poverty. Self-survival is not new to our generation and although we’ve never watched a child die from malnutrition, or had to resort to cannibalism to survive, a great majority have experienced a ‘scrapping the bottom ofthe barrel’ time. The Bible is filled with stories of people seeking provision during times of adversity. Jesus recognized this social issue; “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me,” (Matthew 26:11). Panicking during droughts and diseases is mankind’s natural reaction to an adverse situation. But lack of provision is not necessarily the true underlining issue for our reaction. The prophet Elijah is instructed by the LORD to go into Zarephath, a city of Idol worship, where …

Clowns for Christ

Yesterday I met with one of my prayer partners. We usually go to a coffee shop, visit and then pray. Yesterday was different. I went through the drive-thru, and then he came and joined me in my truck, Old Rusty. We’re sitting in the truck praying and he says something like: “Dear God thank you that you made Andy a clown.” And this was right in the middle of praying for the world, local churches, Covid19, and other important stuff. If you ever think you’ve got something going for you and then someone in your inner circle tells God you’re a clown, right in front of you! Well, that’s humbling. My friend then went on thanking God for me and how my being a clown helped people find perspective and humor even in the darkest times and how my humor drove away tension so they could seek solutions to their circumstances. After we finished praying and as I was driving home, I realized that he and are very much alike in many ways but very …

How To Be SuperChristian In A Pandemic

When you were a kid, you probably wore a cape, at some time, and did a heroic pose. We used to make swords from scrap wood, until my father learned that we were taking the wood from the house. He was a carpenter, and he didn’t like the extra repair work. Imagine now, you being adult SuperChristian. You can do it, and I don’t think you need a cape for that, and your sword is not made with wood. Also, heroic poses are not required. We went to the epicenter of the Coronavirus Pandemic a few days ago; we drove in the evening, after sunset, to Costco. Our store was more peaceful and orderly than some others. I live in Canada, and we’re still waiting for spring, and there were no line-ups in the snow. Things are much worse in warm places: RELATED: The line at this Costco begins at 2:55 a.m. as coronavirus spooks shoppers: LA Times My job was to park and wait. The rule of social distancing means only one person in …

Choosing faith over fear

The world is completely rattled right now. All the media can talk about is the Coronavirus. We are being bombarded 24 hours a day. Governments are taking extreme measures to try to contain the Coronavirus. The stock market is in a free fall. Business are closing down. And now news is circulating that a second massive locust swarm is building that could devastate Africa a second time this year. The world is being shaken. Jesus promised birth pangs prior to His second coming that included earthquakes, plagues and famines (Matthew 24:7-8; Luke 21:9-12). But here is the important thing about birth pangs, they are just the warm up, meaning the big show is yet to come. I have to admit I am feeling a bit rattled by just the birth pangs and it makes me wonder how I will function when God’s main event takes the stage. During these critical times we have choices to make. It is not how I will respond to the Coronavirus, it is how will I respond to fear? The …

What is wrong with churches?

I have been to many church banquets, services, and functions. In my experience most churches are divided along economic class lines, some along racial or cultural lines, and others along ministerial lines. Rarely is there a church in which the unity of Christ is extended to all. I understand the desire to be with people like yourself. Rich with rich, poor with poor, etc. There is a familiarity and comfort in this. Church leaders who desire to form a real community in which these various elements form a family have their hands full doing so. And not all leaders want this. Neither do all churches. I know pastors of small churches who unplug toilets, counsel, and preach while the members serve together no matter who they are. Of course, with a smaller church, the members tend to be of one economic class or culture or background. Maybe it is easier to have unity and community in a group that cannot afford to be discriminatory. I know pastors of larger churches. As the church grows and …

Are fear and worry weighing you down?

I was at a seminar several years back, and they wanted to show us how much negative thinking affects us. Each of us were told to hold our arms out from our side and then have someone try to push our arm down while we resisted. Most of us put up a good fight, but then we were told to have that person push down our arms while were thinking negative thoughts about ourselves. It could be anything from rehearsing past failures to thinking about how stupid we were. We all immediately noticed how much physically weaker we were when we thought negatively about ourselves. And, although our thoughts don’t hold an actual physical weight, scientists say that negative thoughts ‘weigh’ on your brain in the same way that repeated movements tire your muscles. Negativity and worry have ‘energy costs’ that can tire out our neurons, that are the physical carriers of our thoughts. As a result, we feel a ‘heaviness’ because of the emotional drain on our brain and its neurons. Negative thinking and …

True Peace

Most people want peace. Many of us want peace even if it means war to get it. And most of the time we want peace on our terms. This creates problems. For some, peace is simply an absence of conflict. For others, peace is an inner state of consciousness. Some people seek peace through nature, prayer, or meditation. It just seems very difficult to find. Maybe we are looking in the wrong places. Just like that old country song says, we are looking in all the wrong places (Looking for Love by Johnny Lee, released in 1980). Peace is not something you can buy at a store, find in a bottle, or discover on a mountaintop. To be sure, there is a peaceful environment in nature and many of the things we do to get peace provide temporary relief, but where can we find true peace? Let’s examine two concepts about peace. The first is that it is the absence of conflict. Do you believe that when there is a ceasefire in any one of …

So Much Racism: How Many Ways Can We Hurt Our Neighbor?

Are you a racist? Just answer “no” unless you are. The great sin of our modern world is called racism. We don’t use the word “sin” anymore, and this new name for hatred is a serious thing. Some governments have threatened to cancel the rights of citizens who are openly racist. In politics, people on the political left believe that they are free from racism, and they like to assign the sin of racism to “right wing extremists.” That means, the other side can’t even speak because they have a label that makes them unworthy. This explains a lot of the political bickering in the news. We don’t argue about what we believe, we argue that some people should never speak, and our side should always get the microphone. In these modern times, we have something called “new racism.” This can be many things; systemic, personal, micro-aggressive, environmental, legal and there are many other definitions. Apparently, talk about the Coronavirus is racist against people in China. This complicated and poorly defined racism is popular in …

How Langton messed up what Jesus meant

You have probably never heard of Stephen Langton, but as a Christian you are very familiar with his work and have undoubtedly used it hundreds of times. Langton was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury between 1150 and 1228 AD. About a year before he died, Langton created the chapter system that we use in the Old and New Testament today. It was first incorporated in the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 AD and basically used ever since. The verse break down was not created until 1555. Though the chapter and verse system has proven extremely beneficial over the years, the chapter divisions created by Langton have some very horrid breaks, tearing apart stories that were obviously intended to be together. Because of their very nature, chapter breaks suggest what is found in one chapter is not directly related to what appears in the following. Such is the case of what happens between Matthew 3 and 4. In Matthew chapter 4, we have the record of Satan’s temptation of Jesus. But there is a particularly insidious …

Corona Virus and Religion: Is It Safe To Go To Church?

Call it Covid-19, or the Corona Virus, or by its old name The Wuhan Virus; we all know that the world has a dangerous viral infection, and it is spreading. Anything that I write about the infection will be out-of-date in a week, and I am not a medical expert with many things to say. The infection has been called a crisis, an epidemic, and maybe a pandemic. Words are important because the spreading infection is tied to politics and the economy. Governments are being criticized, and markets are losing money. It’s a perfect storm, caused by a virus that is too small to see, even with a microscope. Did you know, this viral infection is changing religion in a big way? All religions are changing and they might never change back. Life as we know it might be changing forever. I am not making this up. In South Korea, a Christian went to church. She specifically went to a congregation of the “Shincheonji Church of Jesus” in the city of Deagu, South Korea. This …

Sea of Loneliness

Do you ever feel alone? Or lonely? Sometimes we are alone, other times we feel alone and lonely even while there are people around us. There are times in which we can feel more alone and lonelier in a crowd than by ourselves. We just don’t fit. This not fitting in is mostly okay. But there are times we want to fit in. Times in which we feel invisible. Those times are the tough times. Isolation and loneliness actually have negative consequences on our health. It manifests in our bodies with aches, pains, and illnesses. It affects your mind as it can lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental struggles such as negative images. Isolation can cause poor dietary choices, substance abuse, and sleep problems. Even reality can take on a fantasy-like quality. Here are some practical ways to deal with isolation and loneliness. Know yourself Enjoy yourself Love yourself Seasons come and go Connect on some level Popular is not always better If you want to change, take small steps Don’t devalue yourself Know …

Is Toxic Masculinity In The Bible?

“Toxic Masculinity” is a feminist idea that has made many people angry. Some people hate the idea and others are angry at toxic males, now that they can describe their “toxic” behavior. It’s a love / hate thing. One side believes we need to change the way men act, and a good place to start is with the way we raise boys, and the things we teach them. The other side thinks this idea demonizes men, and abuses them just for being who they are. One definition is: “Adherence to traditional male gender roles that consequently stigmatize and limit the emotions boys and men may comfortably express while statusing other emotions such as anger.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_masculinity That’s an accepted definition, and I think it’s not clear, and “statusing” is not a word. Maybe that’s why this argument is mostly emotional; it’s not well defined in a way we can understand. That might be why the idea divides people. People were divided, and angry, when the Gillette Corporation made commercials about Toxic Masculinity. Gillette sells shaving products …

Men With Morals. Who Cares?

Warning: This topic will offend some people. “Morals” here means sexual behavior. There was a time when people were offended when the conversation was too explicit, too “dirty.” Now people get offended for the opposite reason. I believe that sexual behavior should be controlled, and promiscuity with no limits is very wrong. The fire should stay in the fireplace. Some people will be offended. A few days ago I drove on a freeway in a bad snow storm. At one place I saw a car on the side of the road, facing the wrong way, in deep snow. As I passed, I saw that the driver was an attractive young woman, and she was crying. If you are wondering, I couldn’t stop without causing another accident, and help was on the way.  As I drove by, I knew there were two ways for a man to think. Someone could stop, and try to take advantage, when the woman was vulnerable; or we could see a daughter, niece, sister, neighbor who needed help. Any man reading …

Memory Loss and Fear

Mental health is very important in all stages of living. I know some young people who struggle and some old people who struggle. Many of these struggles are to do with memories and fear. There is a connection between memory, mental health, and fear. Memory loss impacts our ability to understand since so much of our understanding is based on our history and experiences. When memory  loss occurs, the confidence that comes from an inner knowledge or a sense of familiarity is replaced by a void of uncertainty. A part of us feels like we should know who so-and-so is or what is happening around us, but we don’t. And that can be unsettling. Memory loss can happen at any age although it seems to be more prevalent among the older population. There are many types of treatments for memory loss from prescriptions to supplements to memory games and physical activity. I am not an expert on any of these treatments but I would suggest that just as we are all wonderfully and uniquely made …

The Handmaid’s Tale: Is This The End Of The World?

You have probably noticed the Handmaid’s costumes in movies and television shows, and sometimes in political demonstrations. To me, these costumes, worn by women, look like a Catholic nun’s habit in a science fiction movie. The costumes were designed by a professional costume maker, for movies and television, and they are religious, so Nuns’ habits might be a design inspiration. Political demonstrations where these costumes appear are almost always about abortion. Women who dress like Handmaids demonstrate for liberal access to abortions, without restrictions, So, Handmaids’ costumes are worn by pro-abortion demonstrators. There is a group of protestors who call themselves “The Handmaids Coalition” and they protest in costume. If the name ‘Handmaid’ sounds strange for a modern group, it is a very old name, taken from the Bible. There is something Christians should know about The Handmaid’s Tale and all those protestors in those costumes. This all started with a Canadian author named Margaret Atwood, who has been writing novels and stories and poems for many years. She was well known in Canada, but …

Men Are Not stupid!

Women’s magazines often have these quizzes to help women determine if their man is a good fit for them or what type of man would be good for them.  Men’s magazines have articles on getting chiseled abs or how to be more confident. And that explains some issues in relationships. Men are different from women and this is true with how we view relationships. Men tend to see relationships like we see our vehicles. As long as it’s running, everything is fine. Women tend to see relationships as constantly needing work. “Yup, we got ourselves a really powerful motor and no rust, what a beauty!” One man might say to another man. He could be talking about his car or his wife. In either case, he’s not going to start repairing something that already works. I think this has to do with expectations. I expect that when I drive my truck it will get me to where I want to go. If something breaks down, I fix it. My expectation is that as long as …

Your True Valentine

Father Dave Mercer, a Catholic man, in case you were wondering, wrote on Aleteia.org that the three most desired phrases to hear are: “I love you.” “You are forgiven.” “Supper is ready.” When I think of that last one, it brings back memories of holidays with my family. We’re sitting around making small talk and wiping the drool off our chins waiting for that great smelling food to be ready.   We all want to be forgiven for the dumb things we do. I am blessed to be surrounded with such great people that when I do make a mistake, I am quickly and easily forgiven. And that is true of God who forgives my sins after I repent of them. I am loved. Every single day I hear I love you. Yet there were days and months and even years when I was younger in which I never once heard those words. Love means different things to different people. We are easily confused what love is so here are three things love is not. …

My Second-Best Advice: Say ‘Nope, Nope’ And Run Away

One morning, I was eating breakfast before going to work when the phone rang. That was weird, and it got weirder. I picked up the phone, and someone asked me to cancel my plans for the day, and go to court. The other person was pleading, and really wanted my help. When I say “go to court” I really mean that big building where scary things happen. I almost said no, but I decided to help my friend. The person on the phone was a woman that I knew. She was a Christian, like me, and she wanted me to testify for her in court. I phoned my boss and explained that I would be late for work. There is a history before the breakfast phone call. I had some connections with some people, a couple, and I probably had a claim for about fifty thousand dollars. The main reason was my part ownership of some real estate; a shabby little house that they rented out until they could sell it for a profit. My …

Imagine a Year Without Addictions

Most of us don’t know how much addictions interfere with our lives. I was raised in a strict family that went to church every week. The rule was, each of us had to attend something at church three times each week. I can complain now, but my strict parents raised me in a bad part of town, and kept me away from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. I don’t feel better than anyone else, but I am healthy now. I went to a high school where parts of the building were controlled by drug dealers. Only a few washrooms were safe and the people sleeping in the stairwells were probably high and unconscious. I’m a high school drop-out because I quit when a university accepted my course record. I was never a user; I lived in the shadow of addiction. There are many of us. Groups like Al-Anon are for those of us who live close to addiction, but don’t experience it directly. In school, I wondered why some of my friends were so thin, and …

The Vending Machine God

Some preacher somewhere said that we have more faith in a vending machine than we do in God. That was a long time ago, yet I still believe it to be true. Yesterday I was meeting with my good friend, Mark. Mark leads the worship team for Lighthouse Ministries and we often chat to match worship to whatever I am preaching about. Yesterday we talked about making worship more inclusive and for some reason I mentioned the vending machine idea. Mark added to this thought and said that often we treat God like a vending machine. How we do these things is simple and sad. I don’t often use vending machines anymore but when I was a student and studied late into the night at one of the study halls, there was a vending machine. It served up coffee. To be honest, vending machine coffee is not as good as one might think but around eleven at night with hours to go, it was the only choice we had. I think coffee was only a …

Are Ancient Aliens in the Bible?

You may have noticed, there is a growing interest something called “Ancient Aliens.”  This a step up from UFOs and a little guy named ET. When i was a boy, my older brother developed a fascination in flying saucers and visitors from outer space. I was the little brother, and I started reading his books, and I caught the fascination. It was all exciting until one Sunday, when our family went to church. The preacher brought up the topic of UFOs. This was thrilling to my brother and me, for a few seconds. We thought the adult world was going to endorse our hobby. Our hopes disappeared instantly, when he told us all how bad this belief was. We were not, under any circumstances, allowed to believe in that. I remember our mother looking at us with a look of severe correction. Later, at home, all the books were taken away, and we were warned to never speak of UFOs, flying saucers, and visitors from outer space again. My mother died a few years ago, …

The One Thing

Curly Washburn told Mitch Robbins that the secret of life is to find one thing. He didn’t elaborate but as the movie and its sequel roll on Mitch figures it out. Find the one thing that makes you happy and stick to it. Is this advice from an old movie, City Slickers, good advice? According to the world it us sound and solid. You can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself is more than just lyrics from the song, Garden Party, by John Fogerty.  It is an anthem of the modern world.  What if I told you that both these bits of advice parallel the Holy Word of God? They don’t point us in the right direction but they have the same idea of focus and intent to walk our own path in a world telling us who we are  Jesus told us that all the prophets and laws in the Bible can be summed in a simple two sentence statement and that we are to focus on that. Although Curly wasn’t that far …

Forgive and Love

Forgiveness is a tough thing. It is like it has a mind of its own.  There are even times in which we can say we forgive someone and actually believe we did forgive them only to find ourselves angry at them and replaying the hurt over and over again. There are people who seem to forgive every offense. On the other end of the forgiveness spectrum are people who never forgive. They remember every hurt and wear their anger as armor to protect them from further hurts. The first group allow themselves to be trampled upon and the second group do the trampling. There are many formulas written about forgiveness including steps to forgiveness, rituals to help us forgive, and even face to face meetings set up with the ones who hurt us. Most of these are external and miss what the Bible says. Forgiveness is based on the greatest commands of Jesus. Commands that sum up all the laws and prophets of the Old Testament. Jesus said, “Love your God with all your mind, …

Who were the Magi?

One of the tough questions surrounding the story of Jesus’ birth revolves around the magi. Who were they? Well looking at the Biblical account of their arrival only recorded in Matthew, we can determine several things: First we don’t know how many there were. The plural version of this word is used in Matthew, so we know there was more than one. Though they brought three expensive gifts — gold, myrrh and frankincense — it doesn’t mean there were three of them. Some believe this involved a larger group, as many as 12. For sure, they would have been travelling in a caravan for protection. Secondly, they were important enough that King Herod eventually requested a meeting with them. Their gifts express wealth or political connections and probably both. In fact, we read that Herod and all of Jerusalem was troubled by what they had to say about the new king (Matthew 2:3). In other words, Herod respected their opinion enough to be very concerned. We know that thee magi did not arrive at the …