Wednesday, March 9, 2011

For those about to fast, I salute you!

Well, today is Ash Wednesday!

So, for those of you who will be choosing to fast from something for the next 40 odd days I wish you nothing but the best.  I hope you (and I) will be be challenged, strengthened, and encouraged.

And to get you thinking here is a stanza from T. S. Eliot's poem, "Ash Wednesday":

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

And I only mention this because it may effect you as a reader of this blog, but a part of what I will be fasting from will be all things blog related.  Obviously, that will include this blog, so don't anticipate any new posts until after we celebrate the resurrection!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

To Fast or Not to Fast

This next Wednesday (March 9th) is "Ash Wednesday." This day marks the beginning of Lent.

The practice of Lent (fasting for 40 days leading up to Resurrection Sunday) has its origins in the Early Church era (approx 100-300 AD). Resurrection Sunday (i.e. "Easter" Sunday) was a day when the Church most often held baptisms and so, for those wishing to be baptized into the Church, it was required that, in order to show their sincerity and dedication, they dedicate themselves to prayer and fasting leading up to their baptism day.

40 days was the chosen number due to it being the symbolic number of trials and testing (ie. Gen. 7:12; Ex. 24:14; 1Kg. 19:8; Jonah 3:4, 5; Mt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13; Lk. 4:1-14; Acts 1:3).

Of course, if you actually start counting from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday you'll realize that there are 46 days. This is because during Lent we don't fast on Sundays! After all, Sunday is a day for celebration and corporate worship; the first day of the week is set aside as "the Lord's day" (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:2, 9; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10) to commemorate His Resurrection. It is a day of celebration, not of fasting. So, while Lent actually lasts for 46 days, there are only 40 of those days that are days of fasting.

A lot of other, largely pointless and even counter-productive, traditions have been added to and mixed in with Lent (Mardi Gras, Fish Fridays, etc) but at the core of it, I think there's something good here.

After all, as we look ahead to the time when we celebrate the greatest moment in all of history, why wouldn't we take the time to demonstrate the sincerity and earnestness of our faith? Isn't that a significant part of what prayer and fasting are all about?

So, will you choose to fast? Why/why not?
What are some creative ideas of things we could fast from?

PS - I encourage you, as you ponder what you may want to give up for the next 40 odd days, to make sure that you are giving up something that is not only sacrificial, but also something that you are giving up for the right reasons: lent is not about you losing weight or about breaking that nasty habit. Lent is about you and God. If you happen to break that habit or lose that weight, that is just an added bonus.

The point of fasting in this type of situation is that whenever you instinctively want to do whatever you are giving up you force yourself to think on Christ. Take the time that you would normally be taking to do whatever you are giving up, and dedicate that time to Christ. Spend that time in a decidedly Godly way. You get the idea.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A look behind as well as ahead

For those of us still enclosed in the icy clutches of winter it's nice every now and then to look back the previous summer's activities in order to anticipate next summer's.

In the last couple of week's I've spent a significant amount of time day-dreaming about what sort of camping/canoeing trips I might be able to pull off this upcoming summer (Lord willing, of course!).

Last September long-weekend I (along with a few other adults: my brother, Lori who organized the whole trip, and her brother) guided a group of kids on a canoe trip just north of LaRonge, SK.

Here's our route:

It was a nice, easy loop based out of Missinipi (south-west corner of the map). We crossed Otter Lake into Grandmother Bay (travelling north-east), portaged across into French Lake and made camp on the first night on a tiny little island on the North-East end of French Lake. Day two started off with a portage from French Lake into Ducker Lake. We travelled down Ducker until we had to portage (worst portage EVER!) into Stewart. We spent our second night on a little peninsula in Rattler Bay. Our final day on the water took us out of Rattler and back into Otter Lake. Our weather had been fantastic so far, but day 3 had us fighting both the current and the wind most of the way back to Missinipi. As you can see from our return route, we did our best to hug the leeward side of the islands for a bit of shelter. We got back to Missinipi just in time to set up camp before the rain hit!

Here's most of our group:

Ahh, how I long for the open water!

A little open-water rest/snack time.

Campsite on Day 1:

My good brother, the canoe meister, attempting to teach me how to solo properly :)

At the south end of Rattler Bay there are some cool petroglyphs. The picture might not show it super well, but this is clearly a moose.

It was a great trip. There are few things so excellent in life than spending time experiencing God's phenomenal creation with those of like mind!

Now back to planning this year's trips!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Theological Intoxication

I think my favourite thing about going through the Psalms in the LXX is that everything is just phrased slightly differently. It makes you stop and take notice of things that you might not otherwise. Switching from one translation to another often has that effect.

What I've been struck by most recently has been the language of intoxication.

Here are a couple examples of what I'm talking about:

"You anointed my head with oil, and your cup was supremely intoxicating" (Ps. 22:5 [23:5] NETS).

"You showed Your people hard things; You gave us to drink wine of stupification" (Ps. 59:5 [60:3] NETS).

"You visited the earth and intoxicated it; You multiplied enriched it; the river of God was filled with water; You prepared its nourishment, because so it Your preparation. Intoxicate its furrows! Multiply its crops; it will be glad with its drops, when it sprouts" (Ps. 64:10-11 [65:9-10] NETS).

These were the passages that I ran across in Psalms just recently which prompted me to do a little more searching to see how the imagery of wine and inebriation are used in scripture.

Now, before I get going I want to be clear that, at least in my view, the scriptures (both OT and NT) are very clear on drinking: the drinking of alcoholic beverages is not only permitted but considered normative (Yes, even in the NT: Lk. 7:32-35; Jn. 2:1-12; Rom. 14:21; 1Tim. 5:23). HOWEVER, the scriptures are also abundantly clear that drunkenness is forbidden... always (Pr. 20:1; Is. 5:22; Eph. 5:18; 1Tim. 3:8; Tit. 2:3; etc). Nothing good comes from drunkenness (Gen. 9:20-25; 19:30-38; 2Sam11).

Of course, the other concept essential to this is whether one's drinking is a "stumbling block" to our brothers and sisters (Rom 14; 1Cor.8).

But it's not the topic of drinking that I want to talk about; it's the metaphor of drinking/drunkenness that I'm talking about.

Drunkenness is strictly forbidden by God and yet, as part of His revelation to us, He uses the imagery of intoxication as a means of communicating His Truth. Isn't that just a bit odd?

Now, most of the time it actually makes sense, because in the majority of cases the language of drinking and intoxication is in reference to God's judgement and wrath (Job 21:20; Rev. 16:19; etc). A good example of a wine & wrath scripture is this one from Jeremiah:

"Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them" (25:25-26).

To me this connection between drunkenness and wrath makes sense. It just connects the idea that those who fall under God's wrath will be thrown into chaos and confusion.

But there are numerous other passages that talk about drinking and even drunkenness in very different terms. In fact, in Jeremiah just two chapters before the passage I just quoted we run into this verse:

"My heart is broken within me; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, like a man overcome by wine, because of the Lord and because of his holy words" (Jer. 23:9 ESV).

I find this interesting because this passage isn't directly dealing with wrath. Instead, I think it is talking about the effect that God's revelation is having on Jeremiah. Even though we can fairly say that Jeremiah was a righteous man He feels "like a drunken man" upon receiving word from God.

Even more juxtaposed to this is the fact that God not only refers to wine and drunkenness in connection to His wrath, but wine is often connected with passages that talk about plenty, blessedness, and restoration:

"14 You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth 15 and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart" (Ps. 104:14-15 ESV).

Prophesying about the New Covenant, Isaiah says, "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (Is. 55:1 ESV).

Earlier in Isaiah we see that "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined" (Is. 25:6 ESV).

Hosea prophecies that when God removes His blessing on Israel: "... I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season, and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness" (Hos. 2:9 ESV), but then when he prophesies about the restoration of Israel: "... and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil..." (2:22).

And again we see Joel using similar terms: "So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who dwells in Zion, my holy mountain. And Jerusalem shall be holy, and strangers shall never again pass through it. 18 "And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the Lord and water the Valley of Shittim" (Joel 3:17-18 ESV).

In Proverbs we read that Wisdom personified says, '4 "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" To him who lacks sense she says, 5 "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight."' (Pr. 9:4-6 ESV).

And, quite significantly, we read of Melchizedek, the forshadower to the Christ:
"And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)" (Gen 14:18 ESV) ["bread & wine"... think New Covenant & Communion].

So, what do you make of all of these (and the MANY other) scriptures that talk about drinking and intoxication?

What other theological themes do you see in connection to drinking/wine/ect?

Why do you think this has become such a divisive issue within evangelical Christianity?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sometimes you just beat yourself

Team Canada (ranked 80th in the world) played Greece (ranked 10th) today. All in all it was an impressive game for the Canucks who played a solid, equal match against the Greeks. In fact, aside from a few breakdowns, I think Team Canada had more quality chances than the Greeks.

Unfortunately, we beat ourselves with a horrendous giveaway. *sigh*

It was still a good game!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 a weaned child...

As I continue to meander through the Psalms I, once again, stumbled upon Psalm 131 and thought it tied in nicely with the last post and the idea of relaxing, having full confidence in God as our parent (although, certainly not a father in this case!).
Anyway, our household currently has a nursing child in it, so this simile is particularly poignant for me.