• September 25, 2014

    Where is Jesus When Life is Hard?

    "Blessed by the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle; he is my steadfast love and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield and he in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me." Ps 144: 1-2 "Count is all joy, my brothers, when you meet trails of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." James 1: 2-4 I love these two sets of truths from God's word!  Today, I hold to them and affirm that they are tr

  • September 24, 2014

    Stand Up, Speak Out, Sit Down, Be Quiet

    The other night, while flipping through the pages of Proverbs, I came across this passage in Proverbs 31: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9. I posted it on Facebook and asked for thoughts and responses. I had some good ones too...

  • September 23, 2014

    In Every Way, A New Person

    “Joining a self-help group through World Renew and AICT MUD has completely changed my life.” That’s how Lazaro Mwati from Ragata village in northern Tanzania began telling his story during a recent visit. Our joint program with the Africa Inland Church of Tanzania Mara/ Ukerewe Diocese (AICT MUD) is a five-year project which is funded by the Canadian government (DFATD) to empower rural Tanzanians to improve their...

  • September 22, 2014

    Mighty Deeds

    I was helping New City Kids Grand Rapids audition teens for jobs as tutors, recreation teachers, and performing arts teachers. A dozen of them will get hired here, and they will get mentoring and training and become leaders. And it will all happen in this old church that I love. Before the other night, I hadn’t been in the building for twenty-five years. The congregation of Alpine Avenue Christian Reformed Church sold the building around 1990...

  • September 18, 2014

    Can Films Help to Change the World?

    Can films help to change the world? This question was prompted by watching several films at the Toronto International Film Festival recently. These films were all in TIFF's Contemporary World Speakers series. All the films, as we discovered, were very powerful, even if not all of them could be classified as equally great. an films help to change the world? My response after seeing these five films is affirmative. Film is a compelling medium that rivals and may even exceed the written word in the influence it can have...

  • September 17, 2014

    Something broadly American

    Just in case you missed it, September 13, was the 200th anniversary of the National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." It's something of a miracle that the actual flag Francis Scott Key was waiting desperately to see in "the dawn's early light" is displayed today in the Smithsonian Museum. One star is missing because one of the relatives cut out one of the stars and sold it...

  • September 17, 2014

    Chosen by God: Election

    We live in a culture where we have so much choice in almost everything. We choose what to eat, a blessing so many people in the world don't have. We choose our school, our job (to a certain extent anyway), our church (lots of church hoppers and shoppers out there), our clothes (some make better choices than others my kids tell me), and how we spend our time among all our other choices.

  • September 17, 2014

    The Particularity of the Bible

    The notion that the individual books of the Bible are written with a degree of independence brings up an important point about understanding Scripture: the Bible is contextual and particular. That is, the Bible was written to a particular context that is not our own. Although Scripture points to the timeless truths of God, it does so using language and imagery that has meaning to and in a particular context...

  • September 16, 2014

    Amos and Justice

    There is more to justice than the question of salvation. It is, for instance, a quality of rulers (1 Kings 10:9), even though we today tend not to elect people on the basis of how just they are. Furthermore, it is an “attribute of God, a tool for peace, and it brings freedom” as one of the students said last week. It is something that changes lives, not just for the future but for now...

  • September 16, 2014

    Turning New Homes Over to Families in the Philippines

    I was blessed to be able to participate in the ceremonies to handover new, typhoon-and-earthquake-resistant houses to 38 families who had been living in makeshift shelters since Haiyan. What a blessing. Children stayed out of school for this special occasion, and it was a joy to see the shy smile on their faces. Older women were more expressive, with tears of big gratitude. World Renew is building 340 of these in the island of Panay and each is resistant to 200 km an hour winds...

  • September 11, 2014

    Water -- Too Much or Too Little

    During a very rough landing when arriving in Nicaragua in a rain storm I was the only passenger smiling, hoping that the farmers with whom we work would also be receiving this blessing. Moisture for the thirsty ground!  As we proceeded up the mountain the rain lessened but we spotted puddles along the roadside.  Unlike the 5 inches received in Managua, the area in which we live received only 1 ½ inches.  But we are thankful...

  • September 11, 2014

    Stress and Margin

    Richard Swenson has made a living preaching the values of Margin a person's life.  I believe he has written four books on the subject!  Margin is the space on the outside of the pages.  It is the area not written upon.  Swenson, who is a medical doctor, argues that giving 100% of our energy and resources is pure foolishness.  It is like writing on every square inch of a page!  Unfortunately, life without margin is the new normal...

  • September 11, 2014

    The Bible and Experience

    I begin here because this is a fundamental presupposition of my faith: our experience of faith and understanding of Scripture does not exist in a vacuum. Whenever we talk about God, Scripture, Jesus, etc. we stand on the shoulders of giants. Our modern understanding of faith has been molded and shaped by a conversation that has been happening in homes, churches, and the halls of academia for centuries.

  • September 10, 2014

    Rural Opportunity

    Recently, National Geographic magazine ran an article on hunger in America. One of the “faces of hunger” the article mentions is the working and rural poor. The article notes that this group of people is not the “face” most people tend to think of. What services can we provide to reach out in Christ’s love to those in need, a demographic that might be harder to identify in rural areas than in urban areas?...

  • September 10, 2014

    Helping Teachers, Helping Schools

    In Haiti, there are only enough government-supported schools to serve a small percentage of the ever increasing number of school-aged children (as there are about five births per woman, a large percentage of the Haitian population is children).  Haiti's Protestant evangelical churches are filling that void in primary and secondary school education...

  • September 10, 2014

    God's Love in the Apostles' Creed

    How many times have you said the Apostles Creed? Have you ever thought about what you’re actually saying? We believe in a deity who is a “Father” and “Almighty” despite all the pain and suffering in the world. We believe an uneducated carpenter who was allowed to be tortured to death on a cross is this God’s “only Son” and also our master today. The truths we mumble through and hardly reflect on are actually quite shocking...

  • September 10, 2014

    The Best Advice I Have Ever Received

    What is the best advice you have ever received? Was there a word of wisdom or an insight that helped shape your life? At the start of this new academic year at Calvin Seminary, I started to recall my markers of “best advice.” A favorite was brought to mind as I reminisced about marriage counseling...

  • September 9, 2014

    Food Security Projects in Olancho

    I am sitting in the World Renew and Diaconia Nacional office in Tegucigalpa reflecting on the past month that I've spent in Olancho. One project that Diaconia is involved in is the community and family gardening projects. This project provides farmers with the means to grow fruits and vegetables that they can use primarily to feed their own families. There is very much a culture of sharing here...

  • September 8, 2014

    The Process of Transformation

    Maybe I could go on a crash diet of cabbage, seaweed, and Alpo for ten days and it would all be better. Maybe I could just ask God to zap me and then I will wake up tomorrow at my goal. Yet, experience tells me that none of these "maybes" will work. Only daily faithfulness to a routine and following of my plan will increase my muscle tone and shrink my fat.  How much of our inner transformation is like going on a diet and exercise plan?...

  • September 5, 2014

    Red Rock Miracles

    The truth is, there was a school at Rehoboth mission only because the mission wasn't on the Navajo Reservation. It wasn't placed where there was already an Indian school, where the government gave missionaries lots of good time with kids anyway because the government believed that bringing Native people Christianity was a super good way to make them forget they were Indians and make them real Americans. It's no wonder that many Native people across the continent, even today, think of Christianity as the white man's religion. Even the government thought so...

  • September 4, 2014

    Making Disciples... Oft Repeated Dead Ends

    It sounds so easy and so obvious. Jesus did it. Paul did it. We should do it. But we don't. When was the last time you personally helped make and shape a disciple of Jesus? I think for many church folks, the answer would be telling. Why? We have misunderstood what it means to make a disciple. While we might think somewhere within us that making a disciple is following what Jesus does, we have been trained to believe that making a disciple means...

  • September 4, 2014

    New to New York? Church Shop. Then Settle.

    Whether you're an incoming freshman or moving to New York for work, the temptation is to spend the next year visiting different churches.  No doubt you'll check out Redeemer and Hillsong.  You might attend for a while, then realize you want something a little more manageable in terms of size.  So then you'll shop around, visiting other churches. You won't get plugged in anywhere because you'll never be at one place long enough to actually get to know people.  A year will go by, maybe two, and you'll realize you still don't have a church home. So let me give you a word of advice...

  • September 3, 2014

    Sermon and Symbol

    To me, that morning he seemed more adamant than he normally is, more given to narrow his eyes and speak with his hands. But he seemed a few shades more "the preacher" that Sunday morning, more "thus-saith-the-Lord." The subject was the Bible itself, the Word, the Holy Scripture. He was for it, of course, and adamant about our need to study it, to know it, to gather in and live out of its eternal wisdom. No hellfire and brimstone--he didn't warn us of turbulence in days to come if we didn't study it hard and take it to heart.

  • September 3, 2014

    Praying Together, Constantly

    They had all been with Jesus. They had all seen him, known him, heard him. Now that he was gone, they met together. We read in Acts “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” They had been given instructions (by Jesus) to wait for the next step. They did what the only thing they could think of. They prayed. They prayed together. They prayed together constantly...

  • September 3, 2014

    God's Expert Slinger

    The story of David fighting and defeating Goliath is probably the most well-known of all the stories about David. It is an important reminder that God is in the giant-defeating business when those giants stand opposed to His plans. And it has inspired many underdogs to press on against a stronger foe. But skeptics have asked: “Could a boy really have killed a mighty warrior with just a sling and stone? Does the author of 1 Samuel exaggerate...

  • September 2, 2014

    What's The Bottom Line?

    We hear so much about bottom line in these days of government downsizing and deficit reductions, business consolidations and worldwide competition.
    When someone gets into a long, wind-baggy explanation of something, we may interupt – “Just cut to the chase. What’s the bottom line?" If someone were to ask you, “OK – what’s the bottom line of your faith?” what would you say?...

  • September 2, 2014

    Coveting and Contentment

    Coveting, an older churchy Bible word that means 'to really want something.' Coveting is not something bad in itself, you can covet good things and bad things, in good ways and bad ways. People have come up to me saying, "I covet your prayers," meaning they would really appreciate it if I prayed for them. Often though, coveting is used in a more negative way, in the way God uses it in the last commandment...

  • September 2, 2014

    A Blessed Return

    Flying from Toronto to London was a little stressful because I didn't sleep a wink. I helped a young Indian mother look after her 5 month old baby and 3 year old boy. In London Heathrow I was able to catch up with my team-mates, the Shaarda family, and we shared some snacks before boarding yet another plane. This time to Entebbe. I was so happy that I easily crossed customs!! All of my baggage also arrived!!  WooHoo...

  • August 21, 2014


    Hope is desire and expectation. Hope is that which you expect and that you are sure will satisfy your deepest desires. Both in our world and in scripture we encounter two types of hope: false hope and true hope. Lamentations 3 presents us with both: False hope—vs. 18 “So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” And true hope—vs. 21, “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love..."

  • August 21, 2014


    One of the things I was struck by as we drove and hiked and walked in this remote area, was the vastness of God’s creation. In this northern wilderness, my husband and I were not even dots on a map. Its easy to feel pretty insignificant in a place like that. And then at night the sky filled with stars so bright and close and numerous, I could not help but proclaim in a way similar to the psalmist, ‘who am I that you are mindful of me?’...

  • August 21, 2014

    Making Sure Justice Works

    As I sit here writing this, my province is once again home to people banging pots trying to intimidate the government to bow to one group of citizens over the province as a whole. Now to be honest, it's not a clear cut issue as the government has placed itself in this position of having to go back on work contracts signed in the past.

  • August 19, 2014

    You Will Laugh

    I wish Mr. Williams were still alive for all kinds of human and Christian reasons. But I am surely glad he came our way. He was natively funny and he made us laugh, and that is a gift I think we sometimes undervalue.  Even some comedians downplay their role in the grander scheme of things, acknowledging that what they do is not exactly akin to cancer research, the work of heart surgeons, or relief workers in disaster zones.  Still, laughter is a gift and even the Bible--and Jesus himself--are funnier than most Christians tend to realize or acknowledge...

  • August 18, 2014

    Begging Bread

    “Piety gave birth to prosperity,” Cotton Mather once wrote (or words similar to those), “and the child devoured the mother.”  But then, Cotton Mather really believed that his beloved Puritan theocracy got shipwrecked by the diminished righteousness of the children of New England’s “visible saints.”  The new-found wealth of the second and third generations of the Puritans simply destroyed orthodoxy and faith itself. He may have been right, of course, but then, as President Bill Clinton might say, a whole lot depends on what one means by righteousness...

  • August 18, 2014

    Be Thou Our Vision

    This past week marked the very first official meeting for Resurrection Life Church. I told the group that I was a little nervous, so I did what I always do when I am nervous leading a group. I talk. Fortunately the group was made up of gracious listeners, and in the end it was important to talk through the worship vision of Resurrection Life Church... 

  • August 15, 2014

    Taking It All For Granted

    I was walking around our property the other day thinking, “Lord, what a blessing. What a gift. Thank you.” Having the family we do. Living where we do. Sharing the church community we do. All just awesome.
    And then over the last couple of days I began to also wonder, “How often do I take this for granted? Or behave as if I somehow deserve it, or earned it, or own it?” When our vacation began a friend of mine suddenly died – heart attack. It reminded me how thin the thread is upon which our lives hang. And how every moment we have, every single one, is sheer gift...

  • August 15, 2014

    What's in a Name?

    It looks like a list. It reads like a list. At the end of his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul sends a personal greeting of affirmation and gratitude to 27 separately named co-laborers. Yes, the letter to the Romans is filled with memorable verses and overarching themes that were foundational to the Reformation and is still foundational to framing the theology of the church. But it also instructs us about the importance of names. Paul sends personal greetings such as: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila...” “Greet my dear friend Epenetus..." “Greet Rufus..." What’s in a name?...

  • August 13, 2014

    "Though He Stumble"

    Today, suicides are not refused burial in any local cemeteries that I know of, and, for that, all of us should be thankful. I can not sympathize a whit with those who kept Mr. Shimerda’s body out of proper burial, but when I read a verse like this—from David—I can at least understand something of their fear, for fear is what it was, I’m sure. To take one’s own life is to reject the eternal truth of what David says: “though he stumble, he will not fall..."

  • August 13, 2014

    Where Are We, When God Grieves? Part I

    ‘Action T4’ was the code name given in the late 1930’s to the racial cleansing that Hitler began on his own people. By the beauty of the Tiergarten, the first acts of compulsory sterilizations and euthanasia were incubated, marking the beginning of what would become the foundation for the ‘Final Solution.’ The Berliner Philharmonic side by side with ‘Action T4’ represent two tales, two views, one ‘from above’; the other ‘from below’. The scene ‘from below’- ‘Action T4’ remained as we exited the Philharmonic to our train.

  • August 12, 2014

    Who Told You That We are Poor?

    Last Saturday I took a ride through a “low-income,” informally-settled neighborhood called Mtandile that is near to our house. Many foreigners avoid this area of town because it has a reputation for harboring thieves and other unsavory sorts. For me, it is a place that is full of life and vitality: a mass of humanity living in close quarters. I found the sounds and the smells of people surviving and thriving to be comforting rather than threatening...

  • August 12, 2014

    More Zombies in the Bible?

    A number of people insist that there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse or that there really could be something in the Bible about it. Let me be clear: Zombies aren’t real and the Bible says nothing about there being zombies. And then I begin looking at Ezekiel 37:1-14. Ah, crud. Zombies again? It’s the classic passage of the valley of dry bones. Ezekiel is a prophet preaching to the Israelites who had been taken into exile from their land and forced to live in Babylon. The people felt dead. The people felt alone. The people felt hopeless.

  • August 11, 2014

    The American Road Trip: A Retrospective

    Circa 1978 She: Honey, I think we were supposed to take that exit. He: Are you sure? She: Well, I’m looking at the atlas here and … boy, this is right on the edge of this page … here, I’ll look at the detail map on the next page. He: Let me see that! She: You drive! I’m navigating! He: Are you sure you’re reading that right? She: I’m telling you, it’s exit 174. I can see it right here. 2014 She: Which exit am I supposed to take? He: Look at my phone mounted on the dash. It shows you. Just follow the arrows. She: I can’t see your phone.

  • August 11, 2014

    Why University Students Should Know Vos

    Vos. Geerhardus Vos, that is. The Dutch immigrant, scholar, and Princeton Seminary professor, as well as the author of numerous works, including, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments. This work is the culmination of his studies and work as a theologian. Biblical Theology is defined by Vos as “that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible.” What follows are three reasons why university students should take time to read this work, and study Biblical Theology more broadly...

  • August 6, 2014

    Flying Fish

    As I was driving, I saw a teal blue beaten up minivan driving up fast behind me. I was going 5 over (okay, maybe ten) and they passed me like I was standing still. And then I saw a flying fish. What is that? As the minivan passed me by, I saw a nice little symbol on the back of the car near the license plate. It’s the universal symbol of being a follower of Jesus–the Jesus Fish...

  • August 6, 2014

    We Are N

    Please pray for the persecuted Christians of Iraq. Any persecution is important for us in the West to pay close attention to, for a number of reasons.  First, the persecution of Christians across the world is probably one of the biggest human rights issues that largely happens without protest. A Nov. 27, 2013 National Post article outlined how there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in the 1,900 years that came before...

  • August 6, 2014

    Unpacking Shame

     “The German people are dealing with their past shame. In fact the way that they are coping with it may very well be an excellent model for other nations who are still unwilling to honestly look at their past.”  REALLY? I thought to myself as Kathie and I listened to our German tour guide while on a walking tour of today’s Berlin. Is it really possible to find closure for the travesties of the Nazis? It was true. The German people with courageous honesty were unpacking their shame...

  • August 6, 2014

    The Progress Chart

    “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress." (1Ti 4:15 ESV) Imagine that! Paul is saying to Timothy that we ought to let people see our progress in holiness. Let people track our progress. Perhaps we don’t think of that too often. Sometimes we are content to stay just exactly the way that we are. Sometimes we think that to be a true Christian we need to be doing everything...

  • August 4, 2014

    History Quiz

    Ok, it's the first weekend in August and with it comes a slight tremor of forewarning that summer's going to end. The mind panics a bit, goes distracted and diffuse. So here, gentle reader, from the loose ends of my summer projects, a pop history quiz to settle you down. The first two items might surprise you; the third, alas, should not... 

  • August 1, 2014

    "You get a whole lot smarter when you die."

    This is how the publisher, New Rivers, describes Up the Hill: "Set in a small prairie town, and narrated from the grave in a voice that is humorous, elucidatory, and enlightening, these interconnected folk tales capture how the dearly departed handle being spirits in a world that continues on without them, but also with them...The result is forgiveness, redemption, and divine intervention and proof that “you get a whole lot smarter when you die.”...

  • August 1, 2014

    Reflections on Kenya

    In the area of Kenya where we visited, World Renew is working with the Anglican Church's development organization. The first area we visited was around Nakuru. The people we visited were the lead farmers in farmer groups, chosen by the members of their groups to pilot these techniques. They were mainly focusing on growing more and better vegetables for family consumption and for sale. So, one technique they used was to make "wet gardens." They took sacks, sewed them in a circle, and put a perforated pipe down the middle and filled the sack with soil.  You can transplant vegetables...

  • July 31, 2014

    Pain, Faith,and Doubt

    We admire faith. Someone with a strong convicting faith we begin to look up to and wish we had the clarity, vision, stalwartness, and conviction which they have. When we think of people with a strong solid faith we think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We think of Mother Theresa. We think of Billy Graham. And for those in our communities and for those in our churches, we prize and look up to, wishing we had their faith...