Tuesday, 20 December 2016

On Tuesday Peter's body died. Roll the stone aside! Part 2.

"Oh my, Oh, my goodness! Oh, wow!  Mom…? Dad…? Donna Jean!!! Uncle Harry, is that you?!  Oh, my! Oh, my goodness! Jesus!!! Oh, Sweet Lord! I’m really here! Thank you LORD! Thank you, thank you!”

Right now I’m trying to imagine what (my brother-in-law) Peter experienced sometime around 4:00am Tuesday morning.  As the Apostle Paul said, “That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.’  My focusing on Peter’s present and incomprehensible joy is a sweet distraction from my own present sadness.

Belief in God is a strange thing in many ways.  For the believing Christian, there is a certain knowledge that comes from an intimate relationship with God.  It is not a ‘hypothetical belief’ or experience, it is literal. The faith part of the relationship is simply the trust that God is all He says He is and will do all the things He says He will do.

About a year ago, after his diagnosis of brain cancer, I was walking along the road with Peter as we ventured to a local restaurant.  He suddenly broke into tears as the love of God momentarily overwhelmed him.  This was not a faith experience for Peter, this was God touching him at the very core of his being – a literal touch.

Yet, sometimes we doubt.  Is my experience unique? Are my thoughts and beliefs rational? What if I’m wrong?  I know Peter experienced similar thoughts at different times in his life.  It almost sounds like an illogical argument; sometimes we doubt, yet even in our darkest times when our doubts are greatest, we are still compelled to believe.  And then God comes alongside to reassure us.  I am His and He is mine and nothing in all Creation can separate us – He from me, or I from Him.

This past Saturday evening a group of us had the joy of listening to the Toronto Mass Choir in the magnificent sanctuary at Tyndale University.  It was a momentous expression of outrageous joy!  Seventy singers shouting and singing praises with all their being to the One to whom Peter and I have entrusted our lives and who gave His life for us.  No, my experience is not unique.  Thank you, God, for once again reassuring me in a moment of outrageous celebration!

Before God got ahold of me I thought belief in God was simply irrational.  Who would want to believe in a being that was supposedly untouchable and unknowable?  It simply did not make any sense.  Now, I view things from the other side of the curtain.  Now, I cannot comprehend why so many people choose to live ‘on the dark side’?  To me, now, living on the dark side is that which is completely irrational, when the God, who is love, invites us to experience the superlative joy of knowing Him. Forever!

For a while I will miss Peter, my older brother [in-law], BUT I can thank God for his life, for the brotherly friendship we knew and especially for the sure and certain knowledge that we will yet again embrace in the Throne Room of Heaven.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Brexit - "What was that all about?"

I was born in 1951, six years after the end of the Second World War.  I can remember as a young child seeing the charred remains of buildings in London that had not yet been torn down or reconstructed.  The significance of WWII has been lost on many; the blood, sweat and tears, the huge sacrifice to achieve victory forgotten.  Perhaps we would do well to remember Sir Winston Churchill’s famous wartime speech, when all seemed lost, and this truly great man stirred up a nation: 
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World (America), with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”
As I followed the Brexit news coverage the day of the vote, there was a comment by a British MP that went to the very crux of why the exit side had a majority; the MP had been in a greengrocer the day before, talking with a shopper who asked the simple question, “What was that all about?” (referring to the WWII war and England’s ultimate victory).  Through the war Britain had kept its freedom, its sovereignty and its democracy, but in since its joining the Common Market and subsequently the European Union, its freedom, sovereignty and democracy have slowly been eroding away.
To all the commentators who berate the British people for their seeming stupidity, giving up seemingly assured wealth and prosperity, have missed the point completely.  To be rich but not truly free has zero appeal.  According to Time Magazine, “Among those who came of age before the E.U. was created, a staggering 59% wanted the country to leave.”  Though now living in Canada, I count myself among them.

It is the older generation who realize that wealth is not everything.  I am absolutely positive that the vast majority of those who voted to leave the E.U. were voting with their hearts, with sound minds and a desire to live in a true democracy – not with their wallets and a desire to be spoon fed by the state, even if the ‘state’ is not their own.

Sunday, 8 May 2016


Last week I was driving along the 407 toll highway across the top of the city, zooming along and trying to keep up with the slowpokes dawdling along at 130km an hour, when I decided to save a couple of bucks and jog down Young Street to the 401, a distance of just under 9km, and then continue my eastward journey.  This journey should take 9 to 16 minutes according to Google Maps.  It took me more than 30 minutes. Gridlock all the way.  No accidents.  Just frustrating gridlock.

An out-of-town friend of ours frequently refers to the 401 highway as 'the bowels of satan' and worse they are frequently constipated for days on end. Getting up to 50km per hour across the top of the city on the 401 can be considered a good day.  

So, why the big difference between the 407 cruising along 30 mph over the limit and the 401 just above a slow jog? The same question for most of the GTA's city streets. The answer is as simple as the solution.  GTA streets and highways have simply exceeded capacity and the result is permanent gridlock.  Basic laws of physics apply.  

There is no more space to build additional roads and toll systems only advantage the rich by driving the poorer folks off the road and padding government coffers, etc.

What most people don't understand is that it only takes a small incremental increase over intended capacity to produce the gridlock effect.  Conversely, one only needs to introduce a relatively small decrease in the number of cars on the road at any given time to get traffic flowing again.  This TTC page (section 'Unlocking Gridlock') provides an excellent visualization.

The solution, whatever it is, needs to be fair, quick and easy to implement ideally at no or minimal cost and easy and inexpensive to enforce. My proposal fulfills each of these criteria.

All licence plates (apart from vanity plates) end with three numbers and the last number will be one of ten digits, 0 to 9, and each month (with the exception of February) have thirty or thirty-one days. So, if your licence plate ends in a 1 you will not be allowed to drive your car anywhere in the GTA, south of the 407, on the 1st, 11th, or 21st of the month. If your licence plate ends in a 2 the rule applies to you on the 2nd, 12th and 22nd of the month and so on.  Owners of vanity plates would not be allowed on the roads the same as those ending with a 1.

This simple system would immediately take ten percent of all private cars off the GTA roads. Traffic would instantly start flowing again at reasonable speeds. Yes, there would be slight inconveniences to work around but the benefits far exceed this cost.  

The map below shows the approximate extents of the program with the 407 highway as the north and west boundaries and Brock Road in Pickering to the east.

Here are my thoughts:

1.   The current cost of traffic gridlock to Toronto commuters has been estimated at between $7billion to $11billion annually. That frees up all that money to be used productively in the economy. Include the rest of the GTA and you can probably double that number.

2.   The mental health of the city would improve appreciably (reduction in road rage). Torontonians might actually start being polite to each other again. The average commute time in Toronto in 2014 was 63.6 minutes - that equates to 426 hours per month.  

3.   Taking 10% of the vehicles off the road would reduce the pressure on emergency services by at least the same percentage and probably more. Another $billion or two?  Lives saved due to faster response times of emergency vehicles - who knows?

4.   Taking 10% of the vehicles off the road would reduce road wear and tear by an appreciable amount, probably in the order of 5%-7%.

5.   It would force more commuters to occasionally take public transit, thereby increasing its efficiency and tilting it towards profitability. Presently, each TTC fair is subsidized by different levels of government to the tune of 26% of actual cost (2014 numbers). Increasing ridership by 7% would reduce the subsidy cost to 21%.

6.  The rules would apply to non-traditional taxi services (those without commercial plates) thereby giving traditional taxi drivers a leg up.

7.   Car sharing services such as Zip car and non-traditional taxi services such as Uber would be exempt if they purchased commercial plates.

8.   There would be a real impetus to promote car pooling, bike riding and alternate forms of commuting.  After all, it's only two or three days per month (one of the three days will probably fall on a weekend).

9.   Those that currently car commute from locales such as Barrie or Burlington would not be allowed to drive any further south or west than the 407, thereby encouraging these individuals to use GO trains or buses, etc. This in turn would alleviate congestion on the 400 and QEW highways and other major north/south arteries.

10.  Out-of-country and out-of-province drivers would be exempt as would commercial vehicles.

11.  Because this plan affects both municipal and provincial roads it would require the support of both levels of government.

12.   The plan would be easy to implement and test for a month or two because there are no special infrastructure requirements.

13.  One of the significant side benefits of the plan is an immediate and significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, the only 'losers' in this plan are the oil companies.

14.  There might be initial feelings of inconvenience but once the system is implemented people will get used to marking their calendars with the three no-drive-days each month; sort of like remembering to put the garbage out.

15.  Companies can help by implementing work-from-home programs for employees three days per month where this is practical.

16.  To be effective there would need to be strict enforcement by police or traffic cameras with deterrent penalties.  The best deterrence from rule breakers would be shaming by fellow drivers; anyone who can read a calendar will know if you're breaking the law.

17.  Other systems such as toll routes, rush hour tolls, etc. are expensive to implement and do not alleviate the congestion that goes from dawn to dusk in Toronto.

18.  The system would be in effect from 6:30am to 9:00pm.  This window can be fine-tuned over time once the basic principle is proven.

19.  Custom plates could be issued for handicap and special purpose vehicles.

20.   The final and key part of my plan, without it there is no hope of longterm success, is that on those months with 31 days none of these rules apply and it will be an emphatic reminder of why a system like this had to be implemented in the first place! 

I welcome your feedback and other beneficial ideas on how this solution can be promoted.


Thursday, 28 April 2016


It occurs to me that inerrancy is tragically misunderstood.

When we look at a beautiful object we will all see, analyze, criticize, objectify, and appreciate the beauty of that object from our own pre-existing paradigm. The truth that can never be changed are the inherent characteristics of that object.

For those who have experienced the intervention of the Holy Spirit, you will know that God speaks directly to you through the Sacred Scriptures and He will use that Scripture to address the particular situation at hand. Because it is God talking to you (which requires spiritual discernment that it is actually God doing the talking), and by virtue of His very Being, what God says must be inerrant.

When people quote and use Scripture out of context, e.g. using selective passages of Scripture to condone slavery [which is contradictory to the message that God is actually conveying], it is obvious that it is not God doing the talking and that which is quoted is no longer inerrant. Inerrancy, like the Bible, must be considered 'in context'.

When Eugene Peterson wrote The Message, one could argue that his interpretation is not inerrant. If, as I believe, God inspired Eugene to write The Message, then, when I am being guided by the Holy Spirit, what I read in The Message is inerrant. Even having written The Message, I believe Eugene Peterson would still confirm the inerrancy of the original Scriptures as God authored them.

Although same may say these are circular arguments, the Bible itself speaks to its inerrancy:

2 Samuel 22:31
Psalms 12:6
Psalms 19:7
Psalms 119:160
Isaiah 40:8
Matthew 24:35
John 10:35
John 17:17
Hebrews 4:12
2 Timothy 3:16
2 Peter 1:20-21
James 1:22

...and so many more.

For those that are interested the following is a link to an interview with Bono (U2) and Eugene Peterson. Worth every minute of your time!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Faith is climbing out on a limb, cutting it off, and watching the tree fall away

People who deny miracles are those that either haven’t seen them, or they’ve seen a miracle but refuse to believe what they’ve seen.
Miracles come in all shapes and sizes.  God was never one to ‘put on a show’ for the sake of simply impressing His audience. God always has an ulterior motive.  The biggest miracle of all was Him [Jesus] rising from the dead. Unlike Lazarus walking out of the tomb there were no recorded firsthand witnesses, only those who saw Him after the fact.  This miracle has an ultimate purpose which is to provide faith – while at the same time requiring faith.
When God displayed so much of His glory and might to the Israelites He had a purpose.  When Jesus walked three and a half miles out across the Sea of Galilee to His disciples, in the middle of a storm (without losing His balance as far as we know), at the darkest time of the night, He had a purpose.  When God raised Jesus from the dead on Easter morning He had a purpose.  His ultimate purpose for every miracle is to instill or deepen the faith of the participant or observer.
I am in the middle of reading The Grave Robber by Mark Batterson.   In his book he quotes his favorite definition of faith:  faith is climbing out on a limb, cutting it off, and watching the tree fall away.  As I read this my initial reaction was this is crazy, but then the realization hit me that this was a truth I experienced in my own life – believing God and watching the impossible happen.
When I first had (was given?) the idea for Bus Stop Bible Studies everyone told me, implicitly or directly, that I was crazy.  This was an impossible idea.  The transit companies would not allow it, there would be too much public resistance, Canadian laws made it impossible, etc.  But this is where faith kicks in – do you choose to believe in a God who is able to keep a tree limb suspended in midair with you sitting on it, or do you believe that the tree trunk of opposition, impracticality and manmade laws make the mighty tree immovable.
Like Peter, who got out of the boat at Christ’s invitation, I chose to walk out on the limb.  I sawed through the branch which required both will and effort and watched as the tree slowly fell away.  Ten years later I am still enjoying the view from my perch on this tree branch... floating in midair.  The tree trunk is long gone.  Even the roots of the tree have vanished thanks to the Supreme Court of Canada.  And, as with all miracles, God had an ultimate purpose which was to share His love with the millions of commuters who ride public transit every day.  And, like the miracle of the loaves and fishes, with resources provided by a miracle-believing young lad, from my lofty viewpoint I am able to observe all kinds of miracles happening in other people’s lives.

Is God asking you to get off your sofa and climb a tree or to walk on water?  Are you simply going to change channels or are you going to turn the TV off and ask God, "What's next?"  Trust me, the view from my perch up here is incredible!

Friday, 1 January 2016

“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1Peter 3:15 NIV
My brother-in-law’s wife died suddenly this past week.  She had suffered with debilitating depression most of her life – her depression ultimately winning the battle but losing the war!
Donna Jean had a deep and abiding faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ.  We enjoyed many theological debates but I can never recall a single moment when we disagreed on the grace and glory of God.
Death is ugly however it comes.  Death and decay was never God’s intent for this world – He created it in perfection.  God also gave us freedom of choice – to choose intimate and abiding fellowship with Him, or rejection and sin.  Amazingly, Adam and so many others have chosen the latter.  And so we all suffer the consequences.
As I thought about Donna Jean’s death I was reminded of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.  He died way too soon also.  Jesus got angry – very angry.  We pick up the story in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11.
When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. 
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” 
Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
Most people know John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” as the shortest verse in the Bible.  Like those in the story, most interpret his weeping over the loss of his dear friend.  But this interpretation does not seem to make sense in the context of the whole narrative.  Jesus had known four days earlier that Lazarus was dead.  Why start weeping now?
I would suggest that Jesus’ anger and tears were over the tyranny of death itself.  I note elsewhere in Scripture that when Jesus got angry... He didn’t get mad – He got even!  He wasn’t about to let death get the better of Lazarus, or later Himself and us.  “Roll the stone aside!” Jesus commanded.  Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
The next time we see the stone being rolled away it was in front of Jesus tomb.  Again, Jesus defeated His arch enemy – death.
For Donna Jean the stone was rolled away many, many years ago, the moment she acknowledged Jesus as her Savior.  
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”  John 11:43
And now Donna Jean is enjoying the 'hope' of God's promises. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:3-5 NIV
I am ceaselessly in the wonder of God's grace.