Archive for the ‘In The News’ Category

Erabbi-090508ver heard of a black rabbi? Me neither. That’s why I read, with endless fascination, a National Post interview with Rabbi Capers Funnye (how’s that for a name?).

The 60-year-old Chicago resident converted to Judaism as a young man when he began having serious doubts about the Christian faith of his birth. He now runs one of the largest black synagogues in the United States.

Interviewed just before a Toronto speaking engagement, Rabbi Funnye told the Post that one of the reasons he converted to Judaism was, “I couldn’t understand how if Jesus was God, and then He was dead for three days after the crucifixion, who was in charge? I also couldn’t understand the idea of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Ghost [Spirit]. That idea was developed 325 years after Jesus, so I doubted the Trinity was true.”

I can tell you right now that Rabbi Funnye is hardly the first person to stumble over the idea of one god who is three distinct persons, all united in purpose.  Many Christians, me included, will testify that quantum physics is easier to understand.

And yet, the reality of the Trinity is written in the Bible. In one of the sections about the life of Jesus, called ‘Matthew’, He tells His disciples to “go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This quote not only connects the three persons of God, it puts them on the same level of importance.

So when Rabbi Funnye says he can’t understand who was in charge in the days between the death and resurrection of Jesus, the answer is simple: God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Rabbi Funnye told the Post something else that caught my attention: “Judaism does not put limits on God, [but] Christians do. To me, God is limitless.”

What’s so fascinating about this is that by denying the possibility of one God existing as three distinct persons, Rabbi Funnye has put a limit on God. And he apparently doesn’t realize it.

So what about you; is the Trinity a gigantic boulder in the middle of your road to faith? If it is, the word I just used – faith – is of key importance. Our limited minds struggle to understand this mystery and that’s why serious Christians accept the Trinity by faith.

And whatever you do, don’t underestimate the importance of accepting by faith, rather than scientific fact. Another section of the Bible, called ‘Hebrews’, says “Without faith, no one can please God. Whoever comes to God must believe He is real …

Does this make sense to you? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Pat-BurnsI’m not much of a hockey fan, but I do keep track of the Montreal Canadiens. That means, like fans of the other National Hockey League teams he coached (the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and New Jersey Devils), I was saddened by the death of Pat Burns in 2010.

I was impressed with the former cop’s tough-guy approach which rallied my Habs, then went on to rally the Leafs before finally winning a Stanley Cup with the Devils. Burns wasn’t an NHL player who was handed a coaching career; he worked his way up the ranks with determination.

He was weakened, gaunt and admitting the end was not far off when the Toronto Star’s Rosie Dimanno wrote a wonderful column about him. In it, she mentioned a recent interview in which Burns, 58, “spoke even about a newly realized appreciation for religious faith, because a person gets to thinking about God and prayer and the hereafter when staring straight into the abyss.”

This stuck with me, because the majority of my life is now behind me. That certainly changes a person’s perspective and I’m glad to have come to an “appreciation for religious faith” without having to stare into the “abyss” first.

That may not seem important to some folks. They’re busy with family or careers or pursuing fame or riches at the gambling table or extreme sports. The list can go on and on.

And yet, even in wealthy North America, with our massive healthcare systems and long lifespans – much longer than the age of Pat Burns – the end can come upon us with the shock of a shovel in the stomach.

I didn’t need such a shock to be reminded of that fact. I just read a ‘tweet’ on Twitter from Rick Warren (he wrote a book you may have heard of, The Purpose Driven Life) that simply stated, “When I’m tempted to be prideful, I just remind myself that I cannot even guarantee my next breath.”

That’s right, folks. It doesn’t matter if you’re battling cancer like Pat Burns did, or you’re a disgustingly young and fit triathlete. The end can come before you finish reading this sentence.

I think Jesus Christ (who most Christians believe is the son of God) knew this. That’s why, in the Bible, he told his followers, “Don’t hoard treasure down here, where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

It seems to me that if our “treasure” is in the right place, then the end won’t be an “abyss”. In fact, it won’t be the end at all. It will just be the end of the beginning.

Do you agree? Yes or no, post your response below and let’s have a conversation.

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Open DoorThe headline said ‘Extremism’s appeal for Canadian radicals’. That didn’t sway me to read the article in the National Post, one of Canada’s major newspapers. But what did intrigue me was the one-word “subhead”: ‘Superiority’.

A police officer, trying to figure out what was turning some young Canadians into violence-supporting radical Islamists, did extensive interviews with seven young Toronto men (six of them born in Canada) who fit the bill.

After the interviews, the officer came to the conclusion that they were deeply troubled men who, the reporter wrote, “found, in extremism, a reason to feel superior. In their minds, the had joined an exclusive fraternity that knew the truth. They weren’t losers after all; they were better than everyone else.”

Two things strike me about this:

1. The contrast of being a “loser” and feeling “superior”. Our culture loves nothing more than to constantly rank the value of people. It’s one of the main reasons that I decided to take my own radical turn and declare myself a follower of Jesus Christ.

Jesus followers know that we are neither losers nor superior. The evidence for this can be found in the Bible, in a section called ‘Galations’: “There is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.

This may not be important to many people, but I need that reminder for those times when I see someone do or say something stupid. That’s when the Bible reminds me that I, too, do and say stupid things. The key difference is that, as a follower of Jesus, I welcome Him into my life to make me more like Him. And He never did or said a single stupid thing.

2. Can there be a more obnoxious word in our dictionary than “exclusive”? It comes from the word “exclude” and when it comes to thinking about my brothers and sisters in the human race, I have trouble understanding what possible good can come from excluding anyone.

Now you might be thinking “Well, you Christians think you’re in an exclusive club, that only YOU get to go to Heaven.”

To that I write that yes, when I’m done with this life, I have a certainty about where I’m going and I feel sure that I’ll see other followers of Jesus there. My confidence comes from a section of the Bible simply called ‘John’: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost, but have eternal life.

But exclusive? Not on your life. There is no lock on the doors to Christianity. In fact, there are no doors at all. The way is wide open to anyone who wants to enter.

That openness is why I’ve written this essay – to invite YOU to enter and have your life changed for the better – now and for eternity – by Jesus. Will you accept the invitation? Yes or no, post your response below and let’s have a conversation.

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ChickenManureIt’s safe to write that this was not the kind of international media attention the Canadian city of Abbotsford, British Columbia wanted to achieve.

Like most large cities, there are homeless people in Abbotsford and they like to gather in a spot called “The Honey Tree”. Apparently some folks aren’t happy about that because city workers dumped chicken manure at the site.

An attempt to drive the homeless away? That’s certainly the logical answer, but nobody at the city said so. Especially when the move attracted international attention and widespread criticism. Instead, city officials scrambled to undertake an investigation and the mayor held a news conference to apologize.

As I read articles on this controversy, I was forced to confront my own discomfort with homeless people. Often, they are unkempt and smelly. Often, they are mentally ill. Often, they want money from me – to buy something I may not approve of.

But I follow Jesus Christ, and if you give the Bible any credibility, then consider how it makes clear that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him would not be lost but have eternal life.

As far as I’m concerned, that statement means God loves the homeless people of Abbotsford, British Columbia every bit as much as he loves me or Oprah Winfrey or the British Royals. That also means Abbotsford’s homeless have the same intrinsic value as billionaires and Hollywood royalty.

Our culture doesn’t think so – the actions of Abbotsford’s city staff are certainly evidence of that – but it’s why I follow Jesus. He hung out with the marginalized people of ancient Israel and He often made it clear that the “in” people of that place were the ones he had issues with.

My own discomfort aside, I want to be more like Jesus. I want to pay less attention to what our broken world thinks is “cool” and pay attention to what He thinks. Because like all serious Christians, I believe he lived, died and came back to life for people like me. And people like the homeless of Abbotsford, British Columbia. And people like you. All you have to is accept the gift.

Agree? Disagree? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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Lottery TicketsMost of us have probably read or heard about lottery winners who blew their entire fortune. But this example was so astonishing, I had to investigate it.

According a 2010 story in the Britain’s Daily Mail, 26-year-old Michael Carroll was hoping to get his old job back as a trash collector, eight years after winning about $19 million in a lottery.

Why was he seeking employment again? Because the entire fortune is gone. Gone on drugs, gambling, parties, bling, a fleet of cars, and hundreds of prostitutes. Just a year after winning the lottery, he was smoking about $4,000 worth of crack cocaine every day and hosting lavish parties.

All this caused his wife to take their baby daughter and leave him. But according to the Daily Mail, this wake-up call instead caused Mr. Carroll to turn to prostitutes. He boasted about having sex with up to four per day (he didn’t need much sleep, thanks to the drugs), spending nearly $200,000 along the way.

“I only started to think about three things – drugs, sex, and gold (jewellery),” he told the newspaper.

I found a quote in a section of the Bible called ‘Proverbs’ that indirectly refers to what happened to Mr. Carroll: “Don’t drink too much wine and get drunk; don’t eat too much food and get fat. Drunks and gluttons will end up on skid row, in a stupor and dressed in rags.” Mr. Carroll’s vices were different, but they certainly left him in the same dire straits.

His spectacular downfall aside, I also noticed the article mentioned Mr. Carroll had issues before the lottery win. For example, he showed up to collect the cheque in 2002 wearing what the journalist called an ‘electronic offender’s tag’ after being found drunk and disorderly. In other words, it wasn’t just the money that tossed his life into a sea of turbulence.

This leads me to conclude that, beyond having a breathtaking lack of wisdom, Mr. Carroll was – and probably still is – missing something his life. Something so significant he went to extraordinary lengths to fill it. And not one of them worked.

Blaise Pascal, the famed French mathematician, physicist and religious philosopher, seemed to understand this. One of his most famous quotes says, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

How many of us will listen to the seductive siren call of fame, riches, career advancement, sex, extreme sports, drugs or alcohol? And how many will end up, if not destitute, then as spiritually empty as Michael Carroll?

Post your reaction below and let’s have a conversation.

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George JonasIt’s one thing for me, a committed Christian, to try and explain/justify God. It’s another altogether when a self-confessed, “non-religious” major newspaper columnist like George Jonas tackles the topic.

In a 2013 National Post column, the veteran journalist (1935-2016) wrote about dreaming he was God and encountering a range of challenges from skeptics. Here’s an excerpt from one of those chats:

   Skeptic: “Aren’t you supposed to be omnipresent? I never saw you in Auschwitz, the (Soviet) gulag, Dresden (where so much Second World War bombing took place) or Katyn Forest (site of a Second World War massacre)…”

    Jonas: “You never looked for me. You were busy doing evil things.”

    Skeptic: “Why did you let me?”

    Jonas: “Has it occurred to you that you might have acted without my permission?”

Later, Jonas (still writing as God) noted: “Men doing fiendish things used to prove the existence of evil. Now it casts doubt on the existence of God. Once I punished men for being bad; now men punish me for it. ‘If we’re bad, God, you don’t exist.’ Talk about gall.

To my sometimes-foggy brain, the insight shown here is impressive. We humans were given a mind-boggling gift  – freewill – then tested God by using it to crucify Jesus Christ, whom serious Christians believe to be His son. Not only did God prove freewill was for all time and space by doing nothing to stop this crucifixion, He restored Jesus for us by resurrecting Him.

(If you want powerful evidence for the resurrection, go to a website called biblegateway.com and, in the “passage lookup” section, type this:
1 Corinthians 15:6.)

Sadly, as Jonas pointed out, God’s gift of freewill hasn’t been enough for skeptics. Some may claim they haven’t done the evil that wracks the world, yet they must live with it. To that, I recall British writer G.K. Chesterton. When asked by a newspaper to write an essay on the theme ‘what’s wrong with the world?’, he responded with just this:

    Dear Sirs,
    I am.
    Sincerely yours,
    G. K. Chesterton.

He was what’s wrong with the world because of what he did and what he failed to do. I am what’s wrong with this world for the same reasons. And so are you.

That said, I am sure of this:

  1. For everyone who says the state of this world proves there is no god, just imagine how things would be if He weren’t involved. Would there ever have been peace in Ireland? Would apartheid ever have ended in South Africa? Would the Berlin Wall ever have come down?
  2. There is a price to be paid for the wrong things you and I have done, and for the right things we haven’t done. That price was paid by Jesus. If you believe this and make him your leader and best friend, then forgiveness – and the opportunity for a new, clean start – is yours. Just as it is already mine.

Does this make sense? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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dancingIt happened a number of years ago but, even now, I think “what a world we live in”.

In 2010 I read, in open-mouthed astonishment, a newspaper article about a Toronto woman suing Rogers because, she claims, the Canadian internet/cable TV/telephone/mass media conglomerate’s billing practices ruined her marriage.

Gabriela Nagy launched a $600,000 lawsuit against Rogers Communications for invasion of privacy, breach of confidence, breach of privacy and negligence.

She claimed the company was wrong to bundle her cellphone bill with her husband’s Internet and home phone services. The resulting invoice, addressed to her husband, contained details of her outgoing cell phone calls – details which, Ms. Nagy said, her husband used to figure out she was having an affair. He took their children and left her in 2007.

A Rogers spokesperson, while denying it breached her privacy, said Ms. Nagy and her husband asked to have all their services consolidated into one bill.

First of all, I have to admire Ms. Nagy’s chutzpah, to brazenly sue a company for exposing her infidelity. Never mind that it would have made more sense to spend her time and energy fixing her marriage or, if her husband was not willing, to seek professional help and get to the bottom of her lack of commitment.

When I finished reading the article, I recalled other media reports about a website called AshleyMadison.com. Using the slogan “Life is short. Have an affair”, the site claims that, for a fee, it will guarantee you a, um, successful affair.

So it appears our culture is moving toward approving adultery – even as it exercises a double standard by punishing celebrities and “heroes” like Tiger Woods when they fall on their faces.

Is marriage easy? Occasionally but, after health issues, it’s often the biggest challenge in our lives. And yet, I’ve read of studies that show single people don’t live as long and are often more lonely than married couples.

Then I remember something I read in the Bible called ‘1 Corinthians’: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.

Does that mean some sort of supernatural fix for a troubled marriage? Maybe, but much more often, I’ve seen how it’s translated into unexpected help from a distant cousin, a surprisingly supportive chat with your financial advisor, an out-of-the-blue offer from your boss for a few days off, or a quiet promise from a “religious” neighbor to pray for you.

All these things could very well happen to Ms. Nagy. Or to you. And you may not even realize it until later. That’s just how God likes to work. We’re part of His plan. In fact, we are His entire plan – even when we treat marriage and commitment like a burden or joke.

What do you think? Post your thoughts below and let’s have a conversation.

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