What a Ride

Penn of Denn

Bonza! (that’s Australian for awesome2). I had to travel to New Brunswick for meetings this week and as is my custom, I was renting a car for the trip. When I got to the agency, there was a brand new convertible in the yard, so I asked if they would give me a free upgrade. And they did! Bonza! I love convertibles more than I love ice cream, and I really love ice cream.

So here I am driving to New Brunswick, it’s 25 degrees out, the roof is down, I have “The Boss” blaring over the stereo and I’m thinking, “it don’t get better than this.” It was then that I realized that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. It truly was an issue of grace, but if I hadn’t asked, it probably wouldn’t have happened. And then I realized that my entrance into heaven was going to be same thing. I couldn’t have done enough to earn it, but I did have to ask to make it happen. And convertibles are fun for awhile, but heaven is eternal. And to get the upgrade, all you have to do is ask. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

What is Your Canadian Idol

Anybody been watching Canadian Idol this season? I have just caught one episode and I really should make a confession here, I only watch it for the train wrecks in the first few weeks. The same with American Idol, I think I have only watched one season all the way through since American Idol debuted on the fox network in 2002.

 You may think that Canadian Idol had it’s roots in the hit American Idol. The truth however is that like many American television shows the concept was first seen in the UK. In this case it was a wildly popular British Program called Pop Idol. American Idol not only borrowed the theme from the Brits it also borrowed acid tongued Simon Cowell who had also been a judge on the original show.

 The concept has remained the same in all three shows plus the plethora of clones that are being broadcast around the world. First an open audition call is put out and thousands of young people flock to various cities to compete for a spot on the show. In the case of Canadian Idol auditions were held in ten different cities including Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Halifax and St. John’s and the auditions attracted over 10,000 hopefuls. This year they also allowed online auditions to add to the pool of hopefuls.

 Of those more than 10,000 a little only 2% or 200 were selected to move on to Toronto and from those 200 it’s now been whittled down to 24.

 Now if you have watched the show you know as well as I do that not all of those who appeared before the celebrity judges got there because of their talent. Some appeared before the judges for the sole purpose of humiliation, you know that people who were that lacking in talent didn’t slip through the cracks.

 I don’t think I’m the only one smart enough to figure that out, as a matter of fact a correspondent for the Toronto Sun wrote these words when Canadian Idol first aired: A few of the on-camera auditions showcased people who had no business getting that far. In Toronto there were two auditions before the celebrity judges even heard the contestants. The truly bad were supposedly weeded out, but some were probably singled out for their awfulness, as a few bumped Toronto-area contestants have suggested. The same is surely true for American Idol. Watching people die on television has become a bigger kick than watching them succeed. It must be underlined somewhere in the American Idol playbook: Make sure you have enough freaks and losers.

 Now on one hand I feel bad for them, but on the other hand they did get in line and audition.

 Once the 200 were in Toronto they appeared before the celebrity judges over a three day period and 176 of the hopefuls were eliminated leaving 24 of the original 10,000. Including Lindsay Barr from Halifax and Mitch MacDonald from Port Hood, which for the uninitiated is in Cape Breton.

 But what is an Idol? The dictionary defines it this way i·dol (īd’l) noun

1.    a. An image used as an object of worship. b. A false god.
2.    One that is adored, often blindly or excessively.
3.    Something visible but without substance.

 
 I would suspect that it is definition number two that those who took part in the auditions for Canadian Idol were trying achieve especially the excessively part. However if they are like a lot of the idols who come our way they will probably fit number 3 better.

 Washington Irving said “The idol of today pushes the hero of yesterday out of our recollection; and will, in turn, be supplanted by his successor of tomorrow.” Which would probably explain what Matt Dillon meant when [Reflecting on his former status as a teen idol] said “Thirty was so strange for me. I’ve really had to come to terms with the fact that I am now a walking and talking adult.” We don’t just cast off our idols do we? Well maybe just a little.

 Canadian Idol is fun, some people will be disappointed and others will be hurt, which they knew might happened when they entered, but overall it will be enjoyed by many people between now and September when the winner is selected. At the end at least one young Canadian will have the opportunity to begin a professional music career and millions of others will have been entertained on Monday and Tuesday nights through the summer.

 There are other Canadian Idols though which aren’t nearly as harmless. William B. Ullathorne was a Benedictine Monk in the late 1800s and he summed it up when “Whatever a man seeks, honours, or exalts more than God, this is the god of his idolatry.”

 Do you remember the second commandment? Deuteronomy 5:8-9 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.

 When I was in High School I was part of the debating team and one winter our coach returned from Hawaii with a souvenir of his trip, it was a small wooded deity, an idol. Mr. Thompson told us his name was Kahunna Achami and that he was the Hawaiian god of wisdom.
Not being believers at the time, my best friend who is now a Wesleyan pastor as well, and I started taking Kahunna to various debating tournaments, we would set up a little shrine, bow down offer some prayers and request wisdom for the debate. Mr. Thompson was a devout Catholic and it drove him nuts, until finally Kahunna disappeared from the class room never to return.

 Not all idols are carved from wood, and you don’t necessarily have to set up a little shrine and offer prayers in order to worship them. George Bernard Shaw made this observation “The savage bows down to idols of wood and stone: the civilized man to idols of flesh and blood. While Ralph Waldo Emerson said “We boast our emancipation from many superstitions; but if we have broken any idols, it is through a transfer of idolatry.”

 So what are some Canadian Idols in 2008? This morning we are going to take a look at four different Canadian Idols and just like the show we are going to have comments from four Judges, and just like the show they will not make the final decision you will. Let’s meet our Judges. First of all we have Jesus of Nazareth also known as the Messiah or the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, who was born of a virgin, died on a cross for our sins, rose from the dead after three days and ascended into heaven forty days later.

 Our second judge is Saul of Tarsus more commonly known as Paul the Apostle. You might remember that Paul was a Jewish religious leader who sought to destroy the early Christian Church but after an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus become Christianities greatest missionary.

 Our third judge is Solomon. Born the son of David and Bathsheba he was king of Israel and was reputed to be the wisest man to ever live. You might recall that much of his wisdom has been recorded in the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament.

 For our fourth judge we will bring in various celebrities to express their opinion. But remember that ultimately the final decision rests with you. So let’s take a look at our first Canadian Idol.

 1) Idol of Money Probably at the top o the list of things we worship as Canadians is our money. Author Edward Dahlberg
“There is a strange and mighty race of people called the Americans who are rapidly becoming the coldest in the world because of this cruel, man-eating idol, lucre.” Although Dahlberg was referring to Americans it’s not too far of a stretch to include Canadians in the same category. If you take a look around in 2008 you discover that money is becoming increasing more important to the people of Canada. We have become infatuated with stuff and in order to have stuff we first need to have money. And we do all kinds of things to obtain that money.

 In 1990 James Patterson and Peter Kim wrote a book based on extensive surveys of the American Public, the book was called; “The Day That America Told The Truth.” Questions were asked concerning a wide range of topics from morality to work to family life. The results are really quite surprising. And while it’s easy to write off the results as being American I’m sure that many of the results would have been the same on this side of the 49th.

 One of the questions asked was “What would you be willing to do for Ten Million Dollars?” I know we’ve looked at this before but it’s still fascinating. A follow up survey was done asking about 5, 4, 3 and 2 million dollars and the results remained fairly consistent. It was only under $2 million that they began to see a fall off in what people would do. So it would appear the price for many Americans was $2 million. Out of the ten questions asked 2/3 of the respondents agreed they would be willing to do at least one, and some several of the deeds. What were they? Would abandon their entire family 25%, Would abandon their Church 25%, Would become prostitutes for a week or more 23%, Would give up their American citizenship 16%, Would leave their spouse 16%, Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free 10%, Would kill a stranger 7%, would change their race 6%, would have a sex change operation 4%, or would put their children up for adoption 3%.

 You say that you have no interest in a million dollars, come on? At least be as honest as Mark Twain who said “I am opposed to millionaires, but it would be dangerous to offer me the position.”

 If money wasn’t an idol in Canada then Atlantic Lottery and it’s compatriots would all be money losing operations and the casino would never have opened in Halifax.

 So what do our Judges have to say? So, Jesus, what do you think of this idol? Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

 How about you Paul? 1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.

 And what’s your opinion Solomon? Proverbs 11:28 Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.

 And our celebrity Judge is Woody Allen actor, writer and director, Mr. Allen what do you think of Money as the Canadian Idol? “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons.”

 There you go, but remember ultimately it’s your decision.

 The second Idol is a sibling of the first and that is 2) Idol of Career. When we think of those who worship their career we might be tempted to think that it is tied to money but often there are other underlying factors that come into play.

 Perhaps they are driven by how people view them, or even how they view themselves. Their life and their identity become tied to what they do for a living. Who they are has been replaced by what they are. And when that happens no sacrifice is too great or too large to be offered up to the idol. Family time is given up, personal time is given up they become so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.

 Ethics might be sacrificed; the question would be “What would you be willing to do to keep this job?” Stretch the truth? Tell a lie? And remember if it’s 90% true it’s still a 100% false. Use a co-worker as a stepping stone?

 Would you be willing to compromise who you are and what you believe in? When you know you should say or do something but the result might be that you loose your job and so you keep quiet. After all it was British Statesman Edmund Burke who said “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Christian men and women have walked away from God because he stood in the way of their career. A few years ago my neighbour had a new SUV and I commented on it, he said “I got it for my wife.” And I said “Good trade.” But I wonder how many people have traded a vibrant relationship with God for a career? Not a good trade.

 But let’s listen to what our judges have to say, first lets hear from Paul
Colossians 3:23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.

 Thank you Paul and now Jesus Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

 And what do you think King Solomon? Ecclesiastes 2:20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.

 Our celebrity judge in this round is author John Dos Passos
“People don’t choose their careers; they are engulfed by them.”

 There you go, but remember it’s your decision.

 Even in saying that many people worship work we can’t forget the 3) Idol of Pleasure In 2008 many Canadians have adopted the “If it feels good do it” philosophy. Happiness becomes the primary goal and not just long term happiness and satisfaction but immediate gratification. Therefore if I’m not happy in my marriage right now, then I should get out of my marriage. Or if my spouse isn’t meeting my needs whether those needs be emotional or physical and I think someone else could meet those need then there’s nothing wrong with getting them met elsewhere.

 The recreational use of drugs and alcohol is often simply a short cut to the pleasure idol; it makes me feel good so it must be good. Elliot Spitzer was the former Governor of New York who was arrested in the prostitution sting back in March. What would possess a someone like that to do something like that? Could it be that he was worshipping at the idol of pleasure? It’s interesting that if he had of picked up a girl for a one night stand at a bar it wouldn’t have been a newsworthy item.

 With all the evidence on how to prevent HIV why after 25 years is it still an issue? Maybe because it would involve limiting some peoples perceived pleasure. Homosexuals justify their behaviour, pedophiles justify their behaviour, and people who destroy their marriages and wreck their families will justify their behaviour because it gives them pleasure. You don’t have to watch television commercials for very long before you discover they aren’t selling shampoo, razors blades or beer they are selling pleasures. So judges what do you think?

 Solomon Ecclesiastes 2:1-2 I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?”

 Jesus Luke 8:14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.

 Paul Galatians 5:19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,

 Benjamin Franklin is an Author, inventor and one of the founding Fathers of our neighbours to the South what do you think Ben? “Many a man thinks he is buying pleasure, when he is really selling himself to it.”

 There you go, but remember it’s your decision.

 I had actually only planned on presenting three idols but late in the week I decided that we should call one more in for a brief appearance. So here it is Idol number 4, the Idol of Popular Opinion In Teens we call this peer pressure. In adults I’m not sure what we call it but we are so caught up in what other people think about us that it dictates what we do, what we say and what we believe.

 I wonder how many people actually agree with same sex marriages, and how many smile and nod because they don’t want to be thought of as backward or bigoted. I wonder how many of us have done and said things or not done and said things because we are afraid of what people might think of us?

 They say that silence is golden but sometimes it’s just plain yellow.

 We are afraid that our kids will try any number of vices because of peer pressure; maybe someone should be worrying about us.

 So let’s hear what our judges have to say about this idol?

 Let’s hear from our celebrity judge first, it’s English writer W. Somerset Maugham “If forty million people say a foolish thing it does not become a wise one.”

 What about you Paul? 2 Thessalonians 2:3 Don’t be fooled by what they say.
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And Solomon? Proverbs 17:4 Wrongdoers listen to wicked talk; liars pay attention to destructive words.

 And finally Jesus? Mark 8:27-29 Jesus and his disciples left Galilee and went up to the villages near Caesarea Philippi. As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”

 Here is the bottom line folks, it doesn’t matter what others say Jesus is or isn’t what matters is your decision. In Canadian Idol the final decision will rest with the viewers who call in, in your life you will make the decision who you will follow.

Walking the Walk

Penn of Denn

To walk where Jesus walked; wow that has always been a dream of mine (In case there are any dream fairies out there!).  I read an article the other day, about a company that is now offering GPS tours leading you along a 64 km trail in the footsteps of Christ, which is kind of a cool idea, but in reality just provides a little more high tech guess.  I may never get to Israel, but I did come across a great promise in the Revelation, that says there will come a time that I will be clothed in white and walk with Jesus.  And you know that Heaven will have to be a pretty special place, if Denn is able to wear white without getting something on it.  But until that time, while I may not have the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked, I have been told in 1 John 2:6, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked.”  You catch that?  We are told to walk “as” Jesus walked, not “where” Jesus walked.  So the important thing is not the pilgrimage, but the lifestyle.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Why?

I’m confused, again or still or whatever. Last weekend, I read an interview in the paper with John Shelby Spong, who is an Anglican Bishop. What I’m confused about, is why he is an Anglican Bishop, or any kind of bishop for that matter. In the interview, it stated that Spong dismisses the Virgin Birth and denies God is a personal deity.

When he was asked about the divine nature of Jesus and God, Spong said, “Jesus represents a difference in degree, not kind, from the rest of us.” As for God, “Maybe the divine that we keep trying to describe as a parent figure in the sky, is the power of life that surges through the universe. Maybe it’s the love that enhances life. I’m trying to get us to see God outside the boundaries of human life.”

So, I’m thinking that Spong remains a bishop so he won’t have to get a real job and I guess you can’t blame him for that. But why would the Anglican Church have a bishop who denies the very essence of who they are? Or at least who they are supposed to be. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Confused Again

I’m confused, again or still or whatever. Last weekend, I read an interview in the paper with John Shelby Spong, who is an Anglican Bishop. What I’m confused about, is why he is an Anglican Bishop, or any kind of bishop for that matter. In the interview, it stated that Spong dismisses the Virgin Birth and denies God is a personal deity.

When he was asked about the divine nature of Jesus and God, Spong said, “Jesus represents a difference in degree, not kind, from the rest of us.” As for God, “Maybe the divine that we keep trying to describe as a parent figure in the sky, is the power of life that surges through the universe. Maybe it’s the love that enhances life. I’m trying to get us to see God outside the boundaries of human life.”

So, I’m thinking that Spong remains a bishop so he won’t have to get a real job and I guess you can’t blame him for that. But why would the Anglican Church have a bishop who denies the very essence of who they are? Or at least who they are supposed to be. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

We Win!

Well, another survey is out, showing that Christianity is losing ground and that church attendance is down. But, depending on your perspective, we aren’t losing, we’re winning. When you stop and think about it, every person who isn’t a Christian hasn’t been lost from Christianity, they just haven’t been won to Christianity yet.

The starting place for humanity isn’t a relationship with Christ, the starting place is being separated from God, so every person who begins that relationship is a win for our side. Does that make sense?

By default, the other side doesn’t have to do anything except try to keep us, the church, from doing it’s job; they only win when we stop doing what we’ve been called to do.

But when you stop and think about it, our job is easy, because all we’ve been called to do is be obedient. And Jesus said that if we love Him, our natural instinct will be to obey him and that has to involve introducing people to Him. Regardless of what the survey says, every day in Canada, there are people who cross the line and commit their lives to Christ and that is a win. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.